What Air Conditioning Form Factor Is Right For My Home?

One of the biggest decisions for homeowners looking to purchase new central air conditioning systems for their home is deciding on the form factor. Below are short descriptions on the three main types of central air conditioning systems for residential homes –  split system, package unit, and ductless mini-splits.

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Package Unit

Image of a rooftop air conditioning and heating system
A Carrier 16 SEER Rooftop Package Unit

Package unit heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are the whole package, literally. Package units are called that way because the system packages inside all of the components necessary for air refrigeration and heating. They are very similar to split system air conditioners, functioning exactly the same as their split system counterpart but instead of being split into two systems, everything is packaged together in one unit.

We like package units because they are rugged, quiet, and save space. Instead of having two parts to the system, one usually inside the house and one outside, the package form factor combines them both into one system, saving space and reducing noise for the home. Package systems are usually placed on the roof of the home, or on the side of the home in the case of mobile homes.

Split System Air Conditioning & Heating

A split system heating and air conditioning and heating system for the home. Outside condenser and inside air handler and furnace.
A split system air conditioning combo by Mr. John

Split system heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems work together to heat and cool the entire home. Split systems are called that way because the system is split into two separate units, the outside condenser and the inside air handler. Together, the two systems work in unison to provide you cooling and heating for your home.

The outside condenser unit is where the compressor is based. The compressor works to pump pressurized refrigerant to the coils of the indoor unit. The process of pressurizing the refrigerant results in the production of very, very cold air inside the air handler. Inside the air handler, a large blower motor distributes conditioned air into your home. In the winter, the air handler is again tasked with distributing the conditioned air of your home, but this time filled with very warm air, either through controlled gas combustion for gas systems or the heating of electrical elements for heatpump systems.

Split systems are popular for newly constructed homes because of their minimal visual footprint – all that is seen from the outside is the small condenser on the side of the home. For this reason, they are common in association houses and many newly constructed homes. Split system air conditioners can often come in slightly higher efficiencies than package units, however split systems can sometimes have the downside of being noisy depending on the brand of the system and the installation.

Ductless Mini-Split HVAC Systems

A ductless minisplit system by the HVAC brand Daikin. The inverter is top right and the air handler is bottom left.
A ductless mini-split system. The indoor unit is on the bottom, and the outdoor condenser at the top.

Ductless mini-split systems are in many ways a modern advancement on the split system design of home air conditioning and heating systems. Instead of one condenser fueling one central air handler, which distributes all of the conditioned air for the home through one central ductwork, mini-split heating and air conditioning systems do away with the need for any ducts at all.

 Mini-split systems achieve this by having multiple handlers, one in each room or “zone” that needs air conditioning. The indoor units are installed on the wall of each zone, and are connected through the wall of the home to an outside condenser unit. The outdoor unit, called an inverter, powers the indoor systems in an advanced way, sending only as much refrigerant as necessary to each system  in each room indoors. Mini-split systems have the distinct advantage of being “multi-zone”, which means that every room or zone with an indoor unit gets to decide what temperature they want the room to be at.

Mini-split air conditioning systems are among the most efficient systems available on the market, reducing electric consumption and energy bills. Additionally, ductless minisplit systems can be a good solution for homeowners who need only an addition, shed, or one or two rooms air conditioned.

To learn more about minisplit air conditioning for your home or office, visit our page on minisplit systems.