Central AC vs Window Units: Which is cheaper?

April 18, 2022
Lennox Complete System

Keeping your home properly cooled throughout the summer is important, but it can also be expensive. For this reason, many people search for ways to save money on their cooling costs by using a window air conditioner instead of central AC. Let’s take a look at both types of air conditioning to see which is actually the cheaper option.

Upfront Costs

Window air conditioners are obviously far cheaper in terms of upfront costs. A high-quality, 10,000 BTU window unit will usually run anywhere from $200 to $500 whereas you’re likely looking at spending anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 to purchase and install a central AC system. However, the price difference quickly starts to shrink if you’re looking to cool your entire home with window air conditioners. In this case, you could still end up spending a few grand to purchase more than one unit.

Comparing Energy Usage

Window air conditioners often make more sense for small homes because they are usually slightly more efficient than central AC units. A 10,000 BTU window unit will typically consume around 900 watts of electricity per hour whereas a 10,000 BTU central AC will usually use 3,000 watts per hour or more. However, this isn’t really a good comparison since the central AC unit will be able to cool the entire house while the window unit can generally only cool one room.

Both options should technically be able to cool an area between 400 and 450 square feet, but the window unit’s effective cooling area will be limited by the layout of the home. This means you may end up needing to use three or four window units to properly cool the entire home. In this case, you’ll probably end up using the same or even more energy with the window units than you would a central AC system. Still, the difference in upfront costs may still make the window units the more cost-effective option.

In terms of overall comfort, there is no doubt that central air conditioning is the better option. This is especially true in areas like Virginia that experience high humidity. Window ACs are usually less effective in humid climates. In fact, they can actually allow excess humidity to get inside the home and make it feel hotter and more uncomfortable. On the other hand, central ACs dehumidify the air as they cool it.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your home cool this summer, the experienced professionals at McKinney Heating & Air Conditioning are here to help. We specialize in AC installation as well as maintenance and repairs. We also work on heating systems, generators, plumbing, water heaters, and more. Contact us today if you have any questions or want to learn more!

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