The Different Types of Air Conditioning Systems

Are you confused by the various types of Air Conditioning systems out there?  Maybe even within your own building you know there are different types but you just don’t quite understand what is what?

In this short article, we go over some of the main types of Air Conditioning Systems, including their purpose and their intended application.  This article doesn’t cover every application and variant, rather it covers the most common systems for typical working environments.

Portable Air Conditioning Unit


As the name suggests, the portable Air Conditioning unit is a unit that is completely mobile, rather than being fixed to the wall or ceiling.  Ideal for domestic or commercial use, these units are relatively inexpensive to buy and require no specialist installation.  They can also be used to supplement existing, installed systems in extreme temperatures.

One of the main drawbacks of the portable unit is the noise – as the compressor is mounted within the unit itself, which is located indoors.

Split Air Conditioning System


Probably the most common and popular is the Split Air Conditioning system – consisting of an outdoor unit (the condenser), connected to an indoor unit (technically, the evaporator).  The indoor unit can take various forms:

  • Wall Mounted

  • Ceiling Mounted

    • Recessed Cassette
    • Surface Mounted

  • Ducted Units

    • Ceiling Mounted
    • Wall Mounted
    • Bulkhead Mounted

The advantage of split air conditioning systems is that they provide a complete climate control solution that is unobtrusive, quiet and user-friendly.  Offering both cooling and heating, normally with various timer functions via remote control, these systems have become the preferred method of commercial climate control for many years.   The outdoor unit contains the condenser and is connected to the indoor unit by two refrigerant pipes and a control cable.

Split systems require specialist installation, but they offer the advantage of a relatively simple and flexible installation, compared to a large VRF system (see below).  Split systems can be added on as the workspace evolves or grows, allowing for flexible climate control within a building.


Twin and Multi-Split Air Conditioning Systems


Working in a similar way as the single Split system, the Twin & Multi-Split is simply a system designed to control a larger indoor area, often an open area that needs the same control. With a Twin & Multi-Split system, you have one larger condenser unit outside and multiple indoor units.

The Multi-Split air conditioning unit has all the advantages listed above for the single split unit but is a more cost-effective way to control the climate in multiple areas. Twin & Multi-Split systems cannot simultaneously heat/cool different areas – systems are traditional ‘2-pipe’ systems, meaning that they can only heat OR cool at any one time.

VRF / VRV Air Conditioning System


The terms VRF and VRV refer to the same technology – Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) and Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV).  VRV is the name that Daikin used when they introduced the technology to the market in 1982.

Aimed at larger buildings, VRF is a technology that circulates only the minimum amount of refrigerant needed during single heating or cooling period, matching the exact refrigerant volume to the building’s precise requirements. Only a minimum amount of energy is required for a system to maintain set temperatures, and ensure that it automatically shuts off when no occupants are detected in a room. This unique mechanism is more sustainable in the long run, as end-users save on energy costs while reducing their system’s carbon emissions.

With up to 64 indoor air conditioning units connected to one outdoor unit, the VRV system operates similar to a Multi-Split system. Each individual indoor unit determines the capacity it needs to be based on the current indoor temperature and requested temperature from the remote control (setpoint).

The total demand among all indoor units will determine how the outdoor unit adjusts the refrigerant volume and temperature. By only supplying the cooling or heating that is needed, the inverter compressor continues to save a large amount of energy during VRV operation.

Posted in

Rob Tuffin