Central AC vs Window AC? help me choose

eeloverAugust 2, 2011

Central AC cost 5000, window AC is just a few hundred dollars. Where I live (SF bay area) the weather is pretty mild and we only need AC a few hours a day, a few weeks a year. What are the pros and cons of each?

The house is about 2000 sq ft, but I don't need every single room cooled. Instead of central AC I could just buy 2 window sets and put them in the living room and family room. What do you think?

What about portable AC machines?

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Get the window a/c. Generally central is more efficient (by a lot) but you also have duct losses with central air.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2011 at 5:57AM
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Yeah, so few homes in the Bay Area have Central AC. Keep i mind I'm just an average Joe home owner.

You didn't state there were any conditions in the home that would require it (like items sensitive to humidity, health reasons, etc) wherein the central AC can offer more opportunities to help improve. I think with a home sized like yours, the typical suggestion is something like 3 or more rooms you'd probably want AC. Keep in mind our electrical rates in CA are outrageous and running the central air to cool those extra rooms could easily be triple the cost of a couple window units. It depends on whether you are teetering into the 4th tier pricing or not (ie summer bills > $300).

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Portables are not very efficient, especially if you get one-hose models. If going with window units choose carefully. Choose those with a mode that allows the fan to cycle off when the compressor is not running. They are better at dehumidifying. This is often called something like "econo mode" for some stupid reason. A low fan speed is also good for dehumidifying.

What kind of heat do you have, ducts? Consider a third option that you did not mention, (heat pump) mini splits. They are more efficient than window units (and quieter) and central systems (no duct losses and higher efficiency ratings are available). Depending on the type of construction, you could install two or three mini splits for the price of the central addition.

Honestly, If I only needed it for a few days I would go with window units unless I had a lot of money to burn,

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 8:31PM
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Generally, for a home of your size, I would say definitely get a central A/C. However, if you have a fairly open layout and wide openings between rooms, 2-3 window units can often do the work, especially if you live closer to the water, meaning you're only seeing a handful of really scorching days during the summer. The benefit of window units is that you're not spending an arm and a leg, you can buy them on Amazon (with easy returns if they're not powerful enough), and they are easy to replace if you decide to go with a central unit down the line.

There is a lot of great info on different kinds of both central and portable units, along with sizing and costs on "www.hvacandwater.com". Check it out!

Here is a link that might be useful: HVAC and Water Site - Great Info on A/C Units

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 11:40PM
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