Different Types of Cooling Systems

AC units outside of a brick house.

A cooling unit is an important part of your home’s HVAC system. Cooling systems are more complex than their heating counterparts and come in a variety of options. Picking the right one for your home will save you time and money in the long run and make your house comfortable during those hot summer months. From central air to ductless units, here are the different types of home cooling systems on the market today.

Central Air

Central AC outside of a brick home.

Central air conditioning is one of the most common cooling systems. Central air conditioning systems contain two parts: a condenser and an evaporator. The condenser is the big unit that is typically stored outdoors and features a compressor, condensing coils, and a fan. The evaporator is connected to the condenser via special tubing. The system feeds into your home’s ductwork and the cool air is distributed throughout the home. Central air is among the most effective cooling systems on the market, though it can be difficult finding the appropriate size for your house. If the system is not big enough then you will have problems cooling the entire house. If it is too large then you might have to deal with humidity issues.

Window Air Conditioners

Window AC unit outside a blue house.

Window air conditioners are self-contained units that are typically installed inside a window or exterior wall. These compact units blow heat outdoors and eject cool air inside the home. Window air conditioners are made in all shapes and sizes and can cool anywhere from a single room to a full floor. Depending on the size of the house, a larger window conditioner may be all you need to cool your home.

Portable Units

Man installing a portable AC unit

Like window air conditioners, portable air conditioners are self-contained units that can be placed anywhere in a room. These machines work by releasing heat through a hose outside while cooling the inside air. The biggest downsides to portable units are the noise they make and that they can only cool a room smaller than 500 square feet. A lot of homeowners use portable units in places that are not suitable for window air conditioners or when they need a temporary solution.

Ductless Systems

A ductless system in a red room.

Split cooling systems, also referred to as ductless systems, are common in other countries and are typically featured in hotels. They work in a similar fashion to central air conditioners. The only difference is that each area of the house — or zone — has its own unit that handles air. These units are linked to the outdoor condenser and are usually installed along a wall or ceiling. One advantage to a ductless system is that it is flexible and different areas of the home can be cooled to personal comfort levels. The biggest disadvantage, however, is that ductless systems are more expensive than traditional cooling systems.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump outside a home with paneling.

Heat pumps work in a similar fashion as central air conditioners and are used to cool an entire house. Heat pumps generally come in two varieties: ground-source and air-source. Ground-source heat pumps use heat from the ground while air-source ones pull heat from outside air. The great thing about heat pumps is that they can be used to both heat and cool a home. In the summer months, you just reverse the cycle to pump cool air inside. Another advantage of heat pumps is their energy efficiency, especially if you decide to install a ground-source pump.

Evaporator Systems

Evaporator cooling systems.

Evaporator systems are an alternative to refrigerant coolers and are great in areas of the country that are dry. These units cool air by pulling it through moist pads. The cool, evaporated air is then pushed through the house. Evaporators can save you a lot of money because the only electrical component is the fan. The only tricky part is selecting the right size evaporator for your home. For a house that is around 1,500 square feet, you will need an evaporator with a fan that runs at 6,000 cubic feet per minute. These systems lose their efficiency in areas with high humidity.