HVAC 101: An Overview of Home Cooling Systems

HVAC 101: An Overview of Home Cooling SystemsGetting a new air conditioner for your home can be a considerable investment, so it is important to understand all your options. The multiple types of cooling systems to choose from can be confusing. Here is a quick guide to help you sort out which is best for your home.

Central air conditioner

Central air conditioning uses a cooling compressor (outdoor unit) to cool the air that is then circulated throughout your home. A fan moves the cooled air to the various rooms through air ducts. Warm air is pulled out of the house through a return system and is then pushed outside through the exhaust. The temperature is controlled through a thermostat mounted on a wall in the home.

Pros: Cools your entire house with one system, efficiently and relatively inexpensively.

Cons: Expensive to install; requires ductwork.

Ductless mini-split

This can be a great option for a home or addition that does not have ductwork. A split system can be more energy efficient and cost effective in certain situations, such as for a room or area of your home, like a guest room, that does not need to be cooled all the time.

Pros: Flexibility and efficiency of only cooling areas that need cooling. Can be installed anywhere. Different areas can be controlled independently.

Cons: Does not cool the whole house; upfront costs can be high; the unit is visible where it is installed inside the home.

Hybrid/Dual Fuel air conditioner

This system combines a gas furnace with an electric air-source heat pump, making it cost effective and efficient. The system can be programmed to switch to the appropriate energy source, or the change can be done manually. In the summer, the heat pump pulls hot air from the home and dumps it outdoors.

Pros: Maintains indoor comfort efficiently.

Cons: High cost of initial set-up.

Window air conditioner

Window air conditioners are a good temporary solution for meeting your cooling needs. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are easy to install and remove.

Pros: Inexpensive; easy installation.

Cons: Only cools one medium-sized room; blocks the window; produces condensation.

Portable air conditioner

This type of air conditioner is an easy-to-use and affordable option for a small space. The portability makes it easy to transport from room to room as needed.

Pros: Low cost to own and operate.

Cons: Condensation build-up requires drainage; only cools one room at a time; takes up space in the room.

Geothermal air conditioning system

Geothermal systems are highly efficient and environmentally friendly as they use no fossil fuels, use water instead of refrigerant and need only minimal electricity to power the fan, compressor and pump. Geothermal uses an underground loop system for cooling and heating. Based on the principle that the temperature of the earth is constant, heat is either drawn out of the home and released into the ground for cooling, or drawn from the ground into the home for heating.

Pros: Very inexpensive to operate; good for the environment; lasts up to 50 years.

Cons: Expensive to install and repair, although tax incentives may be available and repairs are minimal. Requires sufficient outdoor space.

Smart air conditioner

Smart air conditioners are connected to Wi-Fi and are controlled with a smartphone app. Functionality includes weekly scheduling, geofencing and temperature range control. The smart app can be used on an IoT-enabled mini-split, window unit or portable air conditioner. In the form of a programmable thermostat, it can be used with a ducted central air system as well.

Pros: Efficiency, flexibility and cost savings.

Cons: More expensive to purchase; requires Wi-Fi.

Swamp Coolers (evaporative air conditioners)

Swamp coolers work well in Colorado’s dry climate and are far less expensive than a traditional central air system to purchase and to operate. They do require winterizing to protect the unit and your home. The copper tubing must be disconnected to prevent freezing and the unit should be covered in winter to protect the cooler pan. The pads need to be changed and the unit cleaned annually.

Pros: Energy efficient; minimal overall maintenance.

Cons: Doesn’t work well when temperatures reach above 95.

The experts at IAQ can help you choose the perfect cooling system for your home. Contact us today. We serve homes in Highlands Ranch and throughout the Denver Metro Area.