Reliable Heating & Cooling

The Five Types of Residential HVAC Systems

As you shop for a new HVAC system for your home, you might wonder whether you should opt for the same system you traditionally use or try something different. Our technicians at Reliable Heating & Cooling, your trusted HVAC contractor in Holland, MI, can offer guidance to inform your decision. The five most common types of residential HVAC systems have pros and cons and work differently depending on your household needs. 

Learn about the variations below, and discover which best suits your family. 

Types of Residential HVAC Systems

What does HVAC mean? It stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.

When choosing an HVAC system for your property, you want one that facilitates year-round comfort, indoor health, and savings. The following HVAC systems have varying operations and work differently to protect your family’s health and comfort. 

#1 Split Systems

A traditional split system, better known as central heating and air conditioning, features two units for warm and cool air as commanded through a thermostat. These systems use a set of two conditioning units. The outdoor units cool the air that enters a house, while the indoor units use gas to circulate heat throughout the building. 

Homeowners often choose them because of their ability to accommodate most residential building sizes. Other advantages of installing a split system include:

  • Complete temperature control from one thermostat
  • Less noise during operation
  • An average lifespan of 15 years or longer with proper maintenance 

However, these systems require consistent annual maintenance. You must also change filters and perform occasional inspections to ensure the system works properly. Installation often costs more and takes longer than other systems. 

#2 Ductless Systems

Most traditional HVAC systems feature a duct network that circulates air throughout a building. A ductless system doesn’t need ducts or vents. Instead, an outdoor compressor draws air inside and conditions it, releasing it into the building. The air handler connected to the indoor wall deposits the air. 

Ductless mini-split systems are among the most popular types of ductless HVAC systems. Their compact size and energy efficiency make them an attractive option for homeowners looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, they also come with some disadvantages, such as:

  • High installation costs
  • Not ideal for larger buildings
  • Ineffective during extreme temperature fluctuations

#3 Hybrid Systems

Hybrid systems function similarly to the average split system. They feature a familiar structure that includes thermostats and duct and vent networks. However, they often use less energy and combine a central unit with alternative forms of temperature conditioning. 

For example, you could choose a hybrid system that primarily relies on electric heating and cooling from an electric heat pump. If the heat pump fails or works too hard to maintain warm temperatures during cool seasons, the system will automatically switch to a fuel-powered unit.

Homeowners love these systems due to consistent energy savings. They don’t have to sacrifice comfort to positively impact the environment. However, these systems often cost more upfront, which deters some customers.   

#4 Packaged Systems

Packaged types of residential HVAC systems consist of single outdoor units that package heating and cooling elements. They use duct networks to disperse air throughout the building, much like traditional duct systems. However, they only rely on one self-contained conditioning unit. 

They have lower installation costs than other systems. They also have fewer maintenance requirements, which makes them an attractive option for homeowners who want fewer to-dos on their chore lists. Their pitfalls include:

  • Unsuitability for large buildings
  • Less heating power in colder climates
  • Higher susceptibility to damage from outdoor elements

#5 Zoned Systems

Zoned HVAC systems provide higher comfort levels, especially for larger households. They typically have more features that improve temperature and humidity control. Other HVAC varieties may leave some indoor areas too warm or cool, depending on the thermostat’s location. 

A zoned system may have multiple units around the outdoor area. Each system controls a portion of the house. Homeowners can turn off or lessen airflow in unused areas, saving on utility bills. Some other perks of zoned HVAC systems include:

  • Improved energy efficiency 
  • Impeccable comfort throughout the building
  • Better humidity management
  • Increased indoor air quality

These systems also require more maintenance and have higher installation costs. The expenses and maintenance commitments might deter you from selecting zoned HVAC installation.

Which HVAC System Should You Choose?

Consider numerous factors before settling on an HVAC system. Each variety meets specific needs but may fall short in other areas. You’ll find some pertinent factors that may influence your decision below. 


Some systems require extensive maintenance each year, while others need minimal attention. For example, a system featuring an outdoor unit needs professional maintenance annually. Meanwhile, heat pumps and packaged systems don’t need as many checkups to ensure their integrity. 

Home Size

Your home’s square footage should significantly influence your final decision. Mini-splits and packaged units aren’t compatible with large, sprawling homes. However, you can save money and reduce energy usage by installing one in a small building.

Conditioning Method

What makes you feel more comfortable at home?

Systems using duct networks force air through the vents. While this method ensures consistent temperatures, it makes the room feel less humid. Inadequate humidity may cause discomfort and lower air quality in cold months. 


Regions with intense winters don’t pair well with some heat pumps and packaged models. You must combine these systems with another heating method to ensure consistent warmth throughout your home. However, they work fantastic in warmer climates with mild winters. 

Conversely, a central HVAC system may use unnecessary resources to warm homes in mild climates. An experienced HVAC technician can help you make the right choices according to your home size, local climate, and comfort needs! 

Reliable Heating & Cooling Can Help You Choose!

Need help to choose from these types of residential HVAC systems? Our team at Reliable Heating & Cooling can help! We’ll pencil you in for the best time to replace your HVAC system following a free service estimate.

Call 616-201-3511 to book an appointment today!