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What is the best air conditioner for a mobile home?
Saturday, July 28, 2018
There are four basic types of air conditioners that can be installed in a mobile home, and each has its own advantages. Here’s the choices:
Package - A “package unit” (shown above) puts everything in one big box and is the most popular air conditioner for mobile homes. It is essentially a window air conditioner on steroids, with two large ducts (return and supply) attached to it instead of a front grille. Because living space is limited in many manufactured homes, the advantage of a package system is that it does not require an interior closet space. Also, package air conditioners are easier and cheaper to change out, when the time comes, than a central air conditioner.
Central - If your mobile home already has an interior furnace, then it may be cost-effective to get a central air conditioning system, which has a separate indoor unit (air handler) and outdoor unit (condenser). Otherwise, a package or ductless system would be a better choice. Central air conditioners, which are also called split systems, offer more brands and energy efficiency levels to choose from. Locating the air handler inside the home and near the center also makes it easier to achieve balanced air distribution to all rooms.
Ductless - Called a “mini-split” by contractors, these units utilize a single condenser and one to three air small air handlers that mount on the wall surface of each room served, protruding only a few inches from the wall and controlled by a handheld remote. They are very quiet and, because there is no duct installation, are easier to retrofit into an older mobile home with no existing ducts than a package or central system. But the units themselves are more costly.
Window - Also called “wall shakers,” and for a good reason, this is the easiest and cheapest way to cool a mobile home. But window air conditioners are not required to meet high energy efficiency standards like other types of systems that are permanently installed, so they are more expensive to operate. Also, most window units do not provide heat, they are significantly noisier than the other choices, and the lack of a permanently installed heating and cooling system devalues your home when it’s time to sell.
But if you do decide to go with window units, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the side of the larger 120-volt air conditioners—the ones that plug into a regular 3-slot wall outlet and are rated at 10,000 BTU or more. It will state “USE ON SINGLE OUTLET CIRCUIT ONLY,” meaning that the unit draws so much amperage that it needs its own separate wiring, receptacle, and circuit breaker in the electric panel. Running the air conditioner from a regular wall receptacle is unsafe and will overheat the wiring, tripping the circuit breaker whenever additional lights or appliances are used on the same circuit.
Package, central, and ductless systems are available as heat pumps, which utilize a reversal of the flow of the refrigerant gas to absorb exterior heat and bring it into the home during cold weather—a big energy-saver compared to the electric resistance heat strips in window air conditioners. A combination of gas heat and electric air conditioning is another option available for package and central units.
We are often asked which is the best brand of a/c system to buy and, of course, the more expensive lines like Lennox and Trane tend to get a better consumer ratings. But each HVAC contractor has their own preferred brand, and the quality of installation is equally important. A knowledgeable contractor will be able to give you the correct size unit, not too large or too small, well-sealed and able to deliver adequate conditioned air to each room. Your contractor can also help you make a informed, sensible choice between the different types of systems and manufacturers.
Also, see our blog “What size air conditioner is right for my mobile home?” for more information.
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