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Begin with the right system type for your home
There are 3 fundamental types of air conditioning and heating systems that are commonly used :
1. "Split System"
Approximately 90% of the homes in the US use this configuration. “Split” simply means that your equipment is split into two main components: indoor and outdoor. The outdoor section is variously referred to as a condenser, condensing unit, or simply the outdoor unit. The indoor section is also called an air handler, (all electric), furnace, (typically gas or oil), or, simply the indoor unit. If you have an air conditioner unit outside your home and an indoor unit (typically in a closet, garage space, or attic with ducting attached to it), then you have split system.
2. "Package Unit"
These systems are used primarily on mobile or modular homes or older homes on a crawl space with the ductwork beneath the floor. Occasionally package units are installed on residential flat roofs with exposed ductwork. The easiest way to determine if you have a package type system (or self-contained as they are sometimes called) is to look outside at your air conditioner.
Package units are generally large and will always have 2 large, square or round ducts connected directly to them. If you notice this, then you have a package unit. Package systems are identified on our site under “package unit” or “mobile home” selection links in blue navigation bar at the top of every page.
* Sometimes, in rare instances, the air conditioning package unit will reside outside with a separate, ducted heating unit inside, but this is very unusual and changes nothing for our purposes of determining system type.
3. Ductless "mini split"
These are not referred to as central air conditioners and are normally used in single-room applications such as porch enclosures, bonus rooms, music studios, etc.
This is technically a split system with a wall hung indoor unit connected to an outdoor section via refrigerant lines routed through a 3 inch hole in the wall. Multiple ductless type systems can be purchased to provide whole-house cooling where ductwork is costly, impossible, or prohibitive.