So, I began the search for an air conditioning unit that would suit my needs. I thought it was going to be a simple process, until I learned that there are actually several different types of AC units.
What’s the difference between a portable air conditioner and an evaporative cooler? What does ductless mini-split mean? How does a through-the-wall air conditioner even work?
From window units to swamp coolers, I’ve laid out the ins and outs of the most popular AC units. Check out the pros and cons to see which ones works best for your cooling needs.
Window Air Conditioning Unit
Aside from central air, the window unit is the most common AC system. It’s specially designed to be installed in your window. It works by pulling in the air from your space, dehumidifying and cooling it, then pushing back out the now cold air. The remaining hot air is pushed out the window from the hot air exhaust system.
- They take up less space. Having the unit in your window keeps it off the ground and out of your way.
- They’re less expensive. A window unit will still run you $200 and up, but they are cheaper than the $500+ wall units.
- They can be hard to install. These things are very back heavy, and since you have to stick the back out the window, they can be dangerous. Some don’t quite fit your window just right either, so even with folding panels, you’ll still need to screw them into the window.
- They can be seen as a liability. Since these things are heavy, if it were to somehow fall out of your window, it could really hurt someone. Many apartment complexes are moving away from these models, to avoid the risk. If you’re renting, check with your management to see if they allow window units.
Through-the-Wall Air Conditioning Unit
These through-the-wall AC units are similar to the window units, except they’re made to be installed into your wall in a chassis sleeve. They still work the same, but they need the chassis to support the weight of the unit. Most sleeves can simply slide in and out to help with installation.
- They don’t take up space. These units can be installed inline with your wall, so they don’t stick out at all. They can be very discrete.
- Through-the-wall AC units tend to come with a higher cooling capacity. While they’re typically used to cool one room, they can cool a larger room.
- They have a higher price point. Through-the-wall air conditioning units will run you $450 and up.
- Unlike the window units, these don’t have venting, which lowers their cooling efficiency.
- The through-the-wall units tend to be heavier.
- Unless you already have a hole in your wall, these units aren’t a quick installation.
Ductless Mini-Split System Air Conditioners
The ductless mini-split system is unique to the air conditioning units, because it is not a self-contained unit. The system is generally made up of two parts; the larger condenser unit, which sits outside, and the blower system that is mounted on the wall indoors. There is no ducting on the system; instead, it uses refrigeration lines from outside, which travel though an insulated tube into the blower system. The blower then pushes the cold air out into the room.
- These systems are quiet. Many air conditioning units are noisy, but since the condenser actually sits outside, you don’t get as much noise inside the house.
- The wall mount makes the mini-split system unobtrusive.
- You can have wall mounts in different rooms, and control them each individually. While they can be used in the home, this also makes them popular choices in offices.
- They are harder to install. Being that there are two pieces, not one self-contained unit, it’s harder to set everything up, especially if you have multiple wall units.
- They have the highest price point, running you anywhere between $600 on the lower end, into the $2,000 range.
Portable Air Conditioning Units
Much like the window unit, a portable AC unit has ducting that sucks in the air in your space, pushing out the hot air while dehumidifying and returning cold air. Uniquely, these air conditioners are free standing pieces. Although they stand alone, they still need to be set up to blow hot air out through a window. To do this, they come with a window kit and a hose that will allow the hot air to travel out of your apartment.
- Easy Installation. You just connect the hose, set up the window piece and you’re ready to cool down in no time!
- No liability. With the window units, a lot of apartments see them as a risk that could hurt someone if they fall. The freestanding unit eliminates that risk, but still dehumidifies and cools your place down.
- Price point. While portable air conditioning units aren’t as cheap as window units, they’re only $50 or so more, so they’re still pretty affordable.
- They are louder. Since the whole unit is inside your space, the noise is louder than other models.
- They aren’t discrete. Since they are freestanding units that sit on the floor, they are definitely a little more in the way.
- More maintenance. Not surprisingly, you’ll need to clean the air filter, but what you might not think about is the water tray underneath. Since the unit is dehumidifying the air as well, it needs somewhere to store that water. It collects in a tray that you’ll need to empty from time to time.
Evaporative Coolers (Swamp Coolers)
If you live in a drier climate, you’ve probably heard of these before. An evaporative cooler (or swamp cooler as they’re more commonly known) can be a freestanding or window unit that cools and humidifies the air. It uses evaporation technology to cool water and fan it out into the room. Essentially, it pulls in hot dry air and sucks it through damp pads to cool the air, then it fans it back out into the room. It cools like the other AC units but in a completely different and unique way, perfect for people in dry areas.
- Price point. These are the least expensive AC units on the market. They’ll cost you between $100 and $200.
- Ideal if the air in your house is dry. It humidifies while keeping you cool and comfortable.
- Easy to set up.
- Comes in a free standing model or a window unit.
- The free standing units, like the portable air conditioners, are bulky and can get in the way.
- If you live in a humid climate, this is not going to work well for you. The closest price point and effectiveness for a more humid climate would be the window or portable air conditioning units.
I ended up purchasing a portable air conditioning unit and have been loving it! It’s keeping me cool and dry here on the riverfront.
Which air conditioning unit do you think will work best for you? Let us know in the comment section below!
If so, subscribe now for tips on home, money, and life delivered straight to your inbox.