How to buy an air conditioner
An air conditioner buying guide
Air conditioners are great ways to stay cool in your home and regulate the air temperature in your rooms. To learn how to buy an air conditioner, you will need to consider a few factors for your heating, cooling and air quality needs.
>> Determine space to be cooled
First and foremost, when deciding which air conditioner to buy, it is important to determine the square footage of each room you want cooled. Do this by multiplying the length and the width of the room, and if you have multiple rooms, add those numbers together. Be sure you write each measurement and square footage down for reference when determining air conditioning sizes.
One misconception people have when deciding how to buy an air conditioner is that bigger is better, but in actuality, the amount of cooling power is not determined by air conditioner sizes, but by the BTUs it has (British Thermal Units). The higher the BTUs an air conditioner has the more square footage it will be able to cool. Use the air conditioner comparison table below to determine the approximate amount of BTUs needed for your space:
Area to be cooled
BTUs needed to cool
|150 to 350 square feet ||5,000 to 6,000 BTUs |
|400 to 600 square feet ||7,000 to 8,000 BTUs |
|600 to 950 square feet ||9,500 to 12,500 BTUs |
|950 to 1200 square feet ||13,000 to 21,000 BTUs |
When learning how to buy an air conditioner, keep in mind that cooling power may be higher or lower depending on whether the space is sunny, shaded, multiple people use the area or if there is extra heat being generated in the room, such as cooking in a kitchen.
>> Consider different types of air conditioners
There are four different types of air conditioning units to choose from when deciding which air conditioner to buy: window air conditioning units, wall mounted air conditioning units, portable air conditioning units and central air conditioning units. The type of air conditioner you should choose greatly depends on the type of installation you are prepared to do, your house and your needs.
A window air conditioner can be great for any home. However, each window air conditioner usually only cools one to two rooms in your house. If you want your entire house cooled, you may need more than one. The installation for a window air conditioner is done by simply measuring the window to ensure the air conditioner will fit, positioning it into the window and then using any supplied attachments. Consider the way your window opens while looking for which air conditioner is a good fit for your home. There are window air conditioners for both vertically and horizontally opening windows. You may be able to install some smaller window air conditioning models by yourself, but for air conditioner sizes larger than 8,000 BTUs, consider having an extra hand available to help.
Wall mounted units may require a little more work as they will need to be mounted to your wall. Some types of air conditioners require a built in box to be made where others require you to screw brackets to your wall. Depending on where you want the unit and how you want it mounted to your wall, installation may require more than one person.
Portable air conditioners require minimal installation. With side expansion pieces to accommodate different sized windows, the venting hose is easy to install and versatile enough to be moved from one room to the next. Not only do portable air conditioners cool your space, but many models offer dehumidifying, purification and heating functions.
Central air conditioning units are more complicated to install as they require ducting work and are usually installed professionally. Central air models are some of the best air conditioners to buy if you want to cool your entire home. With thermostat and temperature controls, you'll have a variety of ways to set the temperature of your house the way you like it.
>> Consider installation needs
When determining how to buy an air conditioner, it is important to consider the electrical requirements and home improvement tools needed. You'll also want to think about whether you will need professional installation. If you are installing your air conditioner on your own, be sure to consider whether you have the proper tools needed for installation. Due to various voltage and amperage requirements and considerations not only for the air conditioner, but for your wiring in your house, consider professional installation when choosing a central unit system to ensure everything is adequately installed. For air conditioner models that simply plug directly into an outlet, a professional installation is generally not needed.
>> Consider the features
To learn which features benefit your cooling needs, think about the following features when looking at different types of air conditioners:
- Thermostat: This will allow you to set the air conditioner to a specific temperature.
- Fan speeds: Varying fan speeds will allow you to determine how hard the air blows.
- Air purification: You might like your A/C unit to also filter out the air in a similar manner to what air purifiers do.
- Electronic controls: You might want to use electronic controls instead of knobs.
- Sleep and energy saver modes: These features can help reduce energy consumption overall and lower your energy bill.
>> Consider the seasonal energy efficiency ratio
The best air conditioner to buy is one that cools effectively while saving you money in the long run. When determining how to buy a window air conditioner, research its Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). This is the cooling power (in BTUs) of an air conditioner divided by its power (in watts). The higher the EER number, the more efficient the unit will be. The EER-rated air conditioner will save you in energy bills, but may have a higher price tag.