Split System vs. Package Air Conditioning Units

Nothing beats stepping out of the searing summer heat into a cool, air-conditioned building. But finding the right air conditioner to do the trick can get confusing. Terms like ‘split system,’ ‘package AC,’ and ‘central air conditioner’ get tossed around and it’s hard to find which one would work best in your space. Luckily, we can help you understand the difference between package vs split systems!

What is central HVAC?

Central HVAC includes heating and air conditioning systems that supply conditioned air from a central location. They generally rely on ductwork to circulate air through a larger space, like a large home or office. Both package air conditioning units and central split systems can supply central air.

Split System

Central split system air conditioners use two separate units to supply cool air: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The indoor unit contains the evaporator coil while the outdoor unit houses the compressor and condenser coil.

A split system cools using a heat transfer process:

  1. The indoor unit pulls in warm air and passes it over the evaporator coil.
  2. The evaporator coil cools refrigerant, which changes from a liquid into a gas. The refrigerant then absorbs the heat from the air.
  3. The indoor unit distributes the now cool air into the room.
  4. The refrigerant transfers to the outdoor unit where the compressor coil condenses the refrigerant back into a liquid, releasing the heat.
  5. The outdoor unit transfers the heat outdoors.
  6. The refrigerant loops back to the indoor unit and the process repeats until the unit shuts off.

In heat pump systems, this process reverses to provide heat.



  • High efficiency options available
  • Indoor unit protected from weather damage
  • Works well in homes with existing ductwork
  • Indoor noise
  • Complex installation and maintenance
  • High installation costs if installing in a location without existing ductwork


Fun fact: MRCOOL offers the Do-It-Yourself series ductless mini split air conditioners that you can install without specialized training which makes for a simpler installation process than a traditional central split system.


Package AC Unit

In package units, like a package air conditioning unit or heat pump packaged system, all the components, including the evaporator, condenser, and compressor, are housed in the same unit. Since they’re housed in the same cabinet, a package system only relies on one unit, along with ductwork, to supply cool air and usually installs outside buildings or on rooftops.

You can find a wide variety of package units, including:

  • Package air conditioning units - typically only cool but may provide minimal heat using electric heat strips
  • Package heat pumps - use heat pump technology, including heating and cooling components
  • Package gas-electric units - combines a gas-powered furnace and electric air conditioner into one unit. They may rely on a natural gas or liquid propane furnace.
  • Package dual-fuel - also known as hybrid units, these package systems use heat pump and gas furnace technology. The heat pump provides cool air during warm months and heat in cooler temperatures. Once the temperature drops, the gas furnace provides heat.



  • Low indoor noise
  • Costs less to install than a split system
  • All-in-one maintenance
  • Works well in homes without a crawlspace or basement
  • Not as energy efficient as a split system
  • Weather damage can occur


Looking for a new air conditioning unit? HomElectrical carries a selection of central split systems and HVAC and air conditioner packaged units to help you find the one you need. Stay cool with HomElectrical!


Recommended Reading

Ductless mini split systems come in many different forms such as single-zone and multi-zone, with heating or cooling capabilities. Choose the right mini split air conditioner or heat pump with this quick and easy guide.

Ductless mini split systems provide heating and cooling without using air ducts. Learn more about their installation and operation with these frequently asked questions.

Avery Dietzen
Avery Dietzen

Originally from Wisconsin, Avery earned her degree in English before making the trip down to the Atlanta, GA area. Writer by day, reader by night, she prides herself on having a creative outlook and tries to instill that in everything she writes. As a content writer for HomElectrical, she uses her skills to share tips and tricks about lighting, HVAC, and going green. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, painting, hanging out with her dog, or spending time with family and friends.

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