fan coil unit installed in hotel room
fan coil unit installed in hotel room

Is a fan coil unit a good option for your home? There are numerous methods of heating and cooling houses today. Forced air furnaces and air conditioners are the most prevalent systems, but they require ductwork. Ductwork installation in a pre-existing home is an expensive and invasive construction project. Fortunately, several alternative heating and cooling systems are on the market.

A fan coil unit is one alternative system for homes without ductwork. Fan coil units come in various styles, but they all use a fan and a coil to heat and cool air. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of fan coils, and discover if a fan coil unit is suitable for your home.

What is a fan coil?

A fan coil unit (FCU) is a stand-alone indoor heating and cooling unit that is not typically connected to ductwork. Fan coil units can control individual rooms' temperature or connect to ductwork to serve multiple spaces. Some fan coil units are paired with air conditioners, heat pumps, or furnaces. Fan coil units are ideal climate control units for condos, apartments, offices, and hotel rooms.

How do fan coil units work?

An on/off switch or thermostat controls the fan coil unit’s functions. A fan inside the unit draws in air from the indoor space. Some units allow the introduction of fresh air from outside, too. The incoming air passes through a filter and flows across the unit’s coil. Refrigerant or cold/hot water circulates through the coil to heat or chill the air. Some units use electric heat strips for heating. The fan blows the conditioned air out of the system and back into the indoor space.

how a furnace fan coil works illustration

Types of Fan Coil Units

Four types of fan coil units are:

  • Concealed horizontal ceiling mounted
  • Exposed horizontal ceiling mounted
  • Vertical floor/wall mounted
  • Under floor horizontal mounted
Concealed Horizontal Ceiling Mounted fan coil unit in hotel room

Concealed Horizontal Ceiling Mounted

This fan coil is mounted above the ceiling, so the unit is hidden. Air flows through grilles in the ceiling and ducts connected to the unit. Concealed ceiling-mounted units are generally quieter than exposed units.

Exposed Horizontal Ceiling Mounted fan coil unit in office

Exposed Horizontal Ceiling Mounted

Exposed ceiling-mounted units are hung below the ceiling and are visible. These units can utilize grilles and ducts to distribute air or blows directly from the unit.

Vertical Floor/Wall Mounted fan coil unit installed in hotel room

Vertical Floor/Wall Mounted

This fan coil is mounted vertically on the floor or a wall near the floor. It draws air through a grille on the bottom of the unit and blows the conditioned air upwards through a grille on the top.

Under Floor Horizontal Mounted fan coil unit illustration

Under Floor Horizontal Mounted

This rare style of fan coil is mounted under the floor. Air flows through grilles and ducts connected to the unit.

Advantages of a Fan Coil

  • Cooling and heating functions
  • Ability to separately control room temperatures
  • Requires less space than ducted units
  • Flexible installation positions and locations
  • Cheaper and easier installation than ducted units
  • Air does not mix with air in other spaces
  • Cools and heats rooms quickly
  • Dehumidifies rooms
  • No harmful fuel emissions
  • Easy to maintain and replace
  • Efficient if well-maintained

Disadvantages of a Fan Coil

  • Noisy
  • Unsightly
  • Produces dry air
  • Valves can leak
  • Some units require maintenance of distillation trays, drainage units, and disposal of distillation liquid
  • Most units don’t introduce fresh air
  • Filters are small and inefficient

Fan Coil vs Air Handler

A fan coil is a stand-alone unit that cools, heats, and circulates air indoors. An air handler unit (AHU) is an HVAC system component that moves air through a house’s ductwork after it has been cooled or heated by an air conditioner or heat pump.

Fan Coil vs Heat Pump

Fan coils and heat pumps are different types of HVAC equipment. Fan coils draw in air, heat or cool it, and circulate the air back into the room. Heat pumps transfer heat between the inside and outside of the house.

Fan coils and heat pumps have some similarities. Both have heating and cooling abilities, manage humidity levels, and work separately, paired together, or combined with furnaces or air conditioners.


A fan coil unit (FCU) is a stand-alone heating and cooling unit that does not require ductwork. Fan coil units are incredibly versatile. They can control the temperatures of individual rooms, connect to ductwork to serve multiple rooms, and be paired with air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces for supplemental heating and cooling. Fan coil units have many applications, including houses, apartments, condos, offices, and hotel rooms.

The fan and the coil are the main components of a fan coil unit. The fan draws in air from the space, the coil cools or heats, and the fan blows the treated air back into the area. Refrigerant, cold water, or hot water circulates through the coil to raise or lower the temperature of the air passing over the coil.

Fan coils provide heating and cooling, don’t require ductwork, are cheaper and easier to install than ducted units, and can be used in a single room or connect multiple rooms. On the downside, fan coil units can be noisy, unsightly, and produce dry, stale air.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are fan coil units noisy?

Some models of fan coils are somewhat noisy, and the way fan coils are mounted influences the noise level. Units mounted above ceilings are quiet, with sound levels ranging from 23 to 30 decibels. A whisper is equivalent to 30 decibels.

Do fan coil units use refrigerant?

Some fan coils use refrigerants. Others use cold and hot water produced by chillers and boilers.

How much is a fan coil?

Depending on type and size, fan coil prices range from $400 to $3,500.

How long do fan coil units last?

Fan coils last ten to fifteen years with proper maintenance.

Do fan coil units have filters?

Yes, fan coil units have filters. The filters are smaller and less efficient than furnace air filters.


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