Florida homes typically have central air conditioning units, but the last EIA report found that 14% of Florida’s homes do not. Around 10% of them rely on window units, while the remaining don’t have anything. Air conditioning accounts for 27% of a Florida home’s energy consumption, and it’s one of the most important systems in a home.
If you have a home in Florida that doesn’t have any AC system or relies on window units, you need to carefully consider if it’s still worth it. What are the pros and cons of central AC vs. a window unit?
The Pros and Cons of Central Air Conditioning
To install central AC in Florida, the average cost is around $5,200. This can vary a lot depending on the size of the AC unit, its efficiency (EER or SEER 2), whether you have existing ducts, the current state of your electricals, the materials used to build your home, and how many stories your home is.
- Central AC cools the entire house at the same time with one unit.
- The cooling is balanced so that all rooms are near or very close to the same temperature.
- Central AC is much quieter than in-window or portable window AC units.
- It’s more efficient than window air conditioners.
- Central AC is great for people with allergies and asthma.
- It has an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years.
- Central AC costs thousands to install.
- It has an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years.
- It can cost more to repair the central AC in your home.
- You need space outside of your home for the outside unit, which some feel is unsightly.
- It’s important that you find a qualified, licensed installer.
- Ducts must be installed and connected to every room in the home, and this can be a problem if the walls are made of brick, stone, or concrete.
- Sometimes, ducts have to be installed in visible areas or closets, which takes up room.
The 10 to 15-year average lifespan of a central AC unit is both a pro and con. After a decade or so, you’ll have to spend several more thousand to replace your system. It ends up being a costly expense decade after decade. But, there are ways to extend the life of your system. Have it professionally maintained each year and make sure you change the filters every couple of months, or more often if needed.
The Pros and Cons of Window Units
The average cost of a window AC unit is $250. You may be able to install it yourself, but you need to do it properly or you can damage the window. It may need braces added. For windows that aren’t able to support the weight of an air conditioner, a portable AC unit that has a hose that goes to a window is best. But, portable AC units are more expensive and you’ll need a tray under it in case it leaks.
- Window AC units are less expensive to purchase and install than central AC units.
- Professional installation usually isn’t required.
- Anyone can install a window AC unit with a little time and care. You do not need a licensed AC technician.
- Some units are portable and can be wheeled from one room to another.
- They set up in minutes.
- It’s a great option for rentals where you cannot damage the window or add new HVAC equipment, or the walls or brick or stone and make it hard to add ducts.
- Window AC only cools one room, so you may need multiple units, such as window AC in your living room and all bedrooms.
- The cooling is uneven and will be cooler near the unit. You may need to run extra fans to distribute the cold air.
- Mildew may build up on the unit making it a poor choice for people with allergies or asthma,
- Window AC units are noisy.
- They’re less efficient than central AC and will drastically increase your electricity bills. On average it costs 52 cents per day for a 5,000 BTU window unit and $1.14 per day for a 12,000 BTU unit.
- It’s hard to prevent any gaps and drafts with window AC units. Some cold air will leak out of the gaps in the window.
- An undersized or oversized unit may run too much or too little, creating issues with ice and condensation that create leaking water that can soak into flooring and the ceilings below that room.
Consumer Reports claims that most window air conditioners have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, but it comes down to how much they’re used. As Floridians use AC most of the year, you might find that you’re having to replace it every five years or even sooner. You have to decide if you’re willing to spend several hundreds of dollars on a new AC every few years.
In addition to the cost of a new window AC, you have the cost of recycling the AC. A window AC unit is not something you can throw in the trash. It has to be brought to a facility for electronics recycling. In Miami, residents pay a $10 freon fee and a fee based on the weight of the unit, which is a minimum of $5. If your AC is leaking, spill cleanup is $40 per hour plus materials.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the best type of air conditioner depends on your home’s structure, your budget, and your needs. You need to carefully consider the size of your home and the number of rooms, whether you own or rent the property, and how much you’re willing to spend.
Bigger isn’t always better with both a window AC unit and central AC units. A unit that’s too large may turn on and off frequently, and one that is too small will run constantly. This drives up electricity bills and wears out components. You may find yourself paying for an AC system more often. It’s essential to have a system carefully sized.
When possible, a central AC is best for so many reasons, including your health. Don’t rule it out if you’re worried about the cost. Central AC increases your home’s value and there are plenty of ways to save money.
With federal tax incentives, instant rebates through FPL, and lowered energy bills, central AC makes sense. Talk to All Year Cooling to schedule a free assessment and discuss financing options that help make a central AC affordable.