How to Choose Between Central Air or Window Units

When you’re considering your options for cooling your home, there’s a lot you need to take into account. One of the first decisions you will have to make is whether to go with a central air system or basic window units.

By looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of system in terms of your home and personal preferences, you should be able to determine if central air or window units are best for your home.

Features of Central Air: Why This Option Could Be Right


There are good reasons that central air is one of the most popular choices for residential buildings — it’s powerful, quiet, effective and has a host of other benefits as well:

  • The most effective way to cool large areas. While there might be times you want to cool a specific room, it is more common to want to keep your whole home at a comfortable temperature. Central air systems can distribute cool air through ducts to all rooms of your home.

  • The most efficient option for many homes. When it comes to large homes, no other system can match the efficiency of high efficiency central air systems. If you live in a warm climate where extensive cooling is needed, a central system is often best.

  • A valuable asset. While installing and operating a central air conditioner generally costs more than using window units, it’s also something that has future value. If you are selling or renting out your home, a quality central air conditioner will allow you to get more return on your investment.

If shopping for a central air conditioning system, you can read here to understand the features to look for in a quality system of this type. 

Features of Window Units: Why This Option May Be Better


While they may not have the same power as a robust central air system, there are many situations where window air conditioner units make sense. Here are some of the most important benefits you should be aware of:

  • Lower upfront cost. One of the biggest factors of an air conditioning system replacement is the substantial cost. Window units are relatively cheap, especially if you only need a couple units to meet your needs.

  • Can be more efficient. Unless you upgrade to a zoning system to complement your central air conditioner, you’ll have to cool the entire home whenever you run the cooling. With window units, you have the ability to cool down one room that you are using.

  • Simple installation. It’s not a good idea to install a central air system on your own. On the other hand, window units are very simple to purchase and buy on your own without a contractor or technician helping you out. While hiring a contractor takes the hassle and time out of the job, a homeowner should be able to properly install a window unit by following the detailed instructions.

  • Cheaper to operate. The cost of an air conditioner over its lifetime is mainly determined by its purchase price and energy consumption. Window units have the lower purchase price by far, but often energy consumption as well. There are high efficiency units that rival any central air system, and the usage flexibility allows you to only run a unit as necessary. If you are using several window units, however, and trying to cool an entire home this way, the price savings quickly diminishes.


Central Air or Window Units: Other Considerations


Before you make up your mind on whether to use central air or window units to cool your home, you need to think about what your specific home requires. Start by considering the size of your home. While window units are great for small homes for the reasons discussed above, every one you add diminishes the benefits you’ll receive. At a certain point, a central air conditioning system will be more cost-effective.

Whether you choose to utilize central air or window units, consider improving your insulation and sealing your windows and doors to make the most of your new system.

Buying a new air conditioner is an important decision that should be carefully analyzed. Both central air or window units can offer the cooling you need and the efficiency you want. Both options also affect your home's value and comfort differently. Weighing the factors that are most important to you will help you make the best decision. 

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