Author Topic: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C  (Read 5085 times)

jamesbond007

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Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« on: September 05, 2017, 11:46:01 AM »
Hello mustachians,


This question is a bit anti-mustachian but I am planning to install a A/C unit for cooling in our 945sft townhome. Temperatures this past weekend in the SF Bay Area were brutal to the point where we went to the movies back to back with our 3 YO. DW and I feel very bad for her as we have a very low tolerance for heat. Anything above 90 F feels like boiling water to us. I guess our bodies are wired that way. Who knows. I take all precautions in terms of air circulation at night and in the morning when it is still cool. Closing the doors and curtains to lock in the cooling inside the house, checking insulation in the attic to make sure everything is fine. But there are days when it just gets unbearable. With climate changing at a rapid pace, I strongly believe that hotter days would be the norm in the not so distant future. So we've been thinking about installing a A/C unit. Am I out of my mind?


Window A/C seems like the best option in terms of aesthetics and cost balance. But portable A/C is the cheapest approach. Anyone have any experience with portable A/Cs? With A/C in general, what kind of costs that I should take into account besides electricity.  Our average energy usage for our house is 300kWh per month with out the A/C over the past 2 years.


Thanks.

extremedefense

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2017, 11:52:13 AM »
Look into a multi zone ductless mini split system. It might be the same cost as a ducted central hvac system but it is way more energy efficient.

jamesbond007

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2017, 12:02:48 PM »
Look into a multi zone ductless mini split system. It might be the same cost as a ducted central hvac system but it is way more energy efficient.

Will check. Thanks.

sparkytheop

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2017, 12:25:19 PM »
I have central air, and I would never want to live in my area without it again.  But, we have weeks on end of 100+ degree heat, no real cool down at night (some nights stay in the high 80s), and it's miserable.  We also have cold winters, snow, ice, etc, so the furnace with the same air ducts is used all winter as well.

However, if it was only needed a few days or weeks a year, I wouldn't bother.  We have a portable unit upstairs family room (there is only one vent to the hottest room of the house, and it's a large room).  I found it in the classifieds several years ago for about $150.  We have loaned it to my parents, when their central air went out, until they could get their unit fixed.  It doesn't seem to add much to my electric bill, and is nice to have as a backup (I used it in the main floor with fans to direct air when my AC went out and had to wait to have it charged).

I hate the heat, but those portable units are great.

Aggie1999

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2017, 12:37:18 PM »
Portable A/C units suck. They are always more expensive that windows units, less reliable, do not cool as well, etc. If I were you I'd pick up a few cheap window units. One for the downstairs and one for each bedroom. Shouldn't be more than $800 or so new. Only downside to traditional window units is they are a ugly and take up a window.

Living where it is moderate temp 95% of the year no way would I spend money on a central A/C.

Syonyk

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2017, 01:21:26 PM »
DW and I feel very bad for her as we have a very low tolerance for heat. Anything above 90 F feels like boiling water to us. I guess our bodies are wired that way. Who knows.

Does she have a low tolerance for heat, or do you just assume she does?  Toddlers are pretty darn robust (they'd never grow into adults if they weren't).  Are you sure she wasn't just an excuse? ;)

Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it.  Same for the cold.  Keep moving and you're fine.

Quote
Window A/C seems like the best option in terms of aesthetics and cost balance. But portable A/C is the cheapest approach. Anyone have any experience with portable A/Cs? With A/C in general, what kind of costs that I should take into account besides electricity.  Our average energy usage for our house is 300kWh per month with out the A/C over the past 2 years.

If you go with portable AC, get one that sucks the hot side air from the window as well - units with one tube blow the hot air out, and more hot air has to filter into the house to make it up, so you spend a lot of energy to do not very much.

For infrequent use, window units are reasonable, but they can be a pain to install.

If you're dealing with hot days but cooler nights, you can build a "whole house fan" out of a stack of computer fans (and suck air in the coldest corner of your house).  I did this in Seattle with no AC and it made a huge difference.

https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2015/05/house-fan-for-vertical-windows-diy.html

https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2015/12/a-post-summer-review-of-my-vent-fans.html

frugaliknowit

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2017, 01:50:33 PM »
I have a portable in my bedroom and it sucks.  It's very noisy and does not get the room below 74.  Also, the window flap/gizmos never fit well, so hot air leaks in.  Stick with window units if you're not getting central.

affordablehousing

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2017, 02:52:50 PM »
Haha! My father was just complaining about the two days. San Francisco does get a couple of hot days every few years. They put in window units in two of the bedrooms in their house. Portable ones do indeed provide very little cooling, and window units can easily be lifted in and out of the window and actually take up less room than a portable one, plus are usually cheaper than portable ones. A ductless minisplit is WAAAAAY overkill for SF and no one would pay you for that on resale. As you know, 95% of the homes in SF still don't have AC.

dios.del.sol

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2017, 02:56:31 PM »
I live in LA, Pasadena to be exact. We got the same heat wave a few days before you. I have a 3.5 yo and an 11 m.o. No AC. The kids hardly complained. Drank lots of water, though. Heat/cold tolerance can be trained. May I challenge you to go without AC?

ubermom4

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2017, 03:33:40 PM »
Am sorry you suffered in the intense Bay Area heat. It sounded awful. We lived in the East Bay for a few years (SIL still lives in Alameda). We hated the heat and understand your pain. We bought a 'swamp' cooler and it worked fantastically. The swamp cooler only works in dry climates. It adds moisture to the air and has a strong fan. We had a commercial grade swamp cooler that was used in our finished attic space (master bedroom). If it was going to be hot, we would turn it on at noon time and leave it on until sunset or so. This prevented the attic area from getting very hot during the day, keeping the rest of the house cool. I think we spent around $500 for the commercial grade swamp cooler. I hope I described this machine adequately -- it is what was used before AC was popular. Hope this helps. 

jamesbond007

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2017, 03:46:03 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions. We are originally from India and I know when it gets unbearably hot :) and this past weekend was such. I understand you can build up tolerance for heat but there are a lot of things that go bad as a side effect. We get easily irritable, restless etc. due to the heat. We do drink a lot of water but it doesn't help. I have a swamp cooler but it doesn't seem to help. But again mine is not a commercial grade. I bought one from amazon a couple of years ago for about $100. I agree that a central A/C way overkill. I am settling on a window A/C unit. Just FYI, my daughter didn't complain. She just got easily irritable. It was very hard for to sleep etc. A 3 YO only complains about candy and playdoh :). Just kidding.

geekette

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2017, 04:14:48 PM »
Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it. 
Oh, if we only had your dry heat around here...  When you're sweat soaked and it's not evaporating, you're screwed.  Come try it sometime and tell me it's easy.

Syonyk

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2017, 04:20:16 PM »
Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it. 
Oh, if we only had your dry heat around here...  When you're sweat soaked and it's not evaporating, you're screwed.  Come try it sometime and tell me it's easy.

I've lived in the midwest for decades.  I'm familiar with that kind of heat.  I don't enjoy it, but I can certainly survive it.

Samuel

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2017, 04:24:15 PM »
I have a single window unit (bought cheap off a former roommate who was leaving) that I drag out and install only when absolutely necessary (0 to 10 days a year, in my typically mild climate). I made a pre-sized panel made up of multiple layers of heavy cardboard that I can install with painters tape in 5 minutes.

I don't mind a hot day when I'm out doing something, but when it's time to rest and relax at home even just a cool breeze to sit (and sleep!) in front of is a godsend. 

Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it.  Same for the cold.  Keep moving and you're fine.

True, which is why those of us in milder areas suffer so much more. How do you acclimate and build tolerance when those temperatures are so rare?







Optimiser

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2017, 04:31:31 PM »
I have a single window unit (bought cheap off a former roommate who was leaving) that I drag out and install only when absolutely necessary (0 to 10 days a year, in my typically mild climate). I made a pre-sized panel made up of multiple layers of heavy cardboard that I can install with painters tape in 5 minutes.

I don't mind a hot day when I'm out doing something, but when it's time to rest and relax at home even just a cool breeze to sit (and sleep!) in front of is a godsend. 

Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it.  Same for the cold.  Keep moving and you're fine.

True, which is why those of us in milder areas suffer so much more. How do you acclimate and build tolerance when those temperatures are so rare?

I've found occasional sauna use, intense exercise, and not using air conditioning in the car all help.

geekette

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2017, 05:49:54 PM »
Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it. 
Oh, if we only had your dry heat around here...  When you're sweat soaked and it's not evaporating, you're screwed.  Come try it sometime and tell me it's easy.

I've lived in the midwest for decades.  I'm familiar with that kind of heat.  I don't enjoy it, but I can certainly survive it.
The south scoffs at Midwestern summers, much as the Midwest scoffs at our "winters".

Sorry, I'm cranky from the humidity right now.

Lanthiriel

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2017, 05:53:51 PM »
I actually want to stick up for the portable AC unit. This summer in Portland has been a scorcher and 1 portable AC unit has kept my downstairs at 72 degrees just running it from when I get home to when I go to bed. My window AC unit upstairs, however, is near pointless. That might come with living in a barn, though... lots of sun exposure on the gabled roof.

dios.del.sol

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2017, 06:57:47 PM »
I have a single window unit (bought cheap off a former roommate who was leaving) that I drag out and install only when absolutely necessary (0 to 10 days a year, in my typically mild climate). I made a pre-sized panel made up of multiple layers of heavy cardboard that I can install with painters tape in 5 minutes.

I don't mind a hot day when I'm out doing something, but when it's time to rest and relax at home even just a cool breeze to sit (and sleep!) in front of is a godsend. 

Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it.  Same for the cold.  Keep moving and you're fine.

True, which is why those of us in milder areas suffer so much more. How do you acclimate and build tolerance when those temperatures are so rare?

We get enough variation to build up the tolerance. Wear a tee shirt at 50. Go about your day at 105. In either case, think of Epictetus: "Itís not things that upset us, but our judgements about things". Instead of the heat or the cold, focus on not being bothered by it. It's amazing how much thinking "Oh, God, this sucks" can make something suck. And enjoy the good things too. E.g., cool evenings after hot days can't be enjoyed if you didn't endure the hot day.

FINate

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2017, 11:34:28 PM »
Heat (and cold) tolerance is learned, and we're (as a society) pretty bad about it.  The way to get used to being hot is to be hot (and drink a lot of water).  I wander around high desert year round (up to about 105F) in long pants and often a long sleeve shirt (for yardwork - string trimmers toss a lot of junk) - people look at me funny, but I'm used to it.  Same for the cold.  Keep moving and you're fine.

I hear you on the long shirt/pants. I did a road trip this summer through the Southwest and very often it was 110-120F. I wasn't particularly acclimated (coming from coastal California), but still mostly wore long shirts and pants and a big hat, had a nice beard going for good measure. The locals looked at me like I was crazy...don't understand what the big deal was. Stayed hydrated and took it easy during the hottest part of the day. With the dry heat you sweat, your clothes wick the moisture, and it evaporates keeping you cool. Also greatly minimizes the need for sunscreen.

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2017, 08:38:15 AM »
Hard to beat a simple window AC unit, cheap to purchase and they work great.
Keeping your house at a temperature where you are comfortable is one of life's simple pleasures, no point in being miserable.

jamesbond007

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2017, 10:02:31 AM »
Hard to beat a simple window AC unit, cheap to purchase and they work great.
Keeping your house at a temperature where you are comfortable is one of life's simple pleasures, no point in being miserable.

Thank you. I share your mindset. We make money to improve our lives and live happily. Installing a window A/C wold probably cost me around $500 and would increase my power usage by a few kW in the summer months.

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2017, 10:10:04 AM »
We are in the Philly area, so we get our fair share of the mid-atlantic steambath-like summer.  Our ~1300 sqft twin uses just two window units, one in the kids bedroom (DDs 6 & 8 share a room on the sunny side of the house), and one in our dining room, which is fairly open to the living room.  I actually prefer it to central air because we are only cooling what we are using, mostly the downstairs living area during the day, and the kids bedroom at night.  We do a box fan to pull hot air out of our bedroom, but generally it cools enough to sleep most summer nights.  Last year there were a few of nights DH and I had a camp out in the living room because it was too hot upstairs, but this year maybe that happened only once.

Most window units I see are under $200, so I think you can do much better than $500, unless you are talking about installing more than one, in which case $500 may be reasonable.

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2017, 12:37:53 PM »
Hard to beat a simple window AC unit, cheap to purchase and they work great.
Keeping your house at a temperature where you are comfortable is one of life's simple pleasures, no point in being miserable.

Thank you. I share your mindset. We make money to improve our lives and live happily. Installing a window A/C wold probably cost me around $500 and would increase my power usage by a few kW in the summer months.
Except it's wasteful to keep your whole house at a comfortable temp.  Don't cool the bedrooms (or any other unused rooms) during the day and don't cool anywhere except the bedrooms at night.   Yes, you will have some overlap in the evenings.

Also - be aware that some robbers are getting into houses by pushing in, or pulling out window AC's.   First floor units need to be secured better these days.

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Re: Window A/C, Portable A/C or Central A/C
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2017, 12:45:19 PM »
Hard to beat a simple window AC unit, cheap to purchase and they work great.
Keeping your house at a temperature where you are comfortable is one of life's simple pleasures, no point in being miserable.

Good point about robbery. Didn't think about it. Thanks.

Thank you. I share your mindset. We make money to improve our lives and live happily. Installing a window A/C wold probably cost me around $500 and would increase my power usage by a few kW in the summer months.
Except it's wasteful to keep your whole house at a comfortable temp.  Don't cool the bedrooms (or any other unused rooms) during the day and don't cool anywhere except the bedrooms at night.   Yes, you will have some overlap in the evenings.

Also - be aware that some robbers are getting into houses by pushing in, or pulling out window AC's.   First floor units need to be secured better these days.