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The Types of Room Air Conditioners

The hot summer months can be all but insufferable without a proper cooling system in place. At this period of time, a lot of homes and offices have central AC systems that absorb energy bills, frequently just to cool the few rooms they spend time in. If such scenario applies to you or if you don't have a central AC and are looking for a less expensive alternative - look for a room air conditioner.

Room air conditioners are divided into 5 major types:

  • Portable Air Conditioners
  • Window Air Conditioners
  • Through-the-Wall Air Conditioners
  • Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners
  • Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners (PTACs)

Portable air conditioners are freestanding, easy-to-move models that cool by pulling in fresh air, removing heat and moisture, and returning cool air into your space. To cool to a nicety, they have to vent warm air into another location, commonly outside through an included window kit. As a rule, installation takes just a few minutes. Other ways to vent a portable AC is through a wall hole or drop ceiling.

The main benefits:

  • you can move them into different rooms
  • they don't require permanent installation
  • they're characteristically affordable options

You can find them noisy, and they're typically not as efficient as other room AC options. If this disadvantage is meaningful to you, look for the models with heat for year-round use.

In contrast, window air conditioners are designed to be installed inside a standard window. Sometimes, they can be set through a measured and prepared wall hole. These appliances are secured in a partly opened window or on the wall frame with the hot air exhaust system facing outside and the cool air return system facing inside.

Ductless split system air conditioners are popular for their high-efficiency cooling. They provide quiet, unostentatious cooling for multiple "zones" within a home, office, or commercial space. To compare with portable AC units and window-style ACs, mini-split air conditioners are not self-contained appliances. In addition, they don’t require ducting like central air conditioners. There are two basic parts of such systems:

  1. a large condenser unit that installs outdoors
  2. one or more compact wall-mountable blower units that are placed strategically inside the space(s), or zones, you want to cool

Package Terminal Air Conditioners (PTACs) are commercial-grade models installed in hotels, assisted living facilities, and offices. They are capable of cooling and heating spaces of particularly any size, and the majority of brands allow you to control multiple units from one location.

The PTAC AC units are popular not only in the hospitality industry, but in sun rooms and various other residential spaces. They’re typically installed through an external wall right above the floor and often under a window.

Primary vs. Supplementary Use

There are two ways of providing an effective cooling in your environment by each system:

  • Primary Sources of Cooling – handheld, window, and thru-wall ACs are usually used as the primary sources of cooling in rooms that are not attainable by a central air conditioner. There is only one thing you need - a window or a custom-designed wall space that allows you to exhaust hot air outside. Ductless mini-splits can cool and add warmth to multiple areas of a single home or apartment. PTACs provide primary cooling to hotel rooms and other small rooms.
  • Supplementary Sources of Cooling – portable, window, and thru-wall ACs can also be used as supplementary cooling systems in rooms that are already covered by a central air conditioner. To obtain the most energy efficiency, you'll need to offset your usage of a central AC by turning up your thermostat (or turning it off) and letting the room air conditioner do most of the cooling work.