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What is the difference between a “Split” Air Conditioning System a “Package” System?

In general terms a Central Air Conditioning System is manufactured in one of two ways: A “Split System” or a “Package Unit.” As you might imagine, there are material differences that separate the two types.

A Split System is the more commonly-installed of the two types in Florida. A Split System consists of two (2) major components or “sections”:

  • An outdoor section called the Condensing Section. This section includes the Condenser Coil and the Compressor
  • An indoor section called the Evaporator Section or “Air Handler”. This section includes Evaporator Coil, Blower, Fan Motor and oftentimes a heating element

A Package Unit houses all of the components listed above (Condenser Coil, Compressor, Evaporator Coil, Blower, Fan Motor, etc.) within a single cabinet, which is typically installed on a concrete pad next to a home but a hole is cut into the side of the home for the airflow to enter the home. For commercial buildings, a package unit is typically installed on the roof.

Let’s review the two systems’ advantages and disadvantages, which will help you decide which is better for your home or business.

Split System

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Advantages: The Air Handler can be installed inside the home in a closet, attic or utility room. This keeps the components, especially the electronic controls, out of the elements. Split Systems are also built in a myriad of configurations to accommodate the layout of most any home. Most importantly, Split Systems are more efficient than Package Units.  Some Split Systems can be as high as 25 SEER or higher. By comparison, Package Units enjoy is 13 -16 SEER.

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is used to measure how much cooling a given system produces (BTUs) for each unit of energy (watt hours) it consumes. In essence, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently the air conditioning system cools a given space.  It is important to note that SEER is the AVERAGE computed DURING A COOLING SEASON using a constant indoor temperature and a series of varied outdoor temperatures – ranging from 60 degrees to over 100 degrees – to simulate a typical cooling season.

A good analogy to SEER is your car’s Miles Per Gallon (“MPG”): Your car’s advertised MPG might be 30 mpg but you won’t see 30 mpg in “stop-and-go” city traffic. By the same token, if you are constantly adjusting the thermostat during the day or asking your system to keep your house at 65 degrees during the hottest part of the day, you won’t experience the 22 SEER that was attributed to your system.

Disadvantages:  Improper or shoddy installation of a Split System could reduce the SEER and negatively affect the service life of the Split System. This is why you need the AC Today Installation Team on your side to ensure that all components are properly installed and connected to take full advantage of the high SEER and unit longevity. To that end, many AC System manufacturers will ship new sections overcharged with refrigerant to account for installation discrepancies. We at AC Today are aware of this and ensure that the new system is charged to optimal levels.

Package Unit

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Advantages: All system components are assembled by the manufacturer in a controlled environment. The refrigerant is charged to optimal levels, the fan motor is balanced and tested, the controls are put through their paces. This is as close to a “plug and play” situation as you can get in Air Conditioning.

Disadvantages:  All of the components, especially electronic controls, are exposed to the elements. This is especially true in Florida where salt air can contribute to an unfriendly environment. Package Units are at greater risk of rust or corrosion than Split Systems. High winds driving dirt and rain can also cause problems as well as animals seeking shelter inside the cabinet. he unit is also exposed to greater access by animals. Package Units can also be unwieldy or difficult to match the footprint of the system that you are replacing.

Please call AC Today or stop by our headquarters to have a cup of coffee or iced tea to speak with our AC System specialists. We can provide you with the information to decide which system is the best fit for your home or business and the best Maintenance Agreement to extend the life of your current system. We look forward to hearing form you.