What are the best AC system options for your home? Here’s a side-by-side comparison.

Ductless AC unitAs summer approaches and humidity levels start to climb, it’s easy to see (and feel) why air conditioning should be a home comfort necessity. There are four main types of home AC units and systems that each function on the principle of removing heat. When you look at efficiency levels, aesthetics, and the ability to provide comfort, results may vary depending on the system. In this article, we will help you decide which unit and system is the best option for you and your family.


AC options infographics

Window air conditioners.

Window units are a commonly-seen piece of cooling equipment designed to fit in windows. Usually, you will find them installed in apartments that lack a central AC unit or single rooms in larger homes.

Window air conditioner benefits.

Window air conditioners are smaller than most kinds of AC units, making them portable and easy to install without a professional. They are also generally the cheapest option if you’re worried about budget constraints. Models made today are up to 30% more efficient than those manufactured just a decade ago, and many come with warranties up to 5 years long.

Window air conditioner disadvantages.

Window air conditioners are not built to cool an entire home, so you will need a unit in each room to stay comfortable (even if you live in an apartment). Each unit takes up an entire window, obstructing your view of outside, and they can make a lot of noise in each room. Installing or removing a larger window unit can be difficult and awkward. Also, there are a large number of factors that may impair the efficiency of the unit, including high ceilings, multiple windows and doors in one room, high sun exposure, or rooms on higher floors.

Portable air conditioners.

These units can be similar to window units, but they sit on the floor instead of being placed in the window. Like most units, it draws in hotter, humid air and vents cool, dry air back into your home. The hot air vents through an exhaust hose in the window. This option can be effective if you can’t fit window units in your windows, or if you’re unable to lift and install a heavier window unit.

Portable air conditioner benefits.

Portable air conditioners are even easier to set up than window units, and they typically roll on casters to they are easy to move and position. The exhaust hose in the window does not obstruct your views, and can temporarily remove the hose if you want to open the window in nicer weather.

Portable air conditioner disadvantages.

According to Consumer Reports, portable air conditioners typically deliver only half the cooling capacity they claim, meaning you might still be hot and sweaty even if the unit is working nonstop. They are also more expensive and have higher operating costs than similarly sized window units because they are less efficient. Most portable units have water reservoirs to remove humidity from the air, but they generally need to be manually emptied. They can also make a lot of noise!

Ductless mini-split air conditioning systems.

Ductless mini-split air conditioners are designed to cool smaller homes or add-ons where ductwork isn’t, or cannot be, installed. A ductless mini-split has two main components. There is an outdoor compressor, similar to a central AC unit, and an indoor evaporator coil and air handling unit mounted to a wall or the ceiling. A conduit traveling through a small hole in the wall connecting the two units. Some ductless models achieve higher efficiency ratings than any other type of AC system!

Ductless mini-split air conditioning benefits.

The biggest advantage of mini-splits is the flexibility you get to cool individual parts of your home with smaller, energy efficient units. It is as close as you can get to a central AC system without tearing up your house to install ductwork. And, since mini-splits are also a type of heat pump, they can provide additional home heating in the winter!

Ductless mini-splits also operate as quietly as a ceiling fan, since the louder compressor is outside your home. And with no need to obstruct a window, it provides access to windows and increased security.

Ductless mini-split air conditioning disadvantages.

Remember that ductless mini-splits are generally more expensive than window or portable units. You also need to hire a professional for installation, as a three-inch hole needs to be drilled into the wall to link the components. And because the unit is mounted on a wall or the ceiling, you need to take interior design into account.

Central air conditioning system.

Central AC systems are the most comprehensive way to cool your home. As you may know, the system distributes cold air through ductwork in each room. All of the components are outside, except for the air handler, which is generally shared with the furnace. If you have ductwork in place and want to cool your entire home, this is the most popular system.

Central air conditioning benefits.

Central air conditioning is the most efficient way to keep your home cool in the summer. Central AC systems lower energy bills and provide better indoor comfort. Since all the components are outside, the system keeps you cool while remaining virtually invisible and silent. If your home has ductwork, the installation is fairly straight forward for a trained professional, and it is a strong investment that adds value to your home.

Central air conditioning disadvantages.

Central AC systems do require annual maintenance to remain in peak condition, and may come with higher upfront costs (especially if you need to install ductwork). If you’re replacing an existing unit, however, a central AC system may be cheaper than a new ductless mini-split.

When installing a central AC system, you need to consider the size of the unit you will need. An undersized unit may not cool your home effectively, and an oversized unit can short cycle, which wears out parts and does not work efficiently.

If you choose either a central AC system or a ductless mini-split, a licensed professional contractor can size the unit to meet your home’s needs. Just another reason to opt for a professionally installed unit from Region.

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