So you need a new heating and air conditioning system? Not exactly sure what you need? Maybe you’ve already done some research about air conditioners online but you still have questions about how all the different systems work. We’ll cover the common types of home heating and cooling systems so you can get a better handle on the various options available to you.
A split system includes both an outdoor and indoor component which are connected with communicating wires and refrigerant lines. The outdoor unit contains a condenser coil and a compressor while the indoor unit is an air handler that contains an evaporator coil and blower. This type of system uses ducts to blow the conditioned air through registers throughout your home.
A central heat pump split system is much like an air conditioner split system in that it includes an outdoor and indoor component for cooling your home. Unlike an air conditioner split system, however, a heat pump also provides cost-effective heat through the use of a reversing valve. A reversing valve works by reversing the flow of refrigerant, so rather than moving the heat from inside to outside, it moves the heat from outside to inside. As with all central air systems, you need ductwork for a central heat pump split system.
A package or central split system installation that uses an electric air conditioner to cool and a gas furnace to heat. Though this system includes a separate air conditioner and heating system, the two HVAC systems work together, so you can control the heating or cooling in your home from one thermostat. Central air conditioner and gas split systems are a great option for homeowners who want cooling, but also need powerful heating capacity to make it through winter, especially in places where temperatures can often reach or fall below the single digits.
A central heat pump and gas split system, oftentimes referred to as a dual fuel or hybrid system, is a fantastic choice when you want to maximize heating efficiency. These air conditioning systems combine the energy-efficiency of a heat pump and the power of a gas furnace — preferably, one with a high AFUE — to provide all-year air comfort. The heat pump offers both cooling and primary heating, while the gas furnace assumes the role of a secondary or backup heating source when extremely cold winter weather hits.
In terms of installation, packaged units are one of the simplest heating and air conditioning systems available. A package unit contains everything needed to provide heating and cooling inside one single cabinet or “package. The cabinet may contain a gas furnace alongside air conditioning equipment. Packaged heating and air systems is a broad category. You can get package units in all the same configurations as the central split systems mentioned above.
Not all heating and cooling solutions are permanent. If you need temporary heating and cooling in a space, a portable air conditioner or space heater is a great way to go. Portable units typically have casters or wheels on the bottom, so they’re easy to roll out and move around as needed. With a portable air conditioner, though, you’ll need to position it near a window so you can run the hose through the window.
Central heating and air conditioning HVAC systems use an air duct network to distribute conditioned air throughout a building. Ducts are effective, but not always an option. In these instances, duct-free HVAC systems are a reliable, and increasingly efficient, alternative. A ductless split system, also known as a ductless mini split system, typically consists of a compressor outside and a unit you mount to the wall inside.
Package terminal air conditioner (PTAC) HVAC systems are commonly found where individualized air control in multiple, relatively small spaces is needed. These units provide both heating and cooling. You install a PTAC unit by cutting a hole in the wall and using an external sleeve with an exterior grille to connect the unit to the outdoor air. The control system is right there on the unit. The air conditioning is electric, and the heating can be electric as well. The other option is a heat pump, which is a good option for warm climates where temperatures don’t fall below freezing. Some PTAC units use a heat pump with backup emergency heating for colder times.
Mobile home units are more compact so they don’t take up valuable space; these include air conditioners, coils, heat pumps and package units.
Another solution for small or single-zone spaces is a wall unit. Wall units look much like a window unit, but you install them into a wall, making them a more permanent fixture. The features of wall units are similar to PTAC units. There are heating and cooling options to choose from, and everything is contained in a single cabinet.
Like wall units, window units can provide you with both heating and cooling, though some people choose to install window units for cooling only during the summer and use another method for heating their homes during colder seasons.