How To Buy an Air Conditioner

When the temperatures soar, your first priority is to ensure that your home is comfortably cool and that your AC is in a state of good repair. If you are planning on buying an air conditioner for your new home or are upgrading to a new one in your existing home, it’s important that you focus on buying a product that will provide the right levels of cooling and that it suits the requirement of your home.

Here is a Guide on How to Buy an Air Conditioner:

While some homes do have central air-conditioning systems, not every homeowner may want this installation. Many people prefer to get room air conditioners installed and these can really be an energy-efficient and cost-effective alternative for cooling a room. Millions of air conditioners are sold in the country each year. According to Energy Star, an average household ends up spending 13% of their annual utility bill just on cooling. This is what makes it important to pick a unit that’s suitable for your requirements. If you purchase a unit that’s too small, that will strain to cool your room and one that’s over-sized cools too quickly is unable to remove the moisture properly and the air within the room starts to feel clammy and cold. There are several aspects you would have to keep in view while choosing an air-conditioner for your home. Here is a comprehensive guide that will help you make a more well-informed choice:

1. The Noise Factor

Models that score very high on noise tests conducted by air conditioning companies are so quiet that you can’t hear anything apart from the fan running. The ones that scored fair on noise may become a disturbance for light sleepers when they are set on low; on high, they can be a distraction to all. Eventually a noisy air conditioner can become an irritation point, so it’s always a good idea to look for an AC that scores higher on noise testing.

2. Identify the Window Location

A window air conditioner generally does a much better job of blowing air only in a single direction. This can prove to be a problem if the window isn’t centered on the wall. If you want uniform cooling in the room, you would have to direct the air to the center of the space. Therefore, you should check whether the air conditioner blows air to the left or the right; some models also have swiveling fan arms.

3. The Right Installation Matters

If you want the air conditioner to function optimally, it needs to be installed correctly. Most of these units are meant to be installed in double-hung windows. If the room has a casement window, you may want to consider getting a through-the-wall air conditioner installed. Ensure the window unit is leveled well so that it drains appropriately. Also make sure there are heat-generating devices such as lamps or a television is near the unit.

4. Check the Filter Location

Ensure that you can access the filter very easily for cleaning. This is something you would have to do regularly if you want the unit to stay in a good condition. Dirty filters hamper the flow of air and add strain on the air conditioner. In turn this impacts their functioning and results in an increase on your air conditioning bills.

5. Intelligent Cooling

Today, many companies are installing smart technology in their air conditioners; this allows you to adjust and control them via your smartphone even from a remote location. Some also give you the functionality to interconnect them to the other air cooling units on your property.

6. Keep Track of the Warranty

Some companies offer longer warranties on their products. When you are purchasing a new unit, it’s crucial that you check the company’s website for this information. The retailer would also have all the relevant information related to warranties for the brand and model of air conditioner you are purchasing.

7. The Size of Unit You Need

While it is important to check the features and price of the air conditioner, the first thing you should be doing is determine the size of the unit you require to cool the space that needs cooling. As discussed earlier, you also should keep in view the location of the unit. The cooling capacity of window air conditioners ranges from 5,000-12,500 Btu (British thermal units). As a thumb rule, air- conditioners require 20 Btu’s for every sq. ft. of living space. In order to measure the room where the unit is going to be installed, simply multiply the width of the room with its length. This is a crucial step, but you shouldn’t be buying by Btu alone. You would need to factor in several other aspects too such as where the unit is going to be placed, the height of the room’s ceiling as well as the size of the doorways and windows in the room.

Here are some basic pointers:

If your room is very heavily shaded, you can reduce the AC’s capacity by 10%     If it’s an extra sunny room, you’d have to increase the AC’s capacity by 10%     If the room is occupied regularly by more than 2 people, you’d have to add 600 Btu for every additional person     If you are installing the unit in your kitchen, the capacitywould have to be increased by 4,000 Btu

8. Choosing the Right Model

You can find some small window units in the $200 or less price range. This makes them a very tempting option; but these are a good solution only for cooling very small spaces. For a larger space, you would have to look for a unit that matches your square footage better. Look for a unit that meets the most current Energy Star ratings. This requires them to use 15% less energy than the units sans that certification.  Look for a standout model that has convenient controls, quiet operation and ensure it works when there are brownouts as well. It’s also important that you compare air conditioner ratings with other models of the same capacity, manufactured by other companies.

9. Types of Air Conditioners

Window Air Conditioners

Small AC- The capacity is in the 5,000 to 6,500 Btu/hr. range. These can cool around 100- 300 sq. ft. and they are the lightest, smallest as well as the least expensive units. However, they are unable to adequately cool rooms measuring over 300 sq. ft.  Price: $100-$200.

Medium AC- The capacity is in the 7,000 to 8,200 Btu/hr. range. These can cool around 250 to 400 sq. ft. They are larger and heavier which makes it more difficult to remove them and install them before and after winter storage. Price: $200-$300.

Large AC- The capacity is in the 9,800 to 12,500 Btu/hr. range and it can cool a room that’s 350-650 sq. ft. in size. This is an ideal option for cooling larger rooms; however they are heavy and bulky which can make installation difficult and awkward. Price: $300-$400.

Portable Air Conditioners

These ACs are for homes where building regulations or the window configurations prevent the installation of window units. Most portable window air- conditioners are in the 5,000 to 15,500 Btu range. However, you shouldn’t be comparing window air-conditioners and portable units just by that measurement. The cooling capacity of portable units may not always be on par with that of the window units. The former also use more energy, are nosier and are more expensive compared to window units. While they are technically categorized as “portable” they can weigh anything from 50 – 80 pounds; this makes them quite ungainly and cumbersome to roll across thresholds & carpets. Cost: $300-$600.

Split Ductless Air Conditioners

This is an excellent option if you want air conditioning in only a few rooms, without installing any ductwork or opening walls, as you would have to when you install/remove multiple window units, or if you have a central unit installed in your home. Split Ductless Air Conditioners have much more quiet functioning compared to window air-conditioners and on low settings they will barely be audible. They have better cooling efficiency as well, which provides you value for money in the long term. These air conditioners are more expensive than portable and window units and its best to hire a professional to handle the installation. However, a spilt ductless air conditioner isn’t as expensive as a central air conditioning unit, especially when you want to cool just a few rooms. On the other hand, if you are looking for an air conditioning option to cool a major portion of your home, a central AC unit would be the best option and the most cost-effective one as well. Cost: $1,000 and up.

10. Air Conditioners with Smart Features

Air conditioner manufactures are now outdoing themselves when it comes to adding various smart features and most units now come with extremely convenient and useful such as built-in timers, remote controls and digital displays. You will also find some models with touchpad controls while others automatically change the air flow direction to disperse the air across the room in a better way. The features you opt for should enhance efficiency and performance. Here is a more detailed look at what you should be looking for regarding smart features:

Controls- Look for touchpads that have uncrowded and sizeable buttons and large and clear LED displays. The labeling should be clear and the digital temperature readouts should be easier to use. Using a poorly-designed control can prove to be a constant annoyance point. The remote should have raised buttons of different shapes as that helps you identify the distinct functions by feel. If you opt for controls that have digital temperature readouts, these provide a more precise reading compared to the conventional “cooler” and “warmer” settings.

Directional Airflow Vents- ACs have louvers that can be adjusted to direct the airflow either vertically or horizontally. Certain models also have oscillating fans; but most units are better at directing the air to either side. You should take the layout of your room into consideration and then look for an air conditioner that has the functionality to direct air in the direction you need it.

Efficiency Aids- You can also look for an air-conditioner that has a timer you and turn-off when you aren’t at home; this function also allows you to turn on the systems just before you are scheduled to get back home. These units also have energy- saver settings that stop the fan when its compressor is off. These features in conjunction save a lot of energy.

Dehumidifying Mode- This feature is extremely useful on days that are cool and humid, in fall and spring.

Fresh-Air Intake/Exhaust Setting- This feature provides excellent ventilation with no cooling.

Timer- The 24-hour programmable timer is an energy-saving feature that allows you to control the operating schedule of the unit in the manner you need.

Remote Control- The remote-control device allows you to make adjustments to the settings from the place you are sitting in. Some latest air conditioning models also have in-built temperature sensors that relay the room’s temperature (rather than the temperature at which the unit has been set).

The Latest Energy Efficient Window Air Conditioning Units

Several new innovations and standards have made it much cheaper to run air conditioners. When the energy standards are tougher, it helps keep your energy bills under control. Window air conditioning units that companies now manufacture, have various innovations such as high-efficiency fans & compressors. High quality insulates installation materials give a much tighter fit.

Here are some more useful pointers you should keep in view while buying an air conditioner:

Purchase One of the Right Size: keep in mind that when it comes to ACs, bigger isn’t always better. If you buy a unit that’s too large for the space it’s cooling, it will continue to cycle on & off without removing sufficient moisture from the air, and that leaves you feeling cold. If you buy an AC that’s too small, that won’t be able to cool the space efficiently and will leave you sweaty and hot. If you want to cool a small guest room, home office or even a small bedroom, look for an air conditioning unit that’s scores high on quiet and comfort. If you are cooling a playroom or a master bedroom, opt for a mid-sized air-conditioner. For a family room or a living room, look for a much larger air conditioner; this is especially important if your home has an open floor plan.

Consider using fans in conjunction with air conditioning. When you run a fan, and keep the air conditioning at a higher temperature, it helps maintain a more comfortable temperature in the room, even as it allows you to keep a handle on your utility bills. And so, if you are getting an AC for a room that doesn’t have a fan in it, consider buying energy–rated box or ceiling fan. While it won’t do anything in terms of removing humidity from the air, it will help keep you cooler even when you have the air conditioning running at a higher temperature. The other thing to keep in mind is that the fans help keep you cooler and they don’t really cool the room. So make it a point to turn it off when you are leaving the room.

Ensure that window unit filters are cleaned with regularity and that you have certified technicians coming in to service the units, with regularity. This is another important aspect you must keep in view while purchasing an air conditioner. Well established and reputed brands always provide very good after sales maintenance and service. So, look for a good brand that will be able to provide your prompt and efficient service. Look for air conditioners that have in-built inverters as they can handle power fluctuations well and the components don’t get damaged. This adds to the longevity of the unit. Check the warranty of the air conditioning unit and the duration; check what’s covered and ensure the company provides on-site service.

In Closing

As you can see, there are several aspects you must keep in view while purchasing an air conditioner. You can conduct some research online and read comparative reviews on reliable consumer durable sites.  When you are looking for air conditioners of a brand, make it a point to check online reviews about the product and the company’s services. You can also speak with sellers and get their advice and guidance on the matter. Once you provide them accurate information about the location, size of the room and your budget etc., they would be able to make recommendations. They will provide you information about the distinct brands available, the models and specifications as well as the pros and cons of various units. This will give you a 360 ° view and will help you make a more well informed decision about the type of ac unit you need.