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Air Conditioners Buying Guide - FAQ

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

 
 

Frequently Asked Questions

How big is the area you want to cool?
Room air conditioners are rated in BTU (British thermal unit) capacity – the higher the BTUs, the more powerful the unit is. It’s important to determine 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 use more energy and reduce the efficiency of the unit. 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 BTUs. Please note that the calculations below are for standard room heights (10’ ceilings). For taller ceilings, you'll need about 10% more BTUs to adequately cool the room.

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?
Most room air conditioners are installed seasonally in a window. The majority of room air conditioners are designed to be placed on a window 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. If possible, avoid south-facing windows that get a lot of sunlight as it reduces the unit's efficiency. Most models run on standard three-prong 115-volt plugs so be sure that there is an electrical unit near where you will use the unit.

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, which remove excess moisture from the air making it less humid and therefore more comfortable. Some units also feature a fan-only function, which is great for air circulation and cooling on moderately-warm days that don’t require full air conditioner use. And finally, some models can even work as a heater, which means that they can stay in place year-round and serve multiple purposes.

How important are controls?
Very important. Today's air conditioners are smart enough that you can set a unit for 22° C and it will maintain the air temperature within 1° C. For convenience, some air conditioners now have wireless remote controls that let you change settings – and even the direction of the airflow - from across the room. Many units have timers to program the unit to start or shut off at specific times, so you can set the air conditioner to turn on just before you get home or turn off when you you’re asleep.

How Much Should I Spend?
How much can you invest in cooling a room? If the selected room only gets hot a couple of weeks each summer, you’ll probably want to buy 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 and feature high-tech LED displays.