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Window AC vs Split AC

Picking the right air conditioner for your home is challenging. Not least because you might not even know what type of AC is best for your property. 

That’s why we put together this series of articles pitting different types of AC against each other. This article covers the differences between window AC and split AC. 

What’s the difference  between window AC and split AC

The difference between window AC and split AC is that window AC is a single-unit system that sits in an open window while a split AC has one internal unit connected to an external unit.

A window air conditioner is designed to be used seasonally. You install the unit at the start of the summer by fixing it into an open window. The window AC is a single unit, meaning it has an internal partition separating a cooling half from a heating half.

The cooling half pulls heat out of the air in your home while the heating half gets rid of it into the outdoor air.

A split AC system works with two separate units instead. An internal unit (often wall-mounted) has all the components like the compressor coil that suck heat out of your home’s air.

A refrigerant line installed in your wall then carries this heat to an external unit, which blows it into the outdoor air.

This difference in design means that a split AC is a permanent feature in your home while a window AC can be moved relatively easily. 

Installation Differences

  • Window AC Installation: Detail the step-by-step process of installing a window AC, emphasizing the DIY aspect and potential challenges such as securing the unit and managing insulation.
  • Split AC Installation: Explain the professional installation process for split ACs, including the need for technical expertise and the impact on home structure.

Maintenance and Longevity

  • Window AC Maintenance: Discuss the ease of maintenance for window ACs, including common issues and lifespan.
  • Split AC Maintenance: Cover the maintenance requirements for split ACs and how their design can lead to a longer operational life.

Aesthetic Impact

  • Window AC Aesthetics: Address how window ACs affect the external appearance of a home and the view from inside.
  • Split AC Aesthetics: Describe how split ACs can be integrated into home decor and their less intrusive placement options.

Cooling Capacity

A window AC and a split AC have similar cooling capacities, with the split AC lineup including some higher-capacity options. A typical window AC has 8,000 – 12,000 BTUs of cooling capacity compared to the 8,000 – 14,000 BTUs offered by window ACs.

But these are typical outputs for both types of air conditioners. You can find more powerful options offering up to 24,000 BTUs of cooling in both types.

But what does that mean? BTUs are a measurement of thermal energy and a higher BTU capacity means an air conditioner can cool a larger space. 

As a rule of thumb, an 8,000 BTU unit could cool a room of 300 – 350 square feet. A 24,000 BTU unit could cool a small apartment of 1,400 – 1,500 square feet. 

Room Size and AC Selection

  • Calculating the Right Size: Provide guidance on how to calculate the correct AC size for a room, considering factors like ceiling height and sunlight exposure.
  • Oversized vs. Undersized AC Units: Discuss the consequences of choosing an AC unit that’s too large or too small for a space.

Advanced Features for Enhanced Cooling

  • Window AC Features: Highlight any advanced features that modern window AC units may have, such as programmable timers or smart home connectivity.
  • Split AC Features: Discuss the advanced cooling technologies and features that are unique to split AC systems, like multi-zone cooling and inverter technology.


Split ACs are much more expensive than window ACs. A typical split AC costs $2,000 – $5,000 while a window AC costs just $200 – $600. 

This difference comes down to installation costs. You can install a window AC yourself in 30 minutes so you just need to pay for the unit itself. 

A split AC needs to be wired into your home’s electrical system. An installer will also have to cut a hole in your wall to connect the internal split AC unit with its external unit. 

But the split AC comes out on top when it comes to hourly running costs. Expect to pay $0.09 – $0.26 per hour to use a split AC and $0.12 – $0.18 to run a window AC. 

It might seem like more powerful split ACs are more expensive than their window AC counterparts. But remember that we’re including split AC units with a higher capacity than window ACs. 

Split ACs are actually a lot more energy efficient than window ACs. 

Breakdown of Total Cost of Ownership

  • Window AC Cost Over Time: Analyze the total cost of owning a window AC, including purchase, maintenance, and energy costs over an average lifespan.
  • Split AC Cost Over Time: Provide a similar analysis for split ACs, highlighting how energy savings can offset the higher initial investment.

Financing and Cost-Saving Tips

  • Financing Options for Split AC: Offer information on financing options or rebates available for split AC installation.
  • Cost-Saving Tips: Share tips for saving money on the purchase and operation of both window and split ACs, such as seasonal discounts and energy-saving settings.

Energy efficiency

Split ACs are more energy efficient than window ACs. A split AC has an energy efficiency rating (EER) of 13 – 17 while a window AC has an EER of 10 – 13. 

The EER is a measure of how effectively your air conditioner uses its power. EER is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity of your AC in BTUs by the amount of power it uses in watts. 

A higher EER indicates a more energy-efficient air conditioner. 

There are a few reasons why split ACs are generally more energy efficient than window ACs. The biggest one is that your window AC has to sit in an open window.

You normally seal the window AC in using weatherstrip but you’re still going to get more leakage from your room than with a split AC. 

Technological Advancements

  • Innovations in Window AC: Discuss any recent technological advancements that have improved the energy efficiency of window AC units.
  • Innovations in Split AC: Highlight the latest innovations in split AC technology that contribute to higher energy efficiency ratings.

Impact on the Environment

  • Eco-Friendly Options: Explore the availability of eco-friendly refrigerants and sustainable materials in both window and split AC models.
  • Reducing Carbon Footprint: Provide tips on how to use AC units in a way that minimizes environmental impact, such as proper insulation and regular maintenance.

Should I buy a window AC or a split AC?

You should buy a window AC over a split AC if you’re budget-conscious. The upfront costs of a split AC are at least a thousand dollars more for a similar level of cooling power.

The only two cases where you should choose a split AC over a window AC: first, if you don’t have a window that can accommodate a window AC, and, second, if you place a big premium on energy efficiency.

Lifestyle and Home Compatibility

  • Assessing Your Living Space: Offer advice on assessing the suitability of each AC type to the user’s living space and lifestyle needs.
  • Home Compatibility Considerations: Discuss how the architecture of a home might influence the choice between window and split ACs.

Resale Value and Investment

  • Impact on Home Resale Value: Analyze how the choice of AC can affect the resale value of a home.
  • Long-Term Investment: Weigh the long-term investment benefits of energy savings and durability against the initial costs of split ACs compared to window ACs.

Noise Levels and Sound Considerations

  • Noise Comparison: Compare the noise levels typically associated with window and split AC units and how they can affect living comfort.
  • Soundproofing Solutions: Provide solutions for mitigating AC noise, such as soundproofing AC installations or choosing models known for quiet operation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the main factors to consider when choosing between a window AC and a split AC?

When deciding between a window AC and a split AC, the main factors to consider include installation requirements, cooling capacity, cost, energy efficiency, noise levels, and space constraints. Window AC units are generally more suitable for those who need a temporary cooling solution or have a limited budget, as they are less expensive and easier to install. However, they can be noisier and less aesthetically pleasing. Split AC systems, on the other hand, are quieter, more energy-efficient, and better integrated into the home’s decor but come with a higher initial cost and installation complexity. The choice also depends on the size of the area to be cooled and whether the structure of your home can accommodate the chosen type of AC.

How do I calculate the right size of air conditioner for my room?

To calculate the right size of air conditioner for your room, you’ll need to determine the room’s square footage by multiplying its length by its width. Once you have the square footage, you can estimate the cooling capacity needed, which is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). As a general rule, you need about 20 BTUs per square foot of living space. However, other factors such as ceiling height, window size, and room insulation also play a significant role. It’s also important to consider the amount of heat generated by occupants and electronics, which may require a higher capacity AC.

Can I install a split AC system by myself to save on costs?

Installing a split AC system is not typically a DIY project due to its complexity and the need for specialized tools and knowledge. It involves electrical work, drilling holes for the refrigerant lines, and ensuring proper handling of the refrigerant, which requires certification. Improper installation can lead to inefficient operation, increased energy costs, and potential safety hazards. Therefore, it’s recommended to hire a professional for the installation of a split AC system. While this adds to the cost, it ensures that the unit operates safely and efficiently.

What are the energy efficiency ratings (EER) and why do they matter?

Energy Efficiency Ratings (EER) measure how effectively an air conditioner uses electricity to cool a space. The rating is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity (in BTUs) by the power input (in watts). The higher the EER, the more efficient the air conditioner is. This is important because higher efficiency translates to lower energy bills and reduced environmental impact. When comparing AC units, look for a higher EER for better long-term savings. Split AC units typically have a higher EER than window units, making them more cost-effective despite their higher initial price.

Are there any hidden costs associated with window AC or split AC units?

Yes, there are hidden costs to consider for both types of AC units. For window ACs, while the initial purchase and installation costs are lower, they may lead to higher energy bills due to less efficient cooling and potential air leaks. Additionally, they may require more frequent maintenance or replacement sooner than split ACs. For split ACs, the installation cost is higher, and they may require professional servicing, which can add to the expense. However, their higher energy efficiency and longer lifespan can offset these costs over time.

How does the choice of air conditioner affect the resale value of my home?

The choice of air conditioner can have an impact on the resale value of your home. Split AC systems are generally seen as a premium feature that can appeal to potential buyers, offering efficient cooling, quieter operation, and a sleek look. They can be a selling point and potentially increase the value of your home. Window ACs, while practical, do not typically add to the home’s value and can sometimes detract from the aesthetic appeal of the property.

What should I do if my room doesn’t have a window suitable for a window AC?

If your room doesn’t have a window suitable for a window AC, a split AC system may be the better option. Split ACs only require a small hole to be drilled for the refrigerant lines and can be mounted on almost any wall, giving you flexibility in placement. Alternatively, you can consider portable AC units, which can be moved from room to room and only require an exhaust hose to be placed out a window or into a drop ceiling.