The Ultimate Air Conditioner Guide

  • Keys to Keeping Cool

    Air conditioner shopping may not be as easy as walking into a home appliance store and coming out with a new window unit. There are a number of points to consider before you put down cold, hard cash or swipe your card, including what kind of area you want to cool, how much you’re looking to spend upfront and what your general air conditioning needs are. Whatever your objective, here are some tips to consider before you go shopping. Photo Credit: moyerphotos
    Bigger Isn’t Better
  • Bigger Isn’t Better

    Air conditioners that are too big for the space you want to cool probably won’t be more effective than more modest-sized and less expensive air conditioners, and can hike up your monthly electricity dramatically. To keep those costs at a minimum, you’ll want to consider an air conditioner that’s just as powerful as you need it to be. That means 5,000 British thermal units for a 100 to 150-square-foot space and up to 24,000 BTUs for a 1,000- to 1,400-square-foot space, according to the Consumer Energy Center at the California Energy Commission. Photo Credit: Greencolander
  • Aesthetics

    When you’re buying an air conditioner, don’t forget to consider exactly where you’re going to put it. You may want to decide on exactly where you want to install a window unit before you even go A/C shopping just to make sure it doesn’t end up crowding a window that gives the room its only source of natural light. Photo Credit: Joe Schlabotnik
    Why Replace an Air Conditioner?
  • Why Replace an Air Conditioner?

    If you already have a working air conditioner, buying a new one now could actually save you money in the long run. Getting a new, more energy efficient Energy Star air conditioner could mean using 30% less electricity than you would with a unit you bought 12 years ago, according to Running a standard window A/C for eight hours a day costs you about $24.40 if electricity costs you 10 cents per kilowatt hour, estimates So, if you’re upgrading from a very old air conditioner, you could recoup the cost of a new unit within a year or two depending on your usage. Photo Credit: skeddy in NYC
    Sealing the Cracks
  • Sealing the Cracks

    Keeping your home cool isn’t just about buying the right appliance. Making sure your home is adequately weatherized and sealing any cracks and crevices through which precious air-conditioned air could escape could cut your summer electricity bills, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. Adding weatherstripping, which is made using a variety of materials, is an affordable way to seal any cracks between windows and doors, the Department of Energy Notes. Photo Credit: Marlith
    Use a Timer
  • Use a Timer

    Choose an air conditioner that has a timer built in, suggests HVAC Key, a site that links consumers with heating, ventilating and air conditioning contractors. If you set your air conditioner to turn on about half an hour before you usually get home, you can be sure you’ll be arriving to a comfortable temperature. You can even use your timer to turn off your A/C once you’ve fallen asleep. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to a higher temperature when you’re not home. Using programmable thermostats can cut $180 a year off your energy bills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Photo Credit: psd
    Through the Wall
  • Through the Wall

    Through-the-wall air conditioners let you preserve window space and sunlight, or you can use them if your windows are too small to fit a window A/C, but they can cost hundreds of dollars, plus you’ll have to cut a hole in the wall if you don’t already have one. Photo Credit: Dietmar Down Under
    Considering Central Air
  • Considering Central Air

    Air conditioners you install in your window can cost less than $100 upfront, but central air conditioning, which uses ducts to deliver cooled air to multiple rooms, can provide a consistently comfortable home. But you’ll have to pay a significant price for that. Adding a central air conditioning system to an existing forced-air heating system in a 2,000-square-foot home, for example, can cost $3,500 to $4,000 and take two to three days, according to This Old House. That price could double and take twice as long if your home needs ducts, the home improvement magazine says. Photo Credit: baronsquirrel
    Central Air Benefits
  • Central Air Benefits

    Upfront costs may be high, but if you think you’ll eventually end up selling your home, getting central air conditioning provides a significant boost to your home’s resale value, according to HVAC Key. Plus, you may be able to get a tax credit covering 30% of what you pay for central air conditioning up to $1,500, according to Photo Credit: Ben+Sam
    When Central is Not For You
  • When Central is Not For You

    If you tend to spend all of your time in just one or two rooms, central air conditioning might not be your most cost effective bet. Having an air conditioner for one or two rooms will cost you less than getting central air conditioning, plus, “if they provide cooling only where they're needed, room air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central units, even though their efficiency is generally lower than that of central air conditioners,” according to the Department of Energy’s website. Photo Credit: pheezy
    Split Ductless Air Conditioning
  • Split Ductless Air Conditioning

    Split ductless air conditioning might be another option for homeowners considering getting central air. With split ductless air conditioning, several rooms can be cooled at without the need for ducts and more time consuming installation since there are simply two parts connected by wires: one that needs to be outside can be connected to multiple units that are inside each room. This type of air conditioning system might run you about $1,000 to $1,200, Consumer Reports says. Photo Credit: rockriver
    Don’t Forget Your Fan
  • Don’t Forget Your Fan

    If a fan by itself isn’t enough for you, using a fan while your air conditioner is running can save you money as well. If you raise your thermostat by just two degrees and turn on your fan, you can lower cooling costs by as much as 14% simply because the breeze created by the fan cools off your body but not necessarily the air around you, according to the EPA. Photo Credit: scogle
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