8 Types of Cooling Systems and Which is Best for You
Fans and air conditioning are the only two types of cooling systems, right? Well, not quite. There are plenty of non-traditional cooling options you may not be familiar with.
While you may not be familiar with some of these because of your region, the cooling systems we’re about to discuss are viable and practical in many uses.
The Monkey Wrench family has been hands-on in the field, performing HVAC services for over 50 years. Our experience has given us a strong foundation for all things heating and cooling, and now, we’d like to help you take your first steps toward understanding what options are available.
In this article, we’ll cover two topics:
- 8 types of cooling systems
- The types of energy each system uses to cool homes
Let’s get moving with a common choice for those in warm climates.
8 types of cooling systems
- Central air conditioning
- Heat pump
- Ductless mini-split
- Evaporative cooler (swamp cooler)
- Room and window air conditioner
- House fan
- Radiant cooling
- Oscillating fans
1. Central air conditioning
You’ve seen this one everywhere most likely. Central air conditioning is popular in warm climates where keeping the house cool is necessary to protect children and pets against the heat.
Central air conditioning uses an evaporator coil, condenser coil, and fan motor to push cold air throughout the house. When in working order, central air conditioning can cool a home by 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Refrigerant is carried from the condenser coil in the form of liquid to the evaporator coil where it is turned into gas, cooling the surface of the evaporator coil where air passes over to become cold. Once the air is cooled, the fan motor pushes it through the ventilation system.
Central air conditioning uses electricity, but an entire HVAC system can use multiple energy sources such as electricity, gas, or oil.
2. Heat pump
For those interested in a more energy-efficient alternative to central air conditioning, heat pumps are a unique option that both heat and cool.
Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the interior and pumping it outside. Reversing the process takes in heat from outside is how heat pumps provide heating.
Another aspect of heat pumps that makes them special is that they can be either a ducted or ductless system for greater flexibility. The added flexibility ensures that homeowners can use a heat pump with an existing ventilation system or individual air handlers throughout the house.
Heat pumps use electricity to power the heat transfer process.
3. Ductless mini-split
If you’re looking to avoid the hassle of a whole-house ventilation installation, a ductless mini-split might be the alternative for you.
Ductless mini-splits are a ductless form of air conditioning using heat pumps to generate cold air. They work by pulling hot air out of the house and using one or more indoor air handlers with refrigerant coils to cool homes.
Heat pumps are used in ductless mini-split systems and can also come in cooling-only configurations. This means that the ductless unit sits outside the house, and connected air handler units cool the interior.
Ductless mini-splits use electricity to achieve cooler home temperatures.
4. Evaporative cooler (Swamp cooler)
If you live in a dry climate, evaporative coolers, more commonly known as swamp coolers, are a viable cooling solution.
Swamp coolers take in hot, dry air and pull it across wet cooling pads. As the water evaporates, the air is cooled, resulting in a 5-15 degrees Fahrenheit drop in temperature, according to the Department of Energy.
A major pitfall of evaporative coolers is that they’re only effective in dry climates and can require more maintenance than refrigeration-based cooling systems.
Like many alternatives, evaporative coolers use electricity to power the cooling process.
5. Room and window air conditioning
Some of the most popular cooling systems on the market are room and window cooling systems. You’ve likely seen these units hanging out of windows or tucked away in the corner of a room when not in use.
Room and window air conditioners operate the same way as central cooling in that they use refrigeration to remove heat from a room but on a smaller scale.
If you’re looking to cool a whole house, these aren’t ideal, and you might consider central air conditioning, despite the upfront investment.
These cooling systems come in different shapes and sizes to accommodate various window and room cooling capabilities. You can find square ones for a rectangular window or a narrower opening. Likewise, some roll around and feature a small duct to run to the window.
Room and window air conditioners also use electricity to ensure a drop in temperature.
6. Whole-house fan
You might not have heard of this one before. A house fan, or whole house fan, is a large fan located in the ceiling of the center of a home.
House fans work by taking in air from open doors and windows before exhausting it through the attic. This process takes in cool air from outside while expelling the warm air trapped in the home.
Installation of a house fan can be difficult due to the amount of ventilation needed. There is also the risk of noisy operation if installed incorrectly or without gaskets.
Similar to other options, whole house fans run on electricity.
7. Radiant cooling (floor or ceiling)
Here’s another one you might be unfamiliar with since it’s a relatively new technology that popped up in 1991. Radiant cooling is a process that cools floors and ceilings through absorbing heat in a room.
In radiantly cooled ceilings and floors, aluminum panels are suspended within the ceiling. Cold water kept near the dew point of the home pumps through the panels. On top of having to be chilled near the dew point, radiant cooling requires dehumidification.
Radiant cooling has some caveats, though. It is not recommended for use in humid climates, floors with heavy carpet, and may require an extra air conditioning unit to counteract humidity.
8. Oscillating fans
Lastly, and most straightforward, are oscillating fans. These fans are the standard run-of-the-mill fans you can pick up from stores like Target or Walmart.
Oscillating fans work by creating wind chill. The difference here is that there is no refrigeration, just the fan blades and motor.
In much warmer climates, the effects of an oscillating fan will be greatly affected. Since there is no refrigeration or active heat transfer, fans are at the mercy of the room’s temperature.
While not as effective as the other options, oscillating fans are good in a pinch and provide a cost-effective way to get cooling on demand.
Making the right choice for you
Looking back at the 8 types of cooling systems we’ve covered, it’s clear that there are many options available. By now, you understand how each one works and can conduct your research more confidently.
Along with the many types of cooling, there are also plenty of heating system types to choose from. Upgrading your heating system alongside your cooling is worth considering if you choose a cooling option like central air conditioning or a ductless mini-split.
We are dedicated to providing Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Ventura County with a five-star heating and cooling experience. But we also value the opportunity to share our insights with you regardless of whether you call us for a consultation. Above all, it’s important to go with a service provider you trust!
For more information on Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air’s services, visit our HVAC services page or call us at (310) 853- 8690. Don’t forget to check out our Learning Center for information on all things HVAC.