Air Conditioning Systems | Types of Air Conditioners
An air conditioning system provides cool air for your home, but can be a costly addition to your budget. In order to receive the most efficient use of your air conditioner, you should understand its different designs, components, and operating principles. In this way, you will be able to receive this much needed cooling, while keeping your overall costs low.
An air conditioner functions in a similar way to a refrigerator. Heated air is transferred from the interior space to an outside area. This process is accomplished when a chemical, known as Freon, is passed through a series of components within the cooling unit.
There are three main components of an air conditioner: a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator. The compressor is a pump that moves the Freon between the evaporator and condenser. The Freon is forced through a series of tubes in the condenser, and then released in the interior evaporator coil. This causes the Freon to convert from a liquid form to a gaseous form, removing hot air from your home.
Types of Air Conditioning Systems
Room Air Conditioners These units are intended to cool one to two rooms within your home, and can be installed in windows or within exterior walls. Typically you can plug room units into normal wall outlets. Smaller systems can use a household 115-volt current, while larger units will need a dedicated 230-volt circuit. These units are typically cheaper, but provide a much lower efficiency than central air units.
Split-System Central Air Conditioners These are centralized cooling systems for homes that don't have existing ductwork for distributing the cooled air. These systems are split into exterior and interior units. It requires a conduit to house power cables, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain to connect the two units.
Packaged Central Air Conditioners These units can cool an entire home. They use ductwork to push the cooled air from the system to all parts of the home. The air is then recycled back to the air conditioner through return ducts and registers to start the process over again.
A British Thermal Units (BTU's) rating determines the amount of heat per hour that an air conditioner can give off. A higher rated BTU system will be able to cool a larger area; however, bigger is not necessarily better when dealing with air conditioners.
You should determine the correctly sized unit for your home to maximize efficiency and to reduce your expenses. There are many factors that will affect the efficiency, performance, durability, and initial costs of your air conditioning unit, a few of which we've listed below:
- The amount of heat that appliances generate within your home
- The shade that your house receives from trees, bushes, or other buildings
- The level of insulation within your ceilings and walls
- The square footage and number of windows within your home
- The infiltration of outside air into your home's interior
You should properly plan and install your air conditioner system. This will affect its performance far more than the number of BTU's that a unit possesses.
Air Conditioner Efficiency
Along with BTU's, air conditioners have other rating scales that measure its efficiency. The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is used to measure room units, while the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is used for central air conditioning systems. These rating can be found on the Energy Guide Label and are often labeled with the EnergyStar® symbol.
Purchasing a unit or system with a higher efficiency rating will have a higher initial cost; however, you will most likely save money on operating expenses over time.
Air Conditioner Maintenance
Proper maintenance checks are essential in providing a long lasting air conditioner for your home. You should have a qualified service technician check your system once a year or when you have any larger repair issues. You technician should cover the following service checks when inspecting your system:
- Checks the refrigerant levels to ensure that there is the proper amount within the system. A low level means that there is a leak that should be found and repaired.
- Checks for sealant leaks in the central system.
- Checks the accuracy of the thermostat.
- Inspects the evaporator, condenser, coils, and filters.
- Checks the electrical components and controls.
- Lubricates the motors if necessary.
With this information, and your own further research, you should be able to purchase and maintain an air conditioner system that fits the needs of your home. Finding the right unit will provide you with the cooled air that you want, while keeping your costs as low as possible.