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Air Conditioners Buying Guide

Window, portable or through-the-wall air conditioners are a great investment to ensure you stay cool during the hot summer months.

 
 

An air conditioner is the ideal way to beat the heat. Given the wide range of air conditioner systems available, and the great difference in price, it’s important to know what type of air conditioner is right for you, and for your particular situation. There are many factors to consider when making your decision, but if you do the appropriate research then you, your family and friends will be able to enjoy the hot summer and enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep.

Types of Air Conditioners

There are three main types of room air conditioners - window, portable and through-the-wall. Each has their own benefits and detriments so it’s up to you to decide which type will best suit your needs..

Window Air Conditioner

Window-mounted air conditioners are capable of cooling between 300 and 1800 square feet. Horizontal window units are designed to fit a horizontal sliding or hung sash window, while vertical window units are designed to fit vertical sliding or casement windows. Window-mounted units are removed and stored with the change of seasons. Window air conditioners installations are typically a do-it-yourself project as they are fairly simple, straight-forward jobs. Detailed installation instructions should be included with your unit.

Portable Air Conditioner

Portable air conditioning units need to be vented out a window via the (usually) included exhaust hose, but can be easily moved from room to room depending on your daily, or hourly, needs. Most portable air conditioners are capable of cooling a room up to approximately 300-400 square feet. Although these units offer the convenience of portability, they generally cost more to purchase and operate. Portable units require the least amount of work to install, but take up the most amount of space in a room.

Through-the-Wall Air Conditioner

The main benefit 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. For a through-the-wall installation you might want to have a professional installation company do the work for you.

An air conditioner built to be installed through a wall has a specific design for this task so a window air conditioner should never be installed in this way, as it will create problems.

Other Factors to Consider

Maintenance
First of all, always read your owner’s manual to ensure your unit is being used to the best of its abilities. In general, room-sized air conditioners should have only a small amount of general maintenance. Some units feature freeze protection, which means it will shut off before any of its elements freeze (which can happen if a unit is left on for too long). The air filter will need to be cleaned or replaced depending on the unit you have (check the owner’s manual if you’re unsure. Almost all units have a cleanable foam filter and some use electronic air filtration to remove dust and pollens from the air). To wash your filter, only a quick rinse in warm water will remove the hair, dust and other debris that has been caught. You’ll also want to vacuum the whole unit often to ensure all pieces are working correctly. And never leave a window air conditioner in place through the winter months – remove it as soon as the cooler temperatures return.

Energy Efficiency
Ensuring that your air conditioner is Energy Star qualified – meaning it has been found to meet or exceed higher energy efficiency levels without compromising performance - will go a long way to limiting the amount of energy it uses. Another key term to keep in mind is EER, which stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. EER tells you the ratio of the cooling capacity of an air conditioner in BTUs per hour divided by its consumption of energy, measured in watts. An EER rating higher than 10 is considered cost effective. Basically, the higher the EER, the more energy efficient your air conditioner will be, so keep your eyes peeled for this number.