If you need to replace your HVAC or install a new system, one thing you need to decide is whether to install a split system or a packaged system. Either system can be a good choice, but one may be a better option than the other in certain situations. Each has its unique advantages and drawbacks. We explain what packaged HVAC systems are and how they compare to split systems to help make your decision easier.

Split vs. Packaged HVAC Systems

The majority of HVAC systems that provide cooling are split systems with both indoor and outdoor components. The outdoor part of a split system is either an AC condenser or a heat pump that contains the compressor, compressor fan and condenser coil. The indoor part of the system consists of the evaporator coil and blower, both of which are located within a sheet metal compartment known as the air handler. A set of two copper lines connect the outdoor and indoor components of a split system so that the refrigerant in the system can flow back and forth between them.

Packaged HVAC systems are different in that they are self-contained. Packaged systems have all the same components, but everything is housed within one large unit or compartment that sits outside the house. The only parts of the system that are inside are the thermostat and the ductwork, which is connected to the system through a hole in the exterior wall. Alternatively, a packaged system can be installed on the roof and connected to the duct system through the attic.

Some packaged systems can only provide cooling, but some systems can provide heating as well. The most common type of packaged heating and cooling system is a heat pump system. However, there are also so-called “dual-fuel” packaged systems that contain both a standard AC and a gas furnace. This type of system is a good choice for places that regularly experience freezing winter weather and have higher heating requirements.

A packaged heat pump system can also be a good choice, but it will require some form of supplementary heating. Most heat pump systems use electric heat strips as the supplementary heat source. The system will automatically turn these strips on any time the heat pump runs its defrost cycle or whenever the home is cool and needs lots of additional heating. The heat strips are also a backup in case the heat pump stops working, or it is too cold outside for it to work effectively.

Advantages of Choosing a Packaged HVAC System

A packaged HVAC system is often the best choice for smaller homes. With a split system, the interior part of the system takes up quite a bit of space that could be better used for other purposes. A packaged system can also free up extra space in your yard if you choose to have it mounted on the roof of your home. Even if you do have sufficient room for a split system, a packaged system can still provide all the following benefits.

Less Noise

Split HVAC systems can be fairly noisy since you’ll usually be able to hear the sound of the blower running throughout much of the house. The fact that the blower is outside in a packaged system means that it will be much quieter than a split system. A dual-fuel packaged system will also make far less noise compared to having a furnace inside your home. With a packaged system, the only thing you’ll really be able to hear throughout your home is the sound of the air moving through the ducts. This is something you can overcome by insulating the ducts so that the system runs almost silently. In this case, the only time you’d hear much of anything is when in a room located right next to wherever the system is outdoors.

Lower Installation Costs

Another major advantage of packaged HVAC systems is that they are much easier and take a lot less time to install, which means the up-front costs are quite a bit less than with a split system. Split systems require lots of brazing at extreme heat to connect the copper refrigerant lines to the indoor and outdoor parts of the system. This is a painstaking process that must be done quite slowly and in steps to avoid damaging any components. Running the copper line set from the outside to the indoor part of the system also takes a fairly long time and adds to the installation cost. After the technician finishes the installation, they will need to take a few hours more to calibrate everything so that the system works properly.

Packaged systems are entirely built in a factory and come with everything already connected. Your system will be ready to run as soon as the technicians mount it outside and connect it to the interior duct system. This greatly reduces the cost and time it takes for the system to be installed. You also save even more by not needing to have the copper refrigerant lines run and connected.

Easier Maintenance and Repairs

It is also easier for a technician to maintain a packaged system and to diagnose and repair any issues that arise. This is simply because all the components that need to be serviced or inspected are in the same place. The technician will need to access both the interior and outdoor components when diagnosing any issues with a split system or maintaining it, which makes the process take longer. Since packaged systems don’t have copper refrigerant lines, there are fewer places that could leak and less that could go wrong.

If you have a packaged system, you typically won’t need to have the technician working inside your house when servicing or repairing it. The only exceptions are if you need to have your ductwork inspected or repaired or if you have an issue with the thermostat.

Packaged systems are also generally easier for a technician to access unless the system is on the roof. This is because the interior part of a split system is often in a more cramped location like the attic or basement, which makes it a bit harder to access.

Drawbacks to Packaged HVAC Systems

A packaged HVAC system can provide many advantages over a split system. It will also have a few drawbacks. The biggest drawback is that split systems are available with higher energy efficiency ratings than packaged systems. While you can find fairly efficient packaged systems, there will always be a more efficient option available if you choose a split system.

The other main drawback to a packaged system is that the blower and evaporator coil often won’t last as long as they would in a split system. Having these components outside in a packaged system means that they operate in a hotter environment, which can shorten their lifespan. These components are also more likely to be damaged by pests or weather than a packaged system.

F.F. Hitchcock Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is a family-owned company that is ready to handle all your home comfort needs in the Cheshire area. We install both packaged and split HVAC systems, and we can help you decide which is the better choice for your home. You can also count on us for your heating and AC repair and maintenance needs or if you require any plumbing service.

To schedule a consultation and learn which HVAC system is right for your home, contact F.F. Hitchcock Plumbing, Heating & Cooling today.

company icon