Window AC Units vs Whole House Air Conditioners

A cooling system feels like an essential for most households during the summer months. Not only does an air conditioner keep your family comfortable, cooling also provides a safe refuge indoors when outside temperatures soar.

Air conditioners weren’t always the standard in homes – many older homes used construction features and other cooling tips to lower temperatures in the home without an air conditioning unit. Because of this, your older home may not have an air conditioner.

If you want the cool comfort and security of a cooling system this summer, you have a few options – a window AC unit or a whole home air conditioning system. shows you the benefits and drawbacks of each, as well as estimated costs, so you can decide which option is best for your summertime comfort needs.

Window AC Unit Installation

Window air conditioning units are a single-room, temporary solution for cooling your home. Window air conditioner installation costs average between $150 to $750, depending on the type of unit you buy – the national average is approximately $300. Since these solutions are not permanently installed, you may be able to find a unit used to lower your upfront costs.

Window air conditioning units are a good option in certain situations:

  • Ideal for rented homes and apartments where there is no whole home cooling system.
  • In homes with existing whole home cooling, but a certain area requires additional cooling to maintain comfort.
  • In homes without existing ductwork, where installing ductwork to support a whole home air conditioner is cost-prohibitive or the home cannot support effective installation due to space or design constraints.
  • For homes in climates where cooling is only needed for a short period of time.

Window AC Unit Installation Pros

  • Window air conditioner installation costs less than a whole home air conditioner, as the equipment is not as costly.
  • Window AC units are installed directly into the area they serve, providing “zoned” comfort. No ductwork is required to move conditioned air through the home, saving the additional cost of installing ducts as are required for whole home air conditioners.
  • For most people, window AC unit installation is a DIY job. This makes window air conditioner installation costs even lower compared to whole home cooling system installation because you do not need to hire a professional to do the job.
  • Window air conditioner installation can be done quickly. You can purchase a unit at most any hardware store locally, and install it yourself same day! You won’t have to wait through the process of having a whole home air conditioner installed, from scheduling an estimate, ordering your equipment, and waiting on an HVAC contractor to install it. A window unit may be especially convenient in the summertime, as contractors usually have longer wait times for installation because summer is a busy season in the industry.
  • Repairs are more affordable for window AC units than whole home cooling units. While many HVAC companies do not perform repairs for AC units if you experience a malfunction, you can simply buy a new unit for less than the cost of the average whole home air conditioner repair.
  • Running a single window air conditioner consumes less energy than a whole home air conditioner. A whole home unit not only has to provide cooling for a larger space, but uses the furnace components to distribute air, increasing electrical consumption. Although if you need multiple window AC units, this solution will likely consume more energy than a whole home air conditioner.

Window AC Unit Installation Cons

  • Window AC unit installation is not a whole home cooling solution. If you want to cool more than one area, you’ll need to purchase and install additional units. Depending on the price of the unit, it may be more cost-effective to have a whole home air conditioner installed.
  • Because window AC unit installation is directly within the room the unit will serve, you’ll experience more operating noise. Many whole home air conditioners feature noise reduction components to lower operating noise, and the equipment is typically housed away from your living areas so you’re less likely to notice the noise.
  • Window AC unit installation is temporary, so the units can be removed from the window area. This can make your home more susceptible to burglary, as thieves can remove the unit from the outside of your home and gain access through the window.
  • Some consider window AC unit installation an eyesore. The units are typically not designed with aesthetics in mind, plus the equipment is installed within sight directly in your living spaces.
  • With a window air conditioning unit installed, you’ll lose natural light in your living area, as the unit blocks out a significant portion of your window area.
  • Window air conditioners don’t provide the even temperatures that a whole home cooling system can deliver. They do not circulate conditioned air as efficiently, creating hot spots within your room. Some areas may be too cold, while others too hot.
  • Window AC unit installation does not include air filtration at the same high level a whole home air conditioner provides. Their filters are not as efficient and do not provide whole home indoor air quality improvement.
  • Window AC unit installation doesn’t offer the dehumidification benefits that a whole home air conditioner will. Some window AC units offer better dehumidification than other models, but even so, these units will not deliver moisture removal across your entire home.

Whole Home Air Conditioner Installation

A whole home air conditioner is a permanent solution for cooling in your home. The system provides cooling for every living area, not just one as a window unit does. Installing a whole home air conditioner costs an average of approximately $5,350. Your home may require additional work to facilitate a whole home unit, such as ductwork installation, adding cost to your project. This is not a project you can do yourself – whole home air conditioner installation should be done by a professional for your safety and to ensure system performance.

Whole Home Air Conditioning Unit

Whole home air conditioners are ideal in situations where:

  • Your home has existing ductwork in good shape, and you’re replacing an older whole home cooling system.
  • You need cooling in many areas throughout the home.

For whole home cooling, a whole home air conditioner is likely the best solution. A whole home unit will consume less energy versus using multiple window units throughout the home, saving you money. A whole home unit also maintains indoor comfort better by delivering even temperatures throughout the home with fewer hot spots. Whole home air conditioning equipment offers more features for your convenience, better air filtration to reduce allergens and troublesome health symptoms, and does a better job keeping humidity levels in check.