''This buying guide is about window-mounted air conditioner units. If you are looking for a portable air conditioner, click here. ''
If you're looking for a break from the summer heat, an air conditioner is wonderfully effective. Before you invest, you should know what you're buying. This guide will give you the basics of window-units, and help you sift through the jargon and the junk so you can find just what you're looking for.
* '''Efficiency rating (EER)''' -- The legal minimum is 10. Higher EER ratings equate to lower long term costs but a higher initial purchase price.
* '''BTU '''(British Thermal Units) -- Choose BTU level according to the size of the room which you plan to cool. The right BTU level -- not too high or too low -- will ensure proper cooling without exorbitant energy bills. ConsumerSearch.com recommends:
Buying an A/C Unit
Dealing with the summer heat is a lot easier if you have air conditioning. If you're searching for an A/C online, you're probably looking for a window unit. (Central air conditioning needs to be professionally installed.) Here are a few tips to find the air conditioner that best suits your needs!
BTU, What Does It Mean?
* Air conditioner cooling capacity is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units).
* An air conditioner's price is closely correlated with its BTU rating.
* Bigger is not necessarily better - you don't want to buy an A/C that is too powerful for the space you are cooling.
** It will be more expensive than necessary, as well as too cold!
** An overpowerful A/C will also make a room feel uncomfortably clammy.
How Much BTU Do I Need?
* From SoYouWanna.com, here are some tips on how many BTUs you need:
** Find the square footage of the room you are trying to cool and multiply by 35. This will give you the ballpark BTUs you should look for.
** Shady room? Decrease that number by 10%.
** Sunny room? Increase that number by 10%.
** Add 4,000 BTUs if you are putting the A/C in the kitchen.
** If more than two people will be in the room regularly, add 600 BTUs per person.
* You might also want to consult this handy page from Energy Star.
Lend Me Your EERs
* EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. A higher number indicates a more efficient unit.
* A higher EER is better (costs less to operate) but units w/ high EER are generally more expensive.
* All air conditioners made after 2000 have an EER of at least 9.7.
* An air conditioner that receives an Energy Starrating has an EER of at least 10.7.
* An increase in EER by one point can save you roughly 10% on your energy bill. Use this estimate when gauging whether a more expensive model will actually save you money in the long run.
Window Size and Installation
* Before you start shopping for an A/C unit, measure your window two or three times for accuracy.
* Make sure that the air conditioner you want will fit in your window.
* Even the lightest air conditioner might weigh more than 40 pounds, and a large unit might be close to 100. Keep this weight in mind when you make plans to install it. (You'll probably want to invite a friend or family member to help you.)
* Models that come with a slide-in chassis are easier to install - a framework is installed in the window first, and the heavier air conditioning unit slides in easily.
** This installation takes a bit longer than the conventional air conditioner, however.
* Through-the-wall air conditioners require you to cut a hole in your wall; this is more difficult and is, of course, a permanent installation.
* Some models run whisper-quiet, others sound like freight trains.
* Quieter models may be more expensive, but if you plan to use the air conditioner in your bedroom, you may want to make the investment.
* A warranty is a good thing to have, especially on something as important as an air conditioner.
* Most models come with a one-year warranty; sometimes this can be extended to 4- or 5-year plans.
* If you have someone else install your A/C unit, find out if there is a warranty on the labor as well.
* Before you buy a unit, check the kind of electrical plug that it uses and make sure you have the appropriate outlet in the area you want to use the A/C.
* Most experts recommend running the air conditioner on its own circuit to avoid overloading the electrical system.
* '''Remote Control '''- particularly useful for air conditioners installed high above the ground.
* '''Programmable Timer '''- set it to turn the AC on half an hour before you come home from work.
* '''Air Direction '''- for best cooling, figure out whether you need the air to blow to the left or to the right - many models blow better in one direction than the other.
* '''Temperature Range'''
* '''Temperature Increments'''
* '''Sleep/Energy Saver Setting'''
* '''Slide-out Filter '''- makes cleaning easier.
* '''Fan Speed Setting'''
* '''Dirty Filter Indicator'''