Different Types of Air Conditioning Systems

Learn about HVAC & Home Performance in Houston.

Window Air Conditioner

September 26, 2023

Air Conditioning HVAC

Air conditioning is a vital component of modern living where the climate can remain hot and uncomfortable for long months. When it comes to cooling your home, there is a wide range of options to choose from. Each type of air conditioner has its own set of advantages and limitations, making it essential to learn more about various choices before making a decision.

Types of Air Conditioners for Home Purposes

Here are some of the major types of air conditioning systems you can consider for home use:

Window Air Conditioner

Window air conditioners are a popular choice for cooling individual rooms or small apartments. They are affordable and relatively easy to install, as they fit into a standard-sized window frame. These units draw warm air from the room, cool it, and then expel the heat outside. While they offer a cost-effective solution for cooling, they do come with some drawbacks.

Window AC units block the window they are installed in, limiting natural light and obstructing views. Additionally, they are typically suitable for smaller spaces and may not provide adequate cooling for larger rooms. Some users also find them noisy, which can be a nuisance during quiet moments.

While DIY installation of window units may be feasible, it is strongly recommended to hire a professional HVAC contractor, considering the complexity and local regulations.


  • Affordable
  • Easy installation
  • Suitable for small rooms


  • Blocks windows
  • Limited cooling capacity
  • Noisy

Split-System Air Conditioner

Split-system air conditioners, often referred to as ducted or ductless mini-splits, are known for their efficient cooling and quiet operation. They consist of two main components – an indoor unit that distributes cool air and an outdoor unit that houses the compressor.

These systems can cool multiple rooms or zones, making them versatile for various home layouts. The need for an outdoor unit also means you will need adequate outdoor space for placement.


  • Efficient cooling
  • Quiet operation
  • Good for multiple rooms


  • Professional installation needed
  • Higher initial cost
  • Requires outdoor unit space

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable air conditioners are a flexible cooling option as they don’t require permanent installation. They can be moved from room to room and come with window kits for venting hot air outside. This makes them suitable for apartments or homes without window units. However, portable AC units are typically less energy-efficient compared to window or split-system units, and their cooling capacity may be limited.

Moreover, while they cool the room, they generate heat as a byproduct, which may counteract their cooling effect in smaller spaces. Despite these limitations, their portability and ease of setup make them a convenient choice for those who need cooling in various areas of their home.


  • Easy to move
  • No installation required
  • Suitable for small spaces


  • Less efficient
  • Limited cooling capacity
  • Generates heat
Outside of Central Air Conditioning

Central Air Conditioner

Central air conditioning systems are the go-to choice for homeowners looking to cool their entire house efficiently. These systems work by distributing cool air through a network of ducts and vents in each room. One of their primary advantages is the ability to provide consistent, even cooling throughout the entire home.

Central AC units are known for their quiet operation, as the noisy compressor unit is typically located outdoors. Unfortunately, the initial cost, including installation and ductwork, can be quite high. They require professional installation, which can add to the overall expense if you don’t choose an HVAC contractor with due diligence. Central AC systems can be less energy-efficient if they are oversized for your home’s cooling needs.


  • Whole-house cooling
  • Efficient
  • Quiet operation


  • Expensive upfront
  • Requires professional installation
  • High energy consumption

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioner

Ductless mini-split air conditioners offer an excellent solution for homes without ductwork or for those seeking zoned cooling. They consist of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handlers, which can be mounted on walls or ceilings.

These systems provide the flexibility to cool specific rooms or zones independently, allowing for customized comfort and potentially reducing energy costs. Ductless mini-splits are known for their energy efficiency and quiet operation. However, they tend to be more expensive upfront, and professional installation is required. Some homeowners may also find the indoor units, which are visible, less aesthetically pleasing.


  • Zoned cooling
  • Efficient
  • No ductwork needed


  • Higher initial cost
  • Professional installation
  • Visible indoor units

Wall-Mounted Air Conditioner

Wall-mounted air conditioners, also known as through-the-wall units, are a space-saving and efficient cooling solution. They are typically installed in a hole cut into an exterior wall, with the front grille visible indoors and the compressor unit located outside. These units are known for their compact design, making them suitable for smaller rooms and apartments.

They offer efficient cooling and are relatively easy to install compared to central systems. However, they may require additional structural support to hold their weight and may not provide adequate cooling for larger spaces. Additionally, the visible indoor unit can affect the room’s aesthetics.


  • Compact
  • Efficient cooling
  • Easy to install


  • May require structural support
  • Limited coverage area
  • Visible on the wall

Ceiling Cassette Air Conditioner

Ceiling cassette air conditioners are a discreet and aesthetically pleasing cooling option. These systems are installed flush with the ceiling and distribute cool air evenly throughout the room. Ceiling cassettes are known for their quiet operation, as the bulk of the unit is hidden above the ceiling.

While they offer a sleek and minimalistic appearance, they do come with a higher installation cost due to the need for using ceiling space. However, for those who value both comfort and aesthetics, ceiling cassette air conditioners can be an excellent choice.


  • Discreet installation
  • Even cooling
  • Quiet operation


  • Higher installation cost
  • Requires ceiling space
  • Professional installation needed

Floor-Standing Air Conditioner

Floor-standing air conditioners, also known as tower or pedestal AC units, are a portable cooling option that doesn’t require installation. These units are designed to stand on the floor and come with wheels for easy mobility. They are suitable for cooling large spaces and are an excellent choice for rooms without windows.

While they offer convenience, they may take up valuable floor space, and their energy efficiency may be slightly lower compared to some other AC types. Additionally, they can generate heat as a byproduct, which may be a factor in smaller rooms.


  • Portable and easy to move
  • No installation required
  • Suitable for large spaces


  • Takes up floor space
  • Less energy-efficient
  • Generates heat

Smart Air Conditioner

Smart air conditioners, equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity and advanced control features, bring modern convenience to cooling your home. These units can be controlled remotely through smartphone apps, allowing you to adjust settings, set schedules, and monitor energy usage from anywhere.

Smart ACs often come with energy-saving features and can integrate with other smart home devices. However, they tend to come at a higher cost than traditional AC units. Initial setup may also be more complex due to the need to connect them to your home’s Wi-Fi network. Nonetheless, for those seeking greater control and energy efficiency, smart air conditioners offer a high-tech solution to home cooling needs.


  • Remote control via smartphone
  • Energy-efficient features
  • Customizable schedules


  • Higher cost
  • Initial setup may be complex
  • Requires a stable Wi-Fi connection
Photo of a Air Conditioner Remote with AC Unit Behind

Factors to Consider When Purchasing an Air Conditioner

When purchasing the best air conditioner (AC) for your house, several important factors need consideration to ensure you choose the right unit that meets your specific needs. Here are the key factors to keep in mind:

  • Room Size: Determine the size of the room or area you want to cool. The cooling capacity of an AC is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). You should select an AC with an appropriate BTU rating that matches the room’s square footage. Too high a BTU may lead to excessive cooling and higher energy bills, while too low a BTU may not adequately cool the space.
  • Energy Efficiency: Look for the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of the AC. Higher EER or SEER ratings indicate better energy efficiency, which can lead to lower operating costs and reduced environmental impact.
  • Type of AC: Consider the type of air conditioner that suits your needs:
    • Window AC for individual rooms
    • Central AC for whole-house cooling
    • Ductless mini-split AC for zoned cooling
    • Portable AC for flexibility and portability
    • Wall-mounted, ceiling cassette, or floor-standing AC for specific room aesthetics and space constraints
  • Noise Level: Check the decibel (dB) rating of the new AC unit to ensure it operates at a comfortable noise level, especially for bedrooms or quiet spaces. Quieter units typically have lower dB ratings.
  • Features and Controls: Consider the features you want when replacing your home’s unit for a new one, such as programmable thermostats, sleep modes, adjustable fan speeds, and remote controls. Some advanced models even offer Wi-Fi connectivity for remote operation via smartphone apps.
  • Maintenance and Filter Replacement: Look into the ease of maintenance and filter replacement. Filters should be easily accessible and replaceable to maintain optimal performance and indoor air quality.
  • Air Quality: Some AC units come with built-in air purifiers or dehumidifiers, which can improve indoor air quality and comfort, especially in humid climates.
  • Budget: Determine your budget and factor in not only the initial purchase price but also long-term operating costs, including electricity bills. Factor in the cost of installation and ongoing maintenance when budgeting for your AC purchase.
  • Warranty: Check the manufacturer’s warranty, which can vary in duration and coverage. A longer and more comprehensive warranty can provide peace of mind and protect your investment.
  • Climate Considerations: Your local climate should influence your choice of AC. For extremely hot or humid regions, you may want a high-capacity unit or one with dehumidification features.
  • Brand and Reputation: Research the brand’s reputation, read customer reviews, and consider the reliability and customer service track record of the manufacturer.

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose the best air conditioner for your house that aligns with your comfort needs, budget, and environmental preferences. Hiring a contractor for a new AC unit can be helpful for ensuring the proper sizing, installation, and performance of the system. Their knowledge can save you money in the long run by reducing energy costs, preventing issues, and maximizing the lifespan of your system.

Couple Consulting With a Professional on AC Units

Benefits of Consulting with a Professional HVAC Contractor

Consulting with a professional AC contractor before purchasing a new air conditioner is a prudent choice for several important reasons:

Accurate Sizing

HVAC professionals can accurately assess your home’s cooling needs by performing a Manual J load calculation. This calculation takes into account factors such as the size of your home, insulation, windows, and local climate, ensuring you select an AC with the right cooling capacity. An oversized or undersized unit can lead to inefficiency, discomfort, and increased operating costs.

Energy Efficiency

AC contractors can recommend energy-efficient models that align with your budget and environmental goals. They have knowledge of the latest technologies and efficiency ratings, helping you choose an AC unit that minimizes your energy consumption and reduces long-term operating costs.

Proper Installation

Professional AC contractors are trained and experienced in installing air conditioning systems correctly. Proper installation is vital for ensuring the unit functions optimally, delivers consistent cooling, and operates safely. An improperly installed AC can lead to issues like poor airflow, refrigerant leaks, and increased wear and tear.

Compliance with Codes and Regulations

HVAC contractors are well-versed in local building codes and regulations related to air conditioning installation. They ensure that your new AC system complies with all safety and environmental standards, preventing potential legal issues or fines.

Ductwork Evaluation

If your home has an existing duct system, a professional contractor can assess its condition and suitability for the new AC unit. They can recommend AC repairs or modifications if needed to ensure efficient airflow and cooling distribution.

Optimal Location

AC contractors can advise on the best location for the indoor and outdoor components of your AC system. Proper placement can impact both performance and aesthetics, and professionals have the necessary experience to take these factors into account.

Warranty Protection

Some manufacturers require professional installation to validate the warranty on your new AC unit. By working with a licensed contractor, you ensure that your investment is protected and any potential warranty claims will be valid.

Cost Estimates

AC contractors can provide accurate cost estimates for the entire project, including the unit, installation, and any necessary modifications. This helps you budget effectively and avoid unexpected costs.

Maintenance and Service Plans

Many HVAC contractors offer maintenance and service plans for the AC systems they install. Regular maintenance can prolong the lifespan of your AC, improve its efficiency, and prevent costly breakdowns.

Man Repairing Air Conditioner

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Expected Lifespan of a Typical AC Unit?

In warm climates, where ACs often run for extended periods, you can expect a well-maintained AC unit to last around 10 years. Regular maintenance is necessary to maximize its lifespan.

What is the Most Efficient Type of Air Conditioning System?

Generally, ductless mini-split systems and variable-speed central air conditioning units with high SEER ratings are considered as efficient options. However, this depends on the specific needs of your home and climate conditions.

What are the Common Signs That My Existing AC Needs Replacement?

Signs such as inadequate cooling, frequent breakdowns, or increased energy bills in your home may indicate it’s time for a new AC unit. You should speak with a reliable HVAC professional to determine the best replacement unit.

Can I Replace My Old AC Unit with a Different Type?

Yes, it’s possible to switch to a different type, such as switch from window AC to central AC but this may require modifications, especially if transitioning from a window unit to central air. Consulting with an experienced HVAC expert is recommended.

Is it Possible to Upgrade My Existing Thermostat to a Smart Thermostat During Installation?

Yes, it’s common and straightforward to upgrade to a smart thermostat during AC installation in Houston. Smart thermostats can enhance comfort and energy efficiency, especially in a hot and humid climate.

Are There Any Safety Considerations I Should Be Aware of During the AC Installation?

Safety considerations while installing a new air conditioner include proper electrical connections, compliance with local building codes, and safe handling of refrigerant. Professional installation ensures these aspects are addressed.

Get the Perfect Air Conditioner Unit Installed at Your Home with Support from Our Dedicated Team

Outstanding workmanship, commitment to quality, and a focus on customer satisfaction make House Pro the right choice for all your air conditioning needs. We have been serving the Houston community for years for air conditioning installation, replacement, repair and maintenance, and have achieved an excellent market reputation for reliability and skill. To learn more or to schedule a home visit, call (346) 489-6825 or complete our online contact form.