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Central Air Conditioning vs. Window A/C Units | Pros & Cons

by vscontent on August 25, 2017

Central Air Conditioning vs. Window A/C Units | Pros & ConsWe all want a little cooling now and again. As to whether it makes more sense to use window A/C units versus central air conditioning, it depends.

Window Units and Portable Air Conditioners

If you are a renter or only need to keep one or two small rooms cool at a time, portable air conditioners and window units will probably suffice. They are also known as room air conditioners because they provide cooling in the room where they are located.

They only cost a few hundred dollars each (approximately $200-$1,000), much less than the $4,000 or so it will cost for an outdoor condenser unit and installation.

Regardless of if you have a portable A/C unit or a window A/C unit, it will need to use a window to vent warm air outside. Some portable air conditioners, however, allow venting through a fireplace or special hole in the wall to the outside.

Pros:

  • Room air conditioners are much cheaper to purchase than large central A/C systems.
  • A handy homeowner with a helper can probably install a window/portable unit without having to call a professional.
  • Although room air conditioners are less efficient than central air conditioners, they are cheaper to operate.
  • Smaller units can be plugged into any 15- or 20-amp circuit. Larger units, however, will need their own dedicated circuit.

Cons:

  • Window units pose a safety hazard due to the nature of their DIY installations.
  • Options are limited depending on the size and shape of your window.
  • Room air conditioners are unsightly for many, forcing you to sacrifice the view, light, and functionality of the window. Through-the-wall room conditioners can solve this problem, but you will need to hire a professional to cut the hole.
  • Some home owner associations (HOAs) ban window units because of their eyesore on the neighborhood.
  • Room air conditioners are not very effective at removing humidity from the air.
  • While air filtration is getting better in room air conditioners, central AC systems do a much better job.

Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning systems are comprised of an outdoor unit (compressor/condenser), indoor unit (air handler/evaporator), and a series of ducts that runs throughout the home. You can also choose ductless mini-split systems, also known as zoned HVAC.

Central A/C has a much higher starting price, but they also do a much better job at keeping the entire home cool and comfortable. You will also save more money on electricity bills and will be able to clean and dehumidify the air much easier. This is something to consider if anyone in the household has asthma, allergies, or respiratory problems.

Pros:

  • Central A/C systems add value to the home.
  • Central systems are more energy efficiency and can effectively cool the entire home.
  • Central systems remove more moisture from the air, reducing the need for cooling.
  • Central air conditioning can be easily added to existing heating system ductwork.
  • Central systems provide much better air filtration than room air conditioners. They will always have more power ad additional options that a window unit won’t have.
  • Central air conditioning cools and circulates air evenly throughout the home while a window unit only cools the room it is installed in.

Cons:

  • There is a higher upfront cost. While you can install room air conditioners on your own, central A/C system require professional installation.
  • If you don’t already have ductwork in the home, this will add considerably more space and cost.

While window units are cheaper in the short run, central air systems and ductless units are more energy efficient and will provide you with more consistent cooling and comfort throughout the year.

However, there are also ways to keep cool without the use of air conditioning:

  • Use a fan.
  • Add insulation to your attic.
  • Seal air leaks and gaps.
  • Install energy-efficient curtains.
  • Replace light bulbs with LEDs.
  • Use light colors for your roof and exterior paint.

For more information on different air conditioning systems, don’t hesitate to contact Pacific Heating & Cooling.

Since 1984, we’ve proudly served homeowners throughout Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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