South Suburbs


South Suburbs

Commercial Air Conditioner Units vs. Residential Units

Commercial Air Conditioner Units vs. Residential Units

Whether it be for a business or a home, HVAC systems are necessary for everyone. You might not think there is much difference between commercial and residential systems, but there is! Let Service Now! Chatham Comfort Controls guide you as you learn about the differences between commercial air conditioners and residential ones. You can decide which one is right for you.


As you might expect, size is one of the most significant differences between residential and commercial air conditioners. Most residential buildings only need one AC unit and one thermostat. Commercial air conditioners have to regulate the air in much larger spaces like warehouses, department stores, and office buildings so that they will be larger and likely have multiple thermostats. Residential air conditioners also typically keep parts of the system like the condenser and evaporator in different parts of the property. Commercial air conditioners consolidate these components into a single rooftop area to save space and reduce the system’s noise.

Energy Use

Perhaps the most significant difference between residential and commercial air conditioners is how much energy they need to operate. The spaces involved are radically different: the average American home is smaller than 2,700 square feet, while the average size of recent commercial buildings is nearly 19,000 square feet. More space means more people in these cases, so commercial air conditioners must draw more power to cool all employees and visitors effectively. Residential air conditioners use comparatively little energy because they cool smaller spaces with only a handful of people.


Apart from size and energy use, residential and commercial air conditioners differ in structure and complexity. Most homeowners can perform essential maintenance and cleanings on their residential units since these air conditioners are relatively small and straightforward. They may need only one technician to inspect and repair.

By contrast, commercial air conditioners are far more complex. Because commercial air conditioning systems have to be installed on many different buildings, they are more flexible and expandable than residential units. Depending on the work being done in the building, they may need to be specialized to cool, heat, or vent appropriately. Commercial air conditioners also require a team of experienced, skilled technicians to install and maintain.


Every HVAC system, whether residential or commercial, has a drainage system. In residential units, the system drains moisture into a single outdoor condensate pan at ground level.

Commercial air conditioners have a more complicated system. To prevent flooding and overheating, multiple pipes and pans exist in commercial systems to handle larger loads of moisture. The condensate pans in commercial systems are usually located in rooftop areas rather than on the ground.


Residential air conditioners require minimal maintenance. Their smaller and simpler nature makes it easy for homeowners or single technicians to maintain their units.

Due to their size and complexity, commercial air conditioners are more challenging to maintain. They require a team of trained and skilled technicians to perform maintenance work. Maintenance and repair work on commercial ACs is much more expensive than on residential systems. Commercial air conditioners also need much more frequent maintenance, up to 4 or even 12 times a year, though some only need maintenance once a year.


Commercial air conditioners are costlier and more complicated to maintain, but that does come with upsides apart from sheer size. Residential air conditioners rarely have as long a lifespan as their commercial counterparts. Many factors determine the longevity of an AC system, including how much maintenance it receives, how hard it works, and what conditions it works under. Most residential ACs will last between 10 and 20 years before they need to be replaced.

Like residential systems, regular maintenance makes all the difference for commercial air conditioners. A commercial system that never receives any maintenance might last 15-18 years, while one that receives the bare minimum might hit 18-20. A decently well-maintained system can last for 20-25 years. Some manufacturers claim a high-quality, regularly maintained commercial air conditioner can last for over 25 years. Regardless, in terms of longevity, bigger is better.

Other Differences

There are a few other miscellaneous differences between residential and commercial air conditioners. Commercial systems tend to be customized for heating and cooling and thus work more intensely. Commercial air conditioners have multiple thermostats in different parts of the building so that temperatures can be adjusted for individual rooms or floors. Residential units usually have a thermostat accessible to everyone in the household. By contrast, commercial systems typically have their controls in a locked box to prevent the settings from being wantonly changed.

Due to standard business hours, commercial systems also run for more extended periods, usually 40-60 hours a week, compared to residential systems, which typically run for 30-60 hours a week. Commercial units are often easier to get spare parts for because of their longer lifespans and can accept generic parts. Residential units may not have a supply of genuine spare parts, so the whole system must be replaced if a vital part fails. Fortunately, most residential units are covered by a 5-year warranty, while commercial air conditioners have warranties that last 1 to 5 years.

Service Now! Chatham Comfort Controls Knows Which Is Best For You

At Service Now! Chatham Comfort Controls, we can tell which type of air conditioner is best for your needs. With over 30 years of experience in the HVAC industry, there’s a good reason we have an A+ rating from Chicagolands Better Business Bureau. Due to our commitment to customer satisfaction, we are the most trusted HVAC company in the area. So don’t gamble on what kind of AC is best for you. Call Service Now! Chatham Comfort Controls today!

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