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Finding the best air conditioner for your home or office can be complicated. There are many different types and variations of air conditioners which is often confusing at first. AC units are categorized based on their capacity, mounting method, construction, and other factors.
When comparing AC units based on their capacity, for example, we can see a clear distinction between domestic or residential ACs which fall in the 6,000-20,000 BTU range (British thermal units), commercial or office ACs at around 12,000-50,000 BTUs, and industrial ACs which are over 30,000 BTUs.
When looking at how they are mounted, AC units can be defined as portable, wall-mounted, floor-mounted, window, ceiling, duct-mounted, or split AC systems.
However, the main way to categorize air conditioners is based on their construction.
The different types of air conditioners
All air conditioners, regardless of their differences, work on the same principle – they transfer a refrigerant liquid from one set of coils (which collets heat) to another set of coils (which disperses heat). Where and how these components are incorporated defines the type of the air conditioner.
Monoblock Air Conditioners
The unifying characteristic of all monoblock AC units is that all their components are placed within a single body shell, hence – “monoblock”. All monoblock ACs are designed to be placed inside an enclosed space, however, they all have an air pipe which disperses the hot air outside.
Aside from that, monoblock ACs can differ a lot from one another and come in various sub-types:
- Portable/mobile monoblock AC units. Usually placed on rollers, these ACs are made to be moved around your home or office. Their air exhaust pipe is ~2-3meters long and they usually have a low capacity of 9,000 to 12,000 BTUs.
- Floor-mounted monoblock AC units. Like portable ones, floor-mounted ACs have a similar capacity but are made to be stationary. They are mounted on the floor and against exterior walls. They usually have 2 exhaust air pipes which extend outside through the wall itself.
- Wall-mounted monoblock AC units. These units have a similar capacity to the ones above but are mounted on the external wall itself. They are sometimes called “High wall ACs”.
- Window monoblock AC units. An interesting variation, window ACs are easier to install as they don’t require any wall work. They can be quite noisy and will block out a window, however, so they’re rarely seen these days.
Split Air Conditioners
This is probably the most famous type of AC unit. Split air conditioners work on the same principle but their heat collecting and heat dispersing coils are separating into two bodies – one indoors and one outdoors. The two split AC bodies are connected through copper air vents and an electric cable. They are less noisy than monoblock ACs because their compressor is on the outside.
As with monoblock ACs, split air conditioners come in several different sub-types:
- Wall-mounted split AC units. Similar to monoblock ones only separated into two bodies – one outside and one inside.
- Floor-mounted split AC units. Again, these are similar to monoblock air conditioners but their coils are split into two bodies. Another difference here is that floor-mounted split ACs can come in two further sub-categories which are Column split ACs and Cabinet split ACs – the different shapes here are the main distinguishing factor.
- Portable/mobile split AC units. These models usually have a higher capacity than portable monoblock ACs but are a little less portable as they come in two separate bodies. Still, they are perfectly practical if you want an AC that’s both powerful and portable.
- Duct-mounted split AC units. A good option for homes with pre-existing ducted air systems. These ACs are simply installed over the air duct itself. They are often called “channel” or “central” air conditioners.
Multi Split Air Conditioners
An off-shoot of split ACs, multi-split air conditioners are all AC models with multiple indoor bodies per one external body. A good option for when you want an AC in multiple close but separated rooms, multi-split ACs have much more powerful condenser units.
Another cool thing about them is that they can use different indoor units. You can have a multi-split AC system with 4 internal bodies that are all different – one can be wall-mounted, one can be a floor-mounted column, one can be a cabinet floor-mounted unit, and one can be a ceiling cassette.
What should I look for when buying an air conditioner?
Choosing the best air conditioner for your needs means considering several key factors:
The first and easiest thing to figure out is how much power you want your AC to have. Just measure your home’s or office’s square footage and use that to calculate how many BTUs you’re going to need.
Monoblock, split, or multi-split?
Multi-splits are usually meant for larger offices or homes where a lot of AC power is needed.
Monoblocks are usually used for single small spaces such as one-room offices, basements, garages, and attics. They are great for when you don’t want a complicated installation.
Split ACs are the preferred all-around choice for most homes and offices.
Wall-, floor-, ceiling-, or window-mounted?
The next major thing to consider is where you want your AC to be installed. Wall- and floor-mounted are the norm as window ACs can be quite noisy and ceiling ACs usually more complicated to install.
Extra features that might be useful
After you’ve considered the main points, the rest is a matter figuring out the details:
- Physical size and shape – how big do you want the AC to be, where do you want it to fit between your furniture, etc.
- Noise – this is rarely a problem in basements, garages, and attics but it can be troublesome in residential and office spaces.
- Aesthetics – like most other appliances, ACs come in different designs and colors in order to better fit with your interior design.
- Heat pump – if you want your AC to be good for heating and not just for cooling, consider getting a model with a good heat pump.
- Energy star rating – this rating determines how energy-efficient the AC is. If you don’t want to pay too much for your air conditioner’s day-to-day operation, choose a model with an Energy star rating.
- Additional features – last but not least, consider what additional features you want your AC system to have. These can include a remote control, adjustable fan speed, air direction control, different types of air filters, clock and programmable timer, and more.
There’s a lot more that can be said about AC units and how they work. At the end of the day, finding the best air conditioner for your home or office means calculating and considering its capacity, initial price, type and model, installation, energy consumption, design, and all its other features. If and when you find the right fit for your needs, however, it will be one of the best purchases you’ve made for your home or office.