HVAC Split System vs Packaged Unit

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With the different types of commercial HVAC systems on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one to choose for your building. HVAC systems are not only useful in keeping the temperature of your space comfortable, but they also improve indoor air quality.

Two of the most common HVAC types are split systems and packaged units. Both are efficient, well-designed HVAC systems, but one will provide more significant benefits based on your space. A split system’s components are located in different locations of your building, while a packaged unit contains all components in one location. Space, cost, and efficiency preferences will mostly determine which type of HVAC system will work best for your facility.

So, which type of commercial HVAC system best suits your building?

Split System HVAC

A split system is exactly what it sounds like — an HVAC system that is split into more than one part. The units of a split system are installed in two separate places, with one cabinet being indoors and the other outdoors. Its indoor cabinet holds parts such as the evaporator coil, while the outdoor cabinet holds the unit’s condenser coil and compressor.

When cooling a facility, the indoor unit pulls warm air from inside, sending the heat outside. Meanwhile, the outdoor unit produces refrigerant, supplying the indoor unit with cool air to disperse throughout the air ducts. Split systems will usually provide both air conditioning and heat, so a separate heating system isn’t needed.

Rooftop split system HVAC unit installed on top of a building

Split System HVAC Unit

There are various types of split systems, including but not limited to single-split, multi-split, mini-split, and ductless.

The Benefits of a Split System


Since there are two cabinets, the location of each can be very versatile.

Low Cost

These systems are often cost-efficient compared to other HVAC systems.

Optimal Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)

This means that the air conditioning output during the summer is efficient compared to the amount of energy used.

When a Split System is Best

Since the indoor cabinets can be quite extensive, a split system is best suited for large buildings that have ample room for HVAC components, especially if the HVAC unit is serving multiple floors.

Packaged Unit HVAC

Rooftop Trane commercial packaged HVAC unit installed on top of a building

Packaged Unit HVAC

On the other hand, a packaged unit houses all of the HVAC components in one metal cabinet typically located outside. Since the unit is outdoors, packaged units won’t take up inside space or be loud from indoors.

Packaged units operate through the ductwork connecting the outdoor cabinet to all rooms in the building. Although the unit is outside, its controls are located indoors, like a home thermostat.

The Benefits of a Packaged Unit

Easy Maintenance

Being one all-inclusive unit makes it easy to install and maintain.


Since the unit is outdoors, it usually isn’t heard from inside the building.


Both the heating and cooling components are located in one cabinet outdoors.

When a Packaged Unit is Best

Because of their nature, packaged units are great for buildings with less indoor space and/or those that are serving customers inside the location. 

Other Types of HVAC Systems

Along with split systems and packaged units, RBI also offers rooftop and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) services. Rooftop units are similar to packaged units in the sense that all components are housed in one cabinet, but these are always placed on the roof of a building. A VRF system is a ductless HVAC option that allows accurate temperature control for various rooms.

Which Type of Commercial HVAC Works Best For You?

Split systems, packaged units, rooftop units, and VRFs are all great options to consider when looking for a commercial HVAC system. When making your decision, first consider your space and if you have room for a portion of your unit to be indoors. It's also important to consider the level of flexibility you'd like in choosing its location, and the noise level that would be acceptable inside your building. While split systems aren’t necessarily loud, because packaged units are entirely outdoors, they’re often quieter. If you're looking for an expert recommendation on the best HVAC system for your building, RBI can help.

RBI is a premier full-service plumbing, mechanical, service, controls, and design-build company. We provide custom services tailored to meet your needs and requirements at each stage of your HVAC system journey, from helping you find the right equipment to installing and maintaining your system.