What’s the Difference between a Window vs Split AC?

Window ACs and Split ACs differ in their internal structure. But the difference is not only technical. It also affects the efficiency, cost, noise, and installation cost of the different AC types.

Quick answer: Window ACs are window-mounted, low-cost, but noisy. Split ACs are wall-mounted, rather expensive, but more powerful and quiet. Both window and split ACs have a similar cooling efficiency. Technically they are equally capable of cooling large rooms.

In this article, we’re going to compare window and split air conditioners. After reading this article, you’ll know which one is better for you.

Comparison Table: Is a Window AC or a Split AC better?

MetricWindow ACSplit AC
Price$300 – $600$1,000 – $3,000
Installation cost$313$1,000
Cooling Capacity5,000 – 12,000 BTU/h18,000 – 30,000 BTU/h
DIY installation possibleyesonly for the experienced
Noise level69dB – 72dB50dB – 60dB
LooksBig appliance in your window (ugly)Still a big appliance, but outside of your field of view (subtle)

In short, as you can see from the values from the table, a split AC is better in terms of cooling power and low noise levels. However, it costs more.

A window AC is louder and does not cool as much (however, still enough for regular-sized living rooms). But it is a lot more affordable!

If you have to think whether you can afford a split AC, you probably can’t (that’s something I tell myself often as a rule of thumb). In this case, I’d opt for a window AC.

If you can afford a split AC, get one.

Recommended Products: Window and Split AC

Before we dive deeper into the window and split AC comparisons, let me just list two air conditioners that I want to recommend to you. Both are available online, so you don’t need to pay the price markup you would get at an HVAC company.

Recommended Window AC (10,000 BTU cooling capacity)

I recommend this 10,000 BTU Midea window AC (click here to see it on amazon). It comes in smaller cooling capacity (BTU) sizes as well, if you want to save some money.

I prefer the bigger variants of air conditioners in general because they are (usually) more efficient and you get more value per dollar spent.

Recommended Split AC (18,000 BTU cooling capacity)

Mostly, you buy spit ACs together with installation from an HVAC company. If you want to save the installation cost and install the AC unit yourself, then I recommend this 18,000 BTU MRCOOL Split AC system (click here to view it on amazon).

With 18,000 BTUs, this AC is very powerful. And that’s already a general observation we can make: Split ACs are usually more powerful than window ACs.

What are the Differences between a Window and Split AC?

Cooling Capacity

Window ACs usually come with the following cooling capacities:

  • 5,000 BTU/h
  • 6,000 BTU/h
  • 8,000 BTU/h
  • 10,000 BTU/h
  • 12,000 BTU/h

Meanwhile, I’ve found the following cooling capacities for split ACs:

  • 12,000 BTU/h
  • 18,000 BTU/h
  • 23,000 BTU/h
  • 34,500 BTU/h

The average window AC provides 10,000 BTUs of cooling capacity while the average split AC provides well over 20,000 BTUs of cooling capacity.

Surely, there will be some window ACs that are more powerful than some split AC models. However, a good universally valid statement is:

On average, split ACs provide more cooling capacity than window ACs. Window ACs are, however, not technically inferior. Split ACs are just larger and heavier devices that also consume more power.

It’s like comparing a truck with a regular family sedan.


Efficiency-wise, window ACs and split ACs are equal. There is no technical difference that causes an efficiency advantage for one or the other. Rather, any difference in efficiency is model-specific.

You can expect both window ACs and split ACs to have good cooling efficiency.

The reason is that both window and split ACs have the condenser located outside of your house. The extracted heat is led outdoors.

Some ACs such as portable ACs have the condenser inside the AC unit standing in your living space. The AC unit has to blow the heat outdoors through a hose. Because the hose is usually poorly insulated, some of the heat reenters the room.

You don’t have these kinds of efficiency problems with a window or split AC.


You can expect to pay at least 2-3x for split ACs when compared to a window AC. However, split ACs also provide proportionally more cooling capacity.

Per BTU of cooling capacity, the price of window ACs and split ACs is about the same.

However, with split ACs you will have to account for higher installation costs. 

Installation effort & cost

Drilling holes in a wall, connecting the split parts of a split AC, and maybe even installing ducts is not the same as simply placing an appliance in a window.

Installing split ACs is significantly more expensive than installing a window AC.

Installing a split AC requires commitment and handyman knowledge. Meanwhile, almost everybody can install a window AC with the help of a manual or a video.

Of course, you can hire an HVAC professional for the installation.

Installing a split ac costs $300 – $6000 depending on the AC system. For a single split AC unit, it’s usually under $1,000. The $6,000 is only for complex multi-zone AC systems.

Installing a window AC costs on average $313 with a range of $139 a $527.


The noise level of the outdoor part of a window and split air conditioner is between 69-72dB. However, split and window ACs differ significantly in their indoor noise levels.

Because a window AC is mounted in a window, which has low sound insulation, the indoor noise level of a window AC is 50dB to 70dB, depending on the type of window.

The outdoor component of a split AC is separated through a wall. So your indoors is very quiet with about 50dB to 60dB.

Note that in Decibels (dB), an increase of 3dB doubles the loudness. For example, 53dB is twice as loud as 50dB. So, the difference between split and window AC noise is significant.

A window AC is 3 times as loud as a split AC.

Conclusion: Split AC or Window AC? Which one should you get?

In general, prefer split ACs if you have the funds and if you can afford proper installation.

If you don’t have the funds or need a rather portable and cheap device, get a window AC.

Both split ACs and window ACs are well worth their money.