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Central Air VS Window Unit: The Differences

Many people are stuck in limbo when choosing a cooling appliance for their home during the summer. Your general choice would be a Central AC VS Window unit where both have their fair share of pros and cons. To help you determine which AC best suits your needs, we will break down all key factors, including location and cost. Let's begin.
Short answer
Central AC = cooler. Window AC = cheaper.

 

How Air Conditioner Works

Via refrigerant technology, the central air conditioner absorbs the hot indoor air via the moto fan. The hot air passes it over coils, where the refrigerant cooling agent (R-22) will absorb heat and cool it to favorable temperatures. The cooled air is then released back into the room, and the AC thermostats continue to regulate the indoor temperature. Window units use the same technology but on a much smaller scale.

Pros Of Central Air Conditioners

  • Whole-house cooling. A central air conditioner can cool multiple rooms by connecting it with vents and thermostats. A big contrast to window AC that can only cool the air of a single room it is installed in. You will save more money with a central AC over multiple window units.
  • Consistent room temperatures all year long. With Central AC strategic placement, cool air will be well distributed across the room. Central AC is also better protected from frosting compared with a window unit. Ideal for hot southern areas that experience high temperatures throughout the year.
  • Better cooling efficiency with lower energy cost. You only need one central air conditioner to supply cool air to the entire home, apartment, or office as opposed to the need for multiple window air conditioners to achieve the same result. Utilizing a single central AC is also much more eco-friendly as less energy is consumed with reduced carbon dioxide emission.
  • Automated cooling system. Newer central air conditioners all come with a built-in automated cooling system that works autonomously via a timer or thermostats. You do not have to turn the AC on or off manually.
  • Take up less interior space. Central air conditioners are mounted in the ceiling hence hidden from our sight. It does not take up window space and can be installed in places without a window e.g. basement.
  • Dual cooling and heating mode. Modern central air conditioners come with combined cooling and heating functions that you can alternate during the season. Very useful for areas that experience both summer and winter. There’s no need to get an additional electric heater that requires more maintenance.
  • Produce cleaner indoor air. Most central AC comes with an inbuilt air filter that prevents dust and other airborne particles from passing through, similar to an air purifier. Only healthy cool air will be circulated back into the room.

Cons Of Central Air Conditioners

  • High upfront costs. Central air conditioners are way more expensive than window AC. A small central air conditioner will cost you around $1,000, while a large unit will exceed more than $10,000. Additional drilling, hacking, or venting are required during installation, which will add up to the total cost. As such, many people would forego investing in one due to the hefty prices.
  • Installation complications. Central air conditioners are difficult to install with the involvement of mounting, drilling, and air duct network. You will need to hire an air-cond expert for installation, and the process takes time. It can be especially tricky if you stay in a rented home or apartment, as the homeowner might not agree to do so.
  • Much harder to clean. Given central AC is mounted to the ceiling with a host of air duct networks that needs routine cleaning to avoid dust, dirt, mold, and allergen buildup. You will need to hire an air specialist for servicing and repair to ensure the AC runs optimally.
  • Lacks flexibility. Central AC is permanently fixed to a spot that is hard to remove without the help of air expertise. Unlike a window AC, you can still unmount and install it in another location by yourself.

Pros Of Window Air Conditioners

  • Significantly cheaper. It is the number 1 reason why many people opt for a window air conditioner over a central AC. A typical window air conditioner will cost you between $300-$800, depending on the quality and size of the unit. There is no exuberant installation fee, maintenance, or expensive repair adding to the total ownership cost.
  • Energy-efficient. Many Windows air conditioners are Energy-Star certified that use considerably less energy than a central AC. Expect a low monthly running electric cost of around $30-$80 at 8 hours runtime. You also can switch off the unit at any point in time to keep the electrical bill down and avoid energy wastage.
  • Easy to install. Most window air conditioners come with a window kit that you can install by yourself. All you need is the instructional manual and the right size window for proper insulation. Ensure the AC is securely mounted to prevent vibrational damage or the risk of falling.

Cons Of Windows Air Conditioners

  • Single-room use. Windows AC can only cool a room one at a time. If you have multiple rooms in a home, you will need more than one unit.
  • Inconsistent cool air distribution. The weaker cooling efficiency makes it less effective in circulating cool air. There will be hot spots that are not covered by the window unit.
  • Requires a window. As the name implied, a window air conditioner only works if your room has a standard size window. It will not work in an underground, intermediate dorm room, or basement without a window.
  • Take up your window space. Window AC will occupy a large part of the window space and obstruct your view. You also lose access to the natural breeze from outside.
  • Poor filtration. Due to the smaller size, window air conditioners do not filter airborne particles and allergens well. If you have asthma or hypersensitivity, you need a supplementary air purifier.
  • Security issue. Window air conditioners only work on an open window. Therefore, it will increase the risk of burglary as it is easier for the burglar to break in.

Which One Should I Pick? Central AC or Window AC?

It’s simple. If you want the most effective cooling and have the budget, a central air conditioner cools air better than a window ac. It is also easier to use, takes up less space, and can cover multiple rooms simultaneously. Window AC is significantly cheaper to own, install, and maintain. If you only need single-room air cooling for under 30-days, window AC is the economical choice.

Central AC VS Window AC

TypeCentral Air ConditionersWindow Air Conditioners
TechnologyRefrigerantRefrigerant
PricingExpensive ($1,000-$10,000)Cheaper ($300-$800)
Maintenance costHighLow
Cooling efficiencyBestGood
InstallationHard (Requires professional)Easy
CoverageMultiple-roomsingle room
Requires windowNoYes
Ideal forWhole-houseSingle room

Can A Window AC Cool The Whole House?

No, it can't. A single window air conditioner will not cool the entire house as it is designed for a single room. You will need multiple units placed in each room to achieve whole-house cooling. A central AC would be the better solution without driving up the energy costs. Feel free to contact your local HVAC expert and have them estimate the energy usage needed according to your home's layout.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide will give you an idea of what to expect from a central air conditioner and window ac. The next step is to measure the room size needed for air cooling and choose a model that has the BTU ratings to do so. Make the right call, as it can change your life perpetually.

Max Fernandez