Which Air Conditioning System is Best for my House?
With so many different options available for cooling your home, knowing what to choose can be extremely difficult. Each type of system has its own pros and cons, but how are you supposed to know which is the best solution for your unique home and lifestyle? We’ve put together this quick breakdown of cooling solutions to help you make more informed decisions about what type of system is right for you.
In this article we will explore the following cooling options:
Here are some of the biggest questions for you to consider:
- What type of home do you live in?
- Apartment, mobile home, row home, freestanding single family, etc?
- How big is the area you’re trying to cool?
- Are you trying to cool a room or two, or your whole house?
- How concerned are you about efficiencies and operating costs?
- How tolerable are you to home remodeling projects?
Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here’s a quick summary of how we would rank each system from best to worst in each category.
1. Ductless Mini Split
2. Window Mounted Unit
4. Traditional Central Air
(In a ductless home)
1. Window Mounted Unit
2. Ductless Mini Split
3. Traditional Central Air
2. Traditional Central Air
3. Ductless Mini Split
4. Window Mounted Unit
1. High-Velocity & Traditional Central Air
2. Ductless Mini Split
3. Window Mounted Unit
Window Mounted Unit
Window mounted A/C units are a simple, inexpensive solution to cooling a small space, and as a result are very common, especially in urban areas. These units combine the condenser and compressor into a single system that can be easily fit into a window in just a few minutes.
- Smaller homes, apartments and mobile homes without much space
- Inexpensively adding cooling to a small space
- Temporary or supplementary cooling
- Availability – You can purchase a window mounted air conditioning unit at just about any hardware or large home goods store, making it a very quick solution to a cooling problem.
- Ease of Installation – You can install a window unit by yourself, with little to no guidance in 20-30 minutes.
- Highly Efficient – Window mounted units pull all of the warm air outside, while at the same time adding cooled air into the space. As long as they are properly installed with insulation to prevent air from leaking through the open window, these units can be incredibly efficient.
- Noisy Operation – Due to the way that these units are mounted in an open window and the proximity of both the compressor and condenser to the cooled area, these units tend to be much noisier than other forms of cooling.
- May be a Security Risk – Because these units are mounted in an open window, they leave the possibility for an intruder to push the unit into the home, leaving a wide open window and allowing access to the home. This is generally only an issue with ground floor usage, and can often be alleviated by screwing or bolting the unit into the window frame.
- Doesn’t Look Great – Window mounted units are not particularly attractive, and are clearly visible on both the inside and outside of your home. This leads many homeowners to prefer a system that is more hidden and integrated into the home.
- Repeated Installation & Uninstallation – We hear often about the hassles of having to climb into the attic or basement each spring in search of the window units. The process starts in the spring and concludes in the fall.
Ductless Split Systems
As the name implies, ductless systems do not need ducts to be run throughout your home to distribute the cooled air. Each unit consists of an outdoor condenser and an indoor compressor to distribute the air. These units are designed to cool on a room-by-room basis, with controls on each indoor unit. See our Ductless Mini Split page for more information.
- Smaller, or historic homes with limited space for ductwork
- Homes with limited outdoor space for placing central air units
- Homes without ductwork already installed
- Supplemental cooling of additions, sunrooms, or newly finished basements
- Even Cooling – Each indoor unit has its own controls, meaning that you can easily cool each room separately, managing temperatures evenly across your home.
- Efficiency – Also related to the room-by-room control, you can cool only the rooms that you are using, saving a fortune compared to constantly cooling rooms that you seldom use. Additionally, the lack of ductwork, reduces leaks and temperature loss, making some up to 40% more efficient than central air systems.
- Great Supplements – Adding a new room or finishing a basement can often make your current central air system underpowered, leading to costly replacement of the central unit. Instead, you can easily add a mini-split unit to the room in question to solve the problem without a major project.
- Wall/Ceiling Mounted Eyesore – While very common in Europe, many people find the wall or ceiling mounted internal piece of the mini-split unsightly, especially when compared to the much smaller exchange vents that are used in central air conditioning installs.
- Cost – Mini split installation usually costs about 30% more (per cooling capacity) than central air systems, not including the cost of the duct installation. As a result, homes that already have ductwork installed will find this a more expensive solution than a central system.
- Specialized Installation – Ductless systems can be more intricate and difficult to install than both window units and conventional central air (not including the ductwork), which means it may be difficult to find a qualified technician to do the job. Luckily for you, the team at Unique Indoor Comfort are qualified experts, and would love to help!
Conventional Central Air
Conventional central air systems are the most common type of whole home cooling, consisting of an outdoor unit that cools the air and pushes it through ductwork in your home using a compressor. See our Central Air Conditioning page for more information.
- Larger, free standing homes with lots of space
- Homes with ductwork already installed
- Homes undergoing major renovations
- Conditioning a 1st floor from an open basement
- Whole Home Cooling Solution – Central air solutions allow you to cool your whole home with one unit, removing the need to look at each room individually.
- Central Control via Thermostats – Central air systems are controlled from wall mounted thermostats, making them easy to use, with new smart thermostats even offering automation and control from your smartphone.
- Improved Air Quality – The air that is pushed through the vents of a central air system goes through a filter in the central unit before it is distributed. As long as the system is properly maintained and the filter is changed regularly, this means that the air will tend to have fewer particles and allergens than that from non-centralized systems.
- Increased Home Value – Many people prefer central air units in their homes, so while they can be expensive to install, this investment often carries through to the value of your home.
- System Options – There are multiple equipment manufacturers that offer multiple equipment options; choose from a wide-array of capacities, efficiencies, controls, and added features.
- Uneven Cooling – Because the temperature is centrally controlled by a thermostat, there is limited ability to control the temperature in each room, often leading to warm or cool spots throughout the house, particularly if not designed properly.
- Zoning – While more efficient than window units, these systems can be less efficient than room-by-room solutions because they cool the whole house to the same temperature, so you are often cooling rooms when they aren’t being used.
- Difficult/expensive to Install – Converting a home to traditional central A/C requires running large ducts throughout the home to distribute the cool air. This often requires a significant amount of architectural modification and therefore, comes at a higher cost than other cooling solutions and a greater level of patience with the remodeling project.
High-Velocity Central Air
A variation on the conventional approach to central air, these systems use much smaller 2 inch ducts to distribute the cool air around your home at a much higher velocity than a traditional unit. Combined with a much smaller air handler that can easily be installed in a closet or crawlspace, it’s an ideal solution in space constrained homes. For more information on these systems, see the High Velocity AC Systems page on our site.
- Smaller homes without space for ductwork
- Preserving the architecture in older or historic homes
- Homes without ductwork already installed
- Smaller Footprint – While similar in many ways to a traditional central A/C system, the high-velocity system’s ductwork and air handler take up significantly less space, making it ideal for smaller homes that do not have ductwork already installed.
- More Even Cooling – The smaller ductwork used in these systems requires that the air be moved at a much higher velocity as it is distributed, thus the name. This has the side effect of moving air more aggressively around the home, reducing uneven temperature pockets and reducing humidity in the home.
- Humidity Removal – As a result of the equipment design, the high velocity system removes 30% more humidity as compared to a traditional system. This means you can set the thermostat a few degrees higher to achieve the same level of comfort.
- Aesthetically Pleasing – High-velocity systems can be almost completely hidden from view, just like traditional central air systems, avoiding the need for visible wall and window mounted units. The 2 inch ducts used can also be installed in much smaller spaces than traditional 6” ductwork, meaning that they can be added without heavy architectural modification like adding soffits.
- Cost – While high velocity systems can avoid some of the heavy renovation cost required to install central air conditioning systems, they are still more difficult and expensive to install than mini-split and window mounted units. This is simply because of the need to run ducts throughout your home.
- Equipment Options – There are two high-velocity equipment manufacturer limiting your options when it comes to features, efficiencies, and controls
If you have questions about how any of these cooling systems will fit into your home and cooling needs, please don’t hesitate to give us a call! The cooling experts at Unique Indoor Comfort would love to help!