Are Window A/C Units Cheaper Than HVAC Systems?

If your Charlotte or Lake Norman home doesn’t currently have a fixed cooling system, you may be tempted to buy a low-cost window air conditioner from a nearby home and hardware store. Although these units are relatively inexpensive upfront, they generally aren’t good long-term cooling solutions. Moreover, window air conditioners have a number of major drawbacks that must be considered before installing them. Read on to find out why window A/C units are rarely cheaper than HVAC systems in the long run.

Upfront Costs vs. Long-Term Spending

One of the most common complaints about window air conditioners is their lack of efficiency. These units are either installed directly in windows with one of their sides in the building and the other side facing out or just below the windows with adjustable venting kits moving hot air outdoors. In both instances, this setup creates cracks and gaps that allow warm outside air in and lets cooled air escape. It’s virtually impossible to get an airtight seal with this setup. In fact, when these installations are entirely do-it-yourself projects, they often result in gaps or other openings that are large enough to allow small-sized pests in.

For these and other reasons, you’ll pay a lot more over time to use a window unit. This is especially true when you consider the limited lifespan of some of the latest and most popular portable air conditioners. Most of these appliances provide three to five years of service before needing to be replaced. Comparatively, high-end HVAC equipment typically lasts between 10 and 15 years or even longer.

You Won’t Get the Cooling Power That an HVAC System Provides

Window air conditioners are only suitable for cooling down just one or two medium-sized rooms. Most are only capable of circulating enough cool air for moderating the temperatures in spaces measuring just 400 square feet or less. If you live in a small, two-room condo, a window air conditioner won’t give you optimum levels of efficiency, but it will keep you sufficiently comfortable on the hottest days of the year. However, if you live in a typical family home, a window A/C will only cool a portion of your living space and leave everywhere else sweltering.

Window Air Conditioners Have a Number of Major Drawbacks

There are many other downsides to using a window air conditioner as a standalone home cooling solution. For instance, even the very best of these models tend to be incredibly noisy while in use. If you install a window A/C in a common area, you won’t be able to listen to the television at a moderate volume, hold quiet conversations, or relax with a good book. While modern and efficient air conditioners emit a low, gentle hum, most window air conditioners emit loud, rumbling or whirring noises whenever they’re actively in use. This is due in large part to the fact that all of their components are housed in one small unit.

It’s additionally important to note that HVAC systems are able to provide effective air filtration and humidity control. These are things that low-cost window air conditioners aren’t built for. With a central HVAC system or a ductless mini-split, you’ll enjoy a far higher level of indoor air quality. You’ll also have the option of increasing the air filtration capabilities of your HVAC equipment by upgrading your air filter. Although window air conditioners have filters, these typically have low minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings, which means that they can’t capture and collect micro-fine, airborne particulates. Moreover, the filter that a window A/C comes with is often the only filter type it can use.

Absent of good air filtration and missing out on humidity control altogether, households that rely exclusively on window units for cooling often wind up shelling out extra cash in other ways. Having too much humidity in the home during the spring and summer months can result in mold and mildew development, moisture-related property damage, and respiratory troubles. When combined with the increased presence of dirt, dust, pollen, and pet dander in the home, these things can greatly diminish resident comfort.

Modern HVAC Systems Can Help You Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Modern central heating and cooling equipment is built for efficiency. You’ll definitely pay more for a central air conditioner or a ductless mini-split, but you’ll also pay far less to use your cooling equipment. Not only is this beneficial financially, but it’s an important attribute to keep in mind if you’re looking for ways to lower your carbon footprint without sacrificing comfort. An HVAC system will allow you to reliably cool all areas of your home, all summer long.

HVAC Systems Add Value to Homes

Installing HVAC equipment will add to your home’s value and marketability. Installing a window air conditioner will not. In fact, window A/C installation can actually detract from the appeal of your home. These bulky, cumbersome units block outside views. They also create a visible point of ingress for burglars and other ill-intentioned parties. These low-cost appliances are not considered permanent fixtures. Installing them incorrectly can additionally result in window damage, wall damage, and injuries.

What if My Home Doesn’t Have HVAC Ductwork?

The lower upfront cost of a window air conditioner might not be the only reason why you’re considering this type of cooling equipment. If your North Carolina home wasn’t built with the ductwork that’s necessary for supporting a central HVAC system, there are still ways to have efficient equipment installed. Seasoned HVAC professionals can help you find a feasible and cost-effective plan for post-construction ductwork installation. There are also ductless mini-split systems to consider. Ductless cooling systems provide the same quiet operation, cooling power, and reliable levels of efficiency that central HVAC systems do. In fact, they’re actually more efficient in most instances.

With a ductless mini-split air conditioner, you can have a separate air handler in each zone or room of your home. This way, you can selectively cool the spaces that you’re actively using without wasting energy on rooms that are unoccupied. Much like central HVAC systems, certain ductless mini-splits can provide both heating and cooling for year-round functionality. Thus, if you need a fixed source of heat just as much as you need reliable cooling, you can opt to have a ductless heat pump installed to meet both of your goals.

Finding the Right Option for Your Home

Central HVAC systems are an excellent choice for homes with existing ductwork. Ductless systems can effectively supplement central HVAC equipment by servicing recently finished basements, new building additions, garages, or livable attic areas.

At Integrity Heating & Cooling, we offer reliable HVAC system installation to residents of the greater Charlotte, North Carolina, area. We also provide indoor air quality services, standby generators, duct work and duct sealing services, and more. Call us today to find an affordable, efficient, and long-lasting cooling solution for your home or to learn more about our options in financing.