Air Conditioning

A major constituent of a home's indoor climate management system is the air conditioning, for it is this aspect of HVAC that keeps us cool and dry in summer's heat and humidity (depending on the local climate).

It's natural to want to be comfortable in our homes and during spells of weather conditions that render the outside temperature too hot (or too cold) for comfort, we need to employ artificial means to normalize that temperature inside the home. Air conditioning systems range in size, configuration and power output to suit the building they maintain.

air conditioningLet's take an overview look at the different types of air conditioning that can be found in homes of different sizes, shapes and locations.

Central Air

A common feature of moderate to larger homes is a central air system that co0ntrols the interior temperature all year round. This is the common HVAC system that comprises both heating and cooling aspects as well as providing adequate ventilation of the air inside the home.

A central air system is controlled centrally by a main thermostat (hence its name) that sets the ambient temperature for the whole house. Of course, it doesn't take much to figure out that if the thermostat is located in a central part of the home, then that area's temperature will be maintained as set by the thermostat, while out-lying areas such as kitchens, laundry rooms, and even bedrooms may have slightly different temperatures depending on how far away from the main thermostat they are.

A bedroom at one end of the house farthest from the centrally located thermostat may be some degrees warmer in summer (or conversely cooler in winter). To remedy this situation, it is common to use an additional spot cooler (or heater) in a room that needs its temperature to be adjusted a little to make it as comfortable as the central living space.

Zoned Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioners

This type of air conditioning solution is best suited to moderately sized to smaller homes and larger apartments where a central system may be too powerful to be economical in a smaller space.

Mini-split air conditioners come as individual compressor units (the part that blows out cold air) that are installed in each room. These are linked to one of more condensers (the part that extracts the hot, moist air) that are located outside the building.

This configuration allows the occupants to set the temperature on a room by room basis to suit the needs and comfort levels of the occupants. It can be more economical to cool a home this way as on the one hand, only enough energy is used to maintain a certain temperature in each room and on the other, unoccupied rooms can be ″turned off″ and not waste energy by keeping an unoccupied room cool for no one's benefit.

Window Air Conditioners

Another form of room by room AC solution is to use window units. These install directly into a window opening and are single units that take care of both the compressor and condenser stages, with the hot air blown directly outside without the need for any ducting.

This type of cooling is more commonly found in apartments and condos where it would be uneconomical to have central air installed. If the rooms are smaller in area, window units that are lower powered than mini split units would also save on energy consumption.

Portable Air Conditioners

Another form of room by room cooling solution is to use portable AC units. These form the lower end of the cooling cost as it is not necessary to purchase a unit for each room in the home, but rather just to but two or more units and move them from room to room as they are needed.

These cooling units, like window AC units contain both compressor and condenser functions within the single unit. They expel hot, moist air through a flexible hose that needs to be connected to a window venting strip that is generally provided with the AC unit.

Evaporative Coolers

In locations that have typically very dry heat during the hot months of the year, such as desert areas for example, homeowners can take advantage of the low energy consumption of evaporative coolers (often called swamp coolers).

These coolers do not have internal refrigeration equipment like air conditioners to produce cold air, instead using the evaporation of moisture to produce chilled air. There is no hot air produced, so there is no need for venting to the outside, making these units truly portable in every sense of the world.

They can be used outdoors as well as indoors since they use so little energy, as they would not be considered wasteful to be left running on a patio to keep people cool outdoors on hot days and evenings.

Their main disadvantage is that they will not work in hot, humid conditions. This is because air humidity reduces the amount of moisture that can be absorbed by the already moist air, thereby reducing the cooling effect of evaporation.

For people living in areas with humidity above around 50%, the best cooling solution is an air conditioner in one of the configurations mentioned above.

More Information

For more detailed information, I have provided a series of additional articles that focus on one type of air cooling or another if you want to learn more about them. I have also provided some review articles with recommendations for certain air conditioner and swamp cooler models that may suit your individual needs and circumstances.

Check out the titles below: