Updated: Mar 23
Your Guide to Split-System HVAC or Packaged-System HVAC
HVAC Systems - What are they?
You need an air conditioning or heating unit and you’re asked you if you want a split-system or packaged-system HVAC unit and you have no clue what that means?
You’re not alone. Like many others, you might be used to just walking into a store and pointing your finger at an item and it magically appears in your vehicle. Even better, you might be used to typing the name of a company in your browser and the item you need is right before your eyes.
The convenience of getting so much help with your shopping needs has its drawbacks. You don’t get the chance to know the details of the products you buy because everything is laid out or handed to you.
HVAC systems are the heating, ventilating and air conditioning units that we use in our homes, schools and businesses to keep them comfortable every day of the year. Whether comfortable means heating or cooling, the HVAC systems fill those needs.
How Do HVAC Systems Help Us?
The summer months can cause grueling heat and the winter months gives us shattering chills. HVAC systems allow you to adjust the temperature in whatever space you are in—they are what makes a room comfortable.
Imagine having to work in an office building during a Texas summer. That’ll surely help you to appreciate the role that HVAC systems play in your life. They make it easy for you to go on your day-to-day life in peace and comfort.
What Is A Split-System HVAC Unit?
The type of HVAC system you’re most likely to be familiar with is the split-system. This is the HVAC unit you would see on the windows of a building.
The split-system HVAC unit has that name because the two main units, one for heating and the other for cooling, are ‘split’. The cooling system is outside and uses compressors, refrigerant and coils to cool the air, while a fan blows out the hot air that is pulled from the room.
The main benefit of the split-system HVAC unit is that it provides greater individual control. Instead of a single, central heating system that controls the temperature of an entire property, the split-system covers the cooling and heating for one room, therefore, it reduces energy consumption and electricity bills.
Energy consumption is a big topic these days as we’ve all been experiencing the effects of global warming and high electricity bills. The HVAC split-system is a good way to combat that as it is energy-efficient and convenient to use.
The individualized control of the HVAC split-system is also convenient for occupants of a property with different temperature needs. For example, one person might be cold in their bedroom, but another might be hot in the kitchen. This unit provides a high level of convenience.
What Is A Packaged-System HVAC Unit?
A packaged-system HVAC unit is a heating and cooling unit with all contributing parts in one package. This is used in homes that use air-ducts for central heating. This is usually stored outside the home on a cement slab or inside a basement or attic.
Connections are made from the unit to all the rooms in the home. The temperature is controlled by a thermostat located inside the home.
Because the packaged-system has all parts combined in a single unit, it is much easier to maintain than other HVAC systems.
Two types of condensers are used by packaged-systems—air-cooled condensers, which are cooled by the surrounding air, are most often used with residential units, and water-cooled condensers—these require a cooling tower and are mostly used for commercial applications.
Advantages of Split-System HVAC Units
Smaller units - Split systems are smaller and therefore, more visually attractive than packaged units.
Individualized controls - It is a waste of energy and resources to heat or cool a room that’s empty. The split-system allows you to control the heating and cooling of each room in your property.
Multi-unit connections - up to four indoor units can be connected to one outdoor unit on a split-system HVAC unit. This allows for fewer units needed and more convenient handling and installation.
Energy-efficient - with the absence of air ducts, these systems do not have the high energy loss associated with ducts. This accounts for up to 30% of energy consumption. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is usually above 25. This is considered a good rating.
Customizable placement - Because it is comprised of two parts, the owner is not forced to put the unit in a specific place. The placement is much more flexible than other units.
Visual appeal - The split system is more visually appealing than other units since it is typically smaller and only the indoor unit is visible on the inside of the property. It is also easier to fit in with any decor.
Less noisy - These units run quietly and don’t produce loud and annoying noise like other units.
Disadvantages of Split-System HVAC Units
Manual labor - The split-system requires more manual labor because it comprises of two main units. The technician will also have to connect refrigerant lines to the units.
Maintenance - Two units will require the technician to check both parts separately, resulting in more time spent on maintenance.
Upfront cost - The initial cost of the HVAC split-system unit is usually higher than other units. Over time, this figure is worth it because the owner will save money on energy costs.
Installation - If the installation is done incorrectly, you could potentially spend a lot of money on repairs. Make sure you hire a knowledgeable HVAC technician to handle your installation.
Advantages of Packaged-System HVAC Units
Space-efficient - With only one unit to consider because the components are located in a single part, storage and installation are much easier than other units.
Easy assembly - All parts are located together and that eliminates the need to connect multiple pieces of equipment, so less assembly is required. The manufacturers put most of the pieces together at the factory, so you will pay the technician a lower fee for installation.
SEER - The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio - Packaged units have good SEER ratings, in the range of 13-18.
Disadvantages of Packaged-System HVAC Units
Damage from weather and animals - Because they are mostly located outdoors, packaged-system HVAC units are more susceptible to the elements and animals. Some owners place metal grills around them but they are not effective in stopping damage from rain, sun, and small animals. These cause the units to rust quickly.
Shorter life-span - The points noted above contribute to the decreased life-span of the packaged-system unit. The controls for the system are also located outdoors. This poses an even greater risk to the longevity of the unit as the weather and animals can also affect the controls.
Roof danger - If located on the roof, installation and maintenance are risky as the technician has to go onto the roof to complete these tasks. Even with the threat of this, most owners still place their units on their roofs. This could be because they think it looks better there or because they just prefer to not have it on the ground.
Choosing your HVAC system is a big responsibility because of the financial investment involved. No one wants to spend money on an item only to find out that it doesn’t work for them.
Knowing the facts about the two main types of HVAC systems - packaged-system and split-system can help you to make an informed, educated decision before purchasing. Analyze the features, pros and cons of each and seek the advice of a skilled HVAC technician before you make your purchase.
Contact WRIGHT's A/C & Heat to help you with your A/C & Heating needs!