Buy the Right Air Conditioner Type for Your Situation
When developing building plans, designers will recommend different air conditioner types for different situations, and they will be able to explain their recommended solution. But if you want to add air conditioning to an existing building, you might not know what type you should buy. The choice of which air conditioner system to use depends upon a number of factors including how large of an area is to be cooled, the total heat load that is generated inside the enclosed area, and the frequency of use of that space. Consider all the related facts about your situation before you make the decision. The most common types of air conditioners are room air conditioners, central air conditioners, and evaporative coolers.
Room Air Conditioners
This air conditioner type is designed to use a charge of refrigerant to cool only one or two rooms rather than the entire home. Because they provide direct cooling in the small area where they are needed, room air conditioners are generally cost less to operate in total dollars per month than a central unit that cools all the rooms in the building. For a small apartment or a small office inside a warehouse, this type might be a good choice.
This type is most often seen mounted into a fixed position in a window or a wall, but you can also buy a rolling unit and easily move it from room to room as needed. Small room air conditioners that use 7.5 amps of electricity or less can be plugged into any 15- or 20-amp, 11o volt household circuit as long as no other major appliances are also in use on that circuit. Appliances such as toasters, microwaves or hair curlers could overheat the circuit and they should not be used at the same time.
Larger units that use more than 7.5 amps need their own dedicated circuit. Some of the largest models require a dedicated 240-volt circuit to operate.
Central Air Conditioners
This air conditioner type is designed to use their charge of refrigerant to cool the entire building, or at least multiple large rooms. The system circulates cool air through a system of supply (outgoing) and return (incoming) ducts. Supply ducts carry cooled air from the air conditioner to the home through walls, floors and ceiling pathways to the grill-covered registers in each room. The cooled air becomes warmer as it circulates through the building, then it is drawn back to the central air conditioner through return ducts to be cooled again. A central air conditioner can be either a split-system or a packaged unit.
- In a split-system central air conditioner, an outdoor enclosure contains the condenser and compressor, and an indoor enclosure contains the evaporator. In many split-system air conditioners, this indoor unit also contains a furnace or the indoor part of a heat pump. The air conditioner’s evaporator coil is installed in the cabinet or main supply duct of this furnace or heat pump. If your building already has a furnace but no air conditioner, a split-system is the most economical central air conditioner to install.
- In a packaged air conditioner, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are all located in one cabinet, which is usually outdoors on a roof or a concrete slab next to the building. Air supply and return ducts in the building connect through the exterior walls to the packaged air conditioner. This type of air conditioner often includes electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. This combination of air conditioner and central heater eliminates the need for a separate furnace indoors.
This air conditioner type (also called a “swamp cooler”) is a completely different type of air conditioner because it does not use refrigerant. Evaporative coolers work well in hot, dry climates and are seen in the South Western US where the weather is warm and the humidity is low. They are commonly seen as square or rectangular metal boxes on or near a rooftop.
These units cool hot air by continually running water through warm dry air so that the water evaporates; the cooler then blows the cooled and moistened air inside the building with a fan. This causes a cooling effect on skin in the same way that evaporating perspiration cools your body on a hot day. When operating an evaporative cooler, windows are kept part way open to allow warm indoor air to escape as it is replaced by cooler air.
Evaporative coolers cost about one-half as much to install as central air conditioners and use about one-quarter as much energy. However, they require more frequent maintenance than refrigerated air conditioners. This type can also be used to cool the coils on a refrigerated system, thereby increasing it’s efficiency and reducing energy use.
BE WISER, CALL KAISER!
If you are in need of a new or replacement air conditioner, give us a call. We’ll be glad to help you review the types so you can make a wise decision and save money!