How Does Central Air Work in Apartments?

  • September 29, 2022
  • By MR COOL

For many potential tenants, central air is an attractive amenity to have in an apartment. People want to feel cool during the hot months and warm during the winter without worrying about the added expense of an air conditioner or constantly running the fan. Having central air adds convenience for residents and can increase future cash flow for landlords.

Can Apartments Have Central Air?

It’s entirely possible for apartments to have central air. However, many buildings don’t utilize this option, and most people consider central air a luxury. Although some people prefer to have the convenience of a heating and cooling system, offering central air can be the deciding factor in moving for some potential residents, especially if they don’t currently own their own window unit.

How Does Central Air Work in Apartments?

When deciding to implement central air into your building, you have the option to give tenants individual control or utilize shared services.

Individual control will allow each tenant to set their controls to their needs, and you won’t have an added cost of cooling or heating areas that aren’t being used. Compartmentalizing individual units requires an exterior wall to ventilate the air. An apartment central air conditioner has built-in ductwork that can cool or warm a space.

To utilize the system, you need to place the heat pump, outdoor condenser and additional equipment in a setting that’s accessible but people don’t frequent often. Most equipment will be able to fit on the roof, but you can also place it next to your building on the ground or a window ledge if it’s compact.

The system connects to the living space via plastic or metal ducts. The air enters the room through the supply vent, and the system pulls air through the return vent. Fans keep the air running and allow cool or warm air to enter the unit.

Benefits of Central AC in Apartments

If you’re still considering whether you should get central air, we’ve compiled a list of benefits of using central air in apartments:

  • Better circulation: You can place multiple vents into the same unit so that numerous spaces are cooled and heated rather than experiencing cold or hot spots.
  • Dual purpose: Central air will cool and heat spaces from the same equipment, so you don’t have to utilize two separate units.
  • Quieter operation: Typically, the loudest components are outside the building or window, so you don’t have to hear the system running. Newer models have additional technology to make central air units even quieter.
  • Controlled thermostat: Most systems have thermostats that allow tenants to control the airflow through the entire apartment rather than individual rooms.
  • Regulated temperature: Multiple vents allow the entire area to remain at the same temperature.
  • Visual appeal: Central air units eliminate the need for window air conditioners that protrude from the building. Your building will look better outside and inside with central air vents.
  • Ample light: The duct system enables tenants to move furniture and objects wherever they want them without worrying about blocking their air units. Furthermore, the system itself will not block the window and will allow sunlight to filter into the room uninhibited.

Central Air Compared to Other Cooling Options

Choosing the right heating and cooling system for your building is vital. To keep residents comfortable, avoid unnecessary costs, increase security and reduce the need for repairs, you must install the proper unit to run through the building efficiently.

Window A/C

Window A/C units are popular additions to many apartments in the warmer times of the year. They can be relatively cheap and do a sufficient job cooling the room you install them in. For smaller or one-room apartments, these units may suffice. However, more affordable units typically don’t produce warm air, and taking them out in the winter can be a hassle. Not to mention, if you won’t be providing them, some potential tenants will turn away at the additional cost of supplying their own. 

These units will also protrude from the building, and some residents may use them, while others will find alternative methods to save costs, affecting the aesthetic of your building. Further, if you plan to cover the energy bills of your tenants, you can expect a spike in electricity during the summer.


You can install packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs) through the walls and place them under a window. These are the units you think of when you imagine the last hotel room you stayed in. They’re a relatively common air unit that hotels, offices and some homeowners use.

PTAC systems will enable tenants to customize temperature settings for each room in their apartments. They’re easy to use and can be a cost-effective choice for landlords and property managers.

On the other hand, the installation process is lengthy, and you can only install them in areas that have outdoor access. Additionally, PTAC systems aren’t suited for larger apartments the way central air is. So, if you have large units, you’ll need to install more than one.


Mini-split units have an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit that controls the air. These systems can be a great option for spaces where ductwork is impossible. You can place the mini-split in various locations, including the wall or ceiling, and it’ll run quietly. Because central air requires ducts, mini-splits are an excellent alternative to central air.

However, as a landlord, utilizing mini-splits involves checking each unit and maintaining each one. Furthermore, mini-splits allow temperature control for individual rooms, while central air will keep a consistent temperature throughout the entire apartment.

Upgrading to Central Air in Apartments

Determining whether you should upgrade to central air is dependent on cost, location and repairs or replacements.

Installing central air units can be costly. If you have a limited cash flow, upgrading to central air can impact your budget significantly. However, if you live in an area where central air is offered by many landlords, opting for a different system could hurt your potential prospects and affect your long-term cash flow.

Some regions have mild or temperate summers. When it isn’t always needed, offering central air can impede potential residents from justifying what they see as an additional and unnecessary cost. On the other hand, some locations experience severely hot weather, and central air is expected and necessary. Those living in southern states will be less likely to want to live in a building without regulated temperature.

Many states require landlords to take responsibility for the function and repairs of air units when you install them. You’ll need to evaluate the laws of your state to determine what exactly you’re responsible for and budget for those costs accordingly.

Become a MRCOOL Reseller

MRCOOL systems operate with state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and have advanced designs that deliver efficient and comfortable air to anyone who needs it — including apartment buildings. We’ve expanded with smartphone and wireless technology so you can control your units from anywhere, and we continue to develop innovative ideas that make you even more comfortable.

Become a MRCOOL reseller today.

4 thoughts on “How Does Central Air Work in Apartments?”

  1. Purchased a 4 Gen DIY from your distributor Chill Mini Splits. UPS banged up the condenser, plus I am missing the parts bag that was in the box. Drain hose, rubber feet, tape, insert, material you fill hole with etc. The unit has dents in it as well. Tyler at Chill MS stated it shipped from Mr Cool. He send me tape, and an insert. Suggested I install it to see if it works. It does, however it is incomplete without the other parts. Also I have concerns about my warranty now after reading you warranty especially about damage to the condenser. Suggestion? Help? I did submit the warranty on line to you for the product record. My name is Robert Gerding.

  2. So my ex mother in law lives in Utah at some apartments called The CottonWood Apartments and I’m just curious as to know if anyone can tell me what kind of air and heating system is used. I know the noisy or fans that are outside her building and that kick on and off and I’m not sure if it’s a split type or a central air type but it has its own thermostat in the apartment and also has a bathroom fan with a switch that you can turn off and on but I’m not sure of what kind of system they are using.

    1. It’s possible that each apartment unit has its own central split system, meaning there’s an interior air handler (typically in a closet, attic, or basement) that pushes air through ductwork and an outdoor condenser that works to provide the cooled or heated air, or a package system (typically large), which does the work of both air handler and condenser in one outdoor unit. The fan in the bathroom is likely not connected to ductwork.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Are you a MRCOOL reseller or installer?
For questions about becoming a reseller or representative call 270-366-0457.

Sign Up