Is It Cheaper to Run a Window Air Conditioner or Central Air?

A drawing of a house with a snowflake on it.

Is it cheaper to run a window air conditioner or central air? The answer is: central air for the entire home, or window units for small apartments or spaces.

Americans spend more than $22 billion every year to run air conditioning.

As the weather heats up, you’re going to look for ways to keep your home cool and keep your energy bills down. Is it cheaper to run a window air conditioner or central air?

That’s a question worth asking and we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out which type of home cooling methods work the best and how you can save money on your home cooling bills.

Is It Cheaper To Run a Window Air Conditioner or Central Air?

The truth is that there are some instances when it’s cheaper to run a window air conditioner, and others when it’s cheaper to run central air. Here are some factors that affect the cost of cooling your home.

The Cost of the Unit

If you’re just comparing the price of a window unit to central air, a window unit will cost much less. An average window unit costs a couple of hundred dollars. Plus, you can install it yourself or with another person.

A central air unit costs several thousands of dollars and it needs to be professionally installed. You also have to maintain the unit and have the system professionally inspected a couple of times a year.

The Size of the Space

A home or apartment that has several rooms to be cooled will require several window air units, each of them running for extended periods of time. That will cause your energy bills to skyrocket.

In this situation, a central air unit makes much more sense because it can keep the entire home at a consistent temperature. That is much cheaper than running several window air conditioning units at the same time.

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Usage of Your Home

Let’s say that you have a 2000 square foot home and only one person spends that time at home all day because they work from home. In this instance, it’s cheaper to run a window unit in the home office and then have the central air kick on for a few hours when the rest of the household returns.

On the other hand, if most of your home gets used during the day, then central air makes sense and it would be cheaper to run.

The bottom line is that you need to assess your situation to determine if a window AC unit is going to be cheaper than central air.

Cost comparison of central air conditioning vs. window units.

How to Save Money on AC Costs

No matter what method of cooling your home you decide is right for you, there are ways you can cut down on your cooling costs. These tips will help you stay cool and comfortable while keeping your energy costs down.

1. Keep Natural Sunlight Out

If you live in an area where you wait months for warm, sunny days, this can be difficult to do. The last thing you want to do is block out natural light, but it is one of the best ways to keep your place cool.

You can plant trees around your property, which will provide a lot of shade around your home. You can also put a film on your windows, which can diffuse light and limit the amount of heat that comes in.

If you still want to get natural light in your home, you can let light in the morning and early evening when the sun’s rays aren’t as hot. In the late morning through mid-afternoon, draw the blinds or curtains to keep the heat out.

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2. How Cool Is Too Cool?

You want to be comfortable, but find that balance between comfort and cost savings. There are some estimates that say for every degree you lower your thermostat, that adds 1% to your cooling bills.

For many people, the ideal temperature is 72 degrees. If you were to bump that up to 75 degrees, you’d still be comfortable and save a considerable amount of money each month.

3. Set It and Forget It

One of the easiest ways to save on your cooling costs is to get a programmable thermostat and set it to automatically cool your home. You can set the thermostat so it comes on in the morning as you wake up and turn it off or set the temperature higher when you’re not at home.

This is a little more challenging to do with window AC units. If you don’t have a programmable AC unit, you may be able to connect it to a timer that turns it on and off at specific times.

4. Plug Energy Leaks In the Home

You may be pumping cool air outside and don’t even know it. You want to make sure that you check your home to see if cool air is escaping or if heat is getting into your home.

You can start in your attic by checking your insulation. It’s the job of insulation to trap heat, and if it’s not doing its job, hot air is getting into your home. You may need to replace it if it’s wet or old.

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Check the windows and doors around your home for drafts. These are the most common areas where heat gets in and cold air escapes. You may need to reseal windows and realign doors to make them more efficient.

5. Maintain and Repair Your Units

With HVAC units, it’s important to keep up with maintenance and repair. You can call an AC repair service to inspect your unit and make sure that it’s running efficiently.

Window units also require some maintenance and repairs. Before you install your window unit each winter, check the air filter, and change if it’s torn or dirty. You’ll need to inspect the coils and clean them as well.

Bring Down Your Energy Bills

Is it cheaper to run a window air conditioner or central air? It depends on a number of factors, including the size of your home, and the usage. You’ll need to assess your situation and decide what’s right for you.

Are you ready for more great tips to save money? Head over to the home page of this site for more frugal tips.

FAQ: Window Air Conditioner vs. Central Air

  1. Is window AC more expensive than central AC?
    • Upfront, a window AC unit is cheaper, typically costing a few hundred dollars. In contrast, central air units can cost several thousands of dollars and require professional installation and maintenance.
  2. Is it cheaper to run 2 window units vs central air?
    • It depends on the size of the space and usage. For larger homes with multiple rooms, running several window units can cause energy bills to rise significantly. In such cases, central air might be more cost-effective as it maintains a consistent temperature throughout the home.
  3. Is it cheaper to leave window AC on all day?
    • Not necessarily. If only a portion of the home is used during the day, it might be more cost-effective to run a window unit in that specific area and use central air for a few hours when the rest of the household is active.
  4. What is the cheapest way to run an air conditioner?
    • Some cost-saving tips include:
      • Keeping natural sunlight out to reduce heat.
      • Adjusting the thermostat to around 75 degrees.
      • Using a programmable thermostat to cool the home only when needed.
      • Plugging energy leaks in the home, like windows and doors.
      • Regularly maintaining and repairing units to ensure efficiency.
  5. Do window units use more electricity than central?
    • The electricity usage depends on the size of the space, the number of window units, and the duration they’re running. In homes with multiple rooms, several window units running simultaneously can consume more electricity than a central system maintaining a consistent temperature.
  6. Do AC units use more electricity than central air?
    • “AC units” can refer to both window and central air systems. If comparing multiple window units to a single central air system, the former might use more electricity, especially if they’re cooling multiple rooms or running for extended periods.
  7. How often should I maintain my air conditioning units?
    • For central air units, it’s recommended to have the system professionally inspected a couple of times a year. Window units should be checked before installation each season, ensuring the air filter is clean and the coils are inspected.
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