Air Conditioner Types in 2022
There are 10 different types of air conditioners for your home to choose from!
Without the right conditioning system, you won’t feel the full cooling benefits you bought it for. Not every type will fulfill your expectations or meet your specific needs. Choose the wrong type, and you’ll be left hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable when the temperatures soar in summer.
There are 10 different types of cooling air conditioner, so, understandably, picking the right one can seem overwhelming.
This buying guide will help you find the perfect in-house air conditioner for you and your home. Keep reading to learn about the differences and benefits of each type, or use this handy table of contents to skip to the section you need most.
Table of Contents
- 1 Difference Between Stand-Alone And Split-System Units
- 2 Types Of Stand Alone Air Conditioner
- 3 Types Of Split-System Units
- 4 Choosing The Best Air Conditioner For Your Specific Needs
- 5 Should You Call For Expert Or DIY Installation?
- 6 My Final Thoughts
I’ve installed and worked with air conditioners for over a decade working as a licensed Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) engineer. I’m going to use my knowledge and expertise to help you understand how each type works, so you can choose the right one for you and your home.
Let’s start by taking a look at the differences between the two main groups of air conditioners.
Difference Between Stand-Alone And Split-System Units
Different types of home air conditioners all carry out the same process but do so in different ways. All units fall into one of two large groups, either stand-alone air conditioners or split-system air conditioners.
Both types of conditioners use two sets of metal coils- evaporator coils and condenser coils. These work together to carry out the heat exchange process necessary for air cooling or heating.
Stand-alone air conditioners have both coils inside a single indoor unit. They’re super-convenient, easy to install, and are some of the cheapest air conditioners that your money can buy.
They do often have lower cooling capacity than split-system air conditioners, making them better suited for smaller spaces. They also need to be vented outdoors through a window or sliding door, which could limit their placement options.
Split-system air conditioners are made up of two units. A small, quiet, and discreet indoor air handler unit houses the evaporator coil and the condenser coil is located in a large, noisy, outdoor cooling compressor unit.
These types of air conditioners have several advantages. Since the compressor is outdoors, the noise level produced inside your home is significantly reduced compared to that of a stand-alone unit. There’s no need for air vents, and they have a large capacity for quick and effective whole-house cooling.
However, they’re nearly always more expensive than a stand-alone AC. They also cost more to install since it’s a more complex process that often requires a professional. to be carried out.
Types Of Stand Alone Air Conditioner
There are 5 different types of stand-alone air conditioner to consider:
Portable Air Conditioners
- Cost between $200 and $800
- Popular choices for cooling a single room
Portable air conditioners are the most popular stand-alone AC units in the US.
As their name suggests, they’re extremely portable since they are lightweight, have wheels to move them around on, and don’t need to be installed or mounted into any one particular room of your home.
This makes them a perfect solution if you want simple, cheap, and temporary space cooling without committing to intrusive central air conditioning.
Their cooling capacity will range from 5,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) to 14,000 BTUs. That’s enough to effectively cool a 500-square foot room – the size of a spacious living area or open-plan apartment.
Since all AC units need to properly vent warm air, you’ll need to set up an exhaust hose that directs hot air outside as you move the unit around your home.
That’s a fairly minor inconvenience though, considering the versatility and affordability that a portable air conditioner delivers. Even a top-quality portable AC unit like the Whynter ARC-14S can be picked up for under $600.
Window Air Conditioners
- Low cost of between $100 and $800
- Perfect for older listed buildings where central AC isn’t an option
Window air conditioning units are very affordable compared to most other types of air conditioning systems. They’re extremely energy-efficient; consuming less power and saving money off your monthly energy bills.
Window air conditioners are easy to install too, though you may need professional assistance if you live high up. You’ll need a wall bracket attached to your exterior wall to support your window unit and stop it from falling onto somebody below.
Some of the best window units can also be used as a heat pump system to blow hot air through your home in winter.
A heat pump works by reversing the heat exchange process between the two coils and is a cheaper, eco-friendly alternative to burning fossil fuels.
The geothermal heating capacity of a heat pump can be measured by its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating.
For some time, the fact that you couldn’t open the window that had your window unit installed was a major design flaw. But the best types of window air conditioners like the innovative Midea U Inverter Window Air Conditioner have addressed this problem, so you can still enjoy the fresh air and the view out of your window.
Wall-Mounted AC Units
- Cost between $300 and $1000
- Well-suited for older buildings
If you live in an older building, you may not be allowed to install any type of air conditioning onto the outside, to preserve its heritage and aesthetics. In this situation, a wall-mounted AC unit could be a great solution for you.
Wall-mounted air conditioning systems are hung high up on your indoor wall, with 2 thin air pipes installed into the wall behind the unit to vent warm air outdoors. This will require professional installation to be done properly and to keep your warranty valid.
Like a window unit, wall-mounted AC units like the Koldfront WTC8001W can be used as a heat pump in the winter, with a solid cooling capacity of 8,000 BTUs. That’s enough for a single room or studio apartment.
They are a popular choice in big cities like New York, where older, listed buildings don’t allow for intrusive central AC or the outdoor unit of a mini-split system. If you live in a similar environment, a wall-mounted air conditioner could be a good choice for you too.
Floor-Mounted Air Conditioners
- Priced between $200 and $800
- Becoming obsolete with so many portable air conditioners available
Floor-mounted air conditioners work almost the same way as a wall-mounted air conditioner except that they’re mounted into the floor and can’t be moved around.
Because they’re mounted onto, or very close to, the ground, it takes less time to notice their cooling effect. They could be useful in a building that doesn’t have much wall space, such as a mostly-glass apartment or office.
Since portable air conditioners rest on the floor without having to be mounted onto it, floor-mounted units are being used less and less. They are something of a dying breed, so stick to a portable air conditioner if you decide that floor-based cooling is your best option!
Spot Coolers For Boats And Ships
- Cost between $1,000 and $4,000
- Industrial AC units suitable only for boats, ships, or airplanes
These heavy-duty, industrial units are designed to cool down the inside of a boat, ship, or even an airplane. They mostly have a capacity of 30,000 BTUs and above, so they can efficiently cool a mid-sized craft of 1,000 square feet.
They’re designed very specifically for only this type of use, so only consider investing in one if you own a boat, ship, or airplane! If you do, then the Uninex SAC4500 is a popular, portable, and powerful unit.
Types Of Split-System Units
There are 5 types of split-system air conditioners to consider:
Central Air Conditioners
- Prices range from $4,000 to $8,000
- Most popular type of AC in the US
A central air conditioner is the most common and popular type of home air conditioning system in the US. Over 50% of American homes have central air installed! A central air conditioning unit uses a duct system of pipes to circulate cooled air blown by an evaporator fan around your entire home.
The advantages of such a system include a consistent and constantly cool temperature in every room of your home that can be controlled from one thermostat, clean and filtered air, and an increase in the value of your home of around 10%.
Of course, installing the necessary intrusive ductwork is a complex process. You’ll need to break through large sections of your walls, ceiling, or floors, so installation alone can often cost $10,000 or more. You’ll also need a professional expert to carry it out.
These costs can certainly be off-putting to some, but central AC is widely recognized as the most convenient and effective method of providing cool air to an entire house or apartment. I recommend the Goodman Multi-Speed Central AC system as a low-priced option that guarantees long-term efficiency.
Wall-Mounted Air Conditioners And Floor-Mounted Air Conditioners
- Cost between $400 and $3000
- Quieter and more powerful than their stand-alone counterparts
Split-system wall-mounted and floor-mounted units are quieter than their stand-alone counterparts since the compressor is housed in the noisy outdoor unit. They’re also far more effective at cooling larger spaces.
This type of AC can include package terminal air conditioners, which are popular in hotels, bars, restaurants, hospitals, and condos.
If you’re looking for a wall-mounted split system, the Klimaire Ductless Mini-Split is a powerful and exceptionally energy-efficient unit that can cool or heat multiple rooms together. The Senville SENA-18HF/IF is one of the best floor-mounted air conditioners or heat pumps that your money can buy today.
Ceiling Air Conditioners
- Priced between $1,000 and $10,000
- A long-standing most popular choice for offices
This type of air conditioner is mounted into the ceiling, with only a cassette-like blower fan visible. It’s the most popular air conditioner for offices since it combines stripped-back aesthetics with enough cooling power for a large room.
One ceiling AC unit can operate in place of 5 window units or 7 portable units. They’re a great alternative to a central air conditioning system since they’re relatively easy to install. The best ceiling units, such as the Senville SENA-24IC-Z, use inverter compressor technology for ultra-high energy efficiency and performance.
Mini-Split Ductless Air Conditioners
- Cost between $500 and $5,000
- Most popular type of split-system air conditioner
Mini-split air conditioners have risen quite dramatically in popularity over the last few years. Mini-split systems have become the next most popular AC unit after central air conditioners, and for some very good reasons!
A mini-split air conditioner is also known as a ductless mini-split since they don’t need any intrusive ductwork. That keeps the installation costs of a mini-split air conditioner low when compared to central air. There’s a wide range of cooling capacities to choose from, between 12,000 and 60,000 BTUs, so there’s an option for almost any type and size of space.
A ductless mini-split can be installed with a single indoor unit and an outdoor unit. You can add indoor units into the system(usually between 5 and 8 additional units), if you’re looking to cool several rooms separately from one another. Each unit has an individual thermostat, so you can cool or heat rooms at different temperatures from one another.
Ductless mini-split systems are extremely energy-efficient, often consuming 30% less power than central air conditioning. That means your energy bills are 30% less each month, which save money in the long term!
The Senville SENL-18CD is a great ductless system for cooling virtually any indoor space, with whisper-quiet operation and a generous 5-year warranty.
Choosing The Best Air Conditioner For Your Specific Needs
When choosing which of these types of air conditioners is the best for you, you should consider what exactly you need from it. For instance, if you only need to cool a small singular room, why overspend on a pricey central AC system designed to cool a whole home?
Think about the following factors before and during your shopping for a new air conditioning system.
Firstly, consider your realistic budget. You’ll need to factor in any potential installation costs into this number, and different types of air conditioners can vary widely in cost between $100 and $10,000.
You’ll also need to think about the energy consumption of a unit. Different types of air conditioners use different amounts of power to operate, and this will reflect in your monthly energy bills.
A central air conditioning system can consume around 3,000 watts per hour, portable units around 3,500 watts per hour, and a window air conditioner just 1,000 watts per hour. Choose the type of air conditioner that you know you can afford to power now and in the future.
All types of air conditioning take up some physical space inside (and sometimes outside) your home. You’ll need to think about this carefully when picking the right one for you. There’s no use buying a large capacity wall-mounted unit only to realize that you don’t have the wall space to install it properly!
Ease Of Maintenance
All different types of air conditioning systems need to be properly cleaned and maintained to ensure optimum performance. Most of the time, this can usually be done easily by yourself, but you’ll need a professional to carry out any repairs or larger-scale maintenance jobs.
Air filters can get especially dirty very quickly, so it’s important to clean them regularly to avoid breathing in unclean air that’s circulated in your home. An air conditioning unit with easily accessible, washable air filters is always a good option.
The cooling output of the right air conditioner for you will depend on the size of the room or rooms you’re looking to bring cool air into. The capacity to cool air is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), and larger spaces will require a larger BTU rating.
Sizing your air conditioner properly is essential for effective cooling. A unit that’s too small won’t have enough power to bring enough cold air into your room and make it comfortable. A unit that’s too big will make a room feel clammy and uncomfortable while using more power than necessary, so your bills go up too.
You should measure the square footage of the space you’re looking to cool, then use the basic metric that each square foot of indoor space needs 20BTUs of cooling power. So a 1,000 sq ft room will need 20,000BTUs of cooling power. Once you know your ideal BTU, you’ll have a better idea of which types of air conditioner will be tbest for you.
Air conditioning units often have extra features that make them easier or more convenient to use, or more effective at cooling your room.
Different modes allow you to select from a variety of additional settings. These can include dehumidification or different fan speeds, which can be sped or slowed down depending on your cooling needs at the time.
An adjustable thermostat gives you more control over achieving and maintaining a constant, optimum temperature. A timer will switch the air conditioner off or on automatically according to the thermostat settings you can save energy and money.
Some air conditioners are even Wi-Fi compatible, allowing them to be connected to your smart home setup, phone, or tablet. You’ll be able to control your AC from anywhere, and not just inside your home. It’s a perfect feature if, for example, you want to turn your AC on an hour before you arrive home from work.
Should You Call For Expert Or DIY Installation?
Whether or not you can carry out the DIY installation of your new air conditioner will depend on the type of unit, your level of DIY experience, and your budget.
Portable air conditioners don’t need any installation, while a window air conditioner, especially a large window air conditioner, needs some basic installation that may require two people. This includes mounting the unit to an external wall bracket if you live high up.
Wall- and floor-mounted AC only need basic installation too, since they don’t use intrusive ductwork.
You’ll need a professional to install any form of central AC, a ductless mini-split, or ceiling air conditioners. Central air conditioning ductwork is complex, while a ceiling air conditioner or mini-split needs to have its refrigerant line properly and safely.
My Final Thoughts
Now that you understand the different types of air conditioners you can buy, and how each one has its own pros and cons to consider, I hope you feel more confident about choosing the right type of air conditioner for you and your home.
Remember to refer back to this guide if you’re ever unsure, and you can look forward to cool and refreshing air blowing around your home!