If you’re in the market for an air conditioner, you’ve probably been bombarded with the term “central air conditioning.”
Central air conditioning is a type of air conditioning system that’s known for being energy-efficient, quiet, and out of the way. Still, if this is your first time installing an air conditioner or upgrading your current system, knowing the fundamentals can be useful.
So, what is central air?
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what central air is, how it works, its types, and its benefits. We’ll also explore the differences between central air and forced air, so be sure to stick around!
What Is Central Air in apartments and condos?
The term “central air” refers to the fact that the AC system cools the air in a central location before distributing it throughout the house via a network of ducts.
Central air conditioning systems work by absorbing warm air into return air ducts via an air handler. The air is then filtered to remove any dust or pollutants before passing through cold evaporator coils.
These coils contain liquid refrigerant, which absorbs heat from the air and cools it before blowing it through supply ducts back to the house.
During the cooling process, the liquid refrigerant turns to warm gas and travels to the compressor via copper tubing.
The compressor then pressurizes the gas and sends it to the condenser coil, which dissipates the heat outside. Once the condenser coil converts the refrigerant back to cold liquid, the refrigerant returns to the evaporator coil.
When the cool air inside warms up again, the AC’s thermostat activates the system, and the cycle repeats.
Types of Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioning is available in two configurations: split system and packaged system. Both systems use the same components and provide the same amount of cooling, but their structures differ slightly.
Split-system air conditioners are the most common, and as the name suggests, they’re divided into an outdoor cabinet and an indoor cabinet.
The outdoor cabinet is located outside of the building and contains the compressor, condenser, and expansion valve. The indoor cabinet, on the other hand, is usually located in the attic and contains the evaporator coil and blower.
Both cabinets are linked by underground refrigerant lines that transport the refrigerant back and forth between them.
Since split-system air conditions don’t come with a furnace, they’re an economical option for homes that already have a separate furnace.
A packaged-system air conditioner consists of a single cabinet that houses all of the components. It’s more commonly found in small commercial buildings.
This all-in-one cabinet is typically installed on a roof, providing the building with additional safety and space. It cools the building via air supply and return ducts that come from the inside via the building’s exterior wall.
The best part is that packaged central air conditioners usually come with a natural gas furnace. As a result, they serve as both an air conditioner and a furnace, eliminating the need for a separate furnace.
Benefits of Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioners are excellent AC systems because they use less energy, which benefits the environment and lowers electricity costs.
Although central ACs use more power than window units or individual ACs, they’re more efficient with their use of electricity.
Additionally, because the system is central, it cools your entire house, which means you don’t have to cram everyone into one air-conditioned room.
Other units must also run almost continuously to keep the house cool. On top of that, they keep smaller areas cool, so if you live in a larger house, you’ll need to keep several units on.
Central air conditioning, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be turned on all day and easily cools your entire house.
It also dehumidifies the air, which smaller units are incapable of doing. In the long run, central air conditioning saves you a lot of money and energy.
What Is Forced Air?
A common misconception is that cooling systems use central air, while heating systems use forced air. In some cases, the terms are even used interchangeably, even by contractors. That’s why it’s common to confuse central air and forced air.
Although central air and forced air are pretty similar, telling them apart is much easier than you’d think. The difference mainly depends on what mechanism they use to produce air.
Forced air is basically any HVAC system that delivers conditioned and temperature-controlled air into a building via air ducts and vents. So, in a way, central air conditioning is a forced-air system.
Still, the reason forced air is associated with heating systems is that it generally originates from heat pumps and furnaces.
While forced air systems are noisier and more costly, they produce filtered and dehumidified air.
What’s more, they require little upkeep. So, you only need to seal and clean the air ducts whenever there’s a risk of dirt, mildew, and mold build-up.
How Much Electricity Does Central Air Conditioning Use?
Central air conditioning uses 3000-3500 watts of electricity per hour. For reference, here’s an idea of how much electricity other units use:
Large portable units: 4100 watts per hour
Mid-sized portable units: 2900 watts per hour
Large window units: 1440 watts per hour
Mid-sized window units: 900 watts per hour
So, central air conditioning does use more electricity than your average AC, but it covers a lot more volume than an AC would. As a result, central air conditioners help conserve more energy.
Can I Install Central Air Conditioning?
You can install a central AC if your home has a ductwork system. Installation can cost anywhere from $3,000 up to $8,000, depending on the unit and the size of the building.
While this can be costly, central air conditioners can save you money on energy and maintenance.
Even if you don’t have ductwork in your home, you can get them installed in your house. If you don’t want to make too many alterations to your house, you can invest in a split system. Luckily, they don’t need ductwork.
What is central air?
Central air is any split or packaged AC system that absorbs warm air in a central location, cools it, and then sends it back throughout the house via a ductwork system.
It’s a great investment because you can be confident that your home will remain cool and comfortable even during the hottest summers without racking up your energy bills.
Now that you know what central air stands for and how it can benefit your home, it’s time to upgrade your cooling system to central air conditioning!