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Comparing the Best Air Conditioning System Options for Your Home

When summer begins to come and humidity levels start to rise, it becomes easy to see why air conditioning is a home comfort necessity. There are four main types of home AC units and systems that function by removing heat from the home. Each system comes with different benefits, from efficiency levels to home aesthetics to the general ability to provide comfort. In this article, we will help you decide which system is the best option for you and your family.

How AC Systems Compare

Window Air Conditioners

Window units are one of the most commonly found pieces of cooling equipment, and are designed to fit in windows. Typically, you will find them in apartments lacking central AC systems or single rooms in larger homes.

Window Air Conditioner Benefits

  • Window AC units are relatively small, portable, and easy-to-install compared with most other AC units. And you can install them without the help of a professional.
  • Window units are generally the cheapest option to quickly add AC to your home.
  • Models made today can be up to 30% more efficient than a model manufactured only a decade ago, and may include warranties up to 5 years long.

Window Air Conditioner Disadvantages

  • Window AC units are not built to cool an entire home, so you generally need a unit in each room to keep the entire home comfortable.
  • Each unit takes up a window, and makes it inaccessible for the summer.
  • Window units can also add a lot of noise to each room.
  • Larger window units may prove difficult to install in the summer and remove in the winter, especially on higher floors.
  • Other factors can impair the unit’s efficiency, including high ceilings, multiple windows/doors in a room, high sun exposure, or rooms on higher floors.

Portable Air Conditioning Systems

Portable units can be similar to window units, but they typically sit on the floor instead of in the window. Like most units, it brings in hot, humid air and vents cool, dry air back into your home. The hot air is vented through an exhaust hose, typically out a window. This option can be effective if your windows can’t fit a window unit, or you would rather not install a window unit.

Portable Air Conditioning Benefits

  • Portable AC units are even easier to install than window units, and they usually roll on casters so they are easy to position and move.
  • The exhaust hose does not take up the whole window, so your view is not completely obstructed, and the hose can be removed if you want to crack the window in nicer weather.

Portable Air Conditioning Disadvantages

  • According to Consumer Reports, portable AC units, typically only deliver half the cooling capacity they claim, so you may be uncomfortable even if the unit is running nonstop.
  • They also can be more expensive and come with higher operating costs than window units because they are less efficient.
  • They may make a lot of noise, and usually have a water reservoir that removes humidity from the air, but also needs to be emptied manually.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Systems

Ductless mini-split systems are designed to cool smaller homes, or additions to homes, where ductwork may not be feasible to install. Ductless mini-splits have two main components; an outdoor compressor (similar to a central AC system) 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 is used to connect the two components. Some ductless models achieve higher efficiency ratings than any other type of AC system!

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Benefits

  • Ductless mini-splits give you the flexibility to cool individual parts of your home with smaller, energy-efficient units.
  • It’s the closest you will get to a central AC system without needing to install ductwork.
  • Mini-splits are also heat pumps, so they also provide heat during the winter.
  • The unit typically operates no louder than a ceiling fan, because the compressor is located outside. They are far quieter than window or portable units.
  • You don’t need to install any equipment in the window, so you have access to it anytime!

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Disadvantages

  • Ductless mini-splits are more expensive than window or portable units.
  • You should hire a professional for the installation, as they will need to drill a 3-inch hole in the wall to connect the units.
  • The units mount to a wall or the ceiling, so you need to keep in mind interior design.

Central Air Conditioning System

The most popular type of system, central AC systems are also the most comprehensive way to cool your home. Cold air is distributed through ductwork in each room, and all of the components are located outside, with the exception of the air handler (which is generally shared with the furnace). If you have the ductwork in place and are looking to cool your entire home, this is probably the choice for you.

Central Air Conditioning Benefits

  • Central air is the most efficient and effective way to cool your ENTIRE house.
  • Your energy bills will go down, as will the temperatures and humidity levels in your home.
  • The system is virtually invisible and silent, because all the components are outside.
  • If your home has existing ductwork, installation is fairly straight-forward for a trained professional.
  • A central AC system is a permanent fixture that adds a great deal of value to your home.

Central Air Conditioning Disadvantages

  • Central AC systems require annual maintenance to keep the system working as efficiently as possible.
  • You may face higher upfront costs, especially if you’re installing ductwork (although replacing an old central air unit is cheaper than installing a ductless mini-split).

When you install a new AC system, always consider which size system fits your situation. An undersized unit may not cool your home effectively, and an oversized unit could routinely short-cycle, decreasing efficiency and wearing out parts.

If you choose a central AC system or a ductless mini-split, a licensed professional contractor can size the unit to meet the needs of your unique home. Just another reason to choose a professionally installed system from Love Effron.

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