How to Choose the Right Heating and Cooling Units for Apartments and Condos
If you’re shopping for the perfect heating and cooling system to condition the air in your home, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors to arrive at the correct decision, including the size of your home, your cooling and heating needs and — of course — your budget. In this guide, you will find some useful tips on how to pick the right system for your home and discuss the pros and cons of each system type.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Air Conditioner and/or Heating System for Your Building:
Picking the wrong HVAC system for your building can lead to the following issues:
- Lack of comfort: If your system is not strong enough, it will be unable to adequately heat or cool your space, and you’ll be less comfortable.
- Higher utility bills: An overworked or old unit can lead to higher monthly energy costs.
- No revenue from occupants: If you’re a landlord and pay for your tenants’ energy costs, you should make sure the heating and air conditioning systems are as efficient as possible. Otherwise, this could lead to a lower net revenue from your tenants — or even no net revenue at all.
- Insects: Unstable temperatures as a result of an insufficient AC or heating system could attract insects, which can do damage to your building.
- Frozen pipes: An inappropriate system could cause the temperature of the house or building to plummet below freezing, which could cause the water in the pipes to freeze and the pipes themselves to rupture.
- Security risks: If the weather is hot and your system cannot get your indoor air to a comfortable temperature, then you may need to open your windows and doors to cool down. However, having your windows and doors open could pose a security risk, especially if you live in a neighborhood where break-ins are common.
Things to Consider Before Choosing a Climate Control System:
Before purchasing an AC or heating system, take the following factors into consideration:
An extremely important factor to consider is the size of the unit, which must be appropriate for the size of your space. If your HVAC system is over- or undersized, your energy bills could end up being very costly. If your heating or cooling system has too much capacity, it will be less efficient, as it will consume a greater amount of energy to supply heated or cooled air for less space. Also, it will be constantly starting and stopping, leading to premature wear and tear.
If your system has too little capacity, on the other hand, it will not be able to adequately cool or heat your space, which means your space will be less comfortable. This will also cause extra wear and tear as the system struggles to keep up.
Landlord’s Rules and Regulations (If You’re a Tenant):
If you’re a tenant and considering installing an AC or heating unit in your apartment, consult your landlord before doing so. Installing certain systems may violate your lease.
HVAC Installation Ability:
Some heating and cooling systems simply cannot be installed in certain buildings. Central air conditioning, for example, requires ductwork, and some homes that weren’t originally built with central air may be unable to handle the necessary upgrade. In this case, you will have to consider another type of system.
Apartment Size / Dual Zone:
If you would prefer different zones of your house to be heated or cooled to different temperatures, you will want to choose a system with that capability.
You must also figure out how much you want to spend on your heating or cooling unit. While HVAC systems are generally considered to be one of the more expensive household appliances, depending on what you can spend, you can find a fairly affordable unit that could save money for you in the long term.
While looking for AC or heating units, don’t forget to consider the warranty — a quality warranty can be a lifesaver if something goes wrong. While most units come with some kind of warranty, they’re by no means created equal. The length of the warranties vary from one brand to the next and cover different things. Whereas some cover parts and labor when the unit breaks, others cover only certain components in your unit, such as the condenser or the pump. Before purchasing a unit, make sure you carefully read the warranty so you won’t be surprised if something breaks later on.
Ductless Mini-Split Systems:
Ductless mini-split systems consist of two primary parts: the outdoor condenser, which contains the compressor, and the indoor unit that handles the air. The indoor and outdoor sections are linked by refrigerant tubing, a condensate drain, suction tubing and power. They are commonly used in multi-family housing units where small apartments or room additions are being built. This system is ideal when installing or extending ductwork is not possible, such as to a man cave located in a basement. They offer various pros and cons, which we’ll cover below.
A mini-split is a great option for apartment cooling in the following respects:
- No ductwork-related energy losses: Mini-splits don’t require ductwork, so they do not experience the energy losses that forced-air systems do.
- Lots of design flexibility: You can hang a mini-split on your wall, mount it flush into a drop ceiling or suspend it from your ceiling.
- Customizable settings: You can zone mini-split systems, with some models having up to four air handling units indoors that are connected to a single outdoor unit. There is a separate thermostat for each indoor unit, meaning each zone can be conditioned to different settings. This also means unoccupied zones don’t have to be conditioned, which is a big energy and money saver.
- Quiet operation: Mini-split systems tend to make little noise when operating.
- Security: Mini-split systems only need a tiny hole bored through a wall, so unlike window-mounted units, a mini-split system will not make your home more vulnerable to intruders.
- Subtle appearance: Mini-splits are small and often do not stand out in a room.
Depending on your application, however, mini-splits may have a few limitations:
- Lots of units to upkeep: If you’re a landlord and have units installed in many rooms on many properties, this will mean lots of maintenance.
- Cost: Mini-split systems cost a bit more than conventional forced-air equipment.
A central air conditioning or heating system conditions and filters air at a central location and then distributes that conditioned air throughout a building via fans and ductwork. If you own a multifamily building that already has built-in ductwork for heating and AC, then a central system is likely the best option for you.
Some advantages of central systems include:
- Consistent air: Whereas a window unit can only cool one or two rooms in a house, a central HVAC system will provide conditioned air throughout your entire space.
- Heating and cooling: Central systems can deliver both heated and cooled air.
- Programmable thermostat: With a programmable thermostat, you can basically tell it when to turn the AC on and what temperature to set it to. This means you can keep your home a warmer temperature when you are away, as there’s no need to cool a house that’s empty. You can also program this thermostat to cool down your house right before returning home.
- One main system to work on: If a central system malfunctions, there is just one unit to repair, which makes things a little simpler.
- Filtered air: Centralized systems don’t just condition your air — they also remove contaminants from the air, which your lungs will appreciate. If you suffer from dust-related allergies, you may want to consider getting a central system.
- No impact on the building’s design: Although installing central air is generally more expensive, it doesn’t affect a residential unit’s overall design, so you don’t have to worry about it disrupting your current decor.
Cons of a central system include:
- Potentially expensive or impossible: If the building does not already have ductwork, installation of a central system will be difficult or even impossible.
- No personalization of temperature to individual apartments in the building: Unlike mini-split systems, where each zone is conditioned by its own individual unit, with a central system, you cannot set rooms to different temperatures.
- Higher energy bills: Because a central system delivers conditioned air to all areas of a house — including those that may not need conditioning. Depending on the size of your space, this may lead to high energy bills.
- Potential for mold and mildew formation: Although central systems generally require minimal maintenance, they are known to get dirty over time. Mildew and mold can start growing in the ducts, and the air in the ducts may carry it around the apartment, which could cause breathing issues. As long as you stay on top of maintenance, however, you shouldn’t have a problem.
PTACs are air conditioners directly installed through walls, and you’ll most often find them installed under a window and above the floor. You’ve probably seen them countless times, but never knew what they were called. If you’ve stayed in hotel rooms, for instance, then you’ve probably been in rooms equipped with this system. They’re also fairly common in offices, sunrooms and assisted living homes.
PTACs are self-contained units or unitary cooling and heating systems, meaning that their main components, like the condenser, compressor, expansion valve and evaporator, are located and integrated into one, single casing.
Let’s go over the potential pros and cons of this system.
Having your living space cooled and heated by a PTAC unit offers the following advantages.
- Customizable settings: Unlike central systems, PTAC units function independently, so a unit can operate by itself to condition a room, while other units can be turned off in unoccupied areas.
- Simple operation: A PTAC is so user-friendly and intuitive that anyone can operate it.
- Quiet operation: This is one reason PTACs are found in so many hotel rooms — they’re designed to be quieter than most other systems and won’t disturb your sleep. They may also be an attractive option for your office, as they are unlikely to distract you from your work or drown out a phone conversation.
- Affordable price: PTACs are quite affordable. If you’re a landlord who owns lots of multifamily housing, this is a particularly attractive option.
- Heating and cooling: PTACs are reversible systems, making them ideal for both cooling in the summer and for heating in the winter.
- Energy efficiency: PTACs tend to boast higher EER (Energy Efficiency Ratios) than window units, allowing you to lower your carbon footprint and potentially save on your energy bills.
- Ductless HVAC: Unlike central air, you won’t have to deal with the expensive and involved procedure of installing ducts.
- Improves indoor air quality: Like central air, PTACs also filter the air coming in from outside.
PTAC systems do have a few disadvantages. These include:
- Installation is quite involved: While you won’t need to install any ductwork, installing a PTAC is still fairly involved.
- Requires outdoor access: Because PTACs need access to the air outside, you cannot install them in interior rooms or below grade.
- Multiple units needed for larger apartments: Unlike central air, a PTAC is only designed to condition a limited area, so if you have a larger apartment, you’ll need to purchase and install multiple units.
Ceiling fans are appliances we’re all familiar with — they’re mechanical, powered by electricity and suspended from a ceiling. Although they do not produce cool air per se, they introduce slow movement into the otherwise hot, still air of a room, which induces evaporative cooling.
Below you can learn about the various advantages and disadvantages offered by ceiling fans.
Fans are a great option to cool your living space in the following ways:
- Low maintenance: Fans are vastly easier to clean than other systems. If you’ve ever cleaned an air conditioning unit, you are well aware of how much work and time it requires — you have to unscrew the panels and get deep inside the unit to remove all the dust and dirt that can make their way inside AC units. With a fan, all you have to do is grab a chair and a duster and dust the blades off every now and then.
- Different sizes to match your apartment: Ceiling fans come in a variety of sizes, so you won’t have any trouble finding the right size to suit your living space.
- Efficient: Modern ceiling fans are exceptionally energy efficient. They are miraculously able to cool your space using no more energy than that of a high-wattage light bulb, saving you significantly on your energy bills.
- Ductless air: Fans obviously require no ducts to cool down the occupants of a room.
- They cool a room better than many people think: While ceiling fans don’t cool as effectively as AC units, they are a good way to keep rooms at consistently cool temperatures since they keep air circulating.
The main limitation of fans is that they don’t offer any heating.
About the Author:
Ron Garrigus; Owner of “ronusa.com” was previously a highly successful HVAC contractor in Dallas, TX. for almost 20 years. He greatly enjoys sharing his knowledge with other people who are seeking advice in regard to selecting the proper HVAC system to meet their needs. You can always contact him by phone at (888) 314-5310; or you can send him an e-mail at email@example.com
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