Can window units replace a failing central AC system in a rental?

Can window units replace a failing central AC system in a rental?

For real estate investors and landlords – especially those managing rental properties– having a functioning air conditioning system is essential for attracting and keeping tenants. In some cases, the costs associated with installing a central AC system can be daunting, leading many to look for cheaper solutions like window units.

But before you substitute one option in place of another, it's important to understand the pros and cons of each so that you can make an informed decision about what's best for your property long term.

In this blog post, we'll examine the differences between central air systems and window units, looking at both cost factors as well as other, often less considered repercussions.

How much do tenants care about central air?

It turns out they care a lot.

As a landlord, the tenant pool is one of the most pivotal aspects of renting out a property. And it's no secret that tenant quality is just as critical to the bottom line since vacancy can be expensive. So when it comes to deciding between central AC and window units, which system should you install to attract high-quality tenants?

Window units are cheaper, but they may attract renters looking for a bargain instead of long-term residents with stable income and a willingness to pay for quality.

On the other hand, central AC can be a significant investment, but it will attract more high-earning renters who value comfort and luxury in their living spaces.

In San Antonio and similar climates, AC ranks at the top of the list regarding tenant satisfaction.

Most tenants will happily choose central air if it's available to them.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your priorities and the type of tenants you want to attract. While a central AC system can be expensive, with proper routine maintenance and periodic inspection, your property manager can help you plan ahead for replacement as the end of the system's normal lifespan approaches.

Pros and Cons of using a window unit to replace a failing central AC System


Cost-Effective: Window units are generally less expensive than central AC systems in terms of installation and ongoing maintenance costs. This makes them a more affordable option for landlords on a tight budget.

  • Easy Installation: Unlike central AC systems that require expensive professional installation, window units can often be installed with relative ease, reducing labor costs.
  • Individual Control: With a window unit, tenants can control the temperature in each room separately, which can be desirable for those who prefer different temperature settings in other rooms.
  • No Ductwork Required: For properties that do not have pre-existing ductwork, installing window units can be a simpler solution than retrofitting the property for a central AC system.
  • Energy Efficiency: As only the desired area is cooled down, window units can be more energy-efficient than central systems, potentially resulting in lower utility bills.


  • Lackluster Tenant Pool: Many tenants will only rent homes with central air. If you switch to window units, you'll miss out on them entirely.
  • Danger of Unprofessional Installation: Most tenants will install window units quickly by closing the window on top of the unit. It's a huge liability since the unit could fall at any time.
  • Unsightly: Window units can be an eyesore in an otherwise modern building.
  • Limited Coverage: Window units can only cool one room at a time, which may not be sufficient for larger properties or during sweltering weather.
  • Noise: Window units are generally noisier than central AC systems, potentially leading to an uncomfortable environment for tenants.
  • Window Obstruction: Installing a window unit involves partially blocking a window, which could detract from the property's aesthetics and reduce natural light.
  • Security Issues: A window unit might pose a security risk as it provides an easy entry point for burglars.
  • Lower Resale Value: Properties with window units typically have a lower resale value compared to those with central AC systems.

In conclusion, the decision between window units and a central AC system largely hinges on your planning for the property. It's clear that central AC is better for tenant retention, higher rents, and overall long-term appreciation and resale value.

Most landlords find themselves considering switching to window AC because of budgetary restrictions.

When we manage a property, that's part of the conversation we have early. If you start budgeting for the replacement of your AC system early, you'll be investing in the long-term success of your rental property.

We’d love to help you plan for the long term. Reach out using the contact info below, and we’ll set up a time to discuss your property.

Sam Maropis
PMI Profit Realty