When your home needs a new air conditioner, or you're looking to add an air conditioner to a garage or outbuilding that doesn't have ductwork, you might consider a split system unit. This is what you find in hotel rooms; the air isn't pushed through ducts in a whole building but comes out a panel that is attached to a wall or the ceiling. Note a few commonly asked questions about a split system unit so you can determine if this is the right choice for your space.
Does it come with a thermostat control?
You might assume that a split system works only with an on-off switch or that you can only adjust the fan to low, medium, and high settings; this is commonly done in hotel rooms that have very inexpensive models installed. However, today's split system units and especially those meant for residential homes will usually have a thermostat control, just like central air units.
This thermostat isn't typically mounted to the wall, separate from the split system unit, but is part of that front panel. This allows you to control the temperature of the room better than if you just turned on the fan or could only adjust the speed of the fan and not the desired temperature of the room.
How is it installed?
Never assume that you can or should attempt to install a split system air conditioner on your own; this type of system needs a vent that goes directly out an exterior wall of the home, so your home's brick or siding will need to be cut for this vent. The unit also needs to be installed properly in the wall or ceiling so that it doesn't cause damage to the building materials. The unit also typically needs its own electrical circuit so that it doesn't cause a slowdown of other electrical items when it runs. Because of all these factors, it's best to leave the work to professionals.
What is a heat pump?
You may see some split systems advertised as coming with a heat pump; this allows the system to work as both an air conditioner and heater. The heat pump will move warm air from outside into your home's cooler interior during colder months. The heat pump may also work with the air conditioning unit to remove warm air from inside the home during summer, so the air conditioner itself doesn't need to produce as much cold air. In turn, you save on energy costs and may be able to forego a separate heater when you choose a split system with a heat pump.