With a "split system," the condenser is outside the house and the fan-and-coil system are inside; they're connected to each other by pipes that carry refrigerant. If you have a forced-air furnace, the refrigerant pipes are connected to a cooling coil system fitted into the furnace air handler. Sometimes it goes right into the existing plenum. If that won't work because of space limitations, the contractor will fabricate a separate sheet-metal plenum. If you don't have forced air, the fan-and-coil system is typically placed in the attic, where it will deliver cool air through ducts. The 20- to 30-foot-long pipes that carry the refrigerant are disguised to look like a downspout.

Proper placement. Even the quietest condensers make noise, so work with your contractor to find a location that's not near a bedroom or home-office window. Don't place the condenser under a deck or completely enclose it because it exhausts warm air out the top. Any airflow restriction will lower the unit's efficiency. You can, however, hide the condenser in the landscaping, as long as air can freely circulate around it.

No Ducts? No Problem

Most central air conditioners are split systems: The condenser is outside and the fan-and-coil system is inside, connected to the condenser by pipes that run up the outside of the house. The pipes can be disguised as part of the gutter-and-downspout system. Ductwork services second-floor rooms through ceiling registers. Ducts run through closets on their way to first-floor rooms.
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