When shopping for a new HVAC system, one decision you’ll need to make is whether you want a packaged unit or a split unit. But in order to make that decision, you need to know what the terms mean and why one might be preferable to the other, depending on your situation and needs.
Essentially, the terms “packaged” and “split” refer to the way your HVAC system is set up. In a packaged system, the entire HVAC is contained in one large metal cabinet, which is placed somewhere outside your home. It may be on a concrete slab next to the house, or it may even be on the roof. A packaged HVAC usually includes both the air conditioner and a furnace.
On the other hand, a split system consists of two separate parts. Outside of the house, there’s a smaller metal cabinet that contains the condenser and compressor. Inside of the house, often in the attic or a closet, there’s a second cabinet, which contains the evaporator. The indoor cabinet can also contain either a furnace or the indoor portion of a heat pump, depending on which type of heat you’ve decided to use. This indoor cabinet is connected to the outdoor cabinet by copper piping.
Split systems tend to be favored because they are often more energy efficient than packaged systems. However, packaged systems are generally easier to install, and they don’t take up any indoor space the way that a split system does. New homes being built today are usually designed for a split system, with a closet or other area set aside for the indoor cabinet, but older homes may not be able to accommodate having part of the HVAC inside.
Ultimately, a licensed HVAC technician can evaluate your home and help you decide whether a split or packaged unit is best for your needs.