Types of Air Conditioners

Lawrence Bonk Profile image

Written By:

Updated January 17, 2023

If you are new to the world of indoor cooling, you may want to learn about the various types of air conditioners. The best air conditioners, after all, are available in a wide array of designs, styles, and different feature sets. So which type of AC is best for you and your home? Keep reading to find out.


  • There are many types of air conditioner systems out there to suit the layout of any home or structure.
  • Portable units, wall units, and window units are all common types used to cool a single room.
  • Central air conditioning systems and ductless mini-split systems are great for cooling an entire home at once, as they each feature an outdoor unit.

Air Conditioner Types

There are all kinds of AC types out there if you are wondering about the definition of a vane control air conditioner, among other types. There are whole-house models if you are comparing central air conditioners vs wall units. There are window units if you are learning about window AC unit maintenance. There are even portable units, leading some to wonder why their portable AC unit is leaking water.

Insider Tip

No matter which type you purchase, stay on top of cleaning and maintenance to ensure longevity.

Some air conditioners are covered by home warranties, which is always nice. Others feature innovative technologies if you are comparing a Blaux vs an Arctic Air. Here are all of the various styles of AC units so that you can conduct that Friedrich Chill Premier Vs Kuhl review. You may even want to conduct a Bryant vs ComfortMaker review.

Window Air Conditioners

The humble and incredibly useful window air conditioning unit is ubiquitous, and for a good reason. This is the best and easiest way to get the actual air conditioning to a home without a central system. They are fairly budget-friendly, allow for a DIY installation, and come with a number of useful features.

Modern window units also tend to feature integrated air filters for purification and all kinds of other bells and whistles. Some even for smartphone control or voice-assisted controls. These types of AC units come in aesthetically-pleasing styles as well like the unit in our Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6000 BTU review that has a hidden control panel so it blends more seamlessly with your home.

Reasons to Buy

  • It’s a window unit. If you need air conditioning in a pinch, this is the easiest option.
  • Some are on the cheaper side and able to be purchased brand new for under $200.
  • They seriously cut down on utility bills when compared to running a central system.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Window units tend to be on the louder side, which could interrupt some sleepers.
  • This is a single-room solution. For whole-home cooling, look elsewhere.
  • DIY installations can become difficult or even impossible with some window designs. Plus, they must be removed each winter.

Tips for Buying a Window Unit

  • Make sure the AC will integrate with your window type before making a purchase.
  • Look for a model with remote control, smartphone controls, or voice controls for ease of use.
  • A unit’s weight seriously impacts installation difficulty, so go with a lighter model.

Wall Unit Air Conditioners

These are essentially window units that don’t need a window. Instead, they are inserted into a dedicated enclosure built out of the wall. This gives them the same usefulness as window units but allows the AC to be covered during the winter months, so you won’t have to remove it.

You have likely encountered wall units while staying in hotels, as they are the de facto standard, but they have made major inroads in the consumer market throughout recent years.

Reasons to Buy

  • Wall-mounted design helps save space and allows your windows to function as, well, windows.
  • These units are mounted lower to the ground than window ACs, improving accessibility.
  • An exterior cover allows these units to stay put during the harsh winter months.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • They can be on the louder side, with a noise output similar to that of a window air conditioning system.
  • They are much more expensive than window air conditioners, at two-to-three times the price.
  • You need a big hole in the wall for installation, requiring a professional excavator.

Tips for Buying a Wall Unit

  • If you already have an enclosure, make sure to measure it before making a purchase to ensure integration.
  • Look for models that include modern features such as voice control and smartphone control.
  • These work best in rooms that are not too cluttered with furniture, so take that into consideration.


Double-check and triple-check to make sure your desired AC integrates with the layout of your home.

Portable Air Conditioners

If your window is oddly-shaped or if you don’t want to deal with installing a heavy window unit, go for a portable AC. These systems place the crucial components in a standalone appliance that sits on your floor, with a vent extending through a window. They are fairly inexpensive, though more so than window units, easy to use, and offer decent cooling.

Plus, anyone can install one of these systems without another set of hands and with no risk. Just plop the unit down on the floor and fit the duct into the window.

Reasons to Buy

  • As the name suggests, they are portable. Most have wheels, so move them from room to room as needed.
  • They offer all of the usefulness of window units but without any of the installation headaches.
  • Fairly budget-friendly when compared to wall units, central units, or ductless system

Reasons Not to Buy

  • They will take up some serious floor space, which may not suit the layout of your room.
  • This type of air conditioning system is known for being extremely loud during use, even compared to window units.
  • Putting the actual components on the floor opens the system up to accidental damage and the like.

Tips for Buying a Portable AC

  • Put the “P” in portable and go for a lighter-than-average option with wheels for easy maneuvering.
  • Though the ducts fit most window types, research ahead of time before making a purchase.
  • Look for sales to bring the costs down, so they match the average price of window systems.

Central AC Systems

This is your standard duct-based central system that has been used in homes for decades upon decades, and for a good reason. These units are fairly simple to understand and offer whole-home cooling. Central air conditioners are controlled via thermostats and, as such, offer integration with all kinds of modern smart thermostat designs.

They are quiet during use, can cool an entire home in minutes, and are generally considered to be one of the best inventions in human history.

Reasons to Buy

  • Central AC is a must in many parts of the country, especially in the south.
  • They cool an entire home at once, which is something you would need multiple window units for.
  • These systems are actually pretty quiet during use, despite the powerful end result.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • You need pre-existing ductwork for these systems to work. If not, go with another AC type or hire a pro to install ducts throughout the home.
  • These are on the expensive side, with whole systems costing anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000.
  • They can wreak havoc on your monthly energy bill, especially if you use them 24 hours a day.

Tips for Buying a Central AC

  • Look for models that ship with a smart thermostat as part of the overall package to keep things future-proof.
  • Central AC units have multiple outdoor components. Make sure you have a good location for them to rest.
  • Go with a system that features reusable and washable air filters to save you the added cost of replacement filters.

Ductless AC Systems

Sometimes called mini-split units, ductless systems ape many of the features found with traditional central ACs, but without the need for ample ductwork. How does this work? Ductless systems include an outdoor condenser unit, much like a standard central AC, but also include a compact blower mounted on various walls throughout the whole. The system is completed with low-profile refrigerant lines, electrical lines, and drain lines.

This is a great whole-home cooling option for older homes that lack ducts or for delivering AC to parts of the home not serviced by a central system (guest rooms and the like.)

STAT: Air conditioners are found to be amongst the most common electrical appliances in homes within the US. Almost 75% of homes have air conditioners installed of one type or another. (source)

Reasons to Buy

  • You can adjust settings for each room, allowing for multi-stage cooling where unoccupied rooms don’t needlessly hog energy.
  • Saves on floor space, as none of the primary components reside in the home.
  • If your home does not have ductwork, this saves a whole lot of money.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Despite being cheaper than installing new ducts, these systems are still the most expensive option, at around $12,000 for parts and installation.
  • They can struggle when cooling large rooms or homes with more than four or five rooms.
  • The outdoor condenser unit is susceptible to damage from inclement weather and debris.

Tips for Buying a Ductless System

  • Look for sales to lessen the sticker shock of that initial purchase, and look for companies that will throw in installation for free.
  • Only buy as many of the wall-mounted blowing units as you need. You can always upgrade later.
  • Make sure the design allows for individual blowers to be cut off from the system to save on energy costs.

AC Types FAQs

How to choose an air conditioner?

It really depends on your preferences and the design of your home. An indoor unit is great for single-room cooling, but indoor units struggle with whole-house cooling. Some central systems include heat pumps, which is something to consider.

Which one is best?

No type of air conditioner is the absolute best, as it depends on your needs. Window air conditioners, for instance, are great for cooling one room at a time, while central air conditioning is great for a whole house.

Do you know the two main system types?

The two types of air conditioning for a whole home include central systems and mini-splits. Both keep your home cool without too much energy consumption.
Lawrence Bonk Profile image