Do I need a split or a packaged air conditioner? What is the difference?There are several types of heating and air conditioning units, but the two main kinds are: split air conditioners, and packaged air conditioners.
Split Air Conditioners - these units are the most common, and include two parts: an outside and an inside component (a condensing unit and evaporator coil, respectively). These two components are split up, hence the name. If you have a closet in your home that has your furnace or air conditioner inside of it, or if your furnace or air conditioner has components inside of your attic or under your house, then you likely have a split unit.
Packaged Air Conditioners - packaged units do NOT have components that are inside of your house like a split unit does. Instead, a packaged unit has the air conditioner and heater components all "packaged" (hence the name) together into a single unit that usually sits on your roof, or less commonly, on the side of your house. If you have a large unit on your roof, and no components inside your attic, basement, or in a closet, then you likely have a packaged heating and air conditioning unit. Another way to tell, is that a packaged unit is outside, and has ductwork that comes out of it and penetrates your house through a roof or a wall.
Typically speaking, you'll replace your air conditioning system with a system of the same kind. So, if you have a split air conditioning system, then you'll replace it with another split system, and the same goes for packaged systems.
For more on the differences between split and packaged systems, try this article: