Difference Between Central Air Conditioning and Forced Air

Types of Air
Thu, 06/09/2022 - 10:33am 

Difference Between Central Air Conditioning and Forced Air

With home comfort, there are some terms that tend to be a common source of confusion because of some overlaps with definitions. Two of these are central air conditioning and forced air. Part of the reason for this is how central AC systems work. Still, there are some notable differences you'll want to know about as you consider your home comfort possibilities.

What Is Central Air Conditioning?

A central AC unit uses a forced air system for distribution purposes. Its primary function is to distribute cool air throughout your inside spaces. A central air unit is referred to as a closed-loop system that sends refrigerated air into your home via ductwork to lower the humidity level inside. Central air conditioning units are made of key parts that include:

  • An outside condenser unit, which also houses the compressor
  • A fan and evaporator coils
  • Coolant lines

What's a Forced Air System?

A forced air system is so-named because it "forces" air throughout your home via ducts and registers. It's a term many people use to refer to a furnace. However, it's a generic term for any HVAC system that sends heated or cool air into various interior areas with help from ductwork and some type of mechanical equipment. In broad terms, a forced air system could technically refer to:

  • A gas or electric furnace
  • An electric heat pump that uses ducts
  • A central air conditioning system

So, What's the Difference?

A central air conditioning system does use ductwork to do its job of cooling your home, but that's all it does. It's independent of your furnace, which is why there's a need for an outside unit. It only borrows your existing delivery system, a.k.a. the ductwork you already have in your home for your furnace, to distribute cooled air evenly throughout your home during the warmer months of the year.

What If You Don't Have Ducts?

A standard central air conditioning system does need ductwork to operate. If you heat your home without an actual furnace, there are other cooling options to consider. One of the more common ones is a ductless mini-split system. It works similar to a central AC unit, except it doesn't need ducts. It's a more individualized option in that it provides cooling in only specific rooms or areas.

You can still have a furnace in your home and ducts but still have certain spaces without duct access. This is often the case with enclosed porches added later or new room additions. Basements may also lack ductwork. In this instance, supplemental cooling options can be beneficial, even if you already have a central AC system for the rest of your home.

Call Us Today

Staying cool and comfy in your home is certainly important. At Command Service Center, we think it's just as beneficial to have a better understanding of how anything you're considering for indoor comfort purposes functions and produces the desired results. Our friendly, experienced HVAC technicians are here to help so you can decide what's right for your home needs.

Contact us today to set up an appointment or talk to someone from our team.


Need to request a service appointment? Contact Command Service Center at (847) 558-7780 or use our online form to get started today!