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How to Tell What Type of Home Cooling System You Have

by Ultimate Heating & Cooling / May 12, 2022

Do you know what type of home cooling system you have? Especially if you’ve moved into a new home in the Denver area recently, knowing what cooling system you have is helpful to proactively maintain the health of your HVAC system and avoid costly repairs. Plus you’ll be able to keep your home at a comfortable temperature! 

Get the knowledge you need to be an empowered homeowner. Read below to learn about the seven cooling system types frequently used in the Denver Metro Area, including how they work, what they look like, and the pros and cons of each setup.

Central Air Conditioner

A central air conditioner distributes air around the home using a network of supply and return ducts. There are two types of central AC units: packaged or split system.

Central AC UnitSplit System Air Conditioner Unit

Location:

Outside

What to look for:

Split-systems have an indoor unit containing a blower and heat exchanger, and an outdoor unit with a fan, compressor, and a second heat exchanger. Packaged types include all the components in a single outdoor unit which is mounted on a concrete slab beside the house or on a flat roof. 

Pros:

  • The indoors remain quiet since the compressor unit is outside
  • Cool air is efficiently circulated throughout your entire home
  • High-grade filters improve indoor air quality and reduce dust, lint, and pollen from the air
  • Programmable smart thermostats in modern units allow you to automate the AC's temperature and operating hours

Cons:

  • Difficult to control comfort and temperature uniformly throughout the home with non-zoned central ACs, leading to hot or cold spots
  • Ductwork is bulky, and not all homes have space to fit it 

Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner

A ductless mini split air conditioner is a unit that handles both cooling and heating. It comprises an indoor ceiling or wall-mounted air-handler and evaporator coil, and an outdoor condensing coil and compressor unit. They’re linked with a conduit that contains power and control system cables, refrigerant tubing, and a drain line.

For cooling, a ductless mini split sucks in any warm air using the indoor air-handler’s fan. The air is then blown through a heat exchange coil filled with liquid refrigerant. As a result, the refrigerant warms up, absorbs thermal energy from the surrounding air, and turns into a gas. The outdoor compressor draws the gas outside, where it cools down and releases the thermal energy into the air. The energy release turns the gassy refrigerant into liquid, which is pumped back indoors to repeat the process.

Check out our guide to ductless heating and cooling to find out if your home is suitable for a mini split setup.

Ductless Mini Split

Ductless Mini Split Indoor Air Handler Ductless Mini Split Wall-Mounted Air Handler

Location:

Inside and outside

What to look for:

Indoor ceiling, wall, or floor mounted unit. Outdoor condenser unit. These systems can feature multiple indoor units on a singular outdoor unit. The outside unit is linked via a conduit containing power and control system cables, refrigerant tubing, and a drain line for each indoor unit.

Pros:

  • Low risk of heat loss as the lack of ducts means there are fewer places for holes and leaks to develop
  • Reduced noise pollution as there’s no ductwork to carry vibrations or sound, and the compressor is outside, which is also much more quieter than traditional outdoor A/C units
  • Improved indoor air quality as there are no ducts for dust to accumulate inside of

Cons:

  • Requires multiple indoor units to service an entire house, making them more expensive to install compared to central ACs
  • Repairing the indoor air-handler may require removal of the unit from the wall

Evaporative Cooling System

An evaporative cooling system uses evaporated water to cool the air. The setup has a rot-resistant cooling pad, a water pump and reservoir, a fan, and a control system. The evaporative process relies on a motor-driven fan to force warm air through the moistened cooling pad. This causes the pad's surface to cool down as the liquid molecules lose kinetic energy. The fan, along with the water pump which keeps the pad continuously moist, ensures a constant supply of cool air.

Portable Evaporative Cooler

Location:

Inside and outside

What to look for:

Portable, self-contained systems are free-standing units mounted on rollers and located indoors. Larger models are mounted on the side of the house or on the roof.

Pros:

  • Improves indoor air quality as the unit constantly draws in the surrounding air in your home and pushes it through the cooling pad, helping to remove any impurities
  • Environmentally friendly as it doesn’t rely on chemical-based refrigerants for cooling
  • Low running costs
  • Usable both indoors and outdoors

Cons:

  • Requires regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent odors and mold growth caused by moisture build-up
  • On humid days, running it indoors for long periods makes the air feel sticky
  • Steady supply of water is required to ensure adequate cooling

Heat Pump

A heat pump collects thermal energy and redistributes it indoors. It gains thermal energy from one of three sources: air, water, or geothermal. In all cases, a refrigerant is used to draw thermal energy from the source, which is then circulated between an indoor air handler and the outdoor compressor.

Carrier Heat Pump

Image source: https://www.carrier.com/residential/en/us/products/heat-pumps/25hbc5/

Location:

Inside and outside

What to look for:

Indoor air handler housed in a mechanical room, closet, or crawl space of some kind and outdoor condenser next to the house. Refrigerant, which is used to draw thermal energy from the source, flows between the two units via tubing.

Pros:

  • Average lifespan of 10 to 15 years
  • Environmentally friendly as it's powered by electricity, instead of oil or gas
  • Low maintenance

Cons:

  • High upfront cost
  • Difficult to install

Window Air Conditioner

A window air conditioner contains all the components in a single unit: the fan, compressor, blower, filter, evaporator coil, condenser coil, thermostat, and control unit. 

Window Air Conditioning Unit

Location:

Inside

What to look for:

A rectangular unit mounted onto an adjustable panel and secured to the window and frame using L-brackets. Plugged into an electrical outlet. 

Pros:

  • Quick to install and suitable for single, double, and transom windows
  • Costs as little as $150 for a compact unit
  • Easily moved to a different window, if required
  • Ideal for a permanent or temporary fix, as well as for renters with landlords unwilling to invest in a larger HVAC setup

Cons:

  • Blocks sunlight
  • Obstructs the view
  • Prevents you from opening the window for fresh air
  • Window frame needs to bear the weight of the AC
  • Position of electrical cable needs careful consideration to prevent damage from outside moisture
  • Only suitable for cooling a small room
  • Easily ripped out by thieves to access your home
  • Unit at risk of falling out of the window if fitted improperly

Wall Air Conditioner

Wall air conditioners work in the same way as a window AC, however, they're mounted through the wall. 

Wall Air Conditioner

Image source: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Koldfront-8-000-BTU-115-Volt-Through-the-Wall-Air-Conditioner-Only-with-Remote-WTC8002WCO/309213648#overlay

Location:

Inside

What to look for:

Rectangular front panel protruding from a cut-out in the wall. The back-end section, containing the compressor and fan parts, may be visible on the other side of the wall. 

Pros:

  • Doesn't obstruct the view or block sunlight
  • Better cooling capacity compared to window-mounted ACs

Cons:

  • Installation requires cutting out a section of wall
  • Wall cut-out needs adequate insulation to prevent drafts

Floor-Mounted Air Conditioner

A floor-mounted air conditioner is similar to a central air-conditioner or ductless mini split as it uses an outdoor unit. However, the indoor air-handler units are mounted on a wall at floor level, instead of higher on the wall or ceiling.  

Floor Mounted Air Conditioner

Location:

Air-handler indoors and outdoor unit near wall

What to look for:

Indoor air-handler units are mounted on a wall at floor level, instead of higher on the wall or ceiling.

Pros:

  • Easy to fit under a window
  • Smaller than a traditional radiator unit

Cons:

  • Unless installed in a recessed wall, it gets in the way of furniture or shelving

 

Contact our team with any questions about your home cooling system, regardless of the type. We service and maintain most brands of equipment through our HVAC maintenance membership program. Sign up today to get peace of mind that your home cooling system will run year-round!

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