If you're building a new home or renovating an existing one, you may have some options when it comes to the location of your HVAC equipment. Typical homes use split-system air conditioners that supply cooled air via built-in ductwork, although alternatives such as package systems and mini-split systems exist. However, standard central air conditioning systems will require both an outdoor and indoor component.
Where you choose to place your condenser and evaporator units will impact their longevity, performance, and ease of access for future maintenance. Understanding your options will allow you to make an informed decision based on the factors that matter most for your particular situation.
Locating Your Condenser
The condenser is the large outdoor unit that contains your condenser coils, compressor, condenser blower, and various electrical components that are necessary to keep the whole thing operating. Local regulations usually require placing the condenser a set distance from your home. Aside from this requirement, you'll need to choose a spot that's easily accessible for running wiring and refrigerant lines.
It's also critical to choose a location with good airflow that's relatively easy to maintain. Your condenser coils require some space around them to function correctly, so installing a condenser unit in tight confines can impact system efficiency. Likewise, you'll want to avoid placing your condenser in areas where you can't keep nearby weeds or debris under control.
Locating Your Air Handler/Evaporator
Your evaporator is the indoor side of your system. This unit absorbs heat from your home and relies on your air handler to distribute the cooled air throughout the house. Typical locations for evaporator units include basements, attics, crawlspaces, and even utility rooms in conditioned parts of the house. The ideal location is an area that's reasonably accessible and cool.
When choosing where to place your evaporator, you'll first need to consider your existing HVAC equipment. If you already have ductwork and an existing furnace, you won't have much choice, and your evaporator will need to go in the same area. You have somewhat more flexibility if you're starting from scratch, however.
Basements are popular choices since they're relatively cool, potentially reducing the loss of conditioned air. Attics are another common location, particularly in homes that lack basements or only have tight crawlspaces. In these cases, it may be necessary to add attic insulation to avoid locating the evaporator, air handler, and ductwork in an area that can pick up substantial heat during the summer.
Choose the Best Option For Your Home
When you are deciding where to place your HVAC equipment, it's best to work with a contractor with experience in residential AC system design. A skilled professional can help explain the pros and cons of each option, allowing you to choose the one that will provide the best mix of affordability, convenience, and efficiency for your home.