Packaged Unit vs. Split System: Pros and Cons

Many homes across the United States are equipped with some form of an HVAC system for heating or cooling purposes. And while the main use is primarily the same throughout – to provide daily home comfort – how the system is structured is vastly different. 

When the time to replace your old HVAC system rolls around, homeowners are likely going to be faced with choosing between two kinds of systems; packaged unit vs. split system models.

To the homeowner that’s only recently faced with these kinds of choices, picking one over the other can be a difficult choice to make. What are these HVAC systems and what are their differences? How do you know which one is better for you and your home? Picking the best one is, in fact, a harder choice than expected. 

But that’s why we’ve written this guide to answer the most important questions!

Once you’ve chosen which HVAC system you want to invest in or if you just want to get more information on the difference between a split system vs. package units, you can contact our team at Clover Contracting for all that and more.

What Is a Split System?

Depending on the size of your home and where you’re located, there’s a chance that you’ve already experienced what an HVAC split system is. As one of the key differences between an HVAC packaged unit vs. split systems, the units themselves are separated – or as the name suggests, split – into two or three groups in individual cabinets. 

One of these cabinets holds the evaporator and air handler while the other holds the condenser and compressor units. 

When dealing with these two separate cabinets, having the appropriate space to hold both is important. Depending on the model of your specific split system, you might need additional room since the air handler and the evaporator might require their cabinets. 

Fortunately, these cabinets can be tucked away into a larger attic or a roof crawl space while the condenser’s cabinet remains outside.

What Is an HVAC Packaged Unit?

The main answer to “what is the difference between a split system and a package unit?” is found in the cabinets that house the units. Where split systems have separate cabinets for the condenser and for the evaporator, a packaged unit only has one. Typically, the single packaged unit cabinet is kept outside, making it a good choice for heating or cooling when your home doesn’t have enough room for multiple cabinets. 

Besides the differences between a split system and an HVAC packaged unit, the two systems are quite similar as well. As with many heating or cooling systems, a packaged unit also has a condenser to draw in air and an evaporator to blow it out into the home. Both kinds of systems are still connected via ducts and vents, though that’s where the similarities end. 

Since packaged units have one single, large cabinet outside of the home, the air that the system creates needs to be blown into the home before it gets distributed through the vents. This separates the packaged unit from the split unit since the second cabinet allows less energy usage. 

The Pros and Cons of an HVAC Split System

Much like the other kinds of heating and cooling systems available on the market, split systems have advantages that make them the better choice among their competitors and the other kinds of HVAC systems. These systems have downsides to them as well, so we’ve listed both to help you learn more about an HVAC split system vs. packaged units.

Versatile and Easy to Use

One of the main and most popular benefits of owning a split system has to be the fact that many of these kinds of models allow both heating and cooling from the same single cabinet and evaporator. Since they essentially work the same as a heat pump, all you need to do to switch between modes is to switch the functions of your compressor outside. 

This makes the comparison between a packaged unit vs. split system models lean more toward the split system since many buildings don’t have the space needed for two separate HVAC systems. Small offices, shops, and even small apartments can gain quite a lot from these systems.

Specific Requirements

Where some HVAC systems can be installed with a little help from a technician or even a few online videos, split systems have specific installation requirements and techniques. Typically, only a qualified technician is able to perform these techniques and has access to tools that can prevent damage to the system. Additionally, many split systems have warranties and the only way to verify the warranty is through a technician.

The Pros and Cons of an HVAC Packaged Unit

Much like a split system, there is a wide range of advantages and disadvantages of packaged air conditioners. Many people do have packaged unit systems installed and are likely to keep using similar models when their current one needs replacing. We’ve listed a few of those reasons and why you might prefer these types of systems more between packaged unit vs. split system models.

Lower Levels of Indoor Noise When Used

When it comes to noise, the lack of any indoor cabinets or units makes it so that you don’t hear anything while the system runs, given that it’s still in good shape. 

While this may not be a big difference in comparisons between a packaged unit vs. split systems, since split systems are also quiet, any damage to its indoor evaporator can lead to a lot of noise. In homes with young or elderly people, noise can be quite an issue.

Though both types of systems can be noisy, having their packaged unit outside can be a great thing for many homeowners.

Higher Chances for Damage

Since the packaged unit and all its parts are outside, any small weather change or gust of wind can bring something that causes damage to the system. Many of these system’s models often have some form of protection for that purpose, but – in more extreme climates – a particularly harsh blizzard or hailstorm can still affect the system negatively. And the weather is just one of the ways damage can happen!


There are a number of pros that come with installing a packaged or split system in your home. However, it’s not uncommon for these systems to break down or malfunction. Fortunately, fixing these kinds of issues is as simple as contacting our team at Clover Contracting.

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