Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Keeping a suitable temperature in your house is very important for your comfort. You would rather not get drenched with sweat or wear several layers of clothing to keep warm. If you don’t have access to central air conditioning or your apartment air conditioner won’t work, you should consider purchasing AC units.

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

However, finding a good HVAC system can be a bit complicated, since you need to take various factors into account in order to the most suitable one for your apartment. Of course, you want to find the most energy-efficient HVAC system which won’t ruin your budget.

So, before buying HVAC units you need to study the following information which will help you to pick the most suitable system for your apartment and learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each system as well.

Air conditioning unit. How to choose the right one?

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Let’s start with choosing the appropriate air conditioning system for your living space. Apartment air conditioners can have different sizes and functions, but they all have similar components. Here are some factors you need to know before selecting the air conditioning system.

Your living space

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Before buying an apartment air conditioner, you have to calculate the square footage of your living space. You can do this by using the following formula.

Area = Length × Width (for square and rectangular areas)

Size of the AC units

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

If you don’t want your air conditioner to consume a lot of energy, you should consider not only the room size but also the size of the air conditioning unit. There is no need to select the most powerful air conditioner for a small room.

On the other hand, if the air conditioner is too small for your apartment, it won’t be able to sustain your desired temperature and humidity levels.

Room layout

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

When you install the air conditioner, you need to take into account your room layout. Portable air conditioners and window air conditioners can be installed only if you have a window in your room. If it happens that you don’t have windows, you should consider buying a mini split.

Cooling systems’ capacity

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

The power of an air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Unit (BTU). The higher BTU your air conditioner has, the more powerful it is and the larger space it can heat up or cool down. You need 20 BTU for each square foot of your apartment.

Energy efficiency

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

There are two units to measure energy efficiency.

SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher it is, the more energy efficient your air conditioner is. Usually, air conditioners with a SEER of around 20 are considered to be enough energy efficient.

HSPF: Heating Seasonal Performance Function. It determines how efficiently your air conditioner will work as a heat pump system. A value of 8 and above is considered to be efficient.

Both those factors are pretty important since they directly influence your energy bills.

Extra features

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

This can be a good idea to buy an air conditioner with some extra features. For example, today the majority of air conditioning systems come with follow-me mode, eco-mode, turbo mode, and timer functions (which allow you to customize your cooling time). They also may have an auto-restart feature, which automatically turns the unit back on when the power is off.

Such features as a remote control, easy window installation kit, slide-out filter, and a check filter may also be included.

HVAC installation ability

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Heating systems and cooling systems cannot be installed in some buildings. Central air conditioning requires ductwork, but some buildings weren’t built with central air, so they won’t be able to handle the upgrade.

HVAC unit warranty

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

AC or heating system unit warranty is also an important factor to consider. The length of the warranty may be different in every HVAC company and cover different things, so study it carefully.

Why is it so important to choose the right air conditioner/heating unit/ for your building?

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

First of all, if you choose an inappropriate air conditioner or heating system, it may lead to higher energy bills and utility bills. Secondly, it will cause you a lot of discomfort, since your apartment is not heated or cooled adequately. The system may also cause the water in the pipes to freeze and the pipes themselves to burst.

Moreover, it leads to security risks. If you can’t get your indoor air to a comfortable temperature, you are likely to open the windows or doors to cool the apartment down. This may be a reason for the break-in in your house.

And we should say that unstable temperatures may attract insects, which will cause damage to your building.

Heating and cooling system. Different types

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Now let’s discuss different types of systems companies may offer you and their advantages and disadvantages.

Mini-split systems

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

The mini-split system consists of the outdoor unit (outdoor condenser which involves the compressor) and the indoor unit which is responsible for handling the air. Those two main parts are connected with refrigerant tubing, condensate drain, suction tubing, and power. The indoor unit runs the refrigerant lines to a single outdoor unit.

Mini-split systems are considered to be the most energy-efficient, and you are likely to see such a system in a multifamily building where small room additions are being built.

The process of installing the mini-split systems is easy enough.

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Advantages – Mini-split doesn’t require ductwork. So in comparison with forced air systems, they don’t experience energy losses. Their design is pretty flexible, so you can put them on the ceiling, on the wall, and so on.

Another advantage of using a mini-split is quiet operation. There will be no little noise. Installing a mini-split will bring you some energy savings since this system allows each zone to be conditioned to different settings.

Speaking about your apartment security, the mini-split system is small and only needs a tiny hole drilled in the wall so that it won’t make your house vulnerable.

Disadvantages – The cost of mini-splits is usually higher than other systems have. And if you are a landlord, you will have to face a lot of maintenance.

Packaged terminal air conditioner systems

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

PTAC systems are directly installed through walls, typically, they are installed under the windows and above the floor. This is a unitary cooling and heating system, which means the condenser, compressor, expansion valve, and evaporator are located and combined in one housing.

Advantages – To start with, PTACs are affordable and user-friendly. The units of this system operate independently, so the unit can operate on its own to air-condition a room while other units can be turned off in unoccupied spaces. The system also has quiet operation, which is why it is widely used in hotel rooms.

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

In what concerns energy efficiency, PTACs tend to have higher EERs (Energy Efficiency Ratios) than window units, which is great if you want to save money. The system is ideal for both heating and cooling and improves the quality of indoor air.

Disadvantages – The process of installation can be quite complicated, and you need a connection to the outside air, which is why PTACs are not good for interior rooms. And they can only perform in a limited area. If your apartment is large, you will need to get extra units.

Central system

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Centralized systems condition and filter air at a central location and then distribute this conditioned and filtered air throughout the whole apartment. If you live in a block of flats that has built-in ductwork for heating and cooling, then a central system is the best option for you.

Advantages – The main advantage is that the central air conditioner system can provide conditioned air throughout the entire space. To compare, the window unit is able to cool air only within one or two rooms.

The central system can supply both heated and cooled air and has a programmable thermostat, which allows you to keep a warm temperature in your apartment even if you are away.

And you can program it to cool down the apartment when you returned.

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

If something is wrong with the central air conditioner, it means you need to repair just one unit. This system not only conditions the air but also removes pollutants from the air, which is good for your lungs and especially good for those who suffer from dust-related allergies. Last but not least this system doesn’t have an impact on the building’s design.

Disadvantages – Speaking about disadvantages, central systems are not economical. Installing this system in your building will definitely increase your energy bills. Moreover, if there is no ductwork in your building, then it can be impossible to install such a system. And it doesn’t allow you to set rooms to different temperatures.

Another issue is mold and mildew that can start growing in the ducts, which will affect the quality of the air in your apartment and can cause some breath-related illnesses. But, don’t worry, if you have good maintenance, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Self-contained systems

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

This type of system delivers heating and cooling throughout the individual unit. Cooling and heating equipment is installed in each unit (in a closet or can be mounted to the wall).

Self-contained systems are considered to have one of the best efficiency.

Portable air conditioner

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Even if you have a central system in your building, you can purchase for portable air conditioner. These air conditioners can be very useful for corners and places in your apartment where the temperature does not feel right.

This apartment air conditioner may solve the issue, and you won’t need to heat or cool your whole apartment to get the temperature of your room right.

There are two types of portable conditioners. Single-hose portable AC units have a single hose responsible for air intake and exhaust. Usually, they are pretty cheap and don’t take up much space. And dual-hose portable AC unit which has separate hose pipes for the induction and suction of air. They are more energy efficient.

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Advantages – A portable conditioner is easy to install, and it is pretty mobile, which makes it a great option for small places. You can install it just by using a window kit included in the package. Pull the exhaust hose out of the window, plug it in, and you’re done.

Disadvantages – It is obvious that portable air conditioners won’t be as energy efficient as, for example, mini-splits. Moreover, they can create some noise and take up the place on the floor, which can bring some discomfort if you live in a small apartment.

Window air conditioners

Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

These air conditioners are simple to install, but at the same time, they are powerful enough to keep the necessary temperature in your apartment. Such an air conditioner will remove moisture and cool the space. They consist of a blower or fan, a thermostat, a compressor, a refrigerant, a condenser coil, and an evaporator coil.

The window air conditioner can be paired with window AC thermostats, which will help to control the AC when you are away.

Advantages – These air conditioners are usually cheap and easy to install. Moreover, they don’t take up floor space.

Disadvantages – The main disadvantage is that such an air conditioner will obstruct the view from the window. In addition, it may create some noise and also is considered to be energy inefficient.


Apartment HVAC units. Pros and cons of different HVAC systems

Ceiling fans are mechanical or powered by electricity appliances that are suspended from the ceiling. Even though they don’t produce chill air, they do create a slow movement in the hot, still air of the room, which causes evaporative cooling.

Advantages – They require low maintenance. They are pretty easy to install and clean, especially if you compare them with other AC systems. Moreover, you have an opportunity to choose the best size for your apartment.

Many people tend to think that fans will increase their energy bills. But they can cool your apartment using no more energy than a high-wattage light bulb. And they are able to keep constant cool temperatures and keep air circulating. To add, fans don’t need ducts.

Disadvantages – Of course, fans are not as powerful as other systems that were discussed earlier. They can also create some noise. And the main disadvantage is that fans don’t offer any heating.


What kind of AC unit do I need for an apartment?

There are several factors you need to take into account before choosing among different kinds of apartment air conditioners. Calculate the square footage of your space, select the appropriate size of AC unit, and consider your room layout, cooling and heating capacity, efficiency, extra features, HVAC warranty, installation ability, and, of course, your budget.

What is HVAC in an apartment?

HVAC means heating, ventilation, and air conditioner. These are separate systems that make up the climate of your home, and they have to be in proper working condition to provide comfort for the tenants.

What are the three types of HVAC?

The most common types of HVAC are split, hybrid heat split, and ductless mini-split heating. They are considered to be the best and the most efficient systems to install in your apartment.

To draw a conclusion

As you may see, choosing the appropriate HVAC unit for your apartment can be a complicated task. You need to take several factors into account: the square footage of your living space, the size of the HVAC unit, your room layout, cooling, and heating capacity, efficiency, your budget, HVAC warranty, and installation ability.

You should also pay attention to some extra features that they may offer you. Follow me mode, eco-mode, turbo mode, timer functions, remote control, easy window installation kite, slide-out filter, and a check filter can make it easier for you to work with the HVAC unit. It is also recommended to maintain some smart controllers for advanced automation features.

If you want your system to create no noise, you should look for mini-splits or packaged terminal air conditioner systems. They both are also highly efficient and won’t take up any floor space. But they can be a little expensive.

The central system will suit those who live in block-of-flats that have built-in ductwork for heating and cooling. But this type can be difficult to install. If you are looking for something inexpensive, you should consider buying a portable air conditioner, window air conditioner, or a fan.

Of course, they won’t be as powerful and efficient as, for example, packaged terminal air conditioners, and they have their disadvantages, but they have their benefits, can be a great solution for a low budget, and they are definitely more suitable for a small apartment than the previous ones. 

If you need to read about how to increase airflow to one room, please read our article.

Robert Brooks

I have an engineering background. I have my own house, where I live with my wife and children. I want to say that the most important thing when equipping a house is to choose the right heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

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