Heating and air conditioning systems can come in two layouts – packaged or split.
A split system is the more common central HVAC choice. These units contain both an indoor and outdoor component. Know that box that you often see blowing out hot air on the side of buildings? That is the outdoor component, or condensing unit. The indoor component is often located in a basement, crawlspace or large interior closet and is composed of either a furnace and coil, or an air handler. There are different types of split systems you can choose from that vary depending on your particular HVAC needs.
Split System Air Conditioners:
A split system air conditioner can be paired with a furnace or an air handler. For residents in the Deep South, an air conditioner paired with an air handler can be the all-inclusive solution to your HVAC needs. Because having a gas furnace is not as important in these areas, you may not have to have one. However, if you are concerned about cold weather but don’t want to invest in a gas furnace, you can install heat strips in your air handler to provide heating capabilities when there is a chill in the air. But, if you live in a colder area, like the Midwest or a Northern state, heat strips may not be able to get the heating job done efficiently. A split system air conditioner, paired with a gas furnace will provide year-round protection against temperature variation. With these systems, your indoor component will contain a gas furnace with an evaporator coil resting on top. This is the most common type of heating and air conditioning setup and is what most people associate with central heating and cooling.
Split System Heat Pumps:
Heat pumps can also come in packaged and split system options. A split system heat pump is set up like a split system air conditioner except is a better option for Southern states that do need heating capabilities, but don’t see temperatures below freezing often. Your split system heat pump has the same outdoor component and indoor component as the split system air conditioner but it is able to reverse the air conditioning process to provide heating power throughout your home. This multi-functioning capability makes it more expensive than an air conditioner. There are also dual-fuel options available to residents of Midwestern states that combine a heat pump with a gas furnace. These systems come in package or split.
You can always talk to your local contractor to decide whether you need a split system air conditioner or heat pump.