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10 Types of Air Conditioners to Consider | Buying Guide

While soaring temperatures accelerate the demand for air conditioners, the market also continues to get swamped with new models every summer.

As the impact of global warming worsens the entire scenario of planet earth, we’re a witness to some of the worst temperature changes in the past few years. Starting from our homes to offices, we require the installation of an air conditioner; otherwise, it’s almost unbearable to function efficiently.

It gets impossible to even grab an afternoon siesta without turning on the air conditioner. In some countries, summers are like living in a furnace with extreme humidity, which leads to sheer exhaustion. Earlier, an air conditioner was an avoidable luxury, but in the present moment, it’s become a bare necessity.

Now, the search for the right air conditioner might seem like a huge task, but we’ll help make this process much simpler for you. This informative guide has all the intricate details about the different types of air conditioners in the market. Let’s get started, shall we?

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The Different Types of Air Conditioners

  1. Central Air Conditioning

This is also known as “central air,” and this type of air conditioning is most effective when you have plenty of rooms to cool at once in a large house. The primary function of this system lies within the cooling compressor as it consists of a coil that is filled with refrigerant. This compressor is placed on the outside of the house, and it helps to cool down your entire space.

After the compressor starts to function, the fan blows out to distribute cold air throughout your home with an established ductwork. It has supply and return duct, that circulates cold air within the house. The warm air from your house is taken back through the return system, and it’s carried out through the exhaust pipe.

The same system of ducts that are used by the heating appliance to direct the air from the furnace is also what the air conditioner uses. You’ll find this duct system in most of the older homes that don’t have the “central air” cooling system. It helps to make the installation process much simpler whenever you decide to get this system of air conditioning installed.

To install this air conditioning can be a challenging task, as it deals with many alterations that need to be done in the interiors of your home. However, the central air conditioning is one of the most expensive cooling systems in this list, and it requires professional help for installation. 

  1. Window Air Conditioners

The window air conditioners are the most common units of air conditioner being used in many homes. These types of air conditioners are quite prevalent as you look up the walls of the different apartments and homes in the city. You might have also witnessed the water drippings from the condenser of such air conditioners.

This model of an air conditioner is generally mounted on the windows of a home, from which the exhaust system pushes out the hot air through the sides and back. But, you have the refrigerant cooling system that is pointed towards the indoors to cool down your room.

You can use a single unit to cool one room, as it’s not efficient enough to work in more than one place. However, you need to get separate window air conditioners for cooling different rooms. This is quite an inexpensive option and works reasonably well for those living in small homes or apartments.

 The advantage of using this model lies with the easy installation and removal process. You can shift this window air conditioner from one room to another, or you can remove it entirely during the colder months.

As you’ll be placing this air conditioner on a window, it means that one of your ventilation space is going to be blocked out. This is a significant drawback, especially for rooms with a single-window to draw in natural light and fresh air. Moreover, we advise you not to place these air conditioners on a window that is close to the ground, to avoid any theft of your cooling system.

  1. Through-the-wall Air Conditioners

This through-the-wall air conditioner has the same function as your window air conditioners. It draws in the warm air from the room and carries it out gradually through the exhaust, while it distributes cold air in the same manner. Just like your portable and window air conditioners, these are also free-standing or “unitary” systems.

For homes without accessible windows, this will be a feasible option as they are not mounted on any window. However, before installing this cooling system, you need to ensure that proper planning is put into it. This unit will be placed permanently on your wall, so it can’t be removed easily. 

You’ll find a hole being cut in the exterior wall, while mounting this air conditioner, to insert a sleeve though that gap. These sleeves help to support the load of the air conditioner, as the walls are not strong enough to hold the weight of this system. We advise you to hire a professional to complete this installation procedure to avoid any issues, as a hole needs to be drilled through the walls.  

The reason we prefer the through-the-wall air conditioners to the window unit is that you can still use the window, without blocking this space. Also, for energy efficiency, there is an airtight seal that is created.

  1. Portable Air Conditioners

Just like the window air conditioners and the through-the-wall unit, this is also an example of a free-standing or a” unitary” air conditioning system. This indicates that your portable air conditioning model has all the essential parts contained within this single set. You’ll find these models is commonly used, in places where building rules and regulations or the design of the room doesn’t support a window unit.

This unit functions by cooling the air with the help of a condenser coil that is placed inside the system while sending out warm air through the large exhaust hose. 

The exhaust pipe is like a giant tube which is quite similar to the dryer vent for directing the exhaust to the outdoors. And, the duct is connected to a window kit that is airtight. You don’t need to purchase this sealed window kit separately as you’ll be receiving it along with this air conditioner.

You might find this air conditioner to be a bit noisy as the exhaust fan and condenser is placed within the same frame. The overbearing sound that you hear is because of the evaporator fan, which vaporizes the condensation that is collected inside this system. If you’re planning to use this unit for cooling an ample space, this will probably not be a suitable option for you.

The portable air conditioner works efficiently to cool down space that is under 500 square feet. Most people buy this unit in situations where it’s impractical to get a window unit, and the last option is this model for cooling their home. Moreover, the relative weakness and overbearing noise are the main disadvantages of this unit. But, you can quickly move it around the house as it’s equipped with wheels.

  1. Package Terminal Air Conditioners

You’ll find the PTAC or Package Terminal Air Conditioners being used for cooling down large commercial spaces such as- hospital, hotels, shopping malls, schools, or apartment buildings. In a hospital, you must have noticed such units have been installed. They are generally placed below the window and slightly above the ground.

You don’t get to see the part that is located behind the interior walls. The PTAC unit has an exhaust system which sends warm air outside the living facility. Even though this unit is commonly used in commercial spaces, but it’s also a viable option for your home.

The functions of PTAC is similar to the other air conditioning system, which sends the coolant through the compressor by redirecting the air for cooling down space. 

If you compare this unit with the central air conditioning system, you’ll understand how this ductless system has a much simpler installation process. This also helps to reduce the installation cost, while the upfront cost is relatively less than the other system.

The advantage of using the PTAC system is due to the double effect feature for both cooling and heating purposes. These systems are generally used to cool or heat a single room. This air conditioning system is the absolute best option when you want to cool a place that is not connected to the central ductwork. You can also avoid overusing the central air conditioning when you get the PTAC system installed at your home.

  1. Ductless Split System Air Conditioners

The Split System air conditioners can be used to cool the different parts of your home. Unlike the portable air conditioner or the window units, there are not “unitary” or self-contained appliances. As the name suggests, these units are formed with a two-part system. In buildings that don’t have a comprehensive duct system, is where this ‘Split’ unit has been widely installed.

It’s called the ‘split-system’ as it comprises of more than two parts. The condenser unit is generally installed in the outdoors, while the compact evaporative units or blower units, are mounted on the walls in the area that you want to cool down. These two parts are connected with conduits, that carry the refrigerant lines and power.

The benefit of using the ‘split-system’ is because of the thermostat, which allows you to easily adjust the temperature in different rooms as per your requirements. This thermostat feature is one of the main reasons for this unit being priced higher than the central air conditioning system.

  1. Geothermal Heating and Cooling

The system of ‘Geothermal cooling’ uses a new, energy-efficient technology which continues to face high demand in the market. This “Geothermal” technology has been making the most use of the ground temperature to efficiently cool and heat your home. 

Our planet earth has excellent insulating properties, which allows the ground beneath us to maintain a constant temperature of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. And, irrespective of the temperature outside, the ground present 4 to 6 feet down tends to remain completely unaffected. This is indeed the most efficient method that is used for cooling the home.

It has a piping system, commonly known as “earth loop” or “loop” which is used for circulating water between the earth, a heat pump, and your home. You can get these polyethylene pipes installed either horizontally or vertically, as it depends on the condition of the plot’s topography.

During the winter season, the water rushes through the earth loop, as it continues to absorb heat from beneath the ground. The temperature of this trapped heat is quite high when it’s compressed efficiently, and then this heat is delivered to the indoors. 

This entire process gets reversed during the summers. The heat from the house gets compressed into the heat pump, from which the excess heat is gradually removed by delivering it inside the ground. And, the remaining cold air is then distributed throughout the house. 

This system is considered to be a breakthrough innovation as it requires no fossil fuels for generating heat. However, electric power is needed for operating the fan, pump, and compressor.

 This method of geothermal cooling and heating is gaining more popularity due to its concept of sustainability. In countries like Sweden and Switzerland, there are around 60-70% of homes using this cooling and heating method.

  1. Evaporative or “Swamp” Coolers 

The evaporative coolers are often known as “swamp coolers.” The effectiveness of this system is similar to the refrigerant air conditioners, but the latter is more popular. In conventional air conditioners, you’ll find the use of a refrigerant, which is usually called Freon, but the swamp coolers use only water and air. This system has no emission which can leave a carbon footprint.

This unit uses a simple functioning procedure such as- when the air passes through or above the water, the air gets cooled. By using this technique, the evaporative cooler pulls the hot air inside the house through damp pads, which gradually cools the air. A version of the technology that has been used in swamp coolers can also be found in Ancient Egypt. 

You can use the evaporative cooler in the hot, dry climates which is the major drawback for this system. It requires warm and dry air that leads to evaporation. This explains why using such a unit in a place with high humidity will make the air unpleasant. Therefore, swamp coolers are generally used in dry climates like the American Southwest areas.

With the swamp cooler, you’ll be noticing a significant difference in the energy consumption level as it requires electricity for operating the fan. This system is highly energy-efficient when compared to the other conventional air conditioners. 

If you’re concerned about the output of your housing appliances and you want an ecologically sustainable product, then the swamp cooler will be an absolute best option. It doesn’t use Freon for refrigeration, and there is no carbon dioxide emission.

  1. Solar Hybrid Air Conditioner

When you plan to get an air conditioner, you’ll find two variants of technology being used, such as- inverter and conventional. There is a new competitor in the market, which is the solar hybrid. It uses both solar thermal energy and mains electrical power.

It requires electricity for operating the electric control components and fans. The solar energy is used for the refrigeration process, and this reduces the energy needed for the compressor to function. However, this system also has similar functions like our conventional air conditioners in which refrigeration is a result of the transition phase of the refrigerant.

The thermal solar energy is absorbed through the heat-conducting copper coils in the thermal collector. With the stored energy from the solar collector, it continues with the refrigeration cycle, by using the refrigerant liquid that is present in the condenser. This process takes place when the compressor is off.

Overall, it has a small compressor that consumes less electrical energy as it functions along with the solar collector. It helps to save around 50% of energy when compared to other conventional models, and it also doesn’t produce any excessive noise while it functions.

  1. Cassette Air Conditioners

This model of an air conditioner is generally shaped like a cassette, while it should be mounted on the ceiling. The panel of this cooling unit is designed in a way that it complements all types of decorations. You might have seen these units in office spaces, restaurants, or big halls. It’s indeed suitable for large areas where split or window AC’s will not function efficiently.

This unit is commonly used for cooling large areas because of its compact design, and for its ductless feature. Also, it functions without producing any loud sound. These features make this unit an ideal option when there are structural constraints (low cross beams), or when you’re looking for a ductless unit.

The cassette air conditioner is known for its efficient functionality and aesthetics, but you’ll require a false ceiling to install this air conditioner which helps to conceal the unit. The price for the cassette air conditioners is more than the floor-mounted, or wall mounted split AC.

Moreover, it also uses modern technology which includes variable speed fans and adjustable thermostats, and it’s an exceptionally energy-efficient air conditioner. Also, you can install photocatalytic filters that will help to remove harmful particulates and other pollutants from the air.

Given that you need to place the condenser outside the building, it indicates that you’ll require professional help to get this unit installed. The lines will run from the cassette in the ceiling to the condenser located outside, while the distance between them can range within 50 feet.

We advise you to consult a professional to help you decide on the right design, and this will also avoid any form of improper installation. These ceiling cassette units might be compact, but it requires sufficient space to be installed. So, this might not be the best choice if the room lacks a suspended ceiling. 

The different aspects to consider before purchasing an air conditioner

This appliance can significantly blow up the electricity bills, so you should take utmost care to ensure that you select the right model of an air conditioner. When you purchase this unit it will go on for at least the next ten years; therefore, it’s essential to make an informed decision. Let’s look into some of the common factors that will help you determine which unit will suit your requirements! 

  1. Cooling Capacity – Size Matters

This is an essential factor to be considered. If you don’t focus on the size, you’ll end up getting an AC that either makes the room extremely cold or it’s insufficient. When the AC is of the accurate size, you’ll be using it optimally, and you can save a ton of money from your monthly electricity bills.

An air conditioners cooling capacity is measured based on British Thermal Units per hour (BTU/hr). To understand how many BTU’s your air conditioning should have, you need to accurately measure the space that you’ll be trying to cool down. For instance, a room of 100-120 square feet, should have 1 ton AC, while for 175 square feet you can opt for the 1.5 ton AC. 

  1. Efficiency

In an air conditioner, efficiency is usually termed as EER or Energy Efficiency Ratio. You can calculate this ratio in specific conditions by dividing the total cooling output (in BTU) by the total energy input (in watt-hours).

If you get a small-sized air conditioner for cooling a large space, it will require more time to get the work done. This will eventually lead to a more massive consumption of electricity.

All air conditioners come with a specific cooling capacity that is represented with BTU/hr. This refers to the BTUs (British Thermal Unit) of heat, which it can efficiently remove in an hour. The higher the EER rating, the better is your air conditioner. However, the units with good EER rating will be more expensive, but you’ll get a return on investment as the electricity bills will be quite low.

The units which are marked with an Energy Star Labels are usually manufactured according to strict guidelines. These rules have been set by the U.S. Department of Energy as well as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  1. Noise level

If you’re opting for a split air conditioner, then noise will not be an issue. But, if you purchase a window air conditioner, the noise from this unit can disturb your sleep at night. Even for the split AC, you should ask the dealer about the exact noise details (in dB) for indoor and outdoor units. You should always get an AC with a lower decibel because such units will function very quietly.

  1. Maintenance

Check if the unit comes with a service plan which includes- discounts on repairs and regular inspections. And you can also focus on the labor warranty to understand the overall budget that is required for that particular unit. The prices for the service of an air conditioner can vary broadly.

  1. Programmable thermostats

The efficient use of a programmable thermostat can help to reduce your cooling costs by around 20-30% steadily. And, if you opt to use a ceiling fan or a box, it will cost you less amount for making you feel even more cooler. 

You need to consider the type of control that you want to use for your air conditioner. For instance, in the wall-mounted/ceiling air conditioners, you can connect the central air conditioning to your thermostat. And, once the ideal temperature has been set, you can enjoy the cold air. 

In the window or portable air conditioners, there is no automatic feature, so you need to monitor the temperature manually. This includes almost every thermostat control from digital keypads to remote controls to manual dials. Similarly, in your ductless split systems, you can set the ideal temperature in different rooms, without wasting any energy.

  1. Financial costs

You need to consider the total budget for an air conditioner, and the pricing of different models which will help you to understand the unit that will suit your needs. For instance, the bigger the size of your air conditioning unit, the higher will be the consumption of electricity. And, if you’re living in a hotter climate, you’ll be using the AC for a more extended period. 

The cost of cooling the home will vary depending on the system that you select. It can range from hundreds of dollars (for window air conditioners or portable unit) to a few thousand (for central air conditioners).

The reason we keep emphasizing to select the right model is to help you understand the considerable impact it leaves on your electricity bills. So, you should ensure that you investigate the options carefully while you’re making a big purchase.

  1. Material and construction of the walls and home

Another essential concept that you should consider is the material and quality of your home. For instance, the old brick homes tend to trap more heat. In some of the new apartments, the walls are built with unique chemical compounds while the paint is capable of reflecting heat.

You need to invest your time for a little research about the structure of your home, to understand how the house can influence the AC plans. Some AC installment companies also offer complimentary home inspections to determine which AC option is suitable for your home.

  1. Other factors
  • Room occupancy

Human beings tend to generate a good amount of body heat, which in return contributes to an increase in temperature inside your room. And, excess heat can create an uncomfortable situation. With an increase in the number of people in a room, the total heat generated continues to rise steadily. You should bear this in mind, as you continue to find for the right air conditioner.

  • Is the room sunny or shady?

You need to consider the location of your home and its surrounding environment. Do you live in a moist swampland or a humid desert where the temperature is very high? Do tall trees surround your home, or is your house under the direct gaze of the sun? Are there mountains or rivers near your home? You need to consider all these external factors before you invest in the right device. 

 For a room that receives plenty of natural sunlight, will require an air conditioner with a slightly higher BTU. And, for a place with a minimal amount of the sun like the basement, it will be sufficient even if you have an air conditioner with a low BTU.

  • Electronic appliances

In all your rooms you’ll find some electronic or electrical devices. This can be a coffee maker, oven, tube lights, laptops, phones, etc. Each of these electric appliances plays an essential role in increasing the temperature inside the house, due to constant heat generation. It can also increase the relative humidity inside the room. If there is poor ventilation inside the house, it will give rise to a higher discomfort level.

When you have too many appliances in your home, you should consider the heat generated by them to understand the right BTU that you require.

Here are some brief pointers to make this selection process less challenging for you:

  • Do you have some planning restrictions as per the building codes which prevent you from placing a condenser on your building? Then, you can opt for the floor-mounted, or wall-mounted self-contained air conditioners.
  • If you’re purchasing an AC for a rented apartment, then the comfortable fit split AC’s, or the portable units will be a viable option.
  • For an adequate cooling capacity along with a heating source, you should select an air conditioner with a heat pump.
  • You can also find options for AC’s, which come with anti-bacterial filters, odor removal filters, and mosquito repellant technology.
  • You should check the plug types since few units are not compatible for the standard wall sockets. For instance, the larger units will require individual outlets, and it will use around 250-volt plugs. But, the smaller window or portable units generally use the standard 120-volt plugs.
  • You should consider whether you’ll using the AC all year round or not, this will help you determine the efficiency that you’re on the lookout for.
  • Focus on the aftersales of the product, to understand whether it will be easy to get repairs and services done for the AC. You should also find out about the quality of customer services for that particular brand. 
  • Check for the materials and coils that have been used to make the AC. For instance, the copper coils are known for its durability, and efficiency when compared to the regular aluminum coils. The quality of the materials also indicates the power consumption rate for the unit.

Conclusion

To stay comfortable while we work and for a good night’s sleep, we voluntarily cannot avoid living without an AC any longer. As you continue to select the best air conditioner as per your needs, we advise you to weigh out the pros and cons of each model carefully. 

So, hurry up, as a comfortable summer awaits you!

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