How to buy the right air conditioner
When the temperature heats up, your thoughts turn to cooling down. For many, beating the heat means turning on the air conditioning and enjoying the relaxing chill.
It doesn’t matter if you’re replacing an old window unit or installing central air for the first time, or where you live, you want an air conditioner to be reliable, effective and well-suited to your home and family’s needs.
Some things to consider first
Before you go looking for particular air conditioner models, give some thought to factors like noise (some units are whisper-quiet, while others are loud enough to be distracting) and the position of your windows. Most window air conditioner units are designed to blow air in a single direction, which can be a problem if your window is off-center.
Also, because the majority of window units are intended for double-hung windows, people with casement windows are better off with a through-the-wall air conditioner or, if the price is right, just going with central air.
Factors to take into consideration include:
- The size of the rooms you’re trying to cool
- How often you expect to use air conditioning
- Whether the unit will be in a room with lots of sun exposure or hot appliances (like ovens or stoves). The sunnier or hotter the room, the more energy is required to cool it.
Types of air conditioners
You’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to air conditioners. There are portable air conditioner units, which can be moved from room to room and don’t require permanent installation. Think of them as the polar opposite of a space heater. Portable units are great for cooling one room at a time, though they are heavy and take up floor space. They cost between $300 and $600.
In-window air conditioners are popular, as they do a great job of cooling single rooms, don’t take up any floor space and are usually easy to install and uninstall. However, window units sometimes obstruct views, have limited range and aren’t always a good fit. When buying one, make sure it fits your home’s standard, slider or casement windows. Depending on size, prices can range from $100 to more than $400.
If you’re looking for a smart way to cool down a limited number of rooms, split ductless air conditioner units may be the way to go. More efficient than ducted central air and less costly to install, minisplit air conditioners are also incredibly quiet. The cost is upwards of $1,000, though for a cooling option between window units and central air, it’s hard to beat.
Air conditioner efficiency is measured by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), a metric determining the amount of energy a unit needs to deliver a certain amount of cooling. The higher a unit’s SEER, the lower its energy use.
Typically, more energy-efficient units are more expensive at the start, though they can save you serious money in the long run by cutting down on monthly energy bills. As you search for the right air conditioning unit for your home, pay attention to Energy Star ratings. Units certified with the Energy Star label are environmentally friendly.