When choosing an air conditioner, the various types and the differences between them can sometimes seem confusing. Before purchasing an HVAC unit, it is important to understand the various options, the environment types they are designed to handle best, and each type’s pros and cons.
Ducted Reverse Cycle/Refrigerative
A ducted reverse cycle/refrigerated unit is a good option if you want one of the best HVAC units available. These units make it easy to cool a home to a very accurate temperature and can both cool and heat. They are designed to be a closed system, so of course, you would always want to keep your home’s windows, and doors closed when using one of these units.
These units heat or cool the air through the compression and decompression of a gas. The air blows out through a series of grilles, which diffuses the airflow. The air circulates through the home and then is pulled back in through an air-filtered return. The air is then reheated or re-cooled and circulated again.
This unit can heat or cool an entire home, although the entire space is generally not heated or cooled simultaneously. Instead, homes are divided into a series of zones, making it possible to heat or cool several zones simultaneously. These units provide dependable performance for a long time and can create a very comfortable indoor environment.
Unfortunately, these units tend to be costly. A basic system generally costs around $7,000 in the U.S., or around $10,000 in Australia for a basic four-bedroom/two-bathroom single-story home, factoring in purchase and installation costs. Some people also feel that the recirculated air becomes stale after a while. To fix this problem, a fresh air inlet can be included in the system so that a certain amount of fresh air can be brought in. In the case of a commercial building, it is required to have a fresh air system as part of the installation.
Ductless Air Conditioning / Reverse Cycle Ductless or Wall Splits
A ductless or wall split air conditioner operates like a ductless reverse cycle air conditioner. However, these units are designed to air condition a single room. The head unit will sit within the room, and then cables and pipes will connect it to an outdoor compressor. These units are easy to find and easy to install. As a bonus, these units are also more affordable, costing around $1,200 in the U.S. or $1,500 in Australia. However, it is important to remember that these units are only designed to cool the room they are in. While this would be ideal for cooling a single room, such as a bedroom, they can get expensive if more than one unit needs to be used. Once a home reaches the point of requiring three or four individual units, it becomes more cost-effective to buy a ducted system.
These HVAC units can be purchased as either a cooling only or a heating and cooling unit. In most cases, the heating and cooling unit will provide more versatility and comfort. However, they can make the air seem stale in the room they are being used in, and sometimes the air is uncomfortable because it tends to blow directly into the living space.
A box unit can be a good choice if cost is an issue. Box unit air conditioners are expensive but can be somewhat disruptive within a room. Because these units need to be installed in a window frame or wall, they are not very attractive. Half of the unit sits indoors, while the other half faces outside the window. The compressor, integral to the heating and cooling process, is in the unit’s outdoor section. They are simple to operate, using the buttons on the inside face of the unit. However, they are only effective at controlling the climate in the room in which they are installed.
A box unit air conditioner is a good choice for areas where air conditioning is only needed occasionally and when air conditioning is only desired in a single room. Many people install these in bedroom windows for more comfortable sleeping. They are inexpensive and easy to obtain, making them a popular choice. Unfortunately, they are generally not very powerful units and can be noisy. They are also not the most visually appealing choice, either from the inside or outside the home.
When you see a big box on a home or business roof, it is a good bet that they have an evaporative cooler. These units work differently by pulling air in so that it flows over wet sheets. The concept is like how the air that blows over the ocean becomes cooler. A fan inside the roof box unit pulls the air in and flows over the wet sheets. The cooled air then flows into the home and exits through open windows and doors. These units are very popular with businesses because they are easy to use and inexpensive to operate. When you open a door, you may hear the air whistling as it escapes from the pressure.
These units are very economical to operate and can cool an entire structure. However, they do not work well in humid environments due to the excess moisture in the air. If the air is already saturated with moisture, the unit is not able to add any more. As a result, the system can no longer cool the air. This unit also brings a good deal of moisture into a house or building, which can cause problems such as excessive dampness or even mold. They are also an “all or nothing” sort of solution, as they are either on or off, and there is no way to control the temperature. Since windows and doors must be open for the air to exit, they can also create building security issues. If not used for a while, a system will need to be flushed by professionals for health reasons, as Legionnaire’s Disease has been traced back to this method of cooling.
Portable unit air conditioners are inexpensive to purchase but can be costly to operate. These units can be found at retail stores, costing only a few hundred dollars. They are not recommended, as they can only achieve a minimal amount of cooling and heating.
Fans are the simplest and least expensive way to cool a room. They are easy to find in stores and come in a variety of styles. Whether you choose a fancy roof fan or a simplistic pedestal fan, you will create airflow, making people feel cooler.