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Types of Air Conditioning Systems

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Not all air conditioning systems are created equal. Each can be useful for certain situations. Thankfully, we have different types of air conditioners for different styles of homes and businesses:

Split Systems

A split system keeps everything separated, splitting the hot side from the cold side. The cold side has the expansion valve and the cold “evaporator” coil. The system is placed in a furnace (or another system that handles air). The system blows air through the coil and, using ducts, guides the air throughout the building. The condensing unit is on the hot side. The unit usually sits on the outside of the building.


The popular, “ductless” air conditioning system is technically a split system and is sometimes called a mini-split system. You’ve probably seen a ductless air conditioning system…think of the air conditioners that are mounted on the inside wall of a room in a house or office that blow cold air into a particular part of the building. One of the least expensive HVAC system options, a ductless system has two components: an outside unit and an inside unit.

    • Condenser– The outdoor unit or condenser, which contains the compressor, is installed outside your home on a concrete slab. This pumps and cools the system’s refrigerant through the copper lines to the indoor unit.
    • Evaporator– The indoor unit or evaporator contains a fan that’s installed in the area to be cooled. When this fan turns, it allows the indoor coil to absorb heat from the air inside the room and it distributes the cooler air through the room.

A ductless system works the same as a regular AC unit, except there are no ducts distributing the air. Instead, the ductless system works solely through the fan installed inside the home.

Portable/Room/Window AC

These units are able to fit inside most windows and are perfect for dorm rooms, apartments, or other small spaces. The portable system uses the same principles of the refrigeration cycle but in a tinier box. Blowers and fans move the cooled air into the room while removing heat from the room. The refrigerant extracts heat from the air and simultaneously cools the air, creating an enjoyable experience for the user.

Packaged Units

Packaged units contain all the necessary components, but they are all located in one cabinet, like a much larger version of a window unit. Instead of splitting the cold side from the warm side, they’re all together in one unit. The heating process is used through either natural gas or an electric heat lamp located inside the packaged unit. Therefore, most packaged units don’t have an indoor furnace.

Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) units are also known as wall-split air conditioning systems. PTAC systems are a type of packaged air conditioner that is typically installed through the wall of a building, such as a hotel room or senior living facility, so the evaporator section and controls are located inside the space and the condensing coil is on the exterior side of the wall to reject the heat from the space to the outdoor environment.

Learn more: What is Air Conditioning and How Does it Work, and The History of Air Conditioning.

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