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Landry Mechanical Inc Blog

Deciding Between a Window AC Unit and an HVAC System

Springtime is finally upon us, and when spring arrives, the hot summer weather is always close behind. If you want to keep your Sutton, MA household cool and comfortable over the next few months, you’ll likely be relying heavily on your air conditioner. So, if your home is currently without a cooling system, you can’t afford to put off the purchase much longer. Sometimes, though, deciding what kind of AC unit to invest in can be challenging. For one, every household has different needs and priorities. Even if your main goal is saving money, it isn’t always as simple as purchasing the cheapest system. To determine the financial repercussions of your purchase, you’ll have to consider several variables.

For most homeowners, the decision generally comes down to purchasing either an HVAC system or a window unit. The most common kind of HVAC system is a central air system, but heat pumps are also somewhat popular. As for window units, they come in various sizes, and they’re always placed in or around a window. Both HVAC systems and window AC units have their benefits, and you’ll need to evaluate which kind will serve your situation the most effectively.

Comparing the Immediate Costs

When you invest in a new air conditioner, the two main upfront costs you need to consider are the purchase price of the unit and the installation fee. In both of these categories, window units are much more affordable than the vast majority of HVAC systems. In terms of the purchase price, window units are rarely more expensive than $1,000, and you can usually buy a smaller one for only $100 or $200. With HVAC systems, the purchase price has quite a bit of variance. Usually, the smaller, lower-end units will be somewhere in the range of $2,000 to $3,000. Alternatively, if you opt for a large or high-efficiency system, that figure could be anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000.

Then, there’s installation. HVAC systems are pretty complex, and they have to be directly connected to your home’s ventilation setup. As a result, installing a central air system or heat pump is a task that should be left to the professionals because they’ll have the tools, experience, and knowledge to do it correctly and safely. However, that service will usually cost no less than a few hundred dollars. Window units are much simpler. Because they are essentially self-contained systems and don’t need to be connected to your ductwork, most homeowners can install them without professional help. Typically, the installation process takes an hour or two and saves you the expense of hiring a contractor.

Comparing the Operating Costs

When you’re looking at how much an air conditioner is going to cost you over the long term, energy usage is perhaps the most significant factor. During the toasty Massachusetts summers, you’ll want that cool air flowing frequently, so the energy efficiency of your appliance will have a major impact on your finances. This is another area in which window units are pretty attractive options.

On average, for every hour that you run a window AC unit, it will burn through between 500 and 1,400 watts. The exact amount of electricity depends on the efficiency of your specific unit, as well as how high you’ve got the cool air cranked up. This is in comparison to the average HVAC system, which will usually require around 3,500 watts per hour of usage. Obviously, if your household is running multiple window units at once, this output will change things. However, if you’re only utilizing just one unit, your monthly electricity costs for cooling will be much cheaper than they would be with an average HVAC system.

Comparing the Required Maintenance

When you own a central air HVAC system or heat pump, professional maintenance is a service that you really can’t neglect. If you don’t schedule a tune-up every year or so, the results you get from your cooling appliance will suffer greatly. Not only will the HVAC system be less effective and less efficient, but it will also have a shorter life expectancy and be more susceptible to mechanical failure. Even with an affordable service like AC maintenance, making it happen once or twice every year will add up to quite a bit of money over the unit’s lifespan. However, it’s worth it since you’d be spending much more money in the long run if you didn’t keep up with it.

Although you don’t need to call in professional technicians to maintain your window AC unit, you do still need to perform certain upkeep tasks. However, the primary difference is that with a window unit, the maintenance process is entirely free. All you generally need to do is regularly clean the air filter, wipe down the coils, wash the fans, and clean out the drain pan. If you stay on top of these tasks, your window AC unit should continue to perform well and operate efficiently.

Comparing Mechanical Repair Costs

When an HVAC system has a major equipment malfunction or a complete breakdown, it can be somewhat of a nightmare scenario for the homeowner. In some cases, a repair job may cost upwards of $1,000, and if you’ve invested several thousand in the system, you’ll naturally feel obligated to bite the bullet and pay for the fix. Usually, even the most expensive repair bill won’t be as expensive as replacing the HVAC system entirely, meaning that it’s always more affordable to invest in the repair job.

If you purchase a window AC unit, you’ll never feel obligated to pay for a massive equipment fix. Since window units are almost always under $1,000, it’s never prudent to spend more than that to repair a struggling or broken-down appliance. If you ever have to choose between spending $1,500 on a repair or purchasing a new $750 window unit, the decision will be an easy one. However, that type of decision doesn’t often come up with a window unit because they don’t usually cost more than a few hundred dollars to repair anyway.

What’s the Verdict?

Ultimately, if you’re deciding between investing in an HVAC system or one-window AC unit, you’ll save a significant amount of money by going with the latter. However, you can’t ignore the fact that window units are only meant to cool down one room or section of your household whereas HVAC systems can handle every area of the home at once. So, if you have a large family or multiple roommates, then having a window unit in one room probably won’t cut it when the Sutton summer arrives. And, if you have to purchase two or three additional units, the cost will be much closer to that of an HVAC system, and it may even be more expensive. However, if you live on your own or with one other person, and you don’t need to control the entire home’s climate at the same time, you may be content with having one window unit and saving some cash.

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