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Choosing the Best Air Conditioning System for Your Home. A Side-by-Side Comparison

Choosing the best AC system for your home

We all need air conditioning to keep us cool and comfortable at home during the hottest PA summers. However, you can choose from a number of air conditioning units and system options, some of which might work better for you and your home than others. We can help you make this decision about what’s your best option with a look at the pros and cons of each one.

Air Conditioning Options

There are four main types of home air conditioning units that are available to homeowners.

When it comes to efficiency levels, design and the ability to provide comfort, results can vary for each of the air conditioning systems.

Air Conditioning Options | Leffler Energy

Window Air Conditioning Units

Designed to fit in double- and single-hung windows, apartments or homes with no central air conditioning or ductwork use these units.

Window Air Conditioning Pros:

  • Relatively small, fairly portable and easy-to-install.
  • Are most likely the cheapest AC option for your home.
  • The latest units are up to 30% more efficient than those manufactured only a decade ago.
  • Normally come with up to five year warranties.

Window Air Conditioning Cons:

  • Not intended to - and cannot - cool the entire home, multiple units are required to keep every room comfortable.
  • Can ruin the ability to use windows and obstruct views.
  • You may have to cope with sound of a loud AC compressor running all day or night.
  • Can be difficult to install and remove.
  • Existing room or home factors can impair efficiency, like high ceilings, lots of windows and doors, high sun exposure, and cooling a room on your home’s top floor.

Portable Air Conditioning Units

These function like a window unit but instead stand on the floor. They draw in air, remove heat and moisture, and vent cool, dry air back into your home. Hot, humid air is vented through an exhaust hose, which must run out of a window. These are only a better option to window units if window size or shape cannot handle a window unit or if you can’t lift heavier window AC units.

Portable Air Conditioning Pros:

  • Easier to set up than window units.
  • You can position them exactly where required as they move easily on casters.
  • The hose leading out of the window doesn’t obstruct the view, and it’s easy to remove the hose so you can use the window when needed.

Portable Air Conditioning Cons:

  • Tend to deliver only half the cooling capacity that they claim, according to Consumer Reports.
  • More expensive and less efficient than similarly sized window units, leading to higher purchasing and operating costs.
  • Noisy and most units have water reservoirs that have to be drained manually.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Systems

A ductless mini-split AC system is basically a heat pump without ductwork. It has two main components:

  1. An outdoor compressor, similar to the ones found in central AC systems.
  2. An indoor evaporator coil and air handling unit that mounts to the wall or ceiling. A conduit which goes through a sealed hole in the wall links the two units.

These are an ideal option for homes without ductwork, smaller homes and any space where adding ductwork isn’t feasible. Many ductless systems also have the highest efficiency ratings of any type of AC system.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Pros:

  • Smaller and compact so they provide energy efficient operation and flexible cooling to individual areas of your home.
  • The closest you can get to all of the benefits of central air conditioning without tearing walls apart installing ductwork.
  • They can also provide home heating in colder weather, since they function with a heat pump.
  • Run as quietly as an ordinary fan since the compressor is located outside.
  • Provide better home security, better views and use of windows because no window access is required.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Cons:

  • More expensive than window or portable units.
  • Professional installation is required, which includes drilling a three-inch hole in the wall to link indoor and outdoor components.
  • You must consider room interior design since the units mount to the wall or ceiling of the room.

Central Air Conditioning Systems

If you’re looking for the best whole-house cooling, and already have ductwork in your home, this is the best AC option to comprehensively and effectively cool your home. The system distributes cooled air through ductwork with return and supply registers in every room. All system components are located outside the home, except for the air handler, which is usually shared with the furnace.

Central Air Conditioning Pros:

  • The most efficient way to keep your whole house cool and comfortable.
  • Provides better indoor comfort, cooler temperatures and lower humidity.
  • The latest systems are more energy-efficient than ever.
  • All system components located outside makes it a virtually invisible and silent.
  • If you have ductwork, professional installation is pretty straightforward.
  • It is a long-term investment that adds value to your home.

Central Air Conditioning Cons:

  • Requires annual maintenance to remain at peak efficiency.
  • Upfront costs can be high, especially if you need ductwork. However, if you’re just replacing an existing central air conditioning system, the cost is cheaper than installing a new ductless mini-split AC system.

When choosing any air conditioning system for your home, you must consider and get the correct size. An undersized unit won’t be able to handle the hottest days. An oversized unit will short cycle, wearing out parts faster and impairs the unit from dehumidifying the space.

Whether you decide that a central or ductless mini-split air conditioning system is right for you, a licensed professional contractor sizes the unit for you, to satisfy your specific cooling needs. Just another reason to choose a professionally installed home air conditioning system.

Take a look at our air conditioning options infographic ›

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