How to Buy an Air Conditioner

A Buying Guide to How to Buy an Air Conditioner

When the heat of summer gets too much to bear, you depend on your air conditioner to keep you sane. Being hot causes stress, illness, and a general feeling of outright insanity. Luckily, there’s a pretty easy solution to the “I’m too damn hot” problem — buying an air conditioner. Sure, you could strip naked all day taking cold showers, but your neighbors (and your water bill) might have something to say about that. Knowing how to buy an air conditioner allows you to stay cool without potentially exposing yourself to the people next door.

So here’s how to buy an air conditioner.

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How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

Unlike a fan, which merely circulates the air in the room (giving you a ‘sense’ of being cool without actually being cooled down), air conditioning actually changes the temperature of the air.

  1. A refrigerant gas (usually freon or something similar) is compressed and cooled within a condenser unit.
  2. That cooled gas travels through what is called an “evaporator coil”
  3. Air that passes near this evaporator coil and circulates, cooling the temperature of that air.
  4. Finally, a fan or other blower pushes the refrigerated and cooled air into the room where the air conditioner is running.

How to Pick the Right Unit Air Conditioner

How to Buy an Air ConditionerStep one in knowing how to buy an air conditioner is figuring out which room you’re improving with AC. Most people put unit air conditioners in their bedroom for better temperature control on those hot summer nights — but not matter which room you’re interested in cooling down, you’ve got some prep work to do before you ever even pick out an air conditioner model.

Does the room being cooled seal off completely from the rest of the house? Most bedrooms do — but living rooms or kitchens, for instance, often have open air connections to adjacent rooms that mean you’ll need to use a lot more cooling power to maintain a good temp. If you’re buying an air conditioner for a bigger space like this, you’ll have to buy an air conditioner unit that is powerful enough to push cooled air around the entire space.

This is why you need to measure the exact square footage of the space you need your new air conditioner to keep cool. Another consideration is the shape of the room — cooled air doesn’t move too well around corners or complex hallways, so don’t expect to cool a long curvy hallway with a single air conditioning unit.

Buying an Air Conditioner – Measuring

The old saying “measure twice, cut once” applies here too — almost all of your air conditioning purchasing decisions are based on the precise size of the space that you are trying to keep cool. The measurements you need are simple enough — height, width and length of the space to be chilled.

Since air conditioning units are installed in windows, you need to measure the dimensions of the window you’re sacrificing for the air conditioning space. I can tell you from experience that some air conditioners aren’t plainly labeled in terms of the dimensions of their units, so you’ll want to bring your measuring tape with you to the store.

If you’ve got everything properly measured you’re about 50% done buying your new air conditioner.

Three Basic Types of Air Conditioning Units

You have another important choice to make when picking out your new AC unit. There are three basic types, though there are many similarities. All of these units run at 115 Volts. This is perfect for most outlets in modern homes, but if you live in an older space you may want to check with an electrician first.

  1. Window unit: A “window unit” is the easiest to install as long as you have basic double hung windows. A good window unit offers multiple cooling options (low, med, high, etc) and will cost far less than any of the other units. Installation’s easy — screw it into an window. These guys are super heavy, anywhere from 100 to 150, so be sure you have the manpower to heft this bad boy up to your room.
  2. Built-in window: The built-in unit can be built into a wall (if you don’t want or have a window handy) or can be installed on any set of normal double hung windows. Most of these units are more expensive because they offer heating or cooling — fancy features that some people simply don’t need. Built-in window units are on average lighter (about 80 pounds) but are more expensive when it comes time to pay the bills.
  3. Split system: The only way you’re going to have a so called “split system” installed is to have it done by a contractor. Unless you’re a jack of all trades, the installation of an outside air compressor will be too big of a job for you. Why do people opt for this more expensive option? A split system AC unit is weirdly quiet. They weigh the same as a Built-in unit, about 70-90 lbs.

BTUs and You

You need to start your journey towards learning how to buy an air conditioner by by looking at different air conditioner’s BTUs. Every air conditioner has a certain cooling capacity rating ranging from 5,000 to 18,000 BTUs (or British Thermal Units). The higher the BTU rating, the stronger the air conditioner. Don’t buy the biggest BTU rated conditioner you find — the more BTUs, the higher your electric bills. The smaller the room, the fewer BTUs you need unless you plan on hanging meat or storing food for the winter.

A Few More Air Conditioning Buying Tips

  • If you are looking for an AC unit in your kitchen, add 4,000 BTUs to your estimate. Kitchens are hot almost all the time.
  • If your room is in the shade of a tree, reduce the BTUs needed by a full ten percent.
  • If your room is in the direct sunlight, increase the BTUs by a full ten percent.

Buying an air conditioner unit may seem more difficult now than before you read this article — but really it is just a matter of picking a room, making measurements, and buying a unit that is within your budget. Sometimes the only way to beat the summertime blues is to put in an air conditioning unit. If you know how to buy an air conditioner, all you have to do is install it, pour a cold drink of your choice and get chilling.

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