Central A/C or Window Units

7 Replies

Hey everyone,

My name is Joe, I'm 24 years old, was in the military for 5 years, and with the money I saved up I bought my first house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was the third house I looked at, but between myself and my agent we were certain it was a good deal and turned out to be. 

I purchased it for $90k with a 30 year loan to maximize cash flow. The mortgage will be $640 / month and rent will be $550 / room.  I will be living in one room and be renting out the other 3 bedrooms.  I close on July 10, and plan on having my roommates (friends) move in August first.  There are no window units so I plan on spending $4k on central A/C, $300 on a new oven (broken), and will most likely be painting all of the bedrooms.  The house is in pretty good shape, but I just have no idea where to start adding value to it.  I'm a full time student making $3300 / month through the GI Bill and would like to start saving for my next investment property, but also start improving the house as I am living in it.  

I am looking for good recommendations of books or advice for a systematic approach on how to handle my first house. I am more than likely going to be going the BRRR route.

Thanks guys, hopefully this wasn't too bad for my first post.

I will be asking for advice, being my first real estate deal, as I have mixed emotions hoping everything will be okay. I honestly don't really know where to begin, but I will begin asking a couple questions.

Central AC is more comfortable and quieter. Window units are generally cheaper. If you put individual window units in you're almost guaranteed to have one guy that wants to live in an igloo, since the power bill will be shared. 

@Account Closed

Congratulations and welcome.

Window AC units are a cheaper up-front capital cost, but are less efficient (both operationally and in their installation) and are hard on the windows themselves.

If you already have forced-air heating, you can readily find solutions whereby an heat exchange core is installed directly in the plenum of your existing air-handler and connected to an outside compressor to provide either AC only or both heating and cooling (heat pump).   If your air-handler is older, you may want to contemplate installing a new handler (with a brushless, DC blower) as it will be far more energy efficient.  Changing the air handler or installing a core in the plenum is also the time to clean the existing ductwork and seal all leaky joints that can be accessed.

If you do not already have forced-air in the house, then ductless AC or heat pumps are worth a look.  You can install either multiple smaller systems or a larger, multi-headed (multi-zoned) system.

Regardless of the heating or cooling system you install, your biggest bang-4-buck will come from air-sealing and improving the building envelope ... this can be a simple as replacing weather stripping on doors and windows and caulking trim to adding additional insulation to the exterior (or interior) of the wall assemblies / attic space and replacing windows and doors.

You should probably start with having an energy model {aka heat loss analysis} performed on your house which will identify the current energy losses and the measures you can take to improve the performance.

Thank you so much for the responses.  I have forced air heating and the unit is from 1994, so I will definitely look at getting an upgrade.  I am 90% certain I will get central a/c, however, I will have to get a window unit for the third floor because the cold air will be too heavy to make it to the top.  I have never heard of an energy model, thanks for the advice. Would it be worth it to install a second floor return duct or trim the doors to create more air circulation because there are none on the second floor.

Find out your electric company. They sometimes do free energy audits. The advantage of central air over window AC is you can control it for efficiency. Get a remote thermostat so people have limitations on how low they can set it.
Originally posted by @Account Closed :

Thank you so much for the responses.  I have forced air heating and the unit is from 1994, so I will definitely look at getting an upgrade.  I am 90% certain I will get central a/c, however, I will have to get a window unit for the third floor because the cold air will be too heavy to make it to the top.  I have never heard of an energy model, thanks for the advice. Would it be worth it to install a second floor return duct or trim the doors to create more air circulation because there are none on the second floor.

Joseph:

While you are doing the analysis on your building envelope and HVAC system, model a heat pump (both heating and cooling) against an AC-only unit.   If your present forced air is natural gas, then depending on the per/Btu spread of the gas furnace versus the heat-pump - particularly in the shoulder seasons - it may well be worth installing.  {Here our natural gas is not cheap {lots of times propane is less costly}, so a heat pump almost always pays for itself in short order}.

If your forced air furnace is oil or electric, then a heat pump over an AC-only solution would be operationally cheaper.

When the technician / engineer examines / measures your house to develop the model, specifically ask the question about air circulation to / from the upper stories.

Depends where you are but if you’re in the south you want central AC. I actually just had this conversation today with my PM lol

I love the responsiveness of the forum. I have listened to the podcasts starting at show 1. I am up to 103 and as another newbie, that is what I recommend. I heard (on a podcast) that central air is more desirable when you are showing the units for rent as window units scream "cheap property". I am currently in Maryland and you will only need the central air for part of the year. Also, as was mentioned earlier, you have more control of the temperature and therefore more control of your expenses.

I hope this newbie opinion helps.

Darrell