How to Choose the Best Air Conditioner for your Home

Air Conditioner Pros & Cons from J&A South Park of Pittsburgh, PA.

Are You in Need of an Air Conditioner for Your Home?

The area’s top Trane dealer describes the types of air conditioners and
their pros and cons.

Genius can strike anywhere. For Willis Carrier, it was a foggy Pittsburgh train platform in 1902. Carrier stared through the mist and understood that he could dry air by passing it through water to create fog. Doing so would make it feasible to produce air with specific amounts of moisture in it. Within a year, he finalized his invention to control humidity – the essential building block for modern air conditioning.

Since then, air conditioning systems have come a long way. In its early days, the system used an engine and ice to keep a room cool. As mechanical refrigeration evolved, ice was replaced with refrigerants that paved the way for modern air conditioning systems.

Whether you’re installing an air conditioning system for the first time in a newly built home or replacing an existing system, there are many options to consider.

Choosing the right air conditioning unit is not a decision to be taken lightly. This is why we’ve created a list of the most conventional types of air conditioners with their pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.

Central air conditioning system or split system unit

Central air conditioning (also referred to as the standard split system) remains the most common system used in American homes. This is partly due to most homes having ductwork, so it makes sense to install a ducted system. These conventional air conditioning systems have much to offer in value and efficiency.

The split feature indicates the system is a combination of two main units. The outdoor unit packs a condenser and compressor, while the indoor piece comprises the evaporator coils and air handler.

How it works: A central air conditioning system cools the air in the outside compressor. With the assistance of a blowing fan, the cool air is transported through ducts, while the warm air is removed from the house through the exhaust system. Just how cool you want your rooms to be is controlled with a wall-mounted thermostat.

Using modern HVAC technology, programmable thermostats can be coupled with central air conditioners for a smart home experience.

Pros and Cons:
Thanks to the duct system, a central air conditioning unit can realistically cool all the rooms throughout the house rather than just one room, creating a controlled environment around the house in a small amount of time. The system utilizes air filters to increase the house’s air quality, helping to remove dust or pollen from the air. Since cool air is circulated in every room, humidity is also reduced, making the entire house more comfortable.

On the downside, these systems use up plenty of energy, bringing about higher energy bills. Plus, these systems usually involve higher maintenance costs. Such units may also lose efficiency and effectiveness if a problem arises in the ducts. The chances of poorer air quality can likewise be higher due to possible leaks in the ductwork.

Air conditioner wall unit as an example for Air Conditioner Pros & Cons from J&A South Park of Pittsburgh, PA.

Ductless mini-split system

Suppose you want higher efficiency, or you want to forego a lot of ducting, or you simply want a particular section of your home to be cooled. In that case, opting for ductless mini-split air conditioners is a great alternative. Also, these systems are a terrific choice for today’s modern homes.

Basically, ductless mini-split systems operate in the same manner as a central air conditioner, but without the need for ducts.

These systems generate cool air precisely the same way as a central air conditioner by drawing the warmth in from the rooms and absorbing the heat. The reason they are also called split systems is due to the fact that the units are comprised of two or more components: the condenser unit (installed outside) and the compact blower or evaporative units, which are typically mounted on the walls of each room you want to be cooled.

Pros and Cons:
Such types of air conditioners are advertised to be much more efficient in energy consumption
when compared to some of the other available options. Still, they can also be heavy on the pocket if you plan on installing one in each room to cover the entire house. However, it does give you the benefit of controlling the temperature of each room separately.

Keep in mind, too, the indoor unit of a ductless mini-split unit is wall-mounted, therefore, it will be visible to the naked eye. Some homeowners might consider this as somewhat of a blot on their home’s decor.

Hybrid split system

A hybrid split system is similar to a split system described above but offers homeowners the capability of switching between electric and gas cooling on-demand. It contains a heat pump, furnace, and traditional ducts that force conditioned air throughout the home. But, again, the desired temperature is maintained by setting the thermostat. In addition, it is so energy-friendly that the homeowner can switch the system from electric to gas to reduce utility costs.

Pros and Cons:
They are considered energy efficient as they are a hybrid of electric and gas systems, with the goal of minimizing overall utility costs. Importantly, this also lowers the carbon footprint.

On the minus side, there is the high cost of the initial setup. Plus, in the long run, you may only break even on those energy costs depending on how you use the hybrid feature.

Window air conditioner

Since window air conditioners come in different sizes, they are suitable if you’re looking to cool a single room or a small area. If you go for a large window air conditioner, you can even cool a small home if it’s a single story or an open space.

We all recognize a window air conditioner as a single unit with all its components enclosed inside. It ejects heat out of its outdoor side and blows cool air into the room on the indoor side. As the name also suggests, it’s installed in a window or by making a hole in the wall.

Such air conditioners have a filter that slides out so that it can be cleaned regularly for higher efficiency. These air conditioners have controls on the unit and may also come with a remote.

Pros and Cons:
Window air conditioners are highly suitable to cool down individual rooms and are, of course, cheaper than a central air conditioning system. They are also easy to install and remove, so you can take them with you if you should move to a new house.

Clearly, no ductwork is needed. On the other hand, window air conditioners can be quite noisy during operation. If you reside in an apartment, you may not be allowed to install a window unit as they are visible from the outside.

The window you place them in must be close to an electrical outlet, and they can be a security risk if they are installed on the windows on a lower floor.

After prolonged use, the window units leak condensation and can cause mold damage. Finally, some homeowners simply consider them an eyesore.

Air conditioner window units as listed in Air Conditioner Pros & Cons from J&A South Park of Pittsburgh, PA.

Portable air conditioners

Portable units are comparable to window air conditioners as they are both self-contained. This means the portable units have all their parts in one unit, just like window units. These portable air conditioners are more affordable than central air systems and are a more convenient option for quickly cooling down a small room. Unlike a ceiling fan that you can’t take from room to room, a portable air conditioner can easily be moved to any room you want.

Pros and Cons:
First, there is no installation required, and portable units provide customized cooling options for any room in the house. And unlike the ductless mini-split systems that you can’t move to other areas, as just noted, you can easily take your portable system anywhere you want. However, they do cost more than window units and can be quite noisy because of the compressor being housed inside the unit.

Geothermal air conditioning

Geothermal cooling is a somewhat new energy-efficient technology that is quickly becoming all the rage.

Because of the earth’s insulating properties, the ground beneath us maintains a rather steady temperature of around 55 degrees F. year-round. Thus, regardless of the weather outside, the earth 4 to 6 feet down remains generally unaffected.

Geothermal technology takes advantage of this ground temperature to heat and cool your home. A piping system, often known as a “loop,” or “earth loop,” circulates water between your home, a heat pump, and the earth itself. These polyethylene pipes can be installed either vertically or horizontally, contingent on the nature of the site’s geography.

In the winter, water runs through this earth loop and absorbs heat from the ground; this heat is then compressed, which raises the temperature and then delivered into your home. In the summer, the process is reversed. The heat from your home comes into the heat pump, the excess heat is removed and delivered into the ground, and the resulting cool air is distributed throughout your home.

Pros and Cons:
The system is groundbreaking in that no fossil fuels are burned in order to produce the cooling effect.
Of course, electric power is being used to run the compressor, fan, and pump.

There’s also no need for concern about installing a large unit that might compromise your home’s curb appeal. Not all properties, however, are suitable for geothermal units. If, for example, your house is located on a rocky plain, the horizontal loop will be difficult to install. Add to this the fact that not all HVAC specialists are familiar with this system, and improper installation of the loop will result in inefficient operation.

Now that we know the types of air conditioning available, it’s time to make the decision for the best-suited air conditioning system for your home. Here are the important factors to consider.

We’re assuming that budget is the primary driver in the selection of your home air conditioning system. So, here is the budget-wise ranking of A/C systems, from lowest to highest.

  • The cheapest options out there are window air conditioners and portable units. Keep into account that these types of air conditioners are only capable of cooling a single room at a time.
  • A ductless air conditioner or mini-split unit is deemed as cost-effective if you’re only cooling a room or two. If you opt on cooling the entire house on a single ductless system, you’ll have to keep it running at all times, adding to your energy costs.
  • A central air conditioning unit is considered more costly than all the previously described types, but it’s also regarded as more effective. Moreover, these air conditioners are likely to last longer than portable and window units.
  • Geothermal cooling is regarded as the most expensive option available; however, it tends to pay for itself over time via energy savings. The efficiency and effectiveness of geothermal units are unequaled compared to the other types of air conditioners. Perhaps it can be summed up: if you spend big money on getting a geothermal system, once installed, it could last you nearly the rest of your life.

Okay, you’ve been provided much of the information necessary to make an informed decision about available air conditioning systems. If you need more information or are about to replace an existing air conditioning system or installing a system for the first time, you’re invited to contact the air conditioning specialists at J&A South Park.

As an authorized Trane dealer, we can provide custom evaluation, expert repairs, upfront pricing, and local rebates. Call us today at (412) 357-6043 !

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