Split System vs. Packaged System: What’s The Difference?

Split System vs. Packaged System: What’s The Difference?

When it comes to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, two common types dominate the market: split systems and packaged systems. Both of these systems have their unique advantages and are designed to suit different needs and circumstances. However, many homeowners and business owners find themselves in a quandary, unsure of which system to opt for. This article aims to throw light on the fundamental differences between split systems and packaged systems, making it easier for you to make an informed decision. 


Understanding the difference between these two HVAC systems is crucial for several reasons. First, the type of system you choose can significantly impact your energy efficiency and consequently, your utility bills. A system that isn’t a good fit for your space won’t perform optimally, leading to higher energy consumption and costs. Secondly, each system requires a different installation process. Knowing the ins and outs of both systems can help you select the one that is easier and less costly to install in your specific situation. Lastly, these systems come with varied maintenance needs. Being aware of these needs can help you select a system that aligns with your maintenance capabilities and budget.

Understanding HVAC Systems

HVAC systems, or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems, serve a fundamental role in both residential and commercial buildings. As the name suggests, these systems are designed to heat and cool spaces, ensuring a comfortable and healthy living or working environment. They achieve this by controlling indoor climate and air quality through three main processes: heating, cooling, and ventilation. Heating involves increasing the temperature in a room or building to create a warm environment, especially during cold seasons. Conversely, cooling reduces the indoor temperature during hot seasons to make the environment comfortable.  

The Application of HVAC Systems

In residential buildings, HVAC systems are used for comfort, providing a controlled and pleasant climate regardless of the weather outside. In commercial buildings, HVAC systems have a similar role but on a larger scale and with additional considerations. These systems not only provide comfort for employees and customers but also maintain the optimal conditions for equipment and products. For instance, in a data center, HVAC systems regulate temperature and humidity to prevent overheating and moisture damage to the electronic equipment. 

Understanding the Differences Between Split System and Packaged System

Understanding the differences between split system and packaged system HVAC units will help you choose the most suitable system for your needs. A split system separates the heating and the cooling systems. The cooling part is installed outside the building, while the heating component is inside. This separation allows for greater energy efficiency and easier maintenance as you can service one part without disturbing the other. On the other hand, a packaged system combines both heating and cooling units into a single outdoor unit. This configuration is ideal for buildings with limited indoor space as it takes up less room. However, it may not be as energy-efficient as the split system and might require more frequent maintenance due to the combined components.

Split System: An Overview

Split systems, as the name implies, are HVAC systems where the components are split between the interior and exterior of a building. The cooling elements, which include the condenser and compressor, are typically housed in an outdoor unit, while the heating elements, such as the furnace and evaporator, are located inside. This separation is designed to optimize the efficiency of both heating and cooling processes. 

Components of a Split System

The split system has several components that work together to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. The indoor components, which include the air handler, evaporator coil, and furnace or heat pump, work to heat the air during the colder months. Conversely, the outdoor components, such as the condenser and compressor, remove heat from the interior during warmer months, thus cooling the building. 

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are both advantages and disadvantages to split systems. On the one hand, these systems are known for their energy efficiency. Because the heating and cooling units are separate, they can be individually optimized for performance, leading to lower energy consumption overall. On the downside, split systems can be more expensive upfront due to the complexity of installation, which involves running refrigerant lines between the indoor and outdoor units. 

Where to Use Split Systems

Split systems are ideally suited for scenarios where indoor space is at a premium, as the bulk of the system is located outdoors. They’re also a good fit for homes or businesses that already have a furnace in place, as the system can be easily integrated. Furthermore, with split systems, it’s possible to control the temperature in individual rooms or zones within a building, offering a high degree of flexibility and customization.

Packaged System: An Overview

Now that we’ve covered the basics of a split system, let’s delve into the packaged system. Essentially, a packaged system is an HVAC setup where all the heating and cooling components are housed in a single outdoor unit. This type of system is typically installed on the roof or a concrete slab near the foundation of a building. The main components of a packaged system include the compressor, condenser, evaporator coil, and air handler, much like those found in a split system, but all consolidated into one space. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Packaged System

A packaged system has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Its compact nature is a major plus, as it requires less space and can be a great option for homes with limited indoor or outdoor space. It also simplifies installation and maintenance since all components are in one location. However, these systems may not be as energy-efficient as split systems and can be more exposed to outdoor elements, which can potentially lead to more wear and tear. 

Where to Use Packaged Systems

In terms of ideal usage scenarios, packaged systems are often the go-to choice for small commercial buildings, mobile homes, or homes located in areas with a moderate climate. They’re also a popular choice for homes without basements or crawl spaces that can accommodate the indoor components of a split system. In the end, the choice between a split system and a packaged system will depend on a variety of factors, including the unique needs and constraints of your property.

Comparing Split Systems and Packaged Systems

When comparing the efficiency of split systems and packaged systems, it’s important to note that both have their strengths and weaknesses. Split systems tend to be more energy-efficient, largely because they can be sized to match the exact needs of the property. They often come with high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings, suggesting better overall efficiency. A packaged system, on the other hand, may not offer the same level of efficiency, but its simpler design can sometimes make it more reliable, reducing the likelihood of breakdowns. 

The Installation Processes

The installation processes for these two systems also differ. A split system requires both an indoor and an outdoor component to be installed, meaning there’s more work involved in the initial setup. This also requires more space within the property for the indoor unit. A packaged system, being a single unit, usually requires less time and fewer resources to install. This can be a significant advantage for smaller properties or those looking for a quicker HVAC solution. 

Maintenance Requirements

Maintenance needs also vary between these two systems. Split systems, with their multiple components, often require more regular maintenance checks to keep them running at optimal efficiency. This includes regular cleaning of the indoor unit, as well as possible refrigerant top-ups. Packaged systems, however, are generally easier and less expensive to maintain due to their simpler design and single-unit layout. 


Finally, the cost-effectiveness of these systems cannot be ignored. While the initial cost of a split system may be higher due to the complexity of installation, they can potentially save money in the long run with their higher efficiency. On the other hand, packaged systems generally have a lower upfront cost, but may have higher energy costs over time due to their lower efficiency. 


In conclusion, the choice between a split system and a packaged system is not a simple one. It depends on several factors such as the size and layout of the property, the climate, and the specific cooling and heating needs of the occupants.

Choosing Between a Split System and a Packaged System

Consider the Size of the Building

Choosing between a split system and a packaged system involves several factors. One primary aspect to consider is the size of the building. Split systems are often preferred for larger properties due to their flexibility in design and function. They can be tailored to meet the specific needs of different areas within the property, offering a more customized approach to heating and cooling. 

Consider the Costs

However, this customization comes at the cost of a more complex installation process, potentially leading to higher upfront costs. On the other hand, packaged systems are often a better fit for smaller properties. These systems are more compact and easier to install, making them an ideal choice for properties with limited space. Yet, while packaged systems may offer lower upfront costs, they may not provide the same level of energy efficiency as split systems, potentially leading to higher operational costs in the long run. 

The Climate and Weather Conditions of the Property’s Location 

The climate and weather conditions of the property’s location are another crucial factor in the decision-making process. In regions with extreme temperature fluctuations, a split system’s better energy efficiency can help maintain a comfortable indoor environment while keeping energy costs manageable. However, in milder climates, the simpler installation and maintenance of packaged systems may be more beneficial, as the potential energy savings from a split system might not be as pronounced. 


In conclusion, both split and packaged systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between the two requires careful consideration of the property size, local climate, and the balance between upfront costs and long-term energy efficiency.



In conclusion, both split and packaged HVAC systems offer distinct advantages that make them suitable for different situations. Split systems, with their superior energy efficiency, are an excellent choice for larger properties or regions that experience extreme temperatures. Despite their higher upfront costs, they provide long-term savings through reduced energy bills. On the other hand, packaged systems, with their straightforward installation and maintenance, are ideal for smaller properties and milder climates. Although these systems might have higher operational costs due to lower energy efficiency, their lower initial investment can make them a more affordable choice for many homeowners and property managers. 


It is crucial to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to HVAC systems. What works best for one property may not be the best for another. Factors such as property size, local climate, budget, and personal preferences all play a role in the decision-making process. Therefore, it is essential to thoroughly understand the unique needs of your property, and consider the pros and cons of each system before making a decision. 


Ultimately, the right HVAC system for you will depend on a balance of these factors. Whether you choose a split system or a packaged system, it’s about finding the best way to maintain a comfortable and efficient living or working environment. Remember, the primary goal is to choose a system that will provide the best indoor air quality, temperature control, and energy efficiency for your specific needs. Choose Armstrong Air And Electric for your HVAC installation needs. With their expertise, you’ll get a seamless installation process, ensuring optimal comfort and energy efficiency for your home.


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Armstrong Air And Electric

5435 N 59th St, Tampa, Florida, 33610, US


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