Be An Informed Homeowner

There are many things you need to know when owning an air conditioning and/or heating system.  From the different types of systems available to the ways in which you can save both energy and money, there are many things you can do to get the most out of your system.  The first decision you must make when deciding to add or upgrade your home’s comfort system is choosing which system will work best for you.  Below is a summarized buyer’s guide to help you, as a homeowner, make the most informed decision possible.

Types of Air Conditioners


Designed to cool the entire house; a large compressor located outside of the house fills an indoor coil with air, then the coil uses refrigerant to cool the air.  This cooled air is then distributed throughout the house via air ducts and vents.

Life Span: 15-20 years

Cost: $$$

Pros: Quiet, convenient, and efficient

Cons: Installation can be expensive if your house does not contain air ducts


A very popular cooling system that can consist of a window unit or a portable, electric air conditioner

Life Span: 10-15 years

Cost: $

Pros: Inexpensive

Cons: Can easily be installed improperly causing inefficiencies in cooling

Ductless Mini-Split

Mounted on a wall and can provide both heated and cooled air without duct work

Life Span: 12-15 years

Cost: $$$$

Pros: Highly efficient and easy to install

Cons: More expensive than central air for homes that already have air ducts

Evaporative Cooler

Also called “swamp coolers”; are good for areas with very dry air because they pull outside air in through moist pads and the air is then cooled through evaporation

Life Span: 15-20 years

Cost: $$

Pros: Cheaper to install and run than a central air conditioner

Cons: Requires frequent maintenance and only good for areas with low humidity


Types of Heat Sources for Heating Systems


Most popular system; heats air via flames and a metal heat exchanger then blows heated air through air ducts

Fuel Types: Natural Gas, propane, oil, electricity

Life Span: 15-30 years

Cost: $$ to $$$$ (depends on fuel type)

Pros: Inexpensive and efficient (depending on age and type of system)

Cons: Can be loud


Heats water via a flame and then distributes the water or steam through pipes to the rest of the house

Fuel Types: Natural Gas, propane, oil, electricity, biodiesel blends

Life Span: 15-30 years

Cost: $$ to $$$$ (depends on fuel type)

Pros: Easier to heat only certain areas of home

Cons: Expensive to install, requires minimum temperature to prevent pipes from freezing

Heat Pumps

Pulls heat from the surrounding air (or earth in the case of geothermal systems) to warm the home (can also be used for cooling)

Fuel Types: Electricity, geothermal energy

Life Span: 15 years

Cost: $ to $$ (depends on fuel type)

Pros: Can provide both heating and cooling capabilities; inexpensive in the long term

Cons: Some types can be expensive to install

Active Solar Heating

The sun heats a liquid or air in a solar collector and then stores the heat to be distributed throughout the home

Fuel Types: Solar energy

Life Span: 20+ years

Cost: $

Pros: Inexpensive to operate

Cons: May require a second heating source

Electric Heating

Also called electric resistance heating; usually not a permanent fixture, converts electricity into heat

Fuel Types: Electricity

Life Span: 20+ years

Cost: $$

Pros: Inexpensive in short term and high efficiency

Cons: Expensive to run over long periods and can only heat small areas at a time


Types of Heat Distribution for Heating Systems

Forced Air

Most common type; uses air ducts and vents to distribute heated air throughout the house

Cost: $$$

Pros: Can also be used for cooling

Cons: Can distribute allergens and is expensive to install

Steam Radiator

Hot water or steam is run through the pipes of a radiator which warms the air

Cost: $$

Pros: Easy to install and use, does not distribute allergens

Cons: Cannot be used for cooling

Radiant Heating

Run through walls, ceilings, and floors to distribute heat to the surrounding area

Cost: $$ (for homes being constructed) to $$$$ (for existing homes)

Pros: Does not distribute allergens

Cons: Can be expensive to install and repair

Hot Water Baseboards

Heats air via hot water in pipes from units located throughout the home

Cost: $$

Pros: Can allow close temperature control, do not distribute allergens

Cons: Limits placement of furniture and can be slow to heat a space

Electric Baseboards

Heats only one room at a time by releasing heated air from the top and pulling cooler air to the bottom of the unit

Cost: $

Pros: Quiet and low maintenance

Cons: Limits furniture placement and can be damaged easily


Have any further questions? Contact us!

Information taken from the U.S. Department of Energy website, SmarterHouse, and Heating Green