We all want to stay cool and comfortable during the summer, but don’t want it to break the bank in the process. There are numerous types of air conditioning, each with its pros and cons, and discovering which will work best for you will depend on your budget and where you live. The operating cost of the air conditioner goes well beyond the initial investment.
If you live in a large, drafty home, the most efficient and cost-effective form of air conditioning will be different than if you live in a well-insulated and small home. The costs of operation are the biggest factor that will ultimately determine how much it will cost to run your air conditioner. You will need to take into account the type of home you live in, the type of climate you live in, as well as your personal preferences.
All caveats aside, the cheapest type of air conditioning is a portable air conditioner. Small portable air conditioners made for desks and tables can be less than twenty dollars at the cheapest. However, these do not have a large range, and it may take quite a few to cool off your space. In this case it would be cheaper to get a window air conditioner.
Window Air Conditioner
A window air conditioner is a semi-portable air conditioning unit that must be installed in a window. You can usually pick up a high-quality window air conditioner for a few hundred dollars and they are powerful enough to keep even a large room cool and comfortable.
Window air conditioners are actually pretty easy to install and don’t require you to have a professional come out and install them. Newer models, especially those with Energy Star ratings, are incredibly energy efficient and provide a powerful cooling function without sending your energy bills through the roof.
Portable Air Conditioner
Portable air conditioners are stand-alone appliances that are plugged into a wall outlet and can easily be moved from place to place. These can range in size and power and are often a little less expensive than window units.
Depending on the model you get, you can easily keep a small space cool and not use a ton of energy in the process. Portable air conditioners are highly efficient and some of them are powerful enough to keep a room as cool as a window unit.
The biggest perk of a portable air conditioner is that they are, well, portable. You can easily unplug the air conditioner and move it to another room, allowing you to easily bring your cool air with you as you move about your space.
Central Air Conditioner
Central air utilizes internal ductwork within the house to carry cool air from a central unit to the various rooms throughout the home. This is a convenient and efficient way to keep an entire house cool. If you are building a new house, adding central air isn’t much of an issue and the added costs may be well worth it.
When talking about retrofitting an older house for central air, you are looking at a much larger endeavor that can cost quite a bit of money as ductwork may need to be installed and most people don’t have the know-how to install central air themselves and thus must employ a professional.
Central air is a highly effective way to keep multiple rooms cool at the same time. Modern systems are efficient and help keep humidity down better than a window unit or portable air conditioner since they keep the entire house cool as opposed to just a single room.
Which is the Cheapest?
Regardless of the size of your house and the climate of where you live, central air conditioning is going to be the most expensive type of air conditioning since it involves ductwork and other changes to the internal structure of the house. It is nice to have and if you are building a new home, this might be a cost-effective addition to the construction. However, for a home that is already built but doesn’t have air conditioning, it is going to cost quite a bit more to get a home prepared for central air than it does for a portable or window unit.
Window and portable air conditioners are, by far, the most cost-effective way to stay cool in the summer. But which wins out in a proverbial battle between the two?
Based on initial price alone, without comparing floor space and power, a small portable air conditioner is much cheaper than a window air conditioner. But if you’re looking at two products that cover the same square footage, a window air conditioner is the cheapest option compared to a portable air conditioner.
If you have a larger, sprawling home, it might make more sense to have a portable air conditioner that you can take with you when and where you need it. This will allow you to keep the room you are currently hanging out in comfortable, without having to cool the entire house.
If you live in a smaller home or spend most of your time in a particular room, a window unit might make more sense. They tend to be more powerful than portable air conditioners, so if you live in a really hot climate, this might also be a better choice. The downside is, of course, it has to be installed in a window and while they can be moved, it isn’t the easiest thing to do.
While central air conditioning is incredibly nice, it isn’t the cheapest way to keep your home cool and comfortable. Unless you are in the process of building a home, chances are a window unit or portable air conditioner is going to be a more cost-effective solution for keeping your home cool without breaking the bank in the process. Window and portable units can often be purchased for just a few hundred dollars and many are powerful enough to keep a large room comfortable without expending a ton of energy.
Window units are highly effective for people who live in apartments or smaller houses or who spend their time largely in one room. They are affordable and easy to install and since they are in a window, don’t require any extra space. These units are powerful enough to cool a large room and are energy efficient, so they don’t suck a ton of electricity in the process.
Portable air conditioners are also very energy efficient, but they have the added advantage of the ability to quickly move the unit from one space to another, so you can take the cool air with you wherever you go in the house. The affordable ones are often not as powerful as a window unit but are perfectly suited for those who live in more mild climates or with a small living space.
Hey there, I’m Stephanie! Growing up in an extreme climate led to my passion for cooling, heating, and air quality. Now it’s what I study and write about. I love sharing my expertise in air because I get to help people create their comfort zone. My other loves are cats, chickens, and goats!