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Air Conditioners, HVAC Education

Central Air

Central air-conditioning (or central AC) offers comfort for your whole home.Air is cooled at a central location and distributed throughout your home via fans and ductwork, as opposed to a window unit that’s focused on a certain room. Central air can be either a split system or a packaged system. A central air system includes:

  • a thermostat that controls system operation
  • an outdoor unit that houses a fan, condenser coil, and compressor
  • an indoor unit (typically either a furnace and evaporator coil, or a fan coil) to circulate the cooled air
  • copper tubing that allows refrigerant to flow between the indoor and outdoor units
  • an expansion valve the regulates the amount of refrigerant going into the evaporator coil
  • ductwork that allows air to circulate from the indoor unit out to the various living spaces and back to the indoor unit

Types of central air conditioners

Central air comes as either a split system or a packaged system.

Split-System Air Conditioner

Split-system air conditioners are the most common type of central air. These systems include both an indoor and outdoor unit. The indoor unit, typically includes a furnace and evaporator coil or a fan coil (air handler), and a blower fan that circulates air throughout the home. The outdoor unit has the compressor and the condenser coil.

Split-system air conditioners provide a variety of options and offer consistent, reliable temperature control to the entire home. An air filter is normally installed as part of this system, which can help clean your air.

Packaged Air Conditioner

Packaged systems are all-in-one solutions for central air. They contain an evaporator coil, blower fan, compressor, and condensing coil in one unit. They work well when there isn’t enough space in an attic or closet for the indoor unit of a split-system air conditioner, and are also preferred for rooftop installations. Like split systems, packaged systems pull warm air from the home through return air ducts and into its evaporator coil section. The air passes over the evaporator coil and the cooler air is returned back to the home through supply air ducts. The unwanted heat is released to the outside through the condenser coil.

Packaged systems also offer a variety of options to provide better energy efficiency, and higher efficiency models include multispeed blower fans. In the United States, packaged systems are most commonly installed in the South and Southwest.

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