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What type of air conditioner should I choose for my home?

For the average home in Canada, you will be choosing between three differing types of air conditioning systems.

These include Split system central air, mini-split air conditioning, and packaged air conditioning. We’ll go over these in more detail below.

Split System Central Air System

Central Air Conditioning

Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning systems are the most common A/C system in use in North American homes today.

They employ a ‘split system’ that circulates air through existing duct work and provides cooling for the entire house.

The ‘split’ aspect of this system means that they employ an outdoor condenser/compressor along with an indoor unit that contains the evaporator.

Central air conditioning provides cooling to all rooms connected to the existing duct work instead of just isolated rooms as is the case with some other systems. They also remove much of the humidity in the air, providing an overall cooler, more comfortable environment throughout the entire home.

Uses a lot of energy. Cools all rooms even when not occupied
Loses some efficiency due to heat transference while traveling through ducts

Ductless Mini-Split A/C System

Mini Split Air Conditioning

Mini Split Air Conditioning

A mini-split A/C system also employs the two part indoor/outdoor concept used by central air with the difference being that the indoor unit incorporates the evaporator and fan in one single unit.

The evaporator/fan is usually mounted on a wall and may be controlled by remote. This is commonly used for smaller areas with no existing duct work.

The main advantage of mini-split A/C systems is that they can be installed into homes that do not currently have existing ductwork. They are more efficient due to the cold air traveling directly into the room to be cooled instead of having to pass through ducts where heat transference can waste energy.

Installation is also quite easy as only a 3-4″ hole is required to be drilled into an exterior wall. The entire installation can usually be completed in a single day.

Mini-split systems are perfect for smaller living spaces such as apartments and dorm rooms.

They are also highly convenient due to the individual thermostat control that is available to each handler in each room (most systems can handle up to four individual handlers in different rooms). Handlers are also easy to add to new home additions that do not have ductwork.

Single mini-split A/C systems are not powerful enough to cool an entire larger home without the addition of further systems such as packaged window A/C units or additional mini-split systems.

The indoor handlers which are usually wall mounted are much more visible that central air systems. They also usually cost more than standard central air conditioner systems.

Packaged A/C Units

Packaged Air Conditioning

Packaged Air Conditioning

Packaged A/C systems incorporate all the necessary elements into one single unit that can be mounted externally much like the central A/C condenser unit. Cool air is circulated through the home via existing duct work.

Many external packaged systems also include the ability to provide heating to the house, eliminating the need for an internal furnace.

A small window mounted A/C unit also counts as a packaged unit.

Packaged A/C systems are very compact due to all elements of both the cooling and heating systems being contained together in a single unit mounted outside the home. This makes it very attractive to people with minimal indoor space to devote to a heating and cooling system.

All parts of the system come completely pre-assembled from the factory, ensuring the unit will work very efficiently out of the box. This makes installation quite simple and therefore much more affordable to the consumer.

The only real drawback to these packaged systems is that the entire unit is exposed to the elements year round, leaving it vulnerable to leaks and damage from wildlife seeking warmth in winter.

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