You don’t want to wait till a heatwave starts to figure out how you are going to keep cool. Staying ahead of the hot summer weather will make you the hero of the family and keep that cool air flowing when you need it. As a must-have appliance in your home, it is a good idea to know which types of air conditioners are right for you. This guide will help you make an informed decision so you know what is a smart buy for both you and your wallet. In this guide we will cover the basics on:
Central Air Conditioner
As the most common types of air conditioners, central air conditioning pumps cool air throughout the home through a system of ducts, effectively cooling multiple rooms. Central air conditioning is a split system that has two units – one indoor and one outdoor. The outdoor unit holds the condenser and the compressor while the indoor unit holds the evaporator coil and air handler.
Typically, your furnace is already part of the indoor cabinet and circulates the heated air throughout your home through the existing ductwork and return exchanges that keep you toasty in winter. During hot weather, the outdoor unit of the central air conditioner moves refrigerant into the evaporator coil housed inside.
Believe it or not air conditioners don’t really make the air cold. What they do is remove heat and humidity. Because hot air can hold more moisture than cold air, an air conditioner removes moisture by condensing it into water droplets and capturing it. Meanwhile, the refrigerant absorbs and transfers heat outside, cooling the inside air which is circulated throughout the house through the ductwork. As the air is circulated it is regularly passed through a filter that cleans your air of allergies and dust improving indoor air quality. There are a variety of factors that go into the cost of a central AC unit. Generally, that can start at around $4500 and run up to $8500.
Additional reading: Air Conditioning 101: Everything You Need to Know
Ductless Mini Split
Ductless mini split systems are becoming more popular with homeowners but it is important to understand how they differ from central air conditioners. As we have outlined above traditional air conditioning needs ductwork throughout the home. It may seem obvious by the name but ductless mini split systems have no ductwork. Instead, they are individual units that are located in each room or zone.
Rather than a central AC unit that circulates air and a single thermostat to control the temperature of the whole home, each room has its own complete system. Just like a central air conditioning system, each ductless mini split has two units – one inside and one outside. Multiple indoor units connect to the single outdoor unit for simplicity. The fan and evaporator units are inside and connected to an outside compressor by refrigerant lines.
Ductless mini split systems are excellent options for older homes. It’s also great for those who need flexibility, easy installation, and energy efficiency. Because the air is used directly in the room the air conditioning unit is mounted in, there is little energy loss and you can turn off units when you aren’t using the room. Ductless mini split systems can run between $5000 to $8000 or more, depending on the number of units you need. However, there is a lot of savings by having the freedom to control the temperatures in different rooms in your home.
Other Types of Mini Split Air Conditioners
There are four types of mini split air conditioning units to be aware of: high wall, cassette, attic ducted units and floor mounted units. High wall is the most popular and what we discussed above, cassette is typically a commercial application, while mini split ducted attic and floor units are for unique situations.
Unlike a mini split system that is mounted higher on a wall, a floor mounted air conditioner is installed lower on a wall, sitting just above the floor. These work like a standard split system but the plumbing goes through the floor. A floor mounted AC is a good option for rooms that have a lot of glass and windows. It’s also great for low and angled ceilings that can make it impossible to mount a ductless mini split system.
Most floor mounted air conditioners come with easy access filtration systems to reduce contaminants in the room and operate quietly. Temperature control is easy with wireless remote systems that keep you in control of your comfort. Like ductless, the cost varies depending on how many zones you are installing. Floor mounted air conditioners run between $5,000 and $8,000.
Window Air Conditioner
Most of us have had the experience of running to the local hardware store for a window air conditioner when the summer suddenly springs a heatwave. These are low-cost options for those who need a solution fast. They are also easy to install and transport when you move. A window unit is a great option for people in apartments or temporary living situations but is not a long-term solution for cooling a whole house.
Window air conditioners don’t need any ductwork to work, they just need the proper sized and oriented window, a plug, and nothing blocking it. When looking for a window air conditioner keep in mind the size of the room and how many BTUs you will need to keep it relatively cool. An undersized unit will struggle to keep up on a hot day. An oversized unit will not remove enough humidity. It is important to note that the higher the BTUs the heavier the unit. Choose an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating for the best energy efficiency. A window air conditioner can run between $250 and $900 depending on energy efficiency and the size of the room you need to cool.
Portable Air Conditioner
Similar to a window air conditioner, portable units are self-contained and have all their parts in one box. These are affordable types of air conditioners that can be easily moved from room to room as needed. Portable air conditioners are also great options for tiny homes, RVs, or places where window air conditioners are considered unsightly.
Portable air conditioners need more space around them and can be noisy. It also should be noted that portable air conditioners aren’t cheap to run. Many portable air conditioners also double as dehumidifiers which means you may need to drain them often depending on your geographical area. Many portable air conditioners can run $500 or more especially as the BTUs creep up above 8,000 or more.
Hybrid Air Conditioner
A hybrid system uses dual-fuel, incorporating a heat pump with a traditional gas furnace. In mild weather, the heat pump runs on electricity for heating and cooling. When the temperatures dip below 30 degrees or when the thermostat calls for a large increase in temperature, the gas furnace kicks in to meet the demand for heat. The advantage of a hybrid air conditioning system is getting the best of both a heat pump and a furnace.
Heat pumps have the advantage of being an all-in-one heating and cooling system but, as noted, can struggle in especially cold weather. In the Northwest, a heat pump can handle almost anything winter throws at it, except for those extra chilly mornings or during snowstorms. Furnaces can pump out the heat in winter but, of course, don’t do any cooling and must be paired with an air conditioning system. Bundling a heat pump and furnace together gives you consistent temperatures, good humidity control, and improves indoor air quality. And you never have to worry about being too hot or too cold because behind the scenes your hybrid air conditioner and heating system is switching seamlessly to keep you comfortable. Hybrid air conditioners with a heat pump and gas furnace cost between $9,000 and $16,000.
Geothermal Air Conditioner
For those looking for an eco-friendly air conditioning system, geothermal air conditioning technology is a great solution. If you have ever been inside a cave you have experienced the basics of geothermal air conditioning. No matter what the weather is like above ground, underground the insulating properties of terra firma keep the temperature steady. This temperature ranges from 45 to 75 degrees, depending on where you live.
There are two primary components of a geothermal air conditioning system: a ground source heat pump inside your home and a buried loop of pipe that is completely out of sight. This underground loop circulates a fluid mixture that acts like a heat exchanger. This collects or disperses heat from the surrounding area. In the summer, the heat pump draws the heat from your home outside and deposits it in the ground and in the winter it reverses that process.
A geothermal air conditioning system uses water and minimal electricity making them cost-effective and reducing fossil fuel usage. They are also very durable, long-lasting, and require very little maintenance. Geothermal air conditioners start at $20,000.
How Jacobs Can Help
Finding the right air conditioning system for you and your family is important for your lifestyle and wallet. Our Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning consultants will help evaluate your home to ensure you have the best system for your home and comfort. You can schedule a tune-up for your existing system, get on a maintenance plan or we can guide you through the decision-making process as you find the HVAC system that works best for you. No matter what you need we’re always just a phone call away. You are welcome to review our statement on COVID-19 and how we’re taking precautions to protect you, our team, and our communities.