Air conditioning long ago quit being seen as a luxury. Almost 75% of American homes have air conditioning, and that number is certainly higher in hotter regions of the country, like in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. You may decide that you want to install air conditioning in your home for a number of reasons. Perhaps you have an older home that’s been getting by with window-mounted units. Or, maybe you are planning to add an addition to your home. In these cases and others, you’ll find that the two most popular options are adding central air-conditioning through an HVAC system, or employing ductless mini-split air conditioning units.
In this guide, we’ll explain how each of these systems works, installation considerations, their energy use, maintenance requirements, and summarize the pros and cons of each.
Central air conditioning systems function as a part of a home’s HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) system. The vast majority of new homes are constructed with a central HVAC system, but there are a substantial number of older homes that are not so equipped. Homes that have an existing duct system that’s used for heating are excellent candidates for adding central air conditioning, although it’s certainly possible to add central air to a home that is not so equipped.
There are two types of central air conditioning systems.
Both split systems and packaged systems require ductwork to circulate air throughout the home and are controlled by centrally located thermostats.
We’ve touched upon some of the basics of a central air conditioning system. Now let’s examine some of the important considerations that may come up when installing new central air conditioning.
Cooling your home during hot Texas summers can take a lot of energy. In fact, it’s estimated that air conditioners use about 6% of all the energy produced in the United States. When you’re considering an air-conditioning system, it only makes sense to factor the ongoing expense of running the system into your personal finances equation.
If you’re currently getting by with single-room window-mount air conditioners, you’ll achieve much greater energy efficiency by switching to a central air conditioning system. When shopping for a central air conditioning system, look for high EER (Energy Efficiency Ratings) and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings). The higher the number, the more efficient the system. It’s also important to size your unit properly. Units that are too small will have to work longer and harder to cool your home, while units that are too big may not remove enough humidity, leaving your home’s interior feeling damp and clammy.
All air conditioning systems should have regular maintenance to ensure effective and efficient operation. With central air conditioning systems, one important task is regular cleaning and inspection of your ducts. If leaks develop in the ducts you’ll lose much of the cooling power of the system before it arrives in the rooms it should be cooling. That means your system will have to work harder to accomplish its goal. And cleaning your ducts will help maintain the best possible air quality in your home.
You can stay on top of regular maintenance tasks like changing filters and keeping outside units free of vegetation and debris yourself. But be sure to have qualified technicians check your system out regularly to make sure that the system is operating properly.
There are advantages and disadvantages to employing a central HVAC system to cool your home. Here are some of the key elements to consider.
Central air conditioning can be an excellent option for cooling your house. It’s particularly well-suited when your home already has a central heating system with ductwork installed. In these cases, you can add a split system or replace your existing furnace with an all-in-one package system that provides heating as well as cooling.
While central air conditioning is a proven and popular choice for American homeowners and builders, there’s a newer technology popular in the rest of the world that is growing in popularity in the United States. That’s ductless mini-split systems.
Ductless mini-split air conditioning systems consist of two components: an external compressor, mounted outside your home, that connects to one or more indoor units located in the rooms you need to cool. Each of the indoor units can be controlled separately, so each room’s temperature can be tailored precisely.
Both central and ductless air conditioners operate using the same basic science. Warm air is drawn in and then the heat in the air is released into the outside. Unlike a central cooling system, though, cool air is returned directly to each room in which you’ve installed an indoor unit. That eliminates the energy losses that occur when ducts are used, like in a central air-conditioning system. Here are the specific functions of each part of a ductless system:
Ductless systems usually require less time to install than a central air conditioning system. There are only two major components, the indoor air handlers, and the outdoor unit, and these are connected by single slim control and refrigerant line that requires only a small hole in the wall. Here are some things to keep in mind about the installation of a ductless system.
Ductless air conditioners have some advantages over central air conditioning in their energy use. Here are three distinct advantages of ductless systems.
Regardless of the type of air conditioning system you have, regular maintenance is important. Properly maintained systems will operate more efficiently and effectively and will last longer as well. Because ductless air conditioning systems don’t require a network of ducts to distribute air throughout your home, you’ll avoid one of the main potential maintenance issues of central air conditioning systems, inspecting and cleaning the ductwork.
You will need to perform regular maintenance tasks like changing or cleaning filters, and it is essential that you keep the outside unit of your ductless system clear of debris and vegetation. And you should have qualified technicians check your system out according to the maintenance schedule suggested by the manufacturer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing a ductless mini-split system to cool your home. Here are some of the key elements to consider.
We’ve seen that ductless mini-split systems have both advantages and disadvantages when compared to central air conditioning systems. When you’re considering a ductless system, you’ll need to carefully consider your particular circumstances to see if its a good way to go.
A ductless system can be an excellent choice for your home if you don’t have existing ductwork. And with a ductless system, you’ll have the option of controlling the temperature in single rooms or zones. For older homes, plus additions and remodeling, a ductless mini-split system can be an excellent option.
We’ve discussed how central air and ductless systems cool your home, but it’s important to consider the other capabilities of these systems.
Central air conditioning systems are almost always part of a comprehensive HVAC system that also includes heating. In the case of a package system, a furnace is built into the single outdoor unit that provides both heat and cooling capabilities, while split systems combine an indoor furnace with an external air conditioning unit. If you’re retrofitting a home with an existing forced-air furnace and ductwork, the air conditioning can be added externally to the existing system, or you can replace the old furnace with either a new split system or a package system. From the standpoint of efficiency, it’s a smart move to replace the existing furnace with a newer, energy-efficient model.
Many ductless mini-split systems have heating capabilities as well as cooling, so they’re certainly suitable for handling both heating and cooling needs for the rooms that they’re installed in.
If you’re building a new home, going with a central HVAC system with air conditioning is usually the best choice. Ductwork is easily installed during construction, and having a single centralized system makes future upgrades easier and less expensive. To achieve optimal energy efficiency when building a new home, choose units with the highest EER (Energy Efficiency Ratings) and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings). In addition, make sure that ductwork is insulated to prevent heat and cooling loss, particularly if ductwork runs through uninsulated areas of your home, like attics or crawl spaces.
The flexibility of ductless mini split HVAC systems makes them an excellent choice when you’re adding on or remodeling an unfinished space. You won’t need to retrofit your home to add ductwork or worry about whether your existing HVAC system has the capacity to handle the increased square footage in your addition. And if you’re remodeling your home to create an en suite apartment for an elderly relative adding a ductless system will let them set the temperature to a level that’s comfortable without affecting the rest of the home.
Choosing the right HVAC system to cool your home depends on a number of factors that aren’t all related to the individual merits of each type of system. Both central air conditioning and ductless mini-split systems are effective methods for cooling. Making the best choice for your home depends on your home’s existing configuration and size, plus personal considerations like aesthetics and the desire for individualized control.
When you’re making your choice you’ll be well served by consulting with an HVAC professional. You’ll have questions and you’ll need expert advice on how well your ideas will work in your home. That’s where Team Enoch comes in. Our team of experienced HVAC professionals can answer your questions and help you decide on the right way to go. And remember, estimates are free with Team Enoch, so contact us right away. We’ll be happy to help you make a smart decision when it’s time to choose a new air conditioning system for your home.