If you’re tired of sweltering and melting in your own home, join the club. Air conditioners are one of the country’s most in-demand major appliances right now.

But which type of air conditioning is the most appropriate for your house? Central AC is awesome, but is it the right choice for you at this time? You’ve probably heard a lot about heat pumps — are they really more efficient than the other styles available on the market?

There’s a lot of misinformation swirling around regarding this subject, but here we’ll break down the pros and cons of each solution so you can make the most informed decision.

A whole-home oasis – Forced Air Conditioning

Having blissfully cold air flowing through your entire residence during abysmally hot weather is certainly delightful, but large HVAC systems are complicated and require substantial funding for installation and maintenance, not to mention the larger utility bills they bring. 

New central systems are far more efficient than they were in the past. They can help you regulate the temperature throughout each room and avoid extreme changes that can damage delicate electronics. But keep in mind that running it constantly will dramatically increase your monthly costs over utilizing single-room solutions.

High-tech programmable thermostats let you control the environment with the touch of a finger, so these smart devices are well worth the initial investment, as they’ll save you a bundle of money in the long run. If they’re Internet-connected, you can adjust your temperature on a user-friendly app, whether at home or out of town. Checking to make sure that your home is within an acceptable temperature range while out of town can also add peace of mind to know that your system is functioning properly and you aren’t coming home to a sweltering night of sleep. 

Whole-home AC provides healthy air filtration, which can be a lifesaver for those with pet or dust-related allergies. To fully enjoy this benefit, however, you have to ensure that the filter is changed each month. 

Ductwork is also required, and once it’s installed, it also needs to be maintained and checked for mold and mildew regularly. You may also need to add new insulation to areas of your home to maximize the unit’s efficiency.

So how much will a whole-home central AC unit set you back? That depends on several factors, such as:

Ask for detailed estimates from your local HVAC professionals. They should also be able to calculate the exact size that you need so you’re not overspending or setting yourself up for failure with an undersized central air system.

Space age – SpacePak

The SpacePak is a “small duct high-velocity heating and cooling system” that is an excellent alternative to a massive central HVAC. It offers aesthetic appeal and faster installation for historic houses and condominiums as well as new construction.

SpacePak uses 2-inch flexible ducts that don’t require major renovations or unattractive alterations — they can be easily concealed in walls, ceilings, and floors. The compact air handler is small enough to fit in your closet, basement, or crawl space, yet forceful enough to cool or heat every square foot of your home. 

While this option is comparable price-wise to a heat pump system, you’ll have to work with a SpacePak Certified Contractor in your area to get the ball rolling. 

Pump it up – Heat Pump

A heat pump is a type of air handler that draws hot air from inside the building to the outside in order to cool interior spaces. They work extremely well in moderate climates that also experience chilly weather in the winter.

Heat pumps are relatively the same cost as a central AC, depending on the size of your home, but they use up to five times less energy, so they’re vastly more climate-friendly.

They also perform much better than a traditional furnace at heating an entire household when the temps plunge — they can deliver a toasty environment in conditions down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit without burning fossil fuels. Keep in mind that heat pumps may require a little additional maintenance and care when temperatures plummet. Their area needs to remain clear and free of debris. 

If you’re in the Chicagoland area, ComEd offers opportunities for homeowners to recoup some of the costs associated with heat pump systems and the Illinois ENERGY STAR® Appliance Rebate Program can help you put a little extra cash back in your pocket as well. 

Room by room – Mini-splits and Portables 

If you own a historic home, a condominium in a large older building, or if you are currently renting, a central AC or heat pump system might not be in the cards. That doesn’t mean you have to suffer when the mercury rises. 

Thankfully, you have other options for cooling off the rooms you spend the most time in. One of the most popular is known as a ductless or mini-split air conditioner.

While these types of ACs do need an external condenser unit, they don’t require expensive internal ductwork. They allow you to control the temperature of each room in your home individually without having to install a massive central system. Prices on these vary widely, depending on how many spaces you want to keep cool and how well your home is insulated.

Window units and portables are excellent for those who live in smaller urban abodes, aren’t around during the heat of the day, or don’t mind the air being a little on the warmer side.

These types come in different sizes, and it’s vital to select the right one. According to the Chicago Tribune, your AC should have 20 BTU (British Thermal Units) for every square foot of living space.

Portable and window-mounted AC units can range from $200 to $1500 each, depending on their output. This is a much more affordable option for many homeowners who hate the heat but don’t have a lot of cash on hand. 

Don’t forget about the humble ceiling fan. This easy-to-install option can make a big difference to your utility bills in both summer and winter. When it’s warm, set them to rotate counterclockwise, so they push cooler air downwards and create a cool breeze. In the winter, changing the direction of the fan to clockwise helps redistribute warm air and can save you up to 15% on heating costs. 

The bottom line

Trying to deal with weather extremes without proper cooling and heating equipment can be hazardous to your health, especially in Chicago. That’s why it’s critical to ensure you and your family can be safe and comfortable year-round by investing in the right solution for your home.

If you’re considering buying a new house that includes an HVAC, or it’s been a while since your system was professionally maintained, get peace of mind with a thorough home inspection.

Knowing is half the battle, and you could save yourself a world of costly repairs and headaches with timely guidance from a licensed expert. Ready to learn more? Give us a call or schedule your appointment online whenever it’s convenient for you.