What is central cooling

If you’ve been wondering, “What is central cooling?”, then this article is for you.

Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this type of cooling system.

In particular, you’ll learn what does central cooling mean, the types of central air conditioners available, the various parts that make up the system, the benefits, and the average life span for these units.

So, let’s get to it.

What is Central Cooling?

Central cooling (or central air conditioning) is a system that cools air at a central location. The cold air is then distributed to the various rooms in your home or office with fans and ductwork. Central cooling systems are made up of three integral parts: a condenser, compressor, and evaporator.

What Does Central Cooling Mean?

Central cooling means central air conditioning or central A/C. A central cooling system works to deliver cool air throughout residential and commercial buildings. A central air system can be a split-system unit or a packaged unit. Split-systems include an outdoor condenser and an indoor evaporator. Packaged units contain both parts in one unit.

Types of Central Air Conditioners

Central cooling systems come in two main types: a split-system and a packaged unit.

Let’s take a look at the specifics of each of these types of central air conditioners.


As the name implies, with a split-system air conditioner, this central cooling system is split between having components inside and outside the building.

Located outside is a unit that houses the condenser and compressor.

The condenser is part of an air conditioner or heat pump that either releases or collects heat, depending on the time of the year. 

The compressor is the part that compresses the refrigerant to get it to the right pressure and temperature before it passes through the condenser coil.

Located inside is a unit that contains the evaporator. This part of the unit often contains an air handler too.

The evaporator works the opposite of the condenser. It coverts refrigerant liquid into a gas and absorbs heat from the air.

When the liquid refrigerant reaches the evaporator the pressure has been reduced, which dissipates the heat content and makes it much cooler than the air around it.

The air handler contains the components that move the air throughout your building, such as a blower. This is big unit that requires a good amount of space to fit. That’s why they’re often installed inside an attic or basement area.

Cool air is delivered throughout the building through metal tubing called “ducts”.

Packaged Unit

If you get a packaged air conditioner, the condenser, compressor, evaporator, and air handler are all contained in one unit.

This unit can be located on your roof or a concrete slab next to your home.

Typically, packaged unit cooling systems are used in small commercial buildings or homes that don’t have interior space to house the air handler to keep them cool.

A ductless air conditioner (or mini split AC system) is an alternative to packaged cooling systems because they have smaller indoor and outdoor units.

Also, mini split systems don’t need ducts to deliver the cool air. Instead, the two parts of the system are linked with small tubes, and the indoor evaporator hangs on a wall.

If running ductwork is not possible inside a home or office, then you’ll want to check out our best ductless air conditioners guide to see what options are available.

Parts of a Central Cooling System

Here are the parts of a central cooling system that are in place to make the cooling process possible:

  • The condenser coil, compressor, electrical components, and a fan are generally housed in an outdoor metal cabinet.
  • The evaporator coil is often placed on the inside of the home on top of your furnace.
  • Pipes or refrigeration lines connect the inside and outside units to each other.
  • Refrigerant circulates through the indoor and outdoor components of the A/C unit to cool the air.
  • Ducts are located inside the building to transport the cool air to every room.
  • A thermostat located inside the home or office is what allows you to set the cooling temperature.

How a Cooling System Works

In addition to knowing the parts of a central cooling system, it’s also beneficial to understand a little bit about how it works.

Here’s a quick overview of how it makes your house or office cool and comfortable:

  • Using electricity, the refrigerant flows through the pipes that connect the indoor equipment to the outdoor equipment.
  • Electricity also powers a fan, which pulls warm air from the inside of the building into the unit.
  • The refrigerant travels from the compressor coil, which is in the outdoor cabinet, to the evaporator coil, which is inside the building. Along the way, it absorbs the heat from the air.
  • Once the air has been cooled to the desired temperature, it is then blown into each room through ducts.

As long as you have your central air conditioner on, this cycle will continue to cool the air in your home and ensure that you stay cool and comfortable.

Benefits of Central Cooling

There are a number of benefits to having a central cooling system in your home or office, including: 

Cleaner Air

As the warm air from each room is sucked into the return vents, it’s pushed through a filter.

Airborne particles such as lint, dust, pollen, and bacteria get trapped in the filter’s fibers.

This filtered air is then cooled and released back into your home or office.

Since most of the contaminants have been removed, you are able to breathe cooler and cleaner air.

Quiet Operation

With a central air conditioner, the compressor unit is located outside.

This design makes central cooling systems much quieter than other types of air conditioners, like window AC units and portable AC units.

In fact, you may not be able to hear your central air conditioner at all when it’s running.

The only way you’ll know it’s working is because your house will be cool.

Compare that to the top rated window air conditioners and the best stand up air conditioners that can reach up to 60db of noise level or more.

Reduces Humidity

Central cooling systems take the existing air that’s inside the building and condition it so that it’s cooler.

During this process, water vapor is also absorbed and removed from the rooms.

This result is lower relative humidity, which makes your home or office feel less muggy and reduces the chance of mold growth.

Keeps You Cool

This is the most obvious benefit of a central cooling system: it keeps you cool while being indoors.

No matter how hot it gets outside, you’re still cool inside your home or office building.

Average Lifespan of Central Cooling System

On average, you can expect newer central air conditioning systems to last between 15 and 20 years.

However, it may be possible to extend them beyond this lifespan.

Most manufacturers make replacement parts available so that your air conditioner can fixed when it breaks down. This also allows it to last longer than the recommended lifespan.

In addition, if you do proper maintenance and have the central cooling system inspected by a professional HVAC technician, you may be able to squeeze more years out of it.

The low cost for yearly maintenance can save you a lot of money from having to purchase a new system.

Summary of What is Central Cooling

We hope this guide answered all of your questions about what is central cooling.

As you learned in the section about what does central cooling mean, it consists of a system that delivers cool air throughout your home or office building. And it can be designed in two ways: as a split-system or packaged unit.

There are a number of parts that make a central air conditioner system work, and each one has a specific role in cooling the air around you. 

Also, central cooling systems provide additional benefits than just cold air. You can get cleaner air, quiet operation, lower humidity levels too.