Many homes, particularly older ones, don’t have central heating and air conditioning units. During the colder months, they rely on smaller room-sized furnaces, stoves or heaters to beat the chill. During the summer… Well, sometimes they don’t offer any way to handle the heat.
That forces a choice on the part of homeowners. They can either suffer through miserable summers, outfit their home with a central air unit, or rely on smaller window units to keep things cool.
Let’s assume that you don’t want to spend a full season out of every year in a sweltering hot box. You want an air conditioner. That cuts us down to a single choice: central air or a window unit.
Obviously, those little window air conditioners are considerably cheaper than installing a large unit and all of the associated ductwork necessary to keep a house comfy in the summer. But are window units really right for you? Here a few considerations to keep in mind.
First, window units are generally workable for smaller residences or in situations in which the homeowner will be satisfied with cooling some rooms and not others. If you have a big place or an unquenchable desire for house-wide meat locker conditions, you should stay away from window units. If you don’t feel that way, you might be able to work with the cheaper alternative.
Second, those who live in truly HOT environments aren’t the best prospects for small-unit cooling. If you live in an area known for its extreme summer heat, you’ll probably find that window air conditioners can’t really get the job done for you.
Third, you should remember that running multiple single-room air conditioners can actually cost more in the long run than installing a good central air unit. It’s simply a matter of energy efficiency. You will spend a lot more up-front for central air, but it may very well pay for itself in a matter of years when compared to window-based alternatives.
So, who should be using a window unit? People who live in apartments or small homes in areas that don’t have extreme summer conditions are the most likely group to be a good match. Those who only need to cool discrete areas of their homes may also find them acceptable. Finally, there are those who just can’t afford central air but who need at least some hedge against summer heat in the short-run while they position themselves financially for a full-house system.
Window air conditioners may not be right for everybody, but they do have their place. Consider your situation, your goals and your planned usage carefully when you make the decision between central air and the installation of window units.