Central Air vs. Wall Units

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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I. Difference Between Central Air Conditioning and Wall Units

ac unit built during an air conditioning installationIf you live in an old house, you may not have any air conditioning at all. Or perhaps you have a room or two with no air conditioning and you are wondering if you should install central air conditioning or a wall unit. It helps to first understand the difference between central air conditioning and wall units. Both are designed to be permanent fixtures in your home. Air conditioning makes up about 15% of the total energy use in the average American home. Make the right choice and avoid costly mistakes that may come with air conditioning installation.

Central air conditioning

A central air conditioning system is designed to cool an entire house with one large unit. A central air system requires ductwork to deliver the cool air to each room. Some older homes may not have enough space between floors or in the attic for ducting. In those cases, the ducting will be concealed behind drywall bump-outs in the living space that usually parallel the ceiling-wall joints.

Benefits of central air:

For cooling multiple rooms, central air is by far the better choice. Central air is much more energy efficient than multiple wall units. It is also better for maintaining a uniform temperature throughout the home. The technology that is now available in central air units and thermostats allow even more energy efficiency. You can program the system to shut off when you are not home. You can divide it into zones and program it so that at night, it cools only some rooms but not all. Some new systems require less ductwork (or eliminate it altogether) because they have air handlers in various rooms.


The initial cost of central air conditioning installation is higher than the cost of a wall unit installation, especially the newest ductless systems. However, if you plan to use wall units to cool the entire house or multiple rooms, the cost of installing multiple wall units may not be significantly lower than a central system. This is especially true if you need larger wall units due to the size of your rooms. Also, operating multiple wall units is less efficient and may not result in significant savings over the cost of operating a larger central air unit.

Wall air conditioning units

wall unit air conditioning installation in Gaithersburg MDA wall unit is a single, self-contained air conditioner that allows you to cool any room, with or without windows. It requires no ductwork. The wall air conditioning unit is installed through an exterior wall. The thickness of the wall and the room size will help you determine the right size unit for your needs.

The wall unit brings in fresh air, cools it, and vents the humidity and hot air from your room to the outside. To install a wall unit, a contractor will create a properly sized hole in the wall, and place a metal sleeve in the hole to support the unit in your wall. A wall unit is more airtight and secure than a window unit. Some models allow you to heat and cool and so can be operated year-round.

Benefits of a wall unit:

A wall unit is a good option if you are just trying to cool a single room. Perhaps the room is adjacent to a garage or barn and would require extensive ductwork to connect to the home’s central air system. A wall unit costs less to purchase and install, but it has to work harder than a central air system to cool the same amount of space. If you decide to go with a wall unit, make sure you buy one that is able to cool the space.


You may need more than one wall unit to cool the space. The cost of operating multiple wall units may not amount to much savings over a central air conditioning installation. Also, if the room will be used frequently, a wall unit will be operated for longer periods of time which increases the cost of operating it and causes wear and tear on the unit. Be aware, also, that the wall unit will be a source of wintertime drafts and summertime cooling loss, which may affect the comfort level of the room.

II. Consult with an Experienced HVAC Contractor

Your conditioning system can be one of the most expensive mechanical systems in your home. It is important that you get what you need for your money and one that provides the comfort level you are seeking. When you consider an

Before you decide which type of air conditioning installation is best for your home, consult with a reputable HVAC contractor. Your contractor can help you decide which system is better based on your specific needs. The professional contractor can also advise you on other important considerations such as placement, size of the unit, and cost-effectiveness. Your contractor can install the system for you, make sure it operates properly, and provide regular maintenance to keep it in top operating shape throughout its life.

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