Most homeowners struggle with the decision of whether to go with a small portable room A/C or a central air system. If you’ve come to a fork in the road and you need help deciding which path you should travel down, here are some facts to consider.
Portable A/C Units: Pros and Cons
A portable or window unit is something you’ve probably seen or experienced before. These are inexpensive systems that are installed in a window and cool the air inside the home from one location.
The benefits of these units is that they can be cheaper to operate than central A/C units if you only need one or two units. If you have a small home, or you’re only cooling a bedroom or living room, consider going this route.
You can supplement these systems with fans, high efficiency light bulbs, delaying heat-generating activities like using the stove or doing the laundry until the evening when it cools down, and opening the windows when it is cooler outside than inside.
Window units aren’t known for their efficiency when many units need to be installed in a home. If you’re considering buying more than 2 portable units, it might make sense to put a down payment on a central A/C system. You’ll spend more in cooling costs with this many units than you would if you just ran a central cooling system.
Central Air Conditioning: Pros and Cons
Central A/C is considered a “cadillac system.” It cools the home using a system of ductwork and an air conditioning unit that sits either on the roof or outside on a concrete slab next to the home. Some units are contained in a basement or in the attic, however.
Central A/C systems are usually more efficient than portable units if you have a large home or have large cooling needs. If you’re unsure about your cooling needs, you should have competent technicians visit your home and do an assessment.
An assessment consists of using specialized hardware and software equipment to measure the amount of cooling power you need to maintain a specific temperature.
Then, the technicians can make a determination of whether a central A/C system makes sense.
Central air conditioning also allows you to control cooling by room, creating zones where you need them. Contrast this with in-window units where the A/C is in a fixed position and cools that room better than adjacent rooms.
Finally, central A/C units often come equipped with air filter units which clean the air for you so that you can breath easier. They also remove more moisture from the air than portable units, reducing the risk of mold buildup in every room, not just the room with the A/C unit in it.
Central A/C systems are more expensive to install than portable units, and they can be more expensive to maintain if you don’t do the regular maintenance on them that’s suggested by the manufacturer.
Adeline F. Pauley runs an air conditioning sales and repair business. She likes sharing her insights online. Her articles can be found on many homeowner and home improvement websites.