Are you tired of the heat and want something more than a fan to stay cool? That means it’s time for an air conditioning system, but which should you choose? When you compare central air vs. a window unit, you’ll find both can offer relief. However, how they go about it is considerably different, and one may be a better fit for your needs than the other.
We’ll take a close look at each method of cooling and its pros and cons and help you figure out which is right for you.
What Is Central Air Conditioning, and How Does It Work?
Central air refers to a whole-home air conditioning system. Warm air is cooled as it moves over cold coils, then it is pushed out into your living spaces via a fan and vents.
The thermostat triggers the system to turn on when the indoor temperature rises above your desired temperature. A fan in the indoor unit pulls warm air from inside your home into the ductwork and through a filter to remove dust and other airborne particles. Then it passes over the cold evaporator coil. This is where the liquid refrigerant absorbs heat, changes it into a gas refrigerant, and finally cools the air. The blower fan then sends the cooled air back into your living space.
In this process, the now-warm gas refrigerant travels along copper tubing back to the compressor. The gas is pressurized and sent to the condenser coil, releasing heat outdoors. The refrigerant reverts to liquid and returns to the evaporator coil to re-cool the air as it warms up again.
Central air is effective because it is designed to keep your entire house cool. It uses the same ductwork as your heating system to deliver cooled, conditioned air to every room in your home.
How Does a Window Unit Keep Your Home Cool?
Window units provide spot cooling to specific rooms in your home. They are often used in rooms where people congregate or in a room that needs extra cooling.
Window units are installed in a window and use two air cycles to condition the room. A fan in the interior unit blows air over the evaporator to cool the room, while a second fan in the exterior unit blows outside air over the condenser to cool it down.
Window units have one purpose: to get air moving inside the room.
Because the interior coil’s temperature is much lower than the room temperature, it absorbs heat, causing the air temperature to drop before it is blown into a room. When the cooling coil’s temperature is lower than the room’s dew point, it also causes dew to form on the coil’s surface. This helps to remove moisture from the air, dropping the relative humidity levels.
This low-temperature, low-humidity air pulls in through the window unit’s blower and pushes out through its front panel, cooling your room.
You wouldn’t install an industrial-sized fan to move the air if you have a tiny office. It would be overkill, making it inefficient and potentially uncomfortable.
The same applies to whatever cooling system you choose. The first decision you must make is what you’re trying to cool. Do you have a specific room that is uncomfortable? Are you looking for a multi-room, whole-house solution? Make your selection based on the size of the area your unit must cool. This is where relying on a professional can help. Entek HVAC starts every project by understanding your end goal well.
Air conditioner size doesn’t mean the physical dimensions of the appliance. Instead, it refers to the cooling capacity measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). BTUs help you determine which will give you the best efficiency, lowering your operating costs.
Too small of a unit will force the unit to run indefinitely. It’s unlikely the unit will be able to cool your space correctly, and it will show up in higher utility bills. Too large of a unit is overkill. It will cause the unit to shut off prematurely, which reduces the ability to remove humidity properly, leaving your room feeling hot and sticky.
Pros and Cons of Central Air
Which one is right for you? There isn’t a “right” solution for every situation. It’s often about personal preference and what you desire in your situation.
Pros for Central Air Include
- Increased efficiency: Central air is much more efficient than a window unit.
- Better air filtration: There is no comparison if you’re looking for better indoor air. Central air is often top priority for people with health concerns, such as allergies or asthma.
- Even cooling: Because air flows to every room in your home, you’ll reduce hot and cold spots.
- Quiet to run: Since the compressor is usually far away from your living space, central air conditioning is fairly quiet to run.
- Year-round solution: Central air is built using existing ductwork from your heating system, so you’ll have both heating and cooling at your fingertips daily.
Cons for Central Air Include
- Cost: New systems can be expensive.
- Repairs and maintenance: While central heating and cooling is efficient, you may have big repair bills down the road as it ages. Yearly maintenance will help you keep your system in good condition, however.
Pros and Cons of a Window Unit
Think a window unit is better suited for your needs? There are pros and cons to using a window unit.
Pros for Window Units Include
- Affordability: Window units are an inexpensive way to keep a room cool.
- Individualized cooling solutions: Window units can be less expensive if you have a problematic room, such as a bedroom that stays warm throughout the night.
- DIY installation: Window units are easy to move in and out of place as needed.
Cons for Window Units Include
- Uneven cooling: The cooling power of a window unit falls off quickly beyond the unit itself. You will deal with hot and cold spots even in a single room.
- Noisy: Since the air conditioner and all of its components, air compressor included, are right in the room with you, this unit is going to be substantially louder to run.
- Poor filtering: Window units don’t have the power to improve indoor air quality.
- One-room solution: If you desire a more complete cooling system, window units are a poor choice for getting the job done.
What’s Your Choice?
Most homeowners would choose central air if cost were not a factor. It is the most efficient way to cool a home. Still, cost is often a top concern. Window units may work if you need one room cooled, or if you require 30 days of cooling or less per year.
Consider these factors as you decide which cooling method is best for you and your family.