Many homeowners struggle to understand the innate differences between a portable window unit and a whole-house central air conditioning system. Both options will cool down a hot home in the middle of the sweltering summer heat, but which one is really better for your home? This is an essential decision that homeowners will have to make eventually, particularly if they are in the process of building their own home.
Before you can dive too far into the specifics of which cooling system is better, you will need to have a thorough understanding of each one.
A window air conditioner can cool down only a single room. It’s a simple box appliance that fits neatly in your window. These units contain only a handful of essential parts, including a condenser, evaporator, thermostat, and a central fan to push air into the room. You won’t need much technical expertise to install a window unit in your home.
Central air conditioning consists of a unit that is typically situated on the outside of your home. It forces cool air into the living areas through a system of ductwork. This type of system is regulated by a thermostat located on the inside of your home, and it works automatically to keep the entire home at an ideal temperature.
Certainly, both systems have some unique advantages for homeowners. If you have the choice between a window unit and central air conditioning, which one should you choose first? Here are a few differences that you should be aware of before you make a choice.
Differences in Humidity Level
The moisture levels inside your home are typically measured in terms of the humidity. A higher humidity level typically makes your entire home feel warmer, even if it’s kept at a comfortable temperature throughout the day. The opposite will also be true, with a lower humidity level giving the feeling of a much cooler atmosphere.
Central air conditioning units tend to be more effective at drawing moisture out of the air. While it may seem more expensive to run central air conditioning to the entire home, lower humidity levels could mean that you will use less energy overall. You may be more comfortable at a higher temperature with lower humidity.
Window units tend to be less effective at drawing moisture out of the air. This is due in part to the fact that the unit may not fit entirely flush against the window frame. Hot and humid air from the outdoors may leak into the house from these minor gaps, creating condensation around the window.
If you want to lower the humidity level of your home so it will feel cooler all day long, a central air conditioning unit is definitely the way to go.
Differences in Operating Costs
There’s no denying that a central air conditioning system will cost more to run on a monthly basis. After all, this system cools down the entire home while a window unit will project only enough cool air for a single room. It requires far more electricity to power a unit with more cooling capabilities, which is part of the reason for the higher monthly bill.
A window unit will require less energy since it is also responsible for less cooling. Bear in mind that you may need multiple window units if you want to keep several rooms in your house cool and comfortable. When you tally up the energy required to run several window units, you may not notice a significant difference from a central air conditioning unit.
The difference in monthly energy costs will boil down to how many rooms you plan to cool during the summer months. If you only need one or two rooms to have air conditioning, a window unit may be the most cost-effective way to go. Cooling the entire house will be more cost-effective using central air conditioning.
Differences in Air Quality
If you suffer from intense allergies, the air quality difference may be a major deciding factor when it comes to your air conditioning. Many window units can filter some of the allergens and pollutants from the air, but they won’t be as efficient at doing this as a central air conditioning unit will be.
A central air conditioning system runs through an air filter prior to entering your home. The degree of filtration will ultimately depend on what type of air filter you install, how old the filter is, and the level of activity in your home. For example, a high-quality air filter may help to reduce the amount of dust in your air while a cheaper filter will only remove the largest particles.
Central air can reduce the number of cold-like symptoms that many homeowners experience as a result of poor air quality. If you have a chronically itchy throat, congestion, stuffy nose, or any other minor and unexplained symptom, it could be a sign that you would benefit from better air filtration in the home.
According to research, the average cost of repair to a central air conditioning unit in the United States is roughly $336. For the cost of an average repair to central air conditioning, most homeowners could purchase a brand-new window unit instead. The initial cost investment required for both cooling systems is one of the largest considerations for homeowners.
By comparison, a new central air conditioning unit could cost thousands of dollars. If you already have the ductwork installed in the home, this may be the only cost that you would incur with central air. However, it can extremely expensive if the home has never been outfitted for a whole HVAC system.
A strict budget typically forces homeowners to select a window unit because of the lower initial cost, but it also has no installation fee. You won’t have to be extremely handy in order to place one of these simple appliances on your windowsill. By contrast, a central air conditioning unit will require a licensed AC repairperson for the initial installation and to fix any broken parts in the future.
For many homeowners, the choice is clear that central air conditioning is the best option when you use it throughout the home many months out of the year. It will make the entire home more comfortable in the most cost-efficient manner. On the other hand, homeowners in cooler climates may be able to get away with using only a window unit during the milder months. This saves them money on the initial investment and their monthly maintenance.
In order to decide which type of air conditioning is right for your home, you will need to evaluate your current usage. Do you frequently find yourself turning the temperature down on your thermostat? Do you prefer to have air conditioning in every room of your home? These are the major considerations you will need to think through prior to making a purchase.
If you’re not sure which system would benefit you more, contact a local HVAC company to ask more questions. A licensed professional can help guide you to the right decision for your home’s unique needs.