Types Of Air Conditioners (ACs Explained with Pictures)

Air conditioners act as lifesavers during the hot summer months. They essentially help to circulate cool air within the room or property.

More importantly, though, there are several types of air conditioners to choose from, and each seems to have different or added functions. So let’s take a look at what they are and how they work.

Central Air Conditioning System

A central air conditioning system is perfect for those wanting to keep their entire home cool. Usually, those who have a large house with several rooms opt for this type of aircon system.

The system primarily works through the cooling compressor situated outside the home.

Related Article How Does A Central AC Work

Central AC System

There is a refrigerant-filled coil that is responsible for cooling the air, which a fan blows on, so the home receives cooling through the ductwork.

The return ducts take the warm air out through the exhaust system. The supply ducts circulate the cool air throughout the property.

There are two main kinds of central ACs:

Packaged Central AC

In a packaged central ac system, the air handler, compressors, and coils are all present in a single box with cabinets.

The way they operate differs depending on the configuration, but usually, they cool homes in a similar fashion to stand-alone air conditioners.

However, the ductwork for such a central AC unit type is slightly different as it connects directly to the cabinet system than to other components within the home.

Split System AC

A split central AC system is used for those homes that have space to store big indoor cabinets. This type of air conditioning unit keeps the compressor and condenser in a cabinet outdoors.

The indoor cabinet stores the air handler and evaporator coil that send cool air through the home via the ductwork.

Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioning System

Ductless Mini Split AC System

The mini-split, otherwise known as a’ ductless’ air conditioner, is the perfect fit for those who don’t have ductwork installed in their home.

Moreover, if you are searching for types of ac units for apartments, this would probably be one of the top choices.

This is because Mini-split ACs only require a small exterior compartment to house the condenser, which supplies the cool air to the evaporators inside while excreting the hot, humid air outdoors.

These types of home air conditioners are quite popular as they are flexible. For example, you can install up to four evaporators in the house.

Since they are smaller units, you can concentrate on specific zones that need cooling instead of spending extra effort and money to cool the entirety of the property when it isn’t necessary. Moreover, you will be able to select specific temperatures of different rooms, which isn’t possible with central AC. Evaporators can be fixed to various surfaces, such as ceilings or walls.

Related Article How Does A Mini Split AC Work

Window Air Conditioners

Window Air Conditioner

Window ACs are quite space-efficient as they encapsulate the entire air conditioning unit in one shell, which is then built-in through a wall or window.

So, window air conditioners are ideal for those who don’t want to deal with multiple units and only need specific areas cooled.

However, most window air conditioner types need the wall to be less than 9 inches thick, as thicker walls prevent efficient airflow.

Moreover, they are more accessible to install and affordable than split ACs. Some specific types of

  • Low profile window ACs (which are up to 80 percent less profile)
  • Over the sill window ACs (which sit on one’s windowsill)
  • Vertical or casement window ACs (which are for narrower windows)

Related Article How Does A Window AC Work

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable Air Conditioner

Much like window ACs, portable air conditioners are self-contained, single-unit systems. Essentially, all the important air conditioning components can be found in a single place. As a result, these are ideal for indoor locations where the building regulations and rules or the room design don’t allow the installation of different types of ac units.

They cool the air via the condenser coil situated within the unit. Finally, the hot hair is sent out of the unit through an exhaust hose attached to the unit. This huge tube looks similar to a dryer vent. It is connected to a window kit to send hot air outdoors.

The only downside to these is that they can be slightly noisier than other home air conditioners since the exhaust fan and condenser are put into a single casing. Moreover, they are ineffective at cooling rooms bigger than 500 sq. ft.

But, the great thing about these is that they are pretty lightweight and do usually have wheels, so one can easily move them from one room to another.

Related Article How Does A Portable AC Work

Through-The-Wall Air Conditioners

Through the Wall AC

Through the wall air conditioners are pretty similar to window ACs, as they are unitary systems that exhaust warm air outdoors and send in cool air.

These are an excellent option for those who do not have accessible windows. However, they do require more planning than window ACs as they leave a hole in the wall and can’t be removed at a whim.

When the hole is cut in the outside wall, a sleeve is then installed. These are needed to support the AC’s weight, as the wall alone wouldn’t be able to do so. Thus, the installation would require a professional.

An advantage of these types of air-con is that you don’t have to compromise the use of the window. Also, this unit is quite energy-efficient as an airtight seal is created.

Related Article Window AC Vs In-Wall AC

Evaporative Or Swamp Coolers

Portable Evaporative Cooler

Evaporative or ‘swamp’ coolers aren’t a common type of air conditioner system, as they do not use refrigerants, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. Evaporative coolers, as the name may hint to, use water and air to cool the place.

This may sound complicated, but the technology is quite simple, and can a version of this is even believed to be used in ancient Egypt.

Basically, air that passes through or above water gets cooled. This theory is used in evaporative coolers, which take warm air from your home and pass it through wet pads, so cool air enters the house.

However, if you live in a place where the climate is usually humid and cold, then the swamp cooler won’t work effectively.

This is because evaporation requires dry, hot air as which causes evaporation. Moreover, evaporative coolers work like humidifiers, so they won’t work if the weather is humid.

But, the great thing about swamp coolers is that they use less energy than traditional air conditioner types as electricity is only needed to power the fan.

Spot Coolers

Portable Spot Cooler

If you are looking for specialty ACs (for boating and other specific activities) , then spot coolers are perfect for you.

Spot coolers can be pretty efficient and cool a whole boat, ship, or airplane. However, they are also a bit expensive, depending on the model you get.

They are pretty unique looking but are also portable and are usually put outside. For example, to cool the interior of a boat, they will be placed outside.

This is quite different from other air conditioners, as most are placed within a room where the air is to be cooled.

Spot coolers usually have multiple pipes jutting out of them, which go inside the area (boat, ship, etc.) to suck out the warm air and blow in cool air.

Package Terminal Air Conditioners (PTAC)

Package Terminal AC with Heat Pump

Package Terminal Air Cons (PTACs) are the most common types of air conditioning systems used in commercial properties, such as hospitals, assisted or senior living facilities, hotels, and apartment buildings.

These ACS are mostly found right above the ground, usually right below the window. PTACs have exhaust systems on the other side of the wall, which sends out hot air outside the room.

Even though they are primarily found in commercial areas, they can be used in the home. PTACs works similarly to most other air conditioners.

They send coolant via a compressor to cool the air, redirecting it to the room that needs to be cooled.

However, they are easier to install than central air conditioners are they are ductless. Thus, they are less costly as well.

They can also be used for heating. But, they can only cool or heat the room they are installed in, which is good if you need to control the temperature of that specific room.

Rooftop Air Conditioners

Rooftop RV AC

Like portable and spot coolers, rooftop ACs are self-contained units installed on rooftops, usually commercial buildings.

They are ideal for cooling, heating, or both. These types of ac units are perfect for supermarkets, cinemas, and departmental stores.

They are quite economical for commercial use as they are already tested in a factory and preassembled before arriving at the site. The unit is quite big and has several components, such as:

  • Condenser fan
  • Condenser
  • Compressor
  • Receiver
  • Expansion Valve
  • Evaporator
  • Vibration eliminators
  • Drain pan
  • Evaporator blower fan

These types of air conditioners usually come with dampers that can be digitally automated. Several dampers must be electronically controlled, such as the conditioned air damper, return damper, exhaust damper, and fresh air intake damper.

Several sensors measure the air temperature. The amount the dampers should be open depends on the sensor feedback and unit settings.

The air is channeled towards the building and distributed in different areas through ducts when the air is conditioned.

Related Article How Does Car AC Work

Absorption AC Systems

Absorption AC Systems

Absorption air conditioners use heat energy instead of mechanical energy to function. They utilize a chemical process that changes low pressure and temperature vapor and high-pressure ones.

The refrigerant commonly used in this system is either lithium bromide or ammonia and water. The heat source can be either kerosene, natural gas, steam, solar-heated water, liquefied petroleum, resistance heating through electricity, or geothermally heated water.

Generally, natural gas is used. People mainly use this type of air conditioning unit when their home doesn’t receive electricity or is situated in a remote place. These systems were usually only for commercial buildings; however, you can also use them for large homes.

Also, it leads to lower electricity bills and is more environmentally friendly as there aren’t any CFC gases used. They also happen to be relatively quiet.

It works similarly to compression-based systems; however, it has a generator, absorber, and pump instead of a compressor.

The chosen heat source will cause the refrigerant to boil, increasing the pressure. High-pressure vapor creates a high condensing temperature, meaning that condensation takes place at a rapid pace.

Chilled Water/Water Cooled

Water Cooled System

Chilled water or water-cooled air conditioning systems are usually used for commercial areas, as they can cool in large capacities.

So industrial spaces, factories, offices, or hypermarkets may use these systems. However, now it is being used for residences, as they are more environmentally friendly than systems that require refrigerants to work.

They work by using water, usually as the secondary refrigerant. The chiller sections remove the water’s heat and circulate it through the other components, absorbing heat throughout the space.

Since water is fluid, non-corrosive, cheap, non-toxic, and can be set to a specific heat value, it is a great choice compared to ac systems that require harmful secondary refrigerants such as

  • Propylene glycols glycerin
  • Methanol
  • Sodium chloride brines
  • Ethylene

Why Do We Need A Good Air Conditioning System?

Better Air Quality

A sound air conditioning system helps properly filter and circulate air. This allows mold and pollutants present in the air to be removed.

So, if you suffer from asthma or allergies, it may help minimize irritants that trigger those illnesses.

Better Sleep

Physical ailments such as high blood pressure or increased heart rate make people frustrated and make it harder to sleep.

In addition, core body temperature is crucial to determining whether you can fall and stay asleep. Thus, having a good air conditioner that cools according to the temperature setting can help you sleep well.

Improved Workforce Efficiency

It is pretty normal to feel sluggish when you are feeling hot. It is scientifically proven that reasoning and thinking ability are affected when your body is busy keeping itself cool.

Therefore, having a good air conditioning system in the office can help workers make well-thought-out decisions and work more efficiently.

Cooler Tempers

Rising temperatures can give way to rising tempers. This is because as our brains slow down in the heat, bodies speed up, generating higher blood pressure and increased heart rates.

This may result in aggressive behavior. Hence, a good air conditioning system is necessary to stay as cool as a cucumber.

Fewer Parasites & Insects

Air filters on certain types of air conditioners help keep parasites and insects out.

As a result, if you want to prevent allergies and stop your pets from getting ticks and fleas, a good air conditioner should be on your to-buy list.

Fewer Sweat Stains

Of course, if you are feeling too hot, you will likely sweat. When clothes discolor due to sweat, people may feel embarrassed, and their self-confidence can decrease.

Also, it can ruin clothes or decrease their lifespan. Thus, having a good air conditioner installed in both homes and offices is crucial.

Prevents Overheating Of Electronic Devices

When electronic devices are subjected to long periods of heat, they may have a lifespan or may even end up getting corrupted.

You may face a lot of trouble because of this, as data may be lost as a result. Thus, an air conditioner in working order is a must to keep your devices cool.

Protects Furniture

Heat and humidity affect our health, mood, sleep, clothes and electronic devices, and furniture. For example, when wood loses and gains moisture quite frequently, it can end up warping.

Moreover, different fabrics such as leaders can get mold when kept in humid environments for too long. So, to save yourself from buying new furniture, invest in a good air conditioner.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Which type of air conditioner is best for homes?

It depends on your budget and the size of your house, but central ACs are usually seen to be the best for homes, as they cool the entire house, keep energy bills low, are easy to function and provide a good level of comfort.

Which type of air conditioner is best for small apartments?

Portable ACs are the best types of ac units for apartments, as these portable ACs do not require ductwork and are small, lightweight, and portable. Moreover, the portable AC is perfect for those who cannot afford a split AC in every room.

How do I calculate air conditioner size?

Here is how you can calculate the air conditioner size you need to get:

  1. Multiply your room’s length with the width
  2. Now, multiply that with 25 BTU, so you know whether you are getting the right amount of cooling as per the room size.

How many hours should AC run per day?

Usually, an AC reaches the required temperature within 15-20, after which the unit stops cooling automatically. Thus, even if you keep your AC on for 24 hours a day, you are genuinely only making the unit work for 16-19 hours. If you keep it well maintained, it doesn’t matter how long you keep your AC running.


You have now read about several types of air conditioners with pictures so you can be well-informed for future ac purchases. Essentially, the kind of AC you get depends on its use, your budget, and the size of the space you need to be cooled.

Josh Mitchell

Josh Mitchell

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with DIY and improving my family home. HVAC topics can be tricky for homeowners so I decided to share my knowledge on the subject. When I am not working on DIY projects, you can find me at the beach or my local coffee shop.