Guide to HVAC Systems: Pros and Cons of Common Types

As an HVAC pro, you know there are a variety of HVAC systems for residential and commercial buildings to choose from. How do you decide which setup is right for your clients? Factors include the size of the space that needs heating and cooling, any energy-efficiency requirements that need to be met (commonly found in newer buildings), budget considerations for the project and even the climate where you'll be installing the system.

Here's a roundup of some common types of HVAC systems, including the pros and cons of each, to help you help your customers find the right system for their needs.

Split Systems

Used for both heating and cooling, this is the most common type of HVAC system. They include two main units: an indoor unit that contains the evaporator coil and blower, and an outdoor unit that holds the compressor and condenser.


  • One system for both heating and cooling
  • Easily and widely available
  • Easy to install
  • Newer units are very energy-efficient, saving users on energy costs
  • Can be zone-programmed, allowing users to control the temperature in different rooms of their homes or buildings, allowing for more energy savings


  • Split systems require ductwork so they're not applicable for older homes that have radiator heat and no ducts
  • The user must have ample indoor space for the indoor unit
  • Requires regular, yearly cleaning and maintenance


Hybrid Systems

As its name implies, a hybrid HVAC system combines different types of technology for heating and cooling. One of the most common combos: a furnace or boiler system paired with a heat pump.


  • Energy efficiency is high on the Pro list for this type of HVAC system, as is reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • The system affords owners with reduced energy consumption and utility bills
  • Those cost savings add up over time
  • Users can choose to switch between heat pump or their traditional furnace, depending on the temperature outside


  • High upfront costs
  • Not optimal in extreme climates (like Midwest winters)
  • More components to the system = more required maintenance
  • Installation is difficult and may require expertise on the part of the installer


Packaged Systems

Unlike split systems, a packaged HVAC system is a self-contained unit, usually outside the home or building.


  • Great for homes or buildings with limited indoor space
  • It's all-in-one, allowing for easier maintenance and servicing
  • Provides heating and cooling


  • These systems may be noisier than split systems
  • May be more expensive than split systems


Heat Pump Systems

Installed outside the home or business, a heat pump provides both heating and cooling. In cooler months, it draws the outdoor air, heats it and transfers it inside the home or building. During warmer months of the year, it reverses the process, pulling heat out of the indoor air.


  • Ideally suited to moderate climates
  • More energy-efficient than some other HVAC units
  • Is designed to be combined with other systems


  • Isn't typically for climates with extreme cold (like our region's winters)
  • The colder it gets outside, the more heat output suffers (exactly what you don't want during a cold winter)
  • Installation costs can be higher than other systems


Geothermal Heat Pump Systems

Traditional heat pumps draw from outdoor and indoor air. Geothermal pumps exchange heat from the earth. These systems have many benefits but they require heat loops to be installed in-ground at the customer's home.


  • Can reduce energy costs by 25-50%
  • Lower operating costs than conventional HVAC systems
  • Fewer parts = lower maintenance. Geothermal systems are composed of just ground loops and a heat pump
  • Long lifespan, typically 20 years or more
  • Renewable energy tax credits can help defray upfront costs



  • Higher upfront installation costs, anywhere from $30,000-$50,000. A new furnace typically costs $6,000 or less
  • Requires a skilled, professional installer
  • Needs to be uniquely designed for the home or building. Cannot be transported if, for example, a homeowner moves
  • Customers' yards will be torn up during installation


Ductless Mini-Split Systems

These are split systems with one important element: They don't require ductwork inside the home or building. These systems are ideal for older homes and buildings that have radiator heat or otherwise do not have a duct system throughout the home.


  • Ideal for older residential and commercial buildings that don't have ductwork
  • Can be zoned to control areas of heating and cooling
  • Makes a home more energy-efficient
  • Much more cost effective than retrofitting buildings with ductwork


  • Much higher upfront costs than simply using window air conditioners
  • Customers may not like the look of the large indoor units
  • Frequent maintenance and cleaning are required to keep the units functioning optimally


Central Heating Systems

Only providing heat, these commonly used systems include boilers, furnaces and radiant heating systems.


  • Suitable for different types of fuel, including gas, oil, electricity and more
  • Provides heat to the entire structure
  • Easily combined with central cooling systems
  • Temperature control via a thermostat


  • Costs for installation may be high
  • Ductwork in the building will require regular maintenance


Criteria for HVAC Selection

What are the most important factors when selecting an HVAC system for new installation?

  • Climate, including temperature, humidity and fluctuation
  • Space constraints
  • Upfront and ongoing costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Energy-efficiency requirements
  • Existing ductwork
  • Difficulty or ease of installation

At Goodin Company, we've been serving the HVAC community for 85 years and counting. Questions about HVAC? We've got answers. Contact your local branch or sales rep!

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