Cyber Week! Up to 50% off selected items. Ends Thursday, July 24. Shop >

Air Conditioners

Buying Guides - air conditioners



Window Air Conditioners:

Window-mounted air conditioners are capable of cooling between 300 and 1800 square feet.  Horizontal window units are designed to fit a vertical sliding or hung sash window, while vertical window units are designed to fit horizontal sliding or casement windows.  Window-mounted units can also be removed and stored with the change of seasons.

Portable Air Conditioners:
Portable air conditioning units need to be vented out a window but can be easily moved from room to room depending on your daily needs.  Most portable air conditioners are capable of cooling a room up to approximately 300-400 square feet in size.  Although these units offer the convenience of portability, they generally cost more to purchase and operate.

Through-the-Wall Air Conditioners:
The main proponent of through-the-wall air conditioners is that they can be installed and sealed permanently so less cool air leaks back outside, which will save you energy and money in the short and long run.

Here are five key questions to answer before you purchase an air conditioner:

How big is the area you want to cool?
Room air conditioners are rated in Btu (British thermal unit) capacity. If the insulation in your home is minimal or the air conditioner sits in a hot, south-facing window, opt for a unit with higher Btu. If possible, avoid installing the cooling unit in a south-facing window that gets lots of sunlight as it reduces the unit's efficiency.
Please note that these calculations are for standard room heights with ceilings around 10 feet high; if the room you are cooling has a taller ceiling, you'll need about 10 percent more Btu to adequately cool the air in the room. It is important to determine exactly the right size for you; Too small an air conditioner will run continuously without cooling a room, but too large a unit will run frequent, short cycles that will more energy and reduce the efficiency of the unit

ROOM SIZE (SQ FT)

BTU'S REQUIRED

100-300

5,000-6,000

300-600

8,000-9,000

600-1,000

10,000-15,000

1,000 OR MORE

15,000 OR HIGHER





Where is the best place to install an air conditioner?

Many room air conditioners are installed seasonally in a window. Most residential windows open from the bottom and the majority of room air conditioners are designed to be placed on the sill with accordion-like extension panels that seal the opening and help prevent air loss. Some models are built for installation in side-sliding windows with an extension panel above the unit. Alternately, air conditioners can be installed more permanently through the wall to make a better seal and offer firmer support than a window. 
Be sure when you are buying your air conditioner to speak to a sales associate and let them know how you want to install your air conditioner.  An air conditioner built to be installed through a wall has a specific design for this task.  A window air conditioner should not be installed in this way, as it might create problems down the road.  Another option is a portable air conditioner, which are enclosed in a rolling cabinet. Some vent the heat through a duct that can be placed in a nearby window; other portables can also use water from the dehumidifying process to help cool the air.


Can an air conditioner do more than just cool a room?
Yes.  All air conditioners will act to dehumidify a room to some degree, but some can also act as dehumidifiers only and some can do double-duty as heaters. Depending on where you live, humidity may be a problem or a necessity. For arid summer climates, an air conditioner with a built-in humidifier can add moisture to the air to make the room more comfortable.
For other areas, hot days are exacerbated by humidity. An air conditioner with built-in dehumidifier can remove moisture from the air. Some models can also serve as heaters to warm the air as needed. This means that they can stay in place year-round and serve multiple purposes.


How important are controls?
Older room air conditioners were controlled by a single dial that was set based on an estimate of the result: Set it most of the way to the left, for example; to keep the room at about 22 degrees Celsius. Today's air conditioners are much smarter; you can set a unit for 22 degrees and it will maintain the air temperature within 1 degree of that point. For convenience, many room air conditioners now have wireless remote controls that let you change settings -- even the direction of the airflow -- from across the room.
Many units have timers to program the unit to start or shut off, so you can set the air conditioner to turn on just before you get home or turn off when you go to sleep. An important feature of most room air conditioners is the filtration system. Nearly all units have a cleanable foam filter. Some use electronic air filtration to remove dust and pollens from the air. When purchasing, make sure that the filtration system is adequate and easy to maintain. It's important to check that extra features, such as a heater or dehumidifier, have adequate and easy-to-use controls. Also be sure that there is an electrical unit near where you will use the unit. Most models run on standard three-prong 115-volt plugs.

What is your cooling budget?
How much can you invest in cooling a room? If the selected room only gets hot during a couple of weeks in the summer, you probably want to invest in a less expensive model. If the cooling season is long and the room is frequently populated, you should invest in a more expensive and more powerful unit. Here are some guidelines: Room air conditioners range from $100 to $1,500 with most of them in the range of $250-$600. Lower priced models often have manual controls and higher priced units may include a dehumidifier or a heater. For about $350, you'll get an energy-efficient 8,000 to 10,000 Btu air conditioner with adequate features and a remote control, which is just right for many applications.


Other Factors to Consider
Room air conditioners are typically a do-it-yourself project, or to have it installed by our professional installers, call 1-800-4MY-HOME.  For a through the wall application you might want to have a professional installation company do the work for you.  Portable units, of course require the least amount of work to install, but take up the most amount of space in a room.