What Type of AC System Do I Have?

It’s Time to Breathe Easy. It’s Time to Call Aire Serv®.

Do you know what type of air conditioner is keeping you cool this summer? A little knowledge of air conditioning systems can go a long way when it comes to maintaining your AC keeping it running at maximum efficiency for both comfort and energy savings. This page contains a helpful guide to your home AC system from the air conditioning repair technicians at Aire Serv.

Split System Air Conditioners

In order for split system AC units to function, they have to have a delivery system for cool air. That delivery system is ducting. As the cooling process in the indoor evaporator coils takes place, a blower or air handler blows across the coils to distribute cooling. The cool air enters the ducts, channeling that air to every room in the home. So, unlike other air conditioners, split system AC units are able to cool an entire home with only one combined system. The cost of a split system is higher in comparison than other air conditioners, but the cost difference is offset by the need for only one system to cool an entire home or building.

Benefits to split AC units include:

  • While split AC systems are expensive, they can allow an entire structure to be cooled.
  • Properly installed ducts deliver cool air anywhere in the home, even to the room farthest away from the evaporator coil.
  • Well-circulated air pushes out stale air into the return ducts and removes contaminants trapped in the filter, keeping indoor air clean.
  • When ducting is located inside walls or other conditioned areas or is well insulated, energy loss is minimized and a split system AC is an energy-efficient method of cooling.

Since split system AC units are so dependent on a balanced installation of ductwork, there can be disadvantages to these units as well:

  • Poor duct installation can lower the efficiency of your equipment. The shortest distance between your inside unit and the various rooms in the home is best. If ducting winds around objects, has sharp turns or is improperly sized, this slows down airflow speed, wastes energy, and reduces comfort.
  • Metal ducting transfers heat and cold quickly. If the ducts are not inside conditioned spaces or properly insulated, there is a transfer of cooling into areas of the home where energy is wasted.
  • Filters must be maintained in split system AC units to ensure good airflow and proper comfort. Filters should be changed every three months or when dirty to prevent damage to the system and clogged air circulation.

Ductless Split Systems

Ductless split air conditioning systems are comprised of an indoor unit mounted to the wall, and an outdoor component that sits next to your home. While ductless systems don’t use ducts, as their name implies, they do use hoses to run from the room or rooms you want to cool to the outdoor condenser unit.

Window or Wall Units

Window units house all the parts of an air conditioner—compressor, condenser, expansion valve, coil, and more—in one box that fits into the window of your home. Their installation is simple and they’re very portable. Wall units function similarly to window units, though their installation is not as simple since they require wall modification.

Benefits include:

  • Simple wiring allows the user to locate the unit near a home electrical outlet. They are compact and don't require a lot of space.
  • The primary maintenance is to keep the filter cleaned or replaced periodically.
  • Compared to other air conditioning equipment, they are low in cost.
  • They are self-contained and generally require few tools for installation.
  • Although they are commonplace items, window or wall units can have drawbacks as well as advantages, depending on what the buyer needs.

Disadvantages include:

  • Because window or wall units are limited in size, they are generally limited in effectiveness as well. They are usually ineffective in cooling more than one room.
  • They are noisy when window mounted. These units can cause loose sashes to vibrate and the equipment itself can often vibrate and generate noise.
  • They require tight sealing whether wall or window installed. Air leakage around the unit reduces their effectiveness and drives up the cost to operate.
  • Because they are a single unit, window air conditioners invite easy entry into unprotected homes by thieves if not properly installed.
  • Older units require more energy to run.
  • Multiple units are required for whole-house cooling.
  • They can block views when installed in windows.

Evaporative Coolers

Evaporative cooling works best in dry climates by using the evaporation of water to draw heat out of the air. As a breeze or fan blows over a moist medium, such as fabric, the water molecules disperse into the air, absorbing the surrounding heat. If you come out of a pool or lake into the surrounding air on a hot day, as the water evaporates from your body, you feel cooled. It's the same concept.

The benefits of this include:

  • Air conditioning requires having a sealed home to maintain efficiency. Evaporative coolers are healthier because they use a constant flow of fresh air. The fan draws outside air in, and open windows or doors keep a breeze of healthy air flowing through the home.
  • They have a low environmental impact. The cost of using evaporative cooling is about one-third the cost of standard air conditioning.
  • Those concerned with healthy air for both the home and the planet have a solution for their needs with this type of cooling unit.

The drawback is that evaporation can take place only in climates with a low humidity because of the following issues:

  • Dry air is much more receptive to evaporation than humid air. These cooling units perform best in areas with low humidity, which allows for quick evaporation.
  • A modern evaporative cooler is usually mounted on a roof or in a window. It operates with a fan blowing air across pads that are soaked with water and the pads must have a constant water supply to maintain their moisture.
  • The pads must be cleaned regularly or changed to remove thick, mineralized deposits since the water evaporates but leaves any minerals behind. The units must also be drained in winter to prevent damage to the equipment.
  • Since both humidity and temperature fluctuate, evaporative coolers work best on some days, poorly on others.

Package Air Conditioning Units

These air conditioners are sold and installed as single units. The compressor is located on an outside wall or rooftop much like any other central air conditioning unit. The blower section and controls sit just inside the wall or ceiling space. Since the equipment is a package unit, there is no need for ducting. The refrigerant circulates the short distance from the outside compressor to the inside air handler and delivers cool air to the interior room instantly. There is no distance for cool air to travel, thus the units are very efficient in cooling quickly with little to no waste in efficiency.

Since they are a single unit designed for a confined space, their efficiency is unmatched for the job they are designed to perform. Package AC units are an inexpensive option for dorm rooms and other facilities giving the occupant full control over their environment.

With no need for ducting and no requirement to cool a large multi-room area, package AC units are a smart way to bring cool comfort to such areas as:

  • Motel and hotel rooms
  • Campus dormitories
  • Single and double occupied nursing home rooms
  • Garage apartments
  • Guesthouses
  • Small office spaces

While they are excellent for certain spaces, cooling a whole house room by room with package AC units can be costly. Large rooms or multiple room areas don't lend themselves to good air distribution with package cooling equipment. Cooling energy can become wasted in large, spacious areas. One end of the room can be quite comfortable while the farthest areas do not receive sufficient cooling. Package units can also be noisier than other methods of air conditioning.

How Do I Find Out What Type of Air Conditioning System I Have?

To determine what kind of air conditioning system your home uses, the first step is to locate it. However, its location will vary based upon what type of cooling system it is. If you are inexperienced at dealing with air conditioning systems, follow the “look but don’t touch” adage. No matter your level of experience, consult an expert for servicing your air conditioner, and during the checkup ask them to show you how to safely and properly care for it.

Every year, numerous injuries are reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission resulting from heating and air conditioning units, including:

  • Electrocution
  • Lacerations
  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Strains
  • Sprains

Be careful and call an air conditioning expert for help. To learn how to better care for your air conditioner, including setting up a routine maintenance schedule, contact Aire Serv at (855) 259-2280. Our expertly trained technicians have been servicing all models of air conditioning systems across the United States and Canada since 1992.