How to Choose an Air Conditioner: Central Air Conditioners vs Window Air Conditioners vs Portable Air Conditioners

Are you looking to choose and buy the best air conditioner for you and your home? When temperatures rise in the summer, one of the things you know for sure is that you need an efficient way to cool your home.

In this article we will first discuss general functionality of air conditioners so that you can understand how air conditioners cool the air and what features they may have. After that you’ll be able to decide what features you need and want. Next, we will discuss different types of air conditioners and their pros and cons.

The functionality of air conditioners

When you leave your home and go to work or school, you most likely drive a car. You may also be taking a bus or a train. This means that you actually do have a lot of experience with HVAC systems. HVAC is short for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. As it is obvious form the name, air conditioning is an indispensable part of any HVAC system.

Let’s take a look at a typical passenger car because cars are a great example of effective and efficient air conditioning systems.

Power match

A typical car with working air conditioning can put as much cooling as you need.

This is what you want from an air conditioning system for your home, too. If you have large rooms, you need to get large air conditioners that can cool large rooms. If you have small rooms and use big air conditioners, you will be wasting energy and paying more for your utility bills than you have to.

Variable temperature and fan speed

Air conditioners work by using safe chemicals that easily change their state from a liquid to a gas and move the heat from the air inside of your car or your home to the air outside.

There are two main parameters here. The first parameter has to do with air temperature. The second parameter has to do with air conditioner fan speed. The faster the speed, the faster the air conditioner can cool the air.

Fresh air

An air conditioner can either bring the air from the outside of a home or a car and cool it or circulate and cool the air that is already inside

Humidification and dehumidification

Humidification and dehumidification are capabilities of a device to increase or decrease moisture of air (also known as humidity) in a room, building or a car.

The ideal humidity of air is between 30% and 50%. You may be interested in humidification capabilities because dry air may lead to dry sinus, bloody nose and cracked skin and lips. Humidifiers can also help with colds and other respiratory conditions. Too much humidity can lead to you home feeling stuffy. It can also cause condensation appear on walls, floors and ceilings, leading to the appearance of harmful molds and bacteria. Such developments can cause respiratory issues, allergic reactions and asthma flare-ups.

Central Air Conditioning

Advantages of getting a central air conditioner

Central air conditioners offer a number of benefits compared to portable and in-window air conditioners. First, they do not take any space inside of the home. They also don’t block any of the views because a central air conditioner is located outside of your home. Secondly, being located outside, central air conditioners make less noise. Third, some central air conditioners have both cooling and heating features.

Disadvantages of central air conditioning


There are two ways central air conditioner can increase your costs. The first one is the cost of installation. The upfront costs are one of the main reasons why so many people choose window and portable air conditioners. The second reason is that cooling all the rooms in your home can increase your energy bills, especially if you are upgrading to a central air conditioning system from just a few window air conditioners. According to the United States Department of Energy consumer resource website, average air-conditioned home consumes more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a given year compared to a home that does not have air conditioning.

Duct maintenance

Another disadvantage of a central air conditioner is that you will need to often perform duct maintenance. If you don’t, the duct will collect harmful bacteria and mold, which may lead to the decreased quality of air in your home. With a central air conditioning system, you will need to make sure that your ducts are clean. The best way to do so is to hire professional duct cleaners at least once a year.

Two options of controlling a central air conditioner

When you install a central air conditioner, you can choose between two options of how you are going to control central air. The first one is operating your central air conditioner from one place and controlling the air in every room of your home at the same time. In this scenario you will have a control in one place in your home. This means that you can set the conditioner on, off, up or down with just one control. The disadvantage of such a system is that you will also be cooling the rooms that you don’t visit frequently.

For this reason, most homeowners choose a system with individual controls in each room of the home. The biggest benefit of such a system is cost savings. The largest disadvantage is that you will have to go to individually set the settings in each room every time. Having individual control settings works well if you mostly use certain rooms or spaces in your home, such as the living space, the bedrooms and the kitchen, and use certain room infrequently.

How to choose a central air conditioner that’s right for you

When it comes to central air conditioners, there is no one-fits-all advice because adding a central air conditioner to your home depends on whether you have or don’t have ductwork. If you have a duct system that was created for the purpose of heating your home, it may not be able to process the volume of air required for cooling. Another issue is the placement of central air conditioner supply register.

Window air conditioners

Even though more and more home owners in the United States choose central air conditioners for their homes, sales of window air conditioners still surpass 6 million units a year.

All modern models of window air conditioners do a great job when it comes to cooling. This is why cooling features are not what separates the winners from the losers.

The best air conditioners are very quiet. They also have well-designed easy-to-use controls. Best window air conditioners keep working even when there is a change in voltage in the power supply system. The latter is extremely important in the hot weather because the electricity usage in hot weather typically goes up and electric grids may start experiencing technical issues.

Benefits of window air conditioners

Low costs

Low cost is one of the biggest benefits of window air conditioners both when it comes to purchasing a unit and when it comes to operating one. The price of the unit that you choose will depend on the brand and the size. You can get an entry-level model for about $100. Larger models from well-known brands can cost up to $1000 or even more.

Ease of installation

Another benefit of window air conditioners is that they are easy to install. Installation of a window air conditioner is a very simple straight-forward process that you can complete yourself without hiring any professional help.


Portable air conditioners

There are many reasons why you may want to choose a portable air conditioner. You homeowner’s association may have restrictions that prohibit you from having a window air conditioner. You may choose to not deal with installation of a window or central air conditioner. Finally, the quality of air may be very important to you and you want a model that will not only cool the air, but also dehumidify it. This is one of the areas where portable air conditioners shine.

Why you should choose a portable air conditioner

No restrictions

This is the biggest benefit of portable air conditioners. When getting a portable unit, you don’t have to worry about the size and age of your duct, your apartment building rules or homeowner’s association requirements. You can simply buy a unit and start using it once you bright it home.

Perfect for small spaces

A portable air conditioner is great if you live in a small space such as a studio apartment because you probably don’t have a lot of windows and having views and natural light may be important to you.

A typical window air conditioner usually takes a significant part of a window while portable units take a much smaller space.

Two in one

Most portable air conditioners don’t just cool the air but also dehumidify it. If you live in a region with high humidity, you know that humidity can be as discomforting as the heat.

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