Rooftop or Ground AC Unit – Which is Better?

Rooftop or Ground AC Unit - Which is Better?

People often ask us “Is it better to go with a Rooftop HVAC or a Ground Unit HVAC system?”

To help answer your question, let’s go over some details.

Rooftop (packaged) HVAC System

Pros:

-Everything the system needs to deliver conditioned air is contained to one unit, nicely packaged on your roof.

-Less connections between systems.  This can save you on repair costs.  If something breaks, everything will be centrally located in one packaged unit.

-More energy efficient than split systems (ground units)

-Repairs to the system are usually lower in cost

Cons:

-Typically, they cost more than a split system (ground unit)

-Installation cost is higher. Why?  You need a crane to get the heavy system on your roof.

-Some HOA’s in Arizona prohibit roof top hvac systems.  

Ground Units: (Split HVAC System)

Pros:

-Easier access for maintenance

-More customizable when installing

-If replacing components is required, you won’t need to replace the entire HVAC.

Cons:

-Since the system is split up, repairs can sometimes be more costly

-Takes up space in the yard

-Not as efficient as the rooftop (packaged unit) HVAC systems

Which is better?

Since each property is different, there isn’t one answer to this question.  It really depends.  Here are a few more things to consider before deciding.

  • It’s a bummer that this is even an issue, but the sad truth is that the security of your AC unit must be factored in. AC units and the copper inside them have become a hot commodity for thieves, so you need to ensure that if yours is installed on the ground, it is secure. Security is one of the reasons many people opt for rooftop AC units, as it’s more difficult for thieves to get their hands on them.
  • The functionality of your unit is another big concern. Where will it perform the best – on the ground or on the roof? To answer this, you’ll need to consider the climate you’re in along with other factors. If your unit is in direct sunlight for most of the day (as it probably will be if it’s on the roof) it’s performance may suffer. AC units are more efficient when they’re on the ground, which is usually better protected from the sun (either from surrounding trees or the house itself). However, ground-based AC units can also be prone to damage from plant debris or animals.
  • In terms of maintenance, units on the ground are often easier to care for. Not only are they more accessible (no ladder required), they are also in sight so you’re more likely to remember to do regular annual maintenance.
  • Generally speaking, rooftop AC units require much less space than ground-based units. Air conditioners need ample clearance on all sides to ensure they can perform properly, so their footprint is much larger when they’re on the ground – which means it may impact your outdoor living space. On the roof, this isn’t usually a concern, and the unit will take up less room overall.
  • A final consideration into the placement of your AC unit is how it will look once it’s installed. Take a look at the units attached to other homes in your neighborhood. Are they rooftop or ground-based AC units? If they’re all rooftop units, it may look a little strange for your house to be the only one with a unit on the ground. It may sound minor, but it may matter later on, especially if you plan on selling your home in the future.

Would you like a professional to evaluate your HVAC system placement?  We can help.