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When it comes to shopping for an air conditioner, there are several cooling options you can choose from - all of which range in size, price, capacity and efficiency. The four most common air conditioning units people turn to are window units, portable units, ductless units and central air conditioning. Choosing the right type of air conditioning unit for your home (or building) is the first step to acquiring a comfortable indoor climate for you and your family. The best choice will be different from person to person depending on specific parameters set by each individual, such as square footage that needs to be cooled, budget, extensiveness of installation and efficiency.
1. Window Air Conditioner Unit
Window air conditioning units are designed to be most effective at cooling single rooms. These self-contained appliances house all components necessary to cool the surrounding area in one compact package that neatly fits in your window. Window units are designed in many different sizes, dimensions and BTU capabilities to ensure a perfect fit for individual needs. You can purchase a window unit to cool an area anywhere from 100 square feet all the way up to units that have the capacity to cool a whole house.
- Relatively inexpensive in comparison to other air conditioning units
- Easy to install and un-install for seasonal use
- Tend to be loud during operation
- Makes one of your windows in-operable, which could be an issue if you have limited windows in your home
- Unless proper precautions are taken to secure the window, it could pose a potential threat in regards to home invasions
Is a Window Unit Right For Me?
These units are great for consumers in small spaces or those who typically spend most of their time in one room of their home. This is also a great option for those who are on a tight budget or for renters who move frequently.
2. Portable Air Conditioners
Portable air conditioners are free standing floor units that provide on-the-spot cooling in single room spaces. In order to cool efficiently, the unit needs to be able to exhaust the hot air it takes in. Therefore, the portable air conditioner must be configured by a window to give the unit an outlet to release this air outside of the home. Almost all air portable units come with a window kit and accessories to make this installation requirement an easy process. Those that do not come with this capability will have a bucket or tray for the water collected during the process - you must manually empty this.
- Does not need to be installed
- Relatively low prices in comparison to other units
- Portable, so it can be easily transported from room to room
- Typically high noise levels
- On average, are known for being less efficient then other cooling devices
- Can only cool small areas and may take awhile to cool an area, especially during the peak of the summer
- If it has a tray/bucket instead of an exhaust hose, it must be emptied every 2-6 hours depending on the size of the tank and the amount of humidity in the air.
Is a Portable Air Conditioner Right For Me?
Portable Air Conditioners are great for consumers who need a small amount of space cooled - typically for those who tend to be in one room of the house for an extensive period of time. This cuts costs allowing your central air conditioner to take a break and not work to cool the whole house when you only need one room cooled. If you do not have central air, it is a good alternative to a window unit, especially those who have unique windows that do but sustain the capability to support the weight or the shape of a window unit.
3. Ductless Air Conditioner
Ductless air conditioners, also known as split system air conditioners, consist of two parts; an indoor air handling unit and an outdoor compressor/condenser component. They are typically used in circumstances where you need to cool a large space with a single ac unit and don't have access to central ductwork.
- Avoid the energy loss costs associated with ductwork of central air conditioners
- Are small in size
- Can have as many as 4 indoor units for every 1 outdoor component, enabling you to zone your home. Each zone has it's own thermostat, so you only need to cool the occupied space - saving you energy and money.
- Operate very quietly (although the outdoor compressor may be loud)
- In comparison to window units, they require a higher up front cost (however cheaper to use in the long run)
- They are not portable and therefore cannot be stored during the cooler seasons
- Require some home modification
Is a Ductless Unit Right For Me?
Ductless systems are best for homes with "non-ducted" heating systems, such as those with hydronic, radiant panels and space heaters (like wood, propane, or kerosene). It is also great for home or room additions where extending or installing ductwork would not be conducive. Sometimes this is an option for renters as well (depending on the relationship with your landlord) who have a large space to cool. It requires less home modification than a central unit but still provides the same ease and performance expected from that of a central air system.
4. Central Air Conditioning Units
Central air conditioning is run through your entire home and is controlled by a central thermostat. The air circulates through an intricate set of supply and return ducts giving the unit the capability to cool very large spaces in a timely and cost effective manner.
- Very quiet during operation
- Is the best and most efficient way to cool an entire home or building during the hot summer months
- Easy to operate and can be controlled automatically through your thermostat
- Don't take up any interior space (apart from the evaporative cooler, which is typically placed in the basement)
- Are difficult to install, requiring significant modifications to your home or building
- Large upfront cost, expensive
- Routine maintance should be performed annually
Is a Central Air Conditioning Unit Right For Me?
Typically, if you are considering central air conditioning, the deciding factor may be ductwork rather than the advantages and disadvantages. Commonly, most homes, business, and other buildings already have a central unit in place. Therefore if you are one of them, this would probably be your best option. However, if you have to do the construction to install ducts, you need to have a large upfront budget to not only purchase the unit, but be able to afford the installation process as well.