What Does Central Air Mean? Explained!

What does central air mean? Are you confused if it’s the same as a standard home air conditioner? Most whole-home air conditioning systems are referred to as central air conditioners. It forces cool air into your living rooms after passing it across cold coils to replace the warm air. So, what does central air mean?

Central air represents a significant improvement in comfort, peace, and convenience. When properly designed and installed, an indoor and outdoor split system can keep an entire house comfortably cool on the hottest days and do it much more effectively than a battalion of window units.

Read on to learn about the “what does central air mean”  and elements that affect how these systems work. You’ll find a lot of helpful information to guide your decisions if you intend to install central air.

Types Of Central Air

A split-system unit or a packaged unit are the two types of central air conditioners.

Split-System Central Air

An interior cabinet houses the inside heat exchanger and blower in a split-system central air conditioner. At the same time, an outdoor cabinet houses the compressor, fan, and outdoor heat exchanger. A furnace or the indoor heat exchanger of a heat pump may be housed in the inside cabinet of many split-system air conditioners. A split system may be the most affordable central air conditioner to install if your home has a furnace but no air conditioner.

Package Unit

In a package unit, an air conditioner, Heat exchangers, a compressor, a fan, and a blower are all housed in a single cabinet that is often mounted on a roof or a concrete slab adjacent to the home’s foundation. Small business buildings also employ this sort of air conditioner. The packaged air conditioner is connected to the supply and return ducts that enter the house through an outside wall or roof. Packaged air conditioners frequently include electric heating coils or a gas furnace. There is no longer a need for a separate furnace with this air conditioner and central heater combination.

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How Does Central Air Conditioning Work?

Below are other things you need to know as to what does central air means; these things will enable you to understand your central air conditioning.


Simply put, split cooling systems use a refrigerant that travels between the condenser and the air handler to remove heat from home. Cool air is delivered to the rooms in the house by supply ducts from the air handler. Warm air is returned to the air handler through return ducts, where it is filtered and cooled. Ducts distribute conditioned air evenly and quietly throughout the house when they are suitably sized.


These grilles must be installed in each room, one on the supply duct and the other on the return. The ideal place for supply registers is near the ceiling, and the perfect place for return registers is on or near the floor.

Air Handler

A refrigerant expansion valve on an indoor appliance creates a cold liquid that passes through the evaporator coils. A blower forces air over the coils, which warms the refrigerant and turns it into a gas that returns to the condenser.

Heat Pump: Heat And Cold

A heat pump, despite its name, can also be used to cool down homes. The apparatus functions similarly in the summer and appears the same as a standard AC unit. The refrigerant flow switches directions in the winter to carry heat indoors. Climates with warm summers and cool winters are best suited for heat pumps. They are pretty effective and can significantly reduce yearly heating and cooling expenses.


This outside unit draws the heated gaseous refrigerant from home, pressurizes it, and then condenses it back into a liquid as a fan cools the coils. 

Electronic Commutation Motor

An electronically commutated motor (ECM) blower ramps up to speed gradually, reducing the motor’s stress and using less electricity. It reduces airflow in zoned systems to allay concerns about frozen coils or a buildup of static pressure in the ducts. It helps to normalize temperature variations and lower humidity when used in conjunction with an inverter-controlled compressor. 

Inverted-Controlled Compressor 

No matter how much cooling was required, all AC compressors used to run at the same speed. As a result, there are significant temperature variations, high operating costs, and stuffy inside air due to inadequate humidity removal.

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Although two-speed compressors performed better, the inverter-controlled compressor, which changes its speed to accommodate fluctuating cooling needs, was a true performance breakthrough. The mechanism extracts more humidity from the air while maintaining the temperature at the thermostat setting.

Essential Factors To Consider When Choosing Central Air Conditioner

Size Or Capacity

The size, equivalent to the air conditioner’s cooling capability, is expressed in tons or British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr). 12,000 Btu/hr is equal to one ton of cooling. Getting the appropriate AC capacity for your home’s size is critical. A unit that is too tiny won’t be able to maintain your home’s comfort. A big unit will cost you more to buy, cycle on and off more frequently than it should, and struggle to control the humidity in your home (unless it has a model with a variable-speed compressor).

Whether you’re replacing your central air conditioning system, consider whether you genuinely need a system the same size as your old one or if you can get away with a smaller one. Any modifications to your home’s energy efficiency may decrease your cooling requirements, such as replacing your windows or installing insulation. 


This details how much cooling the device provides per watt of power. The seasonal energy-efficiency rate, or SEER, is a measure of efficiency. Efficiency increases as SEER increases; although more expensive, higher SEER air conditioners frequently pay for themselves over time through lower energy bills. 

At least 20% more efficient than minimum-efficiency models produced even 10 years ago, the minimum SEER allowed for a new split-system central air conditioner in the U.S. today is 14, which is higher than previous minimum-efficiency models. Systems with a minimum SEER of 15 are considered Energy Star compliant. The most effective models achieve the SEER of 26.


Reliability is the second-best predictor of the owner’s overall satisfaction with an air conditioner, which is tied to the speed at which a room cools down. However, the speed at which a room cools down has more to do with whether the air conditioner is the right size for your home and whether it is properly maintained. Based on information members have supplied about the AC units they purchased and installed in their homes between 2005 and 2020, Consumer Reports members may view the expected dependability ratings for 21 manufacturers of central air conditioners.

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The feature that best predicts owners’ overall satisfaction with their air conditioner is quiet operation. Manufacturers disclose the decibel-measured noise levels of their products for a range of outdoor temperatures and fan speeds. A lower rating is preferable if the AC is installed close to a bedroom window.

Is Central Air Both An AC And A Heat?

The same components are used by your forced air (furnace) and central air (AC) systems to heat and cool your house. The evaporator coils, interior fans, outdoor condenser, and outdoor compressor cycle refrigerant pull hot air from your home inside while dissipating heat before pulling cooled air back via your vents.

Does Central Air Only Provide Cooling? 

Specialized central air conditioners can run in a reversed cycle (heat pump) to pump out hot air in addition to cooling air. In other words, a single unit in your central air conditioning system may heat and cool your house.

Who Can Install The System?

You require a specialist with knowledge of these intricate systems. Get quotations from at least three reputable, highly-rated local HVAC companies online. Your system may probably be maintained for many years by your selected business.

How Much Is Central Air Sold For?

The local climate, existing insulation, labor expenses, equipment size, and efficiency are only a few factors determining system cost. A 3-ton residential system in Des Moines, Iowa, could be upgraded for $5,000, installation included, to one that is Energy Star certified and has a SEER 16 efficiency rating.

What Is The Life Duration?

The average equipment warranty is 10 years. These systems should last for around 15 years with regular maintenance before needing to be replaced.

When Should A Replacement Be Made?

It’s probably time for new equipment indoors and out if a system is around 15 years old and a costly component, such as an evaporator coil or a compressor, fails. The system’s performance will probably suffer if one is replaced but not the other.

Conclusion On What Does Central Air Mean?

For best performance, central air conditioning systems require routine maintenance. It’s wise to bargain for a service plan that includes frequent inspections, repairs at a lower cost, and a labor warranty when you negotiate the installation price. Such a service can have a wide range of prices.

You can perform some of the upkeep on your own as well. Monthly filter and grille cleaning. Clean the condenser coils of dirt and debris, and look for drain pipe blockages. Follow the filter manufacturer’s guidelines for when to change the filter and the AC manufacturer’s recommendations. Disposable filters need to be replaced less frequently the thicker they are. I hope we have been able to answer your question on “What does central air mean?”