You have choices when it comes to staying cool. Depending on your needs, you can find the right air conditioner
to fit your home and keep you comfortable. While furnaces use different types of fuel and methods to heat a home, air conditioner choices are a little different. With an AC, it’s all about finding a unit that fits the needs of the homeowner. We’ll break down the different types of air conditioners and make you a mini-expert so you can choose the system that works for your space.
Central Air Conditioners
A conventional central air conditioner is the most common type found in Minnesota homes. Central air conditioners move cool air though a home with a system that uses ducts and registers to exchange the conditioned air through the home and push old air out. Central air conditioners fall in two types:
- Split-System Unit: Most common type in Minnesota. According to Keith Hill, manager, technical support at Minnesota Air, it’s called a ‘split-system’ because “it’s two units connected together with copper refrigerant tubing and control wiring.” You can also think of this as ‘split,’ because one unit is outside – that’s the big metal box that contains the condenser and compressor. And then the other part of the unit is inside the home, which contains the evaporator. According to the Department of Energy, “in many split-system air conditioners, this indoor cabinet also contains a furnace or the indoor part of a heat pump.”
- Packaged Unit: It’s called ‘packaged,’ because everything is all in one area – in a unit usually on a roof or spot next to the foundation of the home. The Department of Energy says these are commonly used in small commercial buildings, where ducts come from indoors to connect to the packaged AC unit located outdoors. This is a less popular option in Minnesota. “(It’s) sort of a central AC system that uses a very large window unit that sits on the ground. They are popular in regions where there are no basements,” says Keith.
Room Air Conditioners
Room air conditioners are another popular option in Minnesota, especially in apartments, condos, and other smaller spaces. These are compact and packaged ready to be installed in an existing window or a wall opening. No need for ductwork. They provide cooling only where it’s needed (usually a living room or bedroom) and therefore can save you money – but according to the Department of Energy, “their efficiency is generally lower than that of central air conditioners.”
Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners
Another growing option is the ductless mini-split AC. According to Keith, we don’t see them too often in our state, but they are becoming popular in homes where there is hydronic (hot water) heat and no existing ductwork.
“These are quite small units (like window units), but they are “split” with a unit outside and a unit inside on the wall,” he says. “We see it rarely in Minnesota, but the units are made to go on the roof and blow the air into ductwork located in the attic.”
According to the Department of Energy, ductless mini-splits are small and able to go in many locations in a home – perfect for those who want zone heating/cooling – which can save you money since you can choose to condition only the space in use.