Window Air Conditioners – What to Watch Out For

Window air conditioners (sometimes called ‘room air conditioners’ or ‘window units’) are small AC units that are installed through the windows of the room you are trying to cool.  Because they can be purchased at many retail locations, they are relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to install without a contractor. They can appear to be a good option for the budget-conscious consumer.

However, room air conditioners have some drawbacks and before installing several of these in windows throughout your house you should probably be aware of the following factors:

1.  Lower efficiency – Window air conditioners are 30 to 40 percent less efficient than even the most basic, minimum efficiency central air conditioning systems.  Why is this?  The government regulates efficiency standards for central air conditioning systems in the US, but has not done so with window air conditioners.  Because they are less efficient you could potentially see an increase in your energy bill only cooling a few rooms.  Many people mistakenly think window units are more environmentally friendly since they are smaller; but because they are so inefficient, they actually put an additional, unnecessary load on the local power grid during peak cooling times.

2.  Less natural light – Window units take up substantial window space which cuts down on the available natural light in your living space. Because many bedrooms are designed with only one window this can virtually eliminate much of the natural light coming into the room, forcing the use of more electric light and effectively negating any attempted energy savings.  With the window units installed, it also makes it difficult to open the window for fresh air and can cause air circulation issues.

3.  Noise – Window air conditioners tend to be louder than central AC systems since the entire mechanism is right there in the room with you instead of outside your house or in the basement. This can cause problems for people attempting to concentrate while working or studying, trying to sleep or watching television.

4.  Poor air quality – A room air conditioner unit has only a small filter that is capable of filtering only the air within the room you’re cooling.  This will not effectively remove the odors, allergens and dust particles from your living space.  For proper air quality, you would be much better off with a central air conditioning system that has a high quality air filtration system.

Does it ever make sense to install a window air conditioner?

If you need a quick, low investment, temporary solution for a small space, then a room air conditioner should work fine.  However, if you are trying to cool more than a few rooms for more than a month or two, you would be better off with a central air conditioning system.

If you’ve had a window unit in the past, what did you like or dislike about it?

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One thought on “Window Air Conditioners – What to Watch Out For

  1. this article is very biased. for example, room air conditioner unit has only a small filter that is capable of filtering only the air within the room you’re cooling. That’s all that is required. Less natural light. not reduction that is noticeable. lower efficiency, yes, but you are only cooling the area you need to cool. Too cool large house with high ceiling is a waste of power-hr. A basic room can be cooled with a 5000 btu AC, that uses 450 watts. A central 4 ton AC takes about 3500 watts. I prefer to have one 450 watt AC in each room. The cost of a new 4 ton AC runs 4-5 thousand dollars. A 5000 btu window AC cost $166 including tax at Walmart. If one fails, I can replace it cheaply. If a 4ton AC needs servicing, that will cost you an arm and a leg. I have 3 tons upstairs and 4 tons downstairs. They will be turned off.

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