Understanding Split System Air Conditioners: Definition, Workings, Pros, Types and More

split air conditioner equipment including an outdoor unit, and an indoor unit

Figure 1: Split air conditioner.

When it comes to cooling your home or office, split system air conditioners have become increasingly popular. These systems offer efficient and effective cooling while providing comfort and control.

In this article, we will delve into the details of split system air conditioners, exploring their components, advantages, installation process, maintenance, and more. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of split system air conditioners and their benefits for your indoor comfort.

1. What is a Split System Air Conditioner?

A split system air conditioner is a type of cooling system that consists of two main components: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit.

The indoor unit, usually mounted on a wall or ceiling, contains the evaporator coil, fan, and air filters. If the system is combined with a heating system, apart from the evaporator coil and air filters, the indoor unit will contain the furnace, and air handler.
The outdoor unit, placed outside the building, contains the compressor, condenser coil, and a fan. The two units are connected by refrigerant tubing and electrical wiring.

multi split air conditioner system diagram including wall-mounted and ceiling cassette indoor units

Figure 2: Split air conditioner system diagram.

2. How Does a Split System Air Conditioner Work?

Split system air conditioners work on the principle of refrigeration. The process starts with the outdoor unit's compressor, which compresses the refrigerant gas, raising its temperature and pressure. The hot refrigerant then flows to the outdoor unit's condenser coil, where it releases heat to the outside air, causing it to condense into a liquid.

The liquid refrigerant then travels through the refrigerant tubing to the indoor unit's evaporator coil. Here, the refrigerant expands, absorbing heat from the indoor air, and converting back into a gaseous state. The indoor unit's fan circulates this cooled air back into the room, providing comfort. The process repeats until the desired temperature is achieved.

working principle diagram of split air conditioner

Figure 3: Working principle diagram of air conditioner.

3. Advantages of Split System Air Conditioners

Energy Efficiency: Split systems are known for their energy efficiency. The use of inverter technology allows for variable speed compressor operation, adjusting the cooling output to match the required load. This results in energy savings and better temperature control.

Zone Control: Split system air conditioners often come with the ability to create multiple zones within a building. This means that you can cool specific areas while leaving others unattended. Individual temperature control in each zone improves comfort and reduces energy consumption.

Quiet Operation: The separation of the noisy compressor and condenser in the outdoor unit ensures quiet operation indoors. This makes split system air conditioners ideal for bedrooms, living rooms, and offices where noise levels need to be minimal.

Easy Installation: Split systems are relatively easy to install compared to other types of air conditioners. For a mini split system, the absence of ductwork simplifies the installation process and reduces costs.

split wall type air conditioner outdoor units installed on the outside of the building

Figure 4: Split type air conditioner outdoor units.

4. Types of Split System Air Conditioners

1. Wall-Mounted Split Systems: The most common type, these units are mounted on walls and provide efficient cooling for individual rooms. They come in various capacities to suit different room sizes.

2. Ceiling Cassette Split Systems: Designed for larger spaces, these units are recessed into the ceiling and distribute air evenly in multiple directions. They offer a discreet and aesthetically pleasing cooling solution.

3. Floor-Mounted Split Systems: These units are installed near the floor, making them ideal for spaces with limited wall or ceiling space. They provide targeted cooling and heating.

4. Multi-Split Systems: Multi-split systems consist of one outdoor unit connected to multiple indoor units. This allows for zone cooling and individual temperature control in various rooms or areas.

commercial split air conditioner ceiling cassette indoor unit

Figure 5: Split air conditioner ceiling cassette indoor unit.

5. Installation and Maintenance of Split System Air Conditioners

Proper installation is crucial for the optimal performance and longevity of a split system air conditioner. It is recommended to hire a professional HVAC technician to handle the installation process. They will ensure the correct placement of indoor and outdoor units, proper refrigerant line connections, and electrical wiring.

Regular maintenance is essential to keep your split system air conditioner running smoothly. This includes cleaning or replacing air filters, inspecting and cleaning coils, checking refrigerant levels, and ensuring proper airflow. It's advisable to have a professional service your unit at least once a year to address any potential issues and maximize efficiency.

split wall-mounted air conditioner installation cross-section

Figure 6: Split wall-mounted air conditioner installation.

6. FAQs

6.1 What Are the Disadvantages of Split AC?

While split AC systems offer numerous advantages, they do have a few disadvantages worth considering.

Firstly, split AC systems can be more expensive to install compared to other types of air conditioners, primarily due to the need for separate indoor and outdoor units. Additionally, maintenance and repairs can be costlier as well, especially if there are issues with the refrigerant line or compressor.

Another drawback is that split AC systems may not be suitable for cooling large spaces or multiple rooms, as their capacity is typically limited. Lastly, the installation process requires professional expertise, so DIY installation is not recommended.

6.2 Which is Better a Split System or a Package Unit System?

Determining whether a split system or a package unit system is better depends on several factors. Split systems are generally more flexible in terms of installation options and offer better zone control. They are ideal for cooling individual rooms or small spaces.

On the other hand, package unit systems are typically used for larger spaces and offer a simpler installation process as all components are housed in a single unit. They are commonly found in commercial buildings.

Ultimately, the suitability of each system depends on the specific requirements of the space, budget constraints, and personal preferences. Consulting with an HVAC professional can help determine the best choice for your specific needs

package air conditioner system in a yard

Figure 7: Package air conditioner.

6.3 How Long for Air Conditioner to Cool Room?

The time it takes for an air conditioner to cool a room depends on several factors, including the size of the room, the capacity of the air conditioner, the current temperature, and the desired temperature.

In general, a properly sized and functioning air conditioner can start providing noticeable cooling within a few minutes. However, it may take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more to reach the desired temperature, depending on the factors mentioned above.

It's important to note that maintaining proper insulation, closing doors and windows, and reducing heat sources in the room can help the air conditioner cool the space more efficiently.

6.4 What Size Air Conditioner for a 14x70 Mobile Home?

To determine the appropriate size of an air conditioner for a 14x70 mobile home, you need to consider the square footage of the space. Multiply the width (14 feet) by the length (70 feet) to calculate the square footage. In this case, the square footage is 980 square feet.

For general guidance, you can reference the cooling capacity required per square footage. Typically, you would need around 20 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per square foot for cooling. Multiplying 980 by 20 gives you 19,600 BTUs. Therefore, an air conditioner with a cooling capacity of around 19,600 BTUs should be suitable for a 14x70 mobile home.

This, however, should be considered a rough estimate, and it's recommended to consult with an HVAC professional to get an accurate sizing assessment for your specific needs.

6.5 How Long Do Home Air Conditioners Last?

The lifespan of a home air conditioner can vary depending on several factors, including the brand, model, usage, maintenance, and environmental conditions. On average, a well-maintained air conditioner can last between 10 to 15 years. However, with regular maintenance and timely repairs, some units can even last 20 years or more.

It's important to schedule annual maintenance, including cleaning the filters, checking the refrigerant levels, and inspecting the components, to ensure optimal performance and extend the lifespan of your air conditioner. Additionally, factors such as proper installation, insulation, and usage patterns can also impact the longevity of the unit.

7. Conclusion

Split system air conditioners offer a versatile cooling solution for residential and commercial spaces. With their energy efficiency, zone control capabilities, quiet operation, and ease of installation, they have become a popular choice for many.

Understanding their components, working principle, types, and maintenance requirements allows you to make an informed decision when considering a split system air conditioner for your cooling needs. By investing in a high-quality split system air conditioner and maintaining it properly, you can enjoy optimal indoor comfort for years to come.

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