If you are thinking of upping your cooling game, you may look to compare room air conditioners vs central air conditioners. Many of the best air conditioners come in one of these two design types. You may have wondered, what is central air? The primary difference is that room AC units are designed to cool off a limited amount of space, typically one room. But, central AC units are designed to cool off an entire home. As you look further into the features and functionalities, you’ll find many distinctions. Additionally, you’ll find similar differences when comparing a portable air conditioner vs a window AC.


  • Room air conditioners are a budget-friendly solution to keeping the area cool during the summer months.
  • Room AC units are cheaper than central units, but central units are more efficient during use.
  • Central air conditioning units tend to increase the resale value of a home, whereas a window air conditioner, otherwise called a window unit, will not.

Various Room ACs and Central Air Units

AC types can vary greatly in size and features, making it important to consider your home requirements when selecting the right air conditioner. Window units are popular for their ease of installation, while split systems may be better if you need to cover a larger space. Portable ACs are great for providing temporary relief from the heat but do not typically provide the same level of cooling power or efficiency as a larger unit. Ductless mini-split systems are ideal for homes that lack ductwork, while central air conditioning units are best suited to large spaces with existing ductwork. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks and should be considered carefully before making a purchase. Read our comparison of mini split vs central air to learn more about these AC systems.

Some other comparisons to consider include a packaged terminal A/C vs mini-split and a split system air conditioner vs a packaged system.

Reading these comparisons will help you choose an air conditioner that works best for you.

Insider Tip

No matter what type of AC you choose, comparison shop for the best price.


Room AC units come in many shapes and designs, such as windows and portable air conditioners. No matter which room air conditioner you purchase, however, it is sure to be much cheaper than even the most budget-friendly central AC unit. Why is this? Central air conditioners are comprised of many components, some of them quite complex, and you will need to factor in the cost of installation as well. Additionally, a central unit requires more maintenance than room units, though both need to have their air filters changed regularly, which is also true when comparing a multi-split air conditioner vs a single split unit. Both air conditioner types will be able to cool your room/home to a comfortable temperature but will have different energy costs.


Not every homeowner can simply go to the store, purchase, and install a central air conditioner. These units require plenty of space, including outdoor space for the compressor and the like, and lengthy ductwork running throughout the home. So, to get your central AC working, it will require electricians, HVAC pros, and other technicians. Room air conditioners, on the other hand, are plug-and-play affairs so long as they have access to the outside air via a tube or included duct.

STAT: The main cooling agent for an air conditioner is called the refrigerant. You might have heard of Freon (R-22) and R-410A. These chemicals can be dangerous if they leak but are actually quite safe and useful otherwise. (source)

Home Value

Central air systems are highly sought after and, as such, will increase the resale value of your home, as they offer some significant benefits to homeowners. On the other hand, window air conditioning units or portable ACs will likely not increase the resale value of your home, as they are budget-friendly, but you can take them with you when you move, which is a nice bonus if this is your choice.


Will a window unit help my AC?

If you are looking to add a window unit to a pre-existing central unit, consider the initial cost and whether or not it has a programmable thermostat. You may also look into a ductless mini-split system.

Do window AC units use a lot of electricity?

Window units use less than half the energy of central air units, and the same is said for all portable units, such as air handlers. When considering the type of air conditioner you want, electricity usage is important.

How much does central AC cost?

A central air conditioning system, including an outdoor unit, often costs as much as thousands of dollars, which is much more expensive than a window air conditioner or window unit.

Lawrence Bonk Profile image