Informational Guide

Comparing Central Vs Window AC Units

This guide will make it easy for you to choose between central air conditioning Vs window AC units so you can make an educated decision for your needs.

by Ian Haynes

Buying an air conditioning unit is a big investment; therefore, you have to ensure you get your money’s worth.

However, your choice lies between two options: window AC Vs Central AC, which one is right for your house? Although there is a third option, today, we will look at those that don’t require wall indentations.

Evaluating their capabilities will help you make the right choice. This process involves a brief overview of the size of your air conditioning unit, requirements of your house, high-efficiency features, cost, quality, and other features.

This guide will make it easy for you to choose between central air conditioning Vs window units so you can make an educated decision for yourself.

Central air conditioners work by circulating cool air via a supply and return duct system. The supply ducts transfer the cold air from the air conditioning unit to inside the home.

This cool air turns warm upon circulating inside the house; it then flows back to the air conditioning unit via the registers and ducts. Now that you know how it works, here are some of the pros and cons of a central air conditioning unit:

What We Like
  • Central air conditioning systems provide multiple additional features, especially an added air filtration system.
  • A central AC unit distributes the air inside your house evenly and efficiently.
  • A central AC helps cool your entire house
  • A central AC unit can provide heating in winters and cooling during summers
What We Don’t Like
  • They are more expensive to install, and if you do not have a duct system in place, the price can increase.
  • Their maintenance is as expensive as their installation
  • It requires a duct system; if you do not have one already, it can be a hassle
  • A central air conditioning unit results in higher energy bills as a result of prolonged use
KeepRite Air Conditioner

Pros & Cons Of Window AC Units

Just like any other air conditioning system, the window air conditioning unit employs similar principles. It cools the air by removing humidity and heat from the room via circulation.

The basic structural elements of window air conditioning units include a blower or a fan, thermostat, refrigerant-filled tubing, an evaporator coil, compressor, and a condenser coil.

Here are some of the pros and cons of a window air conditioning unit:

What We Like
  • They have higher efficiency and produce lesser noise as compared to other air conditioning units.
  • If placed strategically, they can cool more than a single room
  • They can be either placed in wall holes or even windows
  • Their drainage is quite efficient, and the water drains from the window air conditioning unit to the exterior without any intervention
What We Don’t Like
  • Installation can be quite difficult without external support
  • The panels that come along with these window air conditioners can let in a lot of hot air inside, decreasing their efficiency
  • Water drainage can sometimes redirect to unwanted areas, thus becoming a hassle

Central Vs Window Air Conditioners (Key Differences Compared)

How do you know which kind of AC unit to choose? Is it the energy efficiency, cost, design, installation cost, maintenance, noise level, or lifespan?

Additionally, you will also have to decide between the cost of the window unit vs central air conditioning system. Here are some pros and cons of window AC & central AC units:

Energy Efficiency

It might seem like a window air conditioning unit uses less energy; however, that isn’t entirely true. A typical window air conditioning unit uses around 500 to 1440 watts when operating, whereas a central AC unit uses about 3500 watts.

However, the efficiency of a window air conditioning unit is only to cool a single room at a time. This means that to cool the entire house, you would have to install a window unit in each room, thus decreasing the efficiency and increasing the cost.

Installation Cost And Difficulty

When it comes to installation costs, window ACs prove to be the easier option as they do not require a duct system for air dispersion.

Installing a window unit is relatively easy as all you have to do is swing the window open and fit the unit; this can be easily done on your own. Whereas, if you want to install a central air conditioning unit, you will probably need to hire an HVAC professional.

Furthermore, central air conditioners require constant maintenance and inspection, which are unnecessary for window air conditioning units. Therefore, in the choice between window unit cost or central air conditioning unit, the window unit offers cheaper and easier installation.

Red Building with Air Conditioners

Noise Level And Aesthetic

Noise levels are another area of consideration when debating on window AC Vs Central air conditioning units. And undoubtedly, central ACs are the better choice of the two.

Window units are the noisier option, and they also take up greater space in terms of visibility. They’re an eyesore!

Their big size makes them aesthetically unappealing to the eye. In contrast, central units are not as visually intrusive as the former, even though they are sprawled all over the house.

If you are set on window ACs for your home, check our reviews of the quietest models out there.

Ease Of Cleaning And Maintenance

Since a lot of air passes through the central air conditioning duct, it is crucial to maintain them regularly. Otherwise, hazardous pollutants and bacteria might accumulate and recirculate around your house.

Window units don’t have this problem, and they don’t require maintenance as regularly as central air conditioning units.

However, it is still good to clean them once in a while, especially the filters.

Price

Many go for a window AC when choosing between central air conditioning vs window units because of the staggering price difference.

Central ACs are seen as a massive investment in the sense that they are also an essential talking point when you want to set your house up for sale.

The difference in cost of window unit & central air unit is apparent right from the purchase. A normal high-quality central AC is priced at a whopping $1500 and above, going as high as $10,000 including installation.

In contrast, a window air conditioning unit is much cheaper, costing around $300 to $1500 with a monthly running cost of $30 to $80 USD based on the usage. Though, if you want to cool more than five rooms, a single central AC unit might be cheaper.

Learn more about central AC running costs here.

Why Does AC Size Matter?

Choosing the right AC size for your house is integral to its intended purpose. Computing your home’s cooling requirements will help you speculate which type of air conditioning unit you would require.

Starting from the geographical location of your house to its architectural specifics, all related details have to be analyzed if you want the perfect unit. Among those, the following five factors are the most critical in determining the right tonnage required for your house.

Check out small window ACs here

Check out large window ACs here

Home Size

The size of your house provides a great starting point to understand your cooling needs. Start by measuring the square footage of your home. Furthermore, you might also have to measure the height of your ceilings to determine the cubic foot volume of your house.

Keep in mind that a house with high, vaulted ceilings needs greater cooling power than one with standard 8-footed ceilings. Furthermore, you can also hire a specialist to measure your house on your behalf before starting the air conditioner installation process.

The style of your home is also a factor to consider before selecting between central air vs window units.

Location

A house located in Alaska would have different cooling requirements than a house of the same size in Florida or Texas. Remember, homes in humid and hot areas need bigger air conditioning systems than houses in drier, colder regions.

Furthermore, the orientation of your house towards the sun also matters. For example, is it protected from the sun, or does it face hours of direct sunlight directly at it?

Number Of Windows

Windows are a source of light and view to the outside. However, they also become a source of energy loss in most homes, thus increasing cooling requirements.

The number of windows in your house affects the size of AC you would require; the window type also plays a major role. These are primary deciders in the central cooling vs. window unit debate.

Keep in mind that double-paned, triple-paned, or Low-E windows are more energy-efficient than single-paned ones.

Moreover, the Low-E (low emissivity) film-coated window type can reflect the heat of the sun away from your house. As a result, these energy-efficient windows can further lower the tonnage needs.

Current Insulation

Insulation plays a critical role in keeping the outside heat from penetrating the house during the hot summer days.

It is better to understand the amount and type of insulation present in your walls and attic. Furthermore, it would help if you also considered the insulated entry doors.

The more insulated your house is, the warmer it will get.

Existing Ductwork

The condition and type of ductwork currently present in your house is another thing to consider when sizing your air conditioning system.

Get the help of an HVAC professional to connect your new central air conditioning system to the existing ductwork. Furthermore, you can also install new ductwork if the present ducts are poorly situated or leaking.

A new ductwork system is also another factor that reduces the size of your required air conditioning unit.

Daikin Thermostat

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Can a window AC cool an entire house?

Window air conditioners are intended to cool one room. The maximum you can achieve with one window AC is to let the cool air leak to a small adjoining room; however, the cooling would be quite uneven.

How many hours should a central AC run per day?

It is pretty normal for central ACs to run the whole day. Furthermore, running it the entire day would also help to dehumidify your house.

For apartments or mobile homes, what is recommended?

A window air conditioning unit would be a better option for mobile homes or apartments as they are easier to maintain than central air units.

Conclusion

Deciding between a window unit AC vs. central air conditioning unit depends on several factors and considerations. The cost, space, maintenance, and installation all play a significant part in choosing the right air conditioning unit for yourself.

We hope our guide provides conclusive information that will make your choice easier!

Ian Haynes

Ian Haynes is an HVAC writer, and researcher. He has worked on hundreds of articles relating to home cooling, heating and air quality with a vast knowledge of the technical aspects of these types of appliances. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador. Learn more about the AC Lab team here.

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