It’s easy to assume that all commercial air conditioning units are more or less the same. After all, every commercial air conditioning system—regardless of brand or price point—has the same job: to cool a sizable commercial space. However, the truth is that commercial units vary significantly from one brand, type, or size to the next. In this post, we will take a closer look at what distinguishes commercial air conditioners from one another, as well as at how you can use these differences to find the best air conditioning unit for your business.
Commercial Air Conditioners Versus Residential Systems: What’s the Difference?
Before we delve into the different categories you should pay attention to when shopping for a commercial air conditioning system, let’s talk a bit about how these systems are different than residential air conditioning units. Which factors set these two classes of air conditioning unit apart from one another?
The first and biggest point of difference is power. Simply put, commercial air conditioners are typically a lot larger and more powerful than residential units. Commercial spaces are also usually bigger than residential spaces, hence the need for the extra power. Because commercial units are larger and more powerful, they also tend to be more complex and more difficult to install. While some residential units can be put in on a DIY basis, you probably won’t want to try that with commercial units.
The extra size of commercial units also makes them more of a challenge to position. Most residential air conditioning systems have both indoor and outdoor components. If you walk by someone’s house, you will likely see the air conditioning unit outside one of the exterior walls. Commercial units, because of their size and power—and the resulting high levels of noise they produce—are more difficult to place. Usually, these units end up on the roof, where they aren’t taking up other usable space and where their noisy operation won’t bother tenants, guests, or customers.
How Commercial Air Conditioning Units Vary
Now that we know the main differences between commercial and residential air conditioning units let’s take a look at how units within the commercial market differ from one another.
Again, size is a major point of variation. It goes without saying that commercial air conditioners are bigger than residential systems. What often goes overlooked is how widely varied in size commercial units must be. While home sizes certainly vary, calculating the size of the “average” home isn’t so difficult. Most residential units are then built to suit the demands of the average-sized home. Commercial buildings vary more in size, from relatively small retail or restaurant buildings to huge corporate skyscrapers. All these different buildings fall into the commercial category, which means air conditioning companies need to be able to build systems and units to suit them.
For these reasons, choosing the right air conditioning system for a commercial building tends to be considerably more complex than for a residential property. Usually, commercial building owners will consult with an HVAC specialist. This person or business can assess the building, calculate the level of BTUs it needs for cooling, and design the right air conditioning system for the job. For larger buildings, the “right” system is usually a network of multiple units rather than just one.
Of course, system size and complexity bleeds into another large point of variation for commercial air conditioning systems: price. How much you pay for your system is going to be a direct product of the cooling load that your building demands. However, size and price are not directly proportional. Other variables might also impact the price, including brand name. Certain brands cost more because they are more recognizable, more reliable, or offer better warranty coverage. Hopefully, your HVAC consultant will be able to point you toward trustworthy brands.
Navigating the Commercial Air Conditioning Market
As with any other market, the products that occupy the commercial air conditioning niche vary quite a bit. Sure, these units might be designed to serve the same purpose, but that doesn’t mean they get there in the same way. For instance, one brand might spare no expense in using the best parts, materials, and quality control measures because they know it will earn them notices for reliability and quality. Another might use cheap components with the goal of offering a more affordable product. These tradeoffs exist in every industry and every marketplace, and commercial air conditioning is not immune.
By consulting with an HVAC authority and doing some research on brands, you should be able to find a commercial air conditioning unit that meets your business’s needs without pushing you over budget. Hopefully, we’ve armed you with a bit of knowledge that you can use to compare different units and choose the optimal one.