What Are the Pros and Cons of a Window AC Unit?
It may feel like we’ve only just left the depths of winter, but spring is already here. Before you know it, summer will be upon us. While here in the Pacific Northwest we’re blessed to have mostly mild summers, many other places around the country aren’t so lucky. And even places like the PNW can have brutal heat waves. With central air a rarity in this part of the country, many people turn to solutions like portable AC units or window AC units to cool their homes when temperatures get uncomfortable. But are those really the best option?
In this blog post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of a window AC unit, specifically comparing them to two alternatives: full central air and portable floor-based air conditioning.
Pros and Cons of Window AC Units vs. Central Air
Central air, in many ways, is the gold standard of home HVAC. You have one central heating and AC unit that heats cold rooms in the winter and cools warm rooms in the summer. Everything is controlled by your central thermostat, and it can be possible for every room in the house to be comfortably cool, even on the warmest days of the year.
When comparing a window AC unit to central air, in terms of performance, there’s simply no comparison. Indeed, any temporary air conditioning system is going to be strictly inferior to central air, simply because they’re less powerful units and they don’t have access to all parts of your house. Since central air systems push heated and cooled air through internal, well-insulated ductwork, they can be very efficient at heating and cooling your entire home.
Furthermore, central air systems, once installed, are typically out of the way and beneath your notice. You have one unit, typically to the side of a house, that is in charge of all the heating and cooling, and it pushes air through the ducts to every room in the house. In terms of noise, the only louder areas of the home are right by the central air unit; everything else is whisper quiet. Since all of the ductwork is in the walls, you’ll never see anything either.
By comparison, window AC units can be noisy, rattling against windowsills. They can also be unattractive to look at from outside and block the use of the window from inside. You may have a beautiful view outside your window, but half of it will now be taken up by your AC unit.
However, window AC units have one massive benefit over central air systems: they’re much, much cheaper. The price of purchasing a window AC unit and installing it—which can be done yourself with the proper tools—is considerably more affordable than having central air installed, which will almost certainly run in the thousands of dollars. The renovations needed to install a central air system also typically require you to own the property, meaning that central air isn’t feasible for anyone who rents rather than owns their home.
Furthermore, while central air systems are powerful, in many parts of the country, you simply won’t need the level of sustained heating or cooling central air offers more than a couple of weeks out of a year, making window AC units a much more attractive prospect. If you’re in blazing-hot Arizona, then something as powerful as central air makes sense, but not if you’re in the Pacific Northwest.
Pros and Cons of Window AC Units vs. Portable AC Units
Perhaps you rent, so you can’t have a central air system installed. Or perhaps you simply don’t have the budget to pay for central air. Whatever your reason, for most Americans, the choice isn’t between a window AC unit and central air, but rather a window AC unit and a portable, floor-mounted AC unit. This is the more common dilemma to face.
So let’s compare them.
Reasons a Window AC Unit is Better Than a Portable AC Unit
- It saves floor space. Bulky portable AC units can be very difficult to place in a room, and they take up lots of space. With a window AC unit, all of that space is hanging out your window.
- It’s quieter. A window AC unit makes most of its noise outside. A portable AC unit makes most of its noise inside your home.
- It’s more efficient. Window air conditioning is simply more effective at cooling larger rooms than floor-based air conditioning is. If you have multiple rooms that you need cooled, window AC units will be much more effective at doing this.
- No extra water. Floor-mounted units often pull double duty as a humidifier, meaning you’ll need to regularly empty water from the base or risk spills.
Sounds pretty conclusive, right? Not so fast. For all the benefits window-based air conditioning has over floor-based AC, the portable systems have their own benefits as well.
Reasons a Portable AC Unit is Better Than a Window AC Unit
- It’s quieter … for your neighbors. It’s not that window-based AC units don’t make noise; they just keep the noise outside. Your neighbors might grow to resent your loud window AC, so it might be worth keeping that noise inside.
- It’s not an eyesore. As with the comparison to central air above, window AC units are bulky and noticeable from the outside, while the exhaust vents of portable AC tend to be much smaller. For these two reasons …
- Many landlords and HOAs ban window AC units. It’s possible that your rental management or HOA might not allow window AC units at all, leaving portable AC as your only option.
- It’s easier to install. Installing a window AC unit isn’t super tough but does require the installation of braces and supports. In comparison, a portable AC vent can easily slip into a window with just some insulation needed.
- It works with different types of windows. Window AC units need standard-sized windows to function correctly. They’ll be less efficient—or won’t work at all—if the window is too large or too small or doesn’t open vertically. In contrast, a floor AC unit can work with virtually any window type there is, even sliding windows that open horizontally.
If you’re confused about the type of air conditioner that will work best for your home, don’t delay. When the weather starts heating up, AC unit prices will skyrocket—the best time to plan for the summer is right now. Contact Entek HVAC to consult our experts.