Are Window AC Units Effective?

Window AC Unit Most likely, many of us are thinking about a window AC unit as we inch towards summer and remember 2021’s heat dome.

Window air conditioners have since gained in popularity – they are a quicker, easier, and more affordable fix to sweaty summer nights than installing central air conditioning.

The question remains, however, are window AC units effective?

In fact, there may be many questions you could be asking yourself in relation to whether “to buy or not to buy” a window AC unit in preparation for summer. These may include:

  • How much power does a window AC unit use?
  • What are the different types of AC units and which is better:
    – Portable AC unit
    – Window AC unit
    – Central Air Conditioning
    – Mini-split AC unit
  • What are the pros and cons of each?
  • Which AC unit is best for me – in terms of budget, size, and overall effectiveness?

In this Premium Electric blog post, we’ll provide answers to these and other pertinent questions about air conditioners for home use.

How Much Power Does a Window AC Unit Use?

Central air conditioning may not be an option for many homeowners – it’s a costly and time-consuming undertaking. Instead, homeowners are increasingly looking into window air conditioning units.

Before you take the plunge and spend the money on an AC unit, it is important to get answers to these two questions:

  1. How much electricity does a window AC unit use?
  2. Will my circuit breakers be able to handle the AC Unit?

Electricity Requirements

When you compare central air conditioning running for the same length of time, the central AC system uses two-thirds more electricity than a window air conditioner.

However, with multiple window AC units running – which is likely necessary to cool different rooms in a house or a condo, the cost of power usage can add up quickly.

In short, window air conditioners are best suited for single rooms or smaller places like apartments. However, if you need to cool several rooms at once in a larger home then a central air conditioner might prove to be more cost-efficient over the long run.

Circuit Breaker Requirements

You will also need to check that your home’s electrical system has the capacity to run air conditioning of any sort before spending your hard-earned cash. Running AC isn’t like boiling a kettle or even running your washer/dryer at the same time.

Your typical window AC unit may require more power than most of your smaller appliances so you will need to check if your home’s wiring and electrical panel are up to the task.

For reference:

  • You can run a 15-amp window AC unit at 115-volts using a regular electrical outlet.
  • However, larger AC units that require more amperage and up to 220 volts will necessitate a dedicated outlet, which may require an electrician, especially if you need a circuit panel upgrade.

In other words, before buying or installing a window AC unit, best you get a trusted electrician in to check if your home can handle it. Our Premium Electric team can do that for you – call us today at 604-308-6195 to set up a time!

Before putting money out for AC, you may also want to consider the pros and cons of all the cooling options. Below, we offer an overview to help inform your choice.

Different AC Unit Pros & Cons

Window AC Unit Pros

Cost-effective: Compared to other AC units, window air conditioners are a lot cheaper to buy and operate. They cost a fraction of installing and running central air conditioning.

Space-saving: Window AC units are generally unobtrusive and out of the way. Placed in a window, they are less noticeable than portable units and don’t take up actual living space.

Energy-efficient: They are generally more efficient than any of the other AC options, providing more cooling power. Bigger rooms require more BTU to cool. These AC units also only air condition the room that they are in. In terms of energy efficiency, this means that you can have one in the bedroom, one in the main room, and so on, but to save energy, you need only run the one in the room you’re in at any given moment.

Window AC Unit Cons

Loss of window access: Although being tucked away in a window means it won’t take up any living space, it does limit access to the window itself.

Limited cooling power: These AC units do a good job of cooling a single room, but if you want your whole house cooled, you’ll have to buy one for each room. Multiple window AC units also then bump up your energy usage and cost, thereby negating some of the pros above. Central AC units will circulate the air better, so with window air conditioners, you may end up with hot spots, freezing cold spots, and just right spots. You might find yourself making like Goldilocks in trying to find the chair, bed or another spot that is just right.

Filtration issues: Although window air conditioners are getting better at filtering the air, they just can’t compare to a central air conditioner. This can have some impact on those who suffer from allergies or asthma.

Portable AC UnitPortable AC Unit Pros

Portability: Well, duh. The most obvious selling point for a portable AC unit is its portability. Where you go and need cooling, it goes.

Window access: Portable ACs don’t impede your window access.

Cost-effective: Portable AC units are also extremely cost-effective in terms of both purchase cost, and installation – as in they require none! – and running them. They don’t require nearly the same amount of power as any of the other AC unit options.

Portable AC Unit Cons

Aesthetics (and ‘ear-thetics’): Portable AC units can be cumbersome and annoying if space is limited. They can also be noisy – far more noticeable than any other AC system option.

Energy issues: Another shortcoming of portable AC units is their energy rating. Not all systems meet minimum energy requirements and those that do tend to be more costly.

Condensation: Newer, more expensive portable AC unit models use vent exhaust to remove the issue of condensation. Many of the more reasonably priced options continue to use a drip pan, however, which tends to fill up quickly and must be regularly emptied by hand.

Whole-house coolingCentral AC Pros

Whole-house cooling: You cannot beat a central AC unit for its ability to cool your whole house – quickly, quietly, and effectively.

Even temperature circulation: Unlike window AC units, which leave you contending with hot spots and cooler spots in the room they are installed in, central AC circulates the air in each and every room in your home efficiently and evenly.

Energy efficiency: All central AC units must meet the minimum efficiency standards of performance under Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations, which specify the minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) for central air-conditioning equipment. This means their energy rating is guaranteed to be of a certain standard.

Superior filtration: If you have allergies or asthma, central AC won’t aggravate these issues as they are designed to do a good job of air filtration all while cooling your home.

Central AC Cons

Cost: There can be no denying that central air conditioning is by far the most expensive of all the AC units – to buy, install, run, and fix. Indeed, if your central AC does break down, in many instances you could buy one, two, or even three new window air conditioning units for the price of an average central AC repair.

Energy efficiency: As mentioned, central AC units use two-thirds more energy. However, this may be negated when you consider that you may need three, four, or even five or more window AC units to cool all the rooms in your house, and none of them will do the job quite as effectively as the single central AC.

Mini-Split AC UnitsMini-Split AC Units

Finally, another option you may consider when it comes to cooling your home is a ductless air conditioner, also known as a mini-split AC unit.

This option seems to combine some of the best pros of the other units and negate some of the bigger cons. Call it the middle ground between the powerhouse, all-cooling big brother that is central AC, and the space and energy saver that is its little sister window AC unit.

As the proverbial middle child, the mini-split AC unit is:

  • Less expensive than central AC, but more expensive than other AC units.
  • Less powerfully cooling than central AC, but able to cool a much larger area than a window unit.
  • Noisier than central AC, but quieter than window units.
  • More energy efficient than central AC, but less so than a single-window AC unit.
  • And so on, and so forth.

And although professional installation is required for a mini-split unit, the installation process is less involved and less costly than a central air conditioning system.

Bottom line, when it comes to installing AC units, you have options, and all of them have the power to keep you cool in some capacity or other. Only you can answer questions related to how many rooms you need cooled and how often, what your budget is, how important energy efficiency is to you, what your long-term living situation is in relation to your current home, and so on.

The answers can help inform your choice between window, portable, central, or mini-split AC systems. Once that choice is made, we have all the other answers!

Whatever option you choose to keep your cool this summer and beyond, Premium Electric can make sure that your home’s electrical system is up to the task of running it!

Contact Premium Electric

If you still have questions or wonder if a window AC unit is right for you, Premium Electric can help. Our electricians are fully qualified and service clients throughout the Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley area of BC.

We also offer both residential and commercial electrical services. Always hire a qualified electrician when you have an electrical problem.

Please contact us online or send us an email, or call our office at 604-308-6195 and we’ll be glad to help you with your electrical needs.

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