What are the different types of air conditioning System?

What are the different types of air conditioning System?

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The different types of air conditioning system

Whilst all modern air conditioners use the same principles of heat pump technology to provide both heating and cooling, they do come in different types that include split, ducted, water cooled and portable units. These systems all operate a little differently with some being a better fit for households whilst others are significantly more beneficial in a commercial setting, which also means air conditioning in cars and those that operate with a single unit are quite different too.


The main 4 types of air conditioning systems

With air conditioning being so versatile it is unsurprising that it can come in several different types and forms, still providing heating and cooling using the same principles they can be split down into four main types.


Single Split systems and Multi Split Systems

The most common type of air conditioning system in the UK in both domestic households and commercial buildings, they are easily the most balanced in terms of cost effectiveness and versatility with indoor units that can be located on the wall, ceiling or floor. Split systems primarily comprise of two units, one installed indoors and a corresponding unit installed outdoors that is sometimes also referred to as a condenser. These units are connected by pipework which allows the refrigerant to circulate between them with the indoor unit providing heating or cooling whilst the outdoor unit either expels or absorbs heat. These systems can also be adapted into what is known as a multisplit system where several indoor units are connected to a single more powerful outdoor unit. These systems are particularly useful if you need air conditioning in multiple rooms but have limited outdoor space for their corresponding condensers, although these systems can only exclusively provide heating or cooling for all rooms at the same time; it isn’t possible for some rooms to be heated and others cooled at the same time when using a multisplit system. There are few downsides to split systems as they provide rapid heating and cooling without a need for ductwork and are very energy efficient and quick to install, although they do need to be installed by qualified air conditioning engineers and will require annual maintenance in order to maximise their lifespan and minimise potential breakdowns or need for repairs.


Ducted and Central Air conditioning Systems

More commonly seen in commercial buildings in the UK or domestic households outside of the UK, central/ducted systems provide heating and cooling in the same manner as split systems, although each air conditioned room is connected via a vent to a network of ducts that distribute either cool or heated air. More expensive and complex to install than split systems due to the need for ducting throughout the building (which may or may not be concealed in a wall) these systems do not need individual indoor AC units and instead only require ducting and a single large outdoor unit that can either be concealed in a roof or outside the building. Whilst energy efficient whilst in use, these systems can be quite noisy in comparison to split systems and their maintenance can be complex/expensive due to the extensive ductwork needing to be properly cleaned or repaired, particularly when accessibility to them is limited.


Water cooled systems

Significantly more common in large commercial buildings such as schools and office buildings, water cooled AC systems either use chilled water to provide cooling or use water to cool their internally circulating refrigerant. In both variations, these systems utilise water from the mains supply instead of air to aid in the absorption or expelling of heat from an internal space. Water cooled air conditioning systems are also quite flexible as they can be connected to ducts to provide conditioned air to rooms or can linked to indoor AC units similar to how a split system is installed. As they are particularly susceptible reduced efficiency due to water impurities, they are more expensive to maintain and depending on the size of the system they can also be a little more expensive to run in comparison to split or ducted systems. Water cooled air conditioning systems are also notably more expensive than split or ducted in direct comparison, although this is largely due to their more complex installation with water pipework also being involved in the process.


Portable Air Conditioners

Compact and designed with mobility in mind, mobile or portable air conditioning units are provide localised on-demand cooling that can be relocated between different rooms as required. Unlike other types of air conditioning, portable units do not require installation and this is what allows them to easily be moved between different locations, although they do require a window nearby to direct their exhaust hose in order to expel heat from the room. Portable AC units are also a type of monoblock air conditioner as all their working components are housed within a single unit and due to their mobility they are designed with simplicity in mind, they simply need to be plugged into an electrical outlet with their hose directed outside in order to be put into active use. They require minimal maintenance which can be completed without the assistance of an air conditioning engineer and are extremely useful as temporary cooling during heatwaves, although they are not as energy efficient as installed air conditioning systems and tend to be quite noisy, which can make them less ideal for overnight use in bedrooms. Due to how they expel heat via an exhaust hose, access to the outside is also required, usually via an open window which can present an issue when a window is not nearby or a potential security hazard during overnight use. Whilst their mobility is a great asset, it also means that they cannot become too large in order to remain mobile, as a direct result they lack the power to cool large or open plan rooms, limiting their use to smaller rooms and lighter cooling duties.


What about indoor only monoblock air conditioner installations?

A monoblock air conditioner is effectively an all-in-one unit as opposed to an indoor AC unit being paired with an outdoor AC unit, although this does mean they operate a little differently to other air conditioning systems. Portable air conditioners are a good example of a monoblock air conditioner, although these single unit AC systems can also be installed in a fixed location within a building as well. They aren’t quite as common as split air conditioning systems though and this is largely because they are;


Monoblock air conditioning units are surprisingly noisy

As they do not have a corresponding outdoor unit but use the exact same cooling/heating process with refrigerant and a compressor in order to provide cooling, all the working parts of the air conditioner are in the room with you. This results in very loud operation compared to a split system when the majority of the components that produce sound are in the corresponding unit outside the building.


Just like portable air conditioners they are limited to small rooms only

The space saving offered by having a single unit air conditioning system is convenient although it comes at the cost of having all the working components in a single unit, lowering its power output due to being compacted in this way. This means that an installed monoblock air conditioner can only be effective in small rooms due to this power limitation.


These air conditioning units are cheap to purchase but can be more expensive to run

Whilst the initial purchase of a monoblock AC system can be cheaper than a split AC system, due to their reduced output they are only designed for use in small rooms and their limitations become more apparent when in use. Trying to exceed their limitations by installing in an oversized room or rapidly cooling at the height of a heatwave will not only mean you do not quite reach your desired temperature, it will also result in higher electricity consumption from the additional strain you are putting on the unit.


Maintenance and repairs can be challenging for monoblock ac systems

As monoblock air conditioners that can be installed within a building can be purchased online and are often advertised as a DIY installation, they can enter a grey area when it comes to proper installation and safety. For this reason it can be difficult to request assistance for repairs and maintenance for them outside of what you can achieve yourself. As all air conditioners that are not maintained have a shorter lifespan, this can mean an installed monoblock AC system may not stay in operation as long as a split system.


Where does air conditioning for cars fit in?

Even when it comes to air conditioning for vehicles, the principles on how it operates are still very similar to the air conditioning used in buildings, although there are some aspects that set it apart and make it different.


Air conditioning refrigerant isn’t the same in cars

Car air conditioning uses HFO-1234yf (also known as R-1234yf) whilst earlier models may use R134a. Modern air conditioning systems used in buildings use R32 refrigerant and occasionally R410a for older systems.


Heating isn’t generated using the refrigerant

Heat is sourced from the car engine/radiator as opposed to the refrigerant cycle which would otherwise be used for both heating and cooling the interior of a building. This difference may sound small but it means the internal workings of car air conditioning will be different to allow for the car engine to redirect this heat as opposed to just relying on the refrigerant. (Refrigerant is primarily for cooling only)


Components are smaller in vehicles

Air conditioning for a vehicle is designed to cool a much smaller space than even the smallest room size you would expect in a building. As a direct result of this the usual components you would expect in an air conditioning system, such as a compressor, are scaled to be much more compact and designed quite differently with significantly lower output.


Performance is directly linked to engine output

Whilst car AC works on the same principles as the AC in buildings, it is directly linked to the engine output as opposed to mains electrical power. This means that not only is it limited by the power the engine can generate, it will also directly impact car milage as well since the air conditioning shares the same power source the increased load will in turn increase your fuel consumption.


Car air conditioning uses the same cooling process as an air conditioning system you’d see in a building and it also shares the same components like the compressor, although how it operates and the design of these components aren’t quite the same. This is the main reason why you’ll need a car mechanic and not an air conditioning engineer if you need any assistance or advice with air conditioning for a car.


Still need some help choosing your air conditioning system?

Call MAC for advice and a free no-obligation quote today!

MAC are air conditioning specialists with years of experience working with both residential and commercial properties throughout the Midlands and can offer a range of options for different air conditioning types from multi-split systems to ducted air conditioning. With an unbeatable track record for the highest standard in customer service and transparent pricing for all our professional services, MAC’s team of HVAC technicians take pride in being honest and upfront with all quotations and advice we provide with our knowledgeable team just a phone call away on 0121 730 4800 to share their expertise. But if you’re short on time, that’s okay too! For an instant quote on an air conditioning installation you can use our free, commercial and domestic pricing calculators for easy access pricing! You can even reach out to the team via WhatsApp on 07561 570 029  or send us a message to sales@midlandaircon.co.uk for more information on the type of systems we provide and what we recommend in choosing an air conditioning solution to suit you.



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