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Split vs Packaged HVAC Systems: What’s the Difference?

Atlanta Heating & Air Solutions Mabelton
External Air Conditioning Exhaust Unit

When researching heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems, you’ll probably come across split and packaged systems. They are the most common types of HVAC systems. Most homes and buildings have either a split or packaged HVAC system, both of which offer heating and cooling functionality. What’s the difference between a split and packaged HVAC system exactly?

What Is a Split HVAC System?

A split HVAC system is characterized by the use of two separate units, which are installed in different areas. They have an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit consists of the air conditioning condenser coil and the compressor. The indoor unit features the air conditioning evaporator coil, the air handling unit (AHU) and the furnace.

What Is a Packaged HVAC System?

A packaged HVAC system, as you may have guessed, consists of a single unit that’s installed outdoors. It features the air conditioning condenser coil, the evaporator coil, the compressor, the blower fan and the furnace. Packaged HVAC systems don’t have two separate units. Both their heating and cooling equipment are packaged together in a single unit.

Choosing Between a Split and Packaged HVAC System

Regarding efficiency, split HVAC systems are a better choice. With a split HVAC system, the furnace and the AHU are installed indoors where they are able to heat the air more efficiently. Some split HVAC systems have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of 20 or more. Packaged HVAC systems tend to have a lower SEER rating because their heating equipment is installed outdoors.

Split HVAC systems are also better protected against premature failure. When installed outdoors, HVAC equipment will inevitably be exposed to the elements. Split HVAC systems don’t have all of their equipment outdoors. Some of their equipment, such as the evaporator coil and the furnace, is installed indoors. Therefore, these components are safe from the weather’s degrading effects.

With that said, not all homes have the space to accommodate a split HVAC system. The indoor unit of a split HVAC system is typically installed in the attic, basement or crawlspace. In homes without any of these spaces, a packaged HVAC system may be required.

HVAC systems are classified as split or packaged depending on their number of units. Split HVAC systems have two units, whereas packaged HVAC systems have a single unit. If your home has enough space, you should typically choose a split HVAC system. When compared to packaged HVAC systems, they are more efficient and better protected against premature failure.

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