With so many variables, looking at air conditioners can be overwhelming. To help, here are a couple of basic choices you will need to make. After you've made these decisions, you can pick which extra features you want to include.
Ducted, Split System, or Portable
Air conditioners come in several variants: portable, split-system, and ducted. Which is right for you depends primarily on the areas you want to cool. If you want to cover multiple living areas and bedrooms, making your entire house comfortable, a ducted system may be best. However, if you want to cool a room or two, you could opt for a split system instead. A portable unit is ideal for smaller areas.
Each of these options requires varying degrees of home infrastructure that will add to the cost of an air conditioning installation. A ducted system, which is the most extensive, will need a duct network that travels through your house's roof and walls to the room vents. A split system needs less structural groundwork. It requires minimal piping that connects the indoor and outdoor components. And a portable system requires none at all, as you can move it to where you want and plug it in.
Cooling and Heating
Of course, an air conditioner cools a home. But you can also choose a reverse-cycle model that heats as well. The same mechanism that cools a room can work in reverse to heat it. Air conditioners have refrigerant-filled coils that run through the indoor unit and connect to the outdoor unit. In cooling mode, the coils absorb the ambient heat in a room and release this heat outside. A reverse-cycle air conditioner can also do the opposite. In heating mode, it absorbs the ambient warmth in the outside air and brings it indoors.
You'll have to decide whether you want a dedicated air conditioner or a system that keeps your home comfortable in all seasons. An advantage of a reverse-cycle unit is that you'll only have to install and maintain one system, which may reduce the overall costs of looking after both a heating and cooling unit.
Another benefit is that your rooms won't be cluttered with separate bits of machinery. However, you will pay more for a more complex reverse cycle unit that is manufactured to heat and cool. Because these systems relocate heat rather than generate it (as a radiator does, for instance), they're typically relatively cost-effective in terms of energy usage.
Contact a professional to learn more about air conditioning system installation.