While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different terminology used for air conditioners, it’s important to have a grasp of it if you’re thinking of purchasing a unit: one simple word can mean a big difference in design and function! In this post we take a look at the main types of air conditioners – window/wall style, evaporative, split system and portable.
The clichéd image of the boxy A/C unit that pops into your head when you hear the words ‘air conditioner’ is technically called a window/wall air conditioner. As the name suggests, they’re small units designed to fit either into a window frame or within the wall of a building. It’s usually only property owners that choose wall units because they’re difficult to install and require making permanent changes to a building’s structure, while window units are more flexible and can be unplugged and stored away. Some models, such as this LG unit, provide heating as well through a reverse cycle function and are fitted with anti-bacteria mesh to remove dust and other airborne particles from the air supply. Air conditioners with a reverse function work via heat pump that heats the surrounding air and venting out the cool air. A main concern with reverse air conditioners is location: they’re most efficient when the room temperature is between 5 °C to 20°C – any colder and icing will start to form on the coils and it will go into defrost mode.
A split-system air conditioner is made up of an outside unit (the compressor) and an inside air outlet unit (mounted high on a wall), connected by a pipe that carries refrigerant. They’re sleek, discreet and are ideal for air conditioning one area of your home. When in cooling mode, they draw warm air from the room into the indoor unit which removes the heat and recirculates the cooled air into the room. For heating, a heat pump runs the same cycle but in reverse.
Evaporative coolers perform heat exchange through water. Hot outside air is drawn into the unit by a fan motor, then goes through a filter material which has a slow stream of water passing down through it. The heat is transferred to the water droplets, leaving cool air to flow back out of the unit. There’s no refrigerant used in evaporative coolers, which means you won’t need to recharge it every season. Electrical costs are lower as the water pump and fan motor combo consumes less energy than other air conditioner technologies. The main disadvantage to an evaporative unit is that it needs a source of water to run. Where you live comes into play as well: evaporative units work best when they’re in a low humidity environment.
If you can’t install a built-in air conditioner in your home, then a portable one is a good option – they’re either cooling only units or cooling with a heating element like this one by Omega Atilise. Portable A/Cs are compact and have wheels so that you can manoeuvre them into position easily. The downside of a portable unit is that they’re quite noisy and only cools the room it’s in at the time.
(Photo by zeevveez)
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