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Central Air Conditioning vs. Window and Wall Units

Every year it happens, the summer months come into effect and the heat chases after us. Some of us have a cool retreat to escape to within own home, and others suffer. Those that have been suffering in the past are now beginning to consider what the most cost-efficient way to air condition their home would be; is it using a central unit or a window model? Keep in mind that as a homeowner, your efficient use of energy brings benefits such as lower bills and improved comfort.

If you are considering an air conditioning purchase, it helps to know that the number of rooms you plan to cool will determine which type of unit you should purchase to prove to be most cost-effective. If you are looking to have more than 2 rooms cooled than your best bet is to go with a central unit. Also, central units provide long term resale value and humidity control. On the other hand, if you plan to cool only one or two rooms, you should consider a window air conditioner.

Certain situations may be better suited for both units. For example, if your home consists of several rooms and you wish to have all of them cooled, but you spend the majority of your time in one of those rooms, then a central unit combined with an independent unit in the room you use most can save you money down the road. However, not everyone can afford two air conditioning systems. If you can manage the initial investment you will be saving enough to pay for the second unit in no time.

Window Units

A correctly sized window unit can cool and dehumidify one or two rooms. Newer units have the energy efficiency to reduce costs by up to 25 percent. However, it is important that you change filters after every 90 days of use to ensure that the unit remains effective.

Before going to the store to purchase a new unit, you will want to determine the area to be cooled. Do this by measuring the size of the room(s) you want to cool. Air conditioners need to be properly sized because units that are too small will have trouble cooling down rooms on hot days. Units that are too big will cool down rooms fast, but do a poor job of dehumidifying. The appropriate size of the air-conditioner can be determined by measuring the length, width and height of a room.

You should also look for the ENERGY STAR* and EnergyGuide labels when purchasing a window unit. The higher the energy efficiency rating (EER) the more efficient the unit will be. An energy efficient unit will cycle the compressor on and off so that it doesn't operate continuously.

Additional Considerations

  • A three-speed fan control (low, medium and high speeds) is a must.
  • Using a thermostat in conjunction with the fan speed allows the user to bring the room temperature down to the desired comfort level very quickly.
  • Be prepared to clean filters during high-use periods.
  • Choose a model with a timer. Setting the unit to come on a half hour or so before you get home will assure comfort on arrival. Timers can also be used to turn the unit off once you have fallen asleep.
  • A portable timer that would operate a wall unit would not be a cost-effective purchase.
  • Consider building a unit directly into your wall so that you don’t have to move it each year.
  • You can put an insulated and weather-stripped interior cover on through-the-wall air conditioners in the fall.

Central Air-conditioning Unit

Almost any home can have a central air conditioning unit installed. Most central units make use of existing duct work in your house. The equipment with a central unit occupies much more space than a window unit. It does however offer you the same in energy saving options. A good tip if you want maximum comfort at minimal operating expense is to be sure to include several cold-air return locations. Also, the higher the seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) the more efficient the unit will be.

A air conditioning contractor must size a central unit correctly in order to ensure its effectiveness. The same problems will arise with improperly sized central units that arise with improperly sized window units. Over sizing is a common problem with central units. Not only will this mistake cost you more, but the unit will fail to run efficiently as well.

Additional Considerations:

  • Central air conditioners also act as a dehumidifier.
  • An excellent accessory for any central system is an electrostatic filtering system. This is an option you'll want if a member of your family has allergies.
  • Be prepared for the noise that a central unit will create. It’s best to ask for a sound rating when purchasing a unit.
  • Look for models with a TXV (thermal expansive valve).
  • Ask the installer about access panels in the ductwork for cleaning purposes.
  • Ask about models with scroll compressors. These units have fewer moving parts and tolerate difficult operating conditions more efficiently.
  • Be prepared to check the furnace filter monthly.
  • The system should be serviced every two years.

Looking For More Information On Heating and Cooling?

Heating and cooling your house is an important aspect of your home life. You'll want to make sure you are choosing the right custom home builder for your new house and your budget. We offer Free Heating and Cooling Price Quotes from reliable, local air conditioning service experts.

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