When the hot summer weather returns, you likely want to have the option of air conditioning inside of your home. This provides a comfortable environment where you and your family can enjoy spending time together. If you don’t have an air conditioner or you’re looking for a more energy-efficient option, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Various Options for Cooling Your Home
As a homeowner, you have three main options when it comes to cooling your home during the summer months. These include central air conditioning systems, window/portable air conditioners, and ductless mini-split systems. It can be very beneficial to understand how each system works so that you can effectively compare their efficiency to one another.
Central Air Conditioning Systems
The most common cooling option on the market today is a central air conditioning system. This system comprises an external condenser, ductwork, air handler, and an internal evaporator coil. The condenser unit is typically housed outside of your home, while the evaporator coil and air handler are installed in your attic, closet, or basement.
A central air conditioning system works by circulating cooled air through supply and return vents. These vents are found in each room of your home. Air is naturally pulled into your ductwork via your blower fan and passes over the evaporator coil. The heat from the air is transferred into the refrigerant inside the evaporator coil.
The refrigerant is pumped outside to your condenser unit, where the refrigerant runs through the condenser coils to release the trapped heat. The refrigerant is then repiped into your home to be reused during the cooling process. Your thermostat will control when and how much your centralized air conditioning system runs.
Window or Portable Air Conditioners
Another cooling option you have for your home is a window or portable air conditioner. This unit works very similarly to a centralized cooling system, except all of its components are housed in one small unit. Window units are specifically designed to fit in your room windows and vent the hot air directly outside.
Portable air conditioners can be used to vent heat and excess humidity outside any location where there is adequate access to the outdoors. Portable options are typically utilized in homes or apartments where the windows are too small to fit a traditional window air conditioning unit. When you opt for a window or portable air conditioner, you’ll need to be mindful of its square footage. Most homeowners will need more than one window or portable air conditioner to sufficiently cool their homes to a comfortable temperature.
Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Systems
Another great option for cooling your home is a ductless mini-split air conditioning system. This system is composed of an outdoor condenser unit and various indoor wall or ceiling mount mini-split units. Unlike centralized air conditioning systems, mini-split AC systems don’t require you to have ductwork installed.
Each interior mini-split unit will have an evaporator coil that is responsible for intaking warm air and removing heat and excess humidity. Refrigerant piping is run from the back of each mini-split unit, out a 3-inch diameter hole in your exterior wall, and down to the condenser unit. Much like the centralized and window AC units, ductless mini-split units transfer heat from inside via the refrigerant to the outdoor condenser unit, where the heat is removed, and the refrigerant is pumped back to the indoor unit.
Defining SEER Ratings as a Method of Comparison
To determine how energy-efficient each cooling option is, you’ll need to take a look at their SEER ratings. SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. Think of this rating as similar to miles per gallon of a vehicle. Experts will calculate the total efficiency of an air conditioning system over an entire season to determine its SEER rating.
The higher the SEER rating, the more energy-efficient a potential cooling option will be. As a general rule of thumb, the U.S. Department of Energy requires that any cooling system on the market today have a minimum SEER rating of at least 13 in the northern part of the country and 14 in the southern part of the country.
SEER for Central AC Systems
The average centralized air conditioning system will have a SEER rating between 15 and 18. It’s important to note that there are more energy-efficient options on the market that go up to about 23 SEER. However, these more efficient options can be exceedingly expensive for the average homeowner to invest in.
SEER Ductless Mini-Split Systems
When you look at most average ductless mini-split systems, their SEER ratings range from around 20 to 25. Just like centralized air conditioning systems, there are more expensive ductless mini-split systems that can reach over 30 SEER. However, most homeowners will invest in a more affordable option of SEER ratings in the lower 20s.
A Note on Window/Portable AC Unit Ratings
Due to the fact that window and portable air conditioning units aren’t typically capable of cooling your entire home, they aren’t given a SEER rating. Rather, HVAC experts provide each window and portable AC unit with an EER rating. This is an energy efficiency rating that showcases the unit’s AC capacity in BTUs over the power in watts that it utilizes. Most window and portable AC units will have an EER rating of between 9 and 12.
The Winner Is the Ductless Mini-Split System
When you take the time to compare the different EER and SEER ratings, it becomes overly apparent that the ductless mini-split systems are more energy-efficient than other cooling options on the market today. There are many different reasons why these ductless systems work in a more energy-efficient manner than other cooling options.
First and foremost, they don’t have any ducting. One of the biggest problems with centralized air conditioning systems is that they lose about 30% of their overall cooled air through leaks and gaps in their ducting. Since ductless mini-split units don’t rely on ducting, all of the cooled air that the inside units produce makes its way back into the rooms throughout your home.
Another reason that ductless mini-split units win out when it comes to efficiency is that they offer zone controls. Each interior unit will come with its own remote that will allow you to alter the temperature in that zone of your home. You can essentially keep zones that you’re spending time in, like your living room, at a cool and comfortable temperature.
During that same time, you can turn up the temperature in areas of your home where no one is, like your home office in the evenings. With more control over the temperature in each area of your home, you can use less energy to keep your family comfortable while they’re spending time at home. These are just two of many important reasons why ductless mini-split systems are the most energy-efficient air conditioning systems currently on the market.
However, since ductless mini-splits can only cool one room, it can be very costly to put a mini-split into every room of your house. Central air conditioning is also a good choice and works to cool your whole home through existing ductwork. Though it is less efficient overall, you may still save money with the cost of purchasing a central air unit over a mini-split. Speak with a professional to learn more about the best option for your home.
Professional AC Services
Davis & Green provides professional AC services to the entire Richmond, VA community. We also offer quality heating, plumbing, electrical, and construction services. Contact our office today to schedule your next service appointment!