When it’s time to start thinking about a new system for heating and cooling your home, your first thought might be central air, also known as a forced-air system. While there are a lot of advantages when it comes to central heating and cooling, there are also many alternatives you may not be considering.
Learn about the pros and cons of forced-air systems so you can familiarize yourself with different options available and which one is best for your home.
Central Air vs. Forced Air
Usually, forced air refers to the heating system and central air refers to the cooling system. In many cases, however, they are used interchangeably.
Central heating systems can refer to furnaces and boilers because the heat is generated in a central location and then distributed throughout the house.
Basically, a forced air system refers to any HVAC system that uses air ducts and vents to send temperature-controlled air into the building.
Whereas central heating can refer to a boiler system, forced air can only be a furnace or heat pump (if it uses ducts).
Central air conditioning uses the delivery system (vents, plenums, ducts) of your forced air heating system to provide cool, conditioned air.
While there is a difference between central air and forced air system, the difference is small and most of the time, these terms are used interchangeably.
Forced Air Advantages (Pros)
- Air is filtered and filtration can easily be upgraded
- Great for cooling the entire home
- Air is naturally dehumidified, good for humid days
- Compatible with smart and programmable thermostats
- Requires little maintenance, there’s only one unit
- Potentially lower energy bills
- Comfortable and energy efficient
- Adds value to home
Forced Air Disadvantages (Cons)
- Costs more to install than other AC options, such as window units
- Cannot be installed yourself; a professional installation is required
- Risk of improper installation (do your homework before hiring HVAC company)
- Ductwork is necessary (takes up space and prone to inefficiencies)
- Duct sealing and cleaning is necessary—every 5 years or so
- If not properly maintained, mold, mildew, and other contaminants can blow around your indoor spaces
- Potentially loud operation
- In some living spaces such as condominiums, central air conditioning may not be an option
- Dust and allergens are distributed by moving air
- Potentially higher energy bills
- Regular tune-ups and filter changes are necessary
- Learn how to identify damaged ductwork.
Deciding Factor? Probably the Ductwork
If you have an existing ductwork system, you may have to continue using central air conditioning for your home. If you do replace your central air conditioning unit, make sure you hire the right HVAC contractor for the job.
Also, there are many modern, high-efficiency units to choose from. Learn more about what you should know before replacing your air conditioning system.
If you don’t have existing ductwork or it is in need of repair or replacement, consider going for the impressive ductless mini-split unit. Multiple indoor units, connected to one outdoor heat pump, can cool your home without any ducts whatsoever. In addition to eliminating any ductwork inefficiencies, you also get separate thermostats for each of the units, allowing you to control the temperature of different areas of the home independently of one another.
No matter what kind of air conditioner you choose for your replacement, switching to high-efficiency air conditioners can help keep your home cool and reduce your air conditioning bills by 20% to 50% (EPA).
Your decision to purchase a new heating or cooling system is a major one. These systems could be with you for 20 years or more. Make sure you do your homework and consider your options carefully.
For help making the right HVAC decision for you and your home, learn about the different cooling systems available to you, what should know before upgrading your air conditioner, and 20 questions to ask prospective HVAC contractors.
Service Champions is known for trustworthy, on-time home service throughout the East Bay, South Bay, and Sacramento areas.
For expert information on heating and air conditioning systems, don’t hesitate to contact a Champion!