Window AC vs Central AC

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Jan 26, 2012
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Omaha, NE USA
Our house is relatively small (1100 sq ft). It is just one story with 3 small bedrooms. Our home currently has central air, but I believe the compressor may be going out. I haven't been able to get it to kick on all day and it appears to be a pretty old unit. I have priced the compressors and it looks like they are pretty pricy. Due to where some of the vents are located, the central air really does not cool our bedroom very well. In a house of this size, do you guys think I should just get a couple of window units instead (if the compressor turns out to be the problem)?
 
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Get a quote first because the new compressor might be cheaper to run. Then shop the window units and figure out your plan for isolating a room or rooms and try to estimate the cost and effort to use window units.
 
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There is a convenience factor in having central and no windows are blocked. Most central a/c's are more efficient than a window unit too. Saying that, my house is about the same size as your and I have window units. Price wise you can't beat them and the new ones are increasing in efficiency.
 
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Upstate NY
Originally Posted By: fisher83
Our house is relatively small (1100 sq ft). It is just one story with 3 small bedrooms. Our home currently has central air, but I believe the compressor may be going out. I haven't been able to get it to kick on all day and it appears to be a pretty old unit. I have priced the compressors and it looks like they are pretty pricy. Due to where some of the vents are located, the central air really does not cool our bedroom very well. In a house of this size, do you guys think I should just get a couple of window units instead (if the compressor turns out to be the problem)?
I would get one of the new ductless AC units before window ones. Some people refer to the window ones as ghetto ACs.
 
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Originally Posted By: Donald
Originally Posted By: fisher83
Our house is relatively small (1100 sq ft). It is just one story with 3 small bedrooms. Our home currently has central air, but I believe the compressor may be going out. I haven't been able to get it to kick on all day and it appears to be a pretty old unit. I have priced the compressors and it looks like they are pretty pricy. Due to where some of the vents are located, the central air really does not cool our bedroom very well. In a house of this size, do you guys think I should just get a couple of window units instead (if the compressor turns out to be the problem)?
I would get one of the new ductless AC units before window ones. Some people refer to the window ones as ghetto ACs.
Ductless wall units are nice, but even though the OPs house is one story, it still might not cool the entire house. My problem with window units is the noise, I can't regularly sleep through it.
 

JHZR2

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HVAC can be predatory. Of course you get the overly pro-business types telling you that its none of you business what man-hour rate is charged by HVAc guys (IME they cloak all their costs and then it comes to an effective $250/hr+) and what profit they make... But that is rubbish. Every other trade that Ive ever dealt with clearly states what theyre doing and what they charge for the effort. Most residences with central have only a single HVAC system, controlled only by one thermostat (more, newer homes have two or three condensors and HVAC units for better segregation, of course that drives cost). A single central unit limits control - for example, do you want it cold at night to sleep? Why cool off the rest of the house when youre asleep? Window ACs have typically given you more control even if somewhat less efficient on a kWh/ton-hr basis. Still, the amount of time youre using ALL of them might be far less than you think. I personally do not like Central because of the dust and ducting. This stuff gets dirty no matter what, and ducts have losses regardless of how well sealed and designed they are. I also find that I get allergies and more dry if I am in central versus other approaches to HVAC. Window ACs have a certain aesthetic element to them that if they are hidden, out of sight, great, but if they are in plain sight, not so nice. Probably also a push-in risk if youre at street level. But they can have their place and the newest units are pushing 12 EER and can be VERY quiet (for good brands like Sharp and Friedrich). We have split ductless and are able to cool in a controlled manner, space by space, and are far higher efficiency than any central unit (24.5 SEER). They are absolutely silent, unobtrusive in a space, and work wonderfully, as well as let me retain my radiator heat which I prefer (with mod-con boiler and indirect WH for ultimate operating efficiency). A good part of the world also uses these. My inlaws in the Caribbean have had them for years because of the block and open construction, which makes air handlers intrusive and installation of ducts impractical/impossible. They have had great reliability and prefer the efficiency (they are fully self-sufficient via grid-tie solar panels and a diesel generator for hurricanes, but grid prices in the VI are around 52c/kWh).
 

fisher83

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This house was originally a 2 bedroom built in 1920. Sometime in the 1980's, an addition was added on which included another bedroom, some hall space, and an attached 2 car garage. The entire house is kind of a unique mix of old and new. When the central AC was put in, they seemed to choose some weird places to put vents which makes some areas of the home more manageable than others when it comes to controlling the temperature. I think that a few portable AC units might be a viable option also. They are a little more costly than window units but there is the benefit of not having them hang out the window. From what I understand, they are a little quieter too.
 

JHZR2

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If you go portable, be sure to get a two-hose system. The one hose systems are less efficient, as you have to draw external air in, or exhaust internal air out, in order to operate the condenser and remove the condensate by evaporation. We dont own any but that's what I recall from reading about them years ago.
 
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Gulf Coast, MS
When ours went out about 5-6 years ago it cost to much to replace. We decided on 2 window units. A 15k but one in the kitchen/living room and a small 5k but in our room (we live on other end of the house). The big one in the living room is only about 20 ft away from the other bedrooms so during the day I turn ours off and shut the doors when no ones home. This method works well and the power bill has been lower. It cost us about $120 a month to run both non stop. Which some might see as high but in Mississippi with 90+ degree weather daily and extremely high humidity its normal for heat I next to be at 110-120 degrees daily.
 
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Chicago, IL
does your compressor make any noise as it tries to start? could be a bad capacitor. if so, the cap will normally be obviouslybulged and bad. I replaced ours for $20. another friend found that the contact terminals on his starting relay were simply corroded. and yes, you could have a bad compressor. central AC vs. window units? I actually use both to keep my house comfy. (2 story) with my old 1 story we used two larger window units.
 
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I have to install out central A/C (picked up a good used model cheap), but have been running a few Window A/Cs, and for the most part have worked very well. Keeps our house cooler than expected...
 
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Mar 23, 2013
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Al
I suggest you update and upgrade your HVAC system. We replaced our 27 yo HVAC with a 22 SEER AC and a 2 stage furnace with fully variable fan. Utility bills went down significantly but more importantly the house is so much more comfortable because you can barely tell the HVAC is even running most of the time. Be sure to add some vents and cold air returns as needed to fully upgrade the new system and make it as effective and efficient as possible.
 
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Nut farm
I absolutely refuse to deal with central air...it is just too much of a money pit. I have a big wall-mount air conditioner, it cools the entire place nicely. (I also have a small one for the bedroom so I don't need to run the big one all night.)
 
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Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: tomcat27
another friend found that the contact terminals on his starting relay were simply corroded.
This happened to our compressor unit outside. We had just moved into the house at the time. First call was to the home warranty, to get a tech on the way. I then went outside to check it out. Indeed, the wiring block terminals were badly corroded. I fabricated an equivalent solution with some generic wiring blocks from Home Depot and cancelled the warranty call. That was about 9 years ago. Our unit is original to our house, built in 1993. It's a Goodman, a contractor special. Still working like a champ, though, even through long North Carolina summers.
 
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Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
It's a Goodman, a contractor special. Still working like a champ, though, even through long North Carolina summers.
I thought that Goodman was a top brand.
 
Joined
Dec 10, 2002
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USA
I have two central ac units for upstairs and downstairs. I have two nest thermostats to help me control electricity costs. I'm thinking of getting a portable a/c unit for my bedroom at night to cool only when I sleep. my wife will hate it. my HOA forbids window a/c units.
 
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Feb 15, 2003
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Jupiter, Florida
I have a 16 SEER 5 ton central AC, in a well configured Florida home. It's downright cheap to run that system. The utility costs over the years were lower than my previous (half the size) home. A properly set up, modern, central AC is going to be significantly more efficient than any window unit.
 
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Feb 9, 2008
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Midwest
We have central air and I wouldn't have anything else. It keeps our entire 4200 square feet of house comfortable, it keeps the humidity at an ideal level, and it is very inexpensive to operate. Even in the summer months we've only broken $100 on our electric bill once or twice in the nearly 20 years we've lived here. The real key is to have a properly configured system and an energy efficient home.
 
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