[Editor note: we have reposted this article from last year; let us know in the comments if you have any air conditioner questions.]
When your home heats up in the summer, sleeping, cooking, or just hanging out on the couch watching TV can feel pretty uncomfortable. To keep your cool and enjoy an icy blast of cold air in the middle of a heatwave, all you need is an air conditioner.
Portable air conditioners and window air conditioners are the best way to keep your home comfortable. They are easy to use, and even if you’ve never done something like this before, it’s also really easy to install an air conditioner.
Key considerations when choosing an air conditioner
On a sweltering summer evening when you know there’s no hope of sleep because the room is so warm, your air conditioner will drop the temperature with an icy blast of cold air. How can it cool a hot room so quickly and efficiently? AC units are made up of an evaporator, compressor, condenser, and an expansion device, and they use a chemical that cycles out hot air and replaces it with cool.
Choose which type of air conditioner you’d like
There are two main types of air conditioners. A window air conditioner sits on the inside frame of your window. While it can be moved if you move homes or you want to switch it to another room, a window unit is installed so it’s fixed in place and not portable.
A portable air conditioner can easily be moved from room to room. These units are packaged with a vent hose that you drape out a window to vent excess liquid.
Know your room size
Knowing the size of the room you’d like to cool means you can choose an air conditioner that will work quickly and efficiently. To get your room size, all you have to do is measure the length of the room times the width of the room. You’ll have a square footage calculation you can use to choose an air conditioner.
When choosing a portable unit, you’ll find 10,000 BTU units will cool a space up to 450 square feet. Just like a window air conditioner, a 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner will cool a space up to 550 sq. ft.
Know your BTU and new DOE Labels
Knowing the size of your room is important when choosing because it will determine what your BTU will be. BTU (British Thermal Units) is a cooling capacity per hour, and the higher the BTU, the more efficiently your unit will cool. You may have also seen the label ‘ASHRAE’ to describe the cooling capacity of a portable unit.
In 2017 the rating system for air conditioners changed slightly. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) came up with a new label to describe the changes. The new labeling is a more accurate measure of how these devices can cool your room.
To understand the new label you can look at the difference between how a window unit works and how a portable unit works. A window-mounted unit will sit on your window sill and is exposed to the outside. Any heat generated from the window air conditioner itself will be kept outside. With a portable air conditioner, the entire unit sits inside your home. That means the air conditioner itself will generate heat, some of that heat will stay in the room, and the heat generated will affect how efficiently your portable air conditioner can cool.
The new DOE labeling takes the heat generated by the machine into account, and as such the new ratings will lower the effective cooling power of portable types. For example, if a portable air conditioner you’re looking at is rated at 12,000 BTU, there might be another label called Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity (SACC) listed at 7,500. The new label reduces the cooling capacity by 4,500 BTU.
If you look at the listings right now you’ll see that some portable air conditioners at bestbuy.ca will only show the older rating system of BTU. Over time, you’ll notice that both ratings will appear in the product descriptions. If you have any questions, take a look at this post on how to properly size your air conditioner. You can also consult a blue shirt via instant chat if you have any questions about products at Best Buy. Just tap the chat button available on product listings.
Convenient features you’ll find on air conditioners
While choosing an air conditioner with the right BTU is the most important consideration, you’ll also want to take a look at the features available to you. Depending on what type of unit you choose, you can find air conditioners with adjustable speeds, 24-hour timers, and remote controls so you can change the level of cooling without having to get up.
Some models also have sleep mode so the room doesn’t get too cold, a Follow-me remote control that works as a built-in thermostat to precisely cool the room, and have environmentally friendly R32 refrigerant so they won’t harm the ozone layer.
Portable air conditioners may have three functions including cool, fan, and dry. Dry will remove humidity from your air.
Are you cooling a multi-floor home?
Will your air conditioner be placed on a lower floor, upper floor, or both? If you’d like to have an air conditioner that moves with you from room to room, a portable unit is the best choice. If you’re trying to cool bedrooms on an upper floor, you may want to have window units installed in each room.
What about fans and dehumidifiers?
Fans are a portable, easy way to cool your home. While they won’t provide you with a blast of cold air the way an air conditioner would, you’ll always enjoy the powerful breeze they can generate.
There are several different kinds of fans to choose from, and you may want to place one in the same room as your air conditioner so the cold air really moves around the room. A tabletop fan sits on top of a table and efficiently circulates air in the room, while a tower fan can oscillate the air without loud fan noises. There are also space-saving tower fans with multiple speeds and carry handles so they are easy to move from room to room.
You may also want to add a dehumidifier to a room with an air conditioner. Most portable air conditioners have three functions that include drying the air in the room, but if you’d like to remove excess moisture while your air conditioner is running, a dehumidifier is a great addition.
You can find dehumidifiers with 6-liter buckets so you don’t have to empty as frequently and auto shut-off so when the tank is full, the unit shuts off. Some models also have smart functionality to automatically control the humidity in the room by sensing the ambient temperature.
Installing a window air conditioner
A window air conditioner needs to be vented outside, so the installation will be right in your window. Because of that, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to install it properly.
Before you begin your installation
Before you begin installing a window AC unit, you’ll want to make sure the window you’ve chosen is close enough to a power outlet so you can plug it in. The cord on your new window unit should be around 5 to 6 feet long, so take that into consideration when deciding on placement in the window. You shouldn’t plug a window air conditioner into a power bar.
Tools you’ll need to install a window air conditioner
To install a window unit you’ll need a screwdriver or drill, all of the screws and brackets included with the window air conditioner, and a measuring tape. Be sure to keep the instruction booklet on hand as a reference.
Depending on the location of the unit and how much work is involved, you could have your new AC up and running within an hour.
Step one: layout the pieces and measure the window
Your first step is to confirm that you have all of the parts required to install the window unit. Lay them out on the floor so they are within easy reach and remove your window air conditioner from the box.
Next, you’ll need to measure the width of the window you are installing the unit in. Mark the centre of the window so you’ll know the side panels of the air conditioner will be even.
Step two: apply weather stripping and install side panels
You may have weather stripping included with your window unit. If so, open the window and apply the strips to protect your window and prevent air from seeping through.
You’ll want to slide the adjustable side panels onto the window unit and secure them with the screws provided. You don’t want to have any gaps that will let hot air into your room.
Step three: place the air conditioner in the window
Window air conditioners are heavy, so you’ll want to have someone help you with this step. You’ll need to pick up the unit and place it in the centre of your window. Close the window on top of the AC as tightly as you can.
Step four: add your brackets and adjust your panels
You’ll most likely see an L bracket or two in your installation package, and you’ll want to install these according to the instructions included with your unit. Because the tightly closed window will hold the air conditioner in place, the L bracket is there to firmly hold the window closed.
There may be screws to attach your window unit to your window sill. If so, you’ll want to add these now. Extend the side panels to reach the window and attach them with screws so they are secure.
Start using your window air conditioner
Once your last screw is in place you can plug in your new unit, turn it on, and enjoy a cool blast of air.
Installing a portable air conditioner
A portable air conditioner can be moved with you from room to room. It’s quite heavy, so if you have a multi-floor home you may wish to purchase a portable air conditioner for your top floor and another unit for your lower floor.
Before you begin your installation
You shouldn’t need any tools to install a portable AC unit, but if your unit includes screws you’ll want to have a screwdriver or drill on hand. It can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to install a portable AC.
One of the most important things to do before you begin is to consider placement in the room. The unit needs to be near a window for venting and a power outlet. This is important because you shouldn’t plug your AC into a power bar and you’ll need to vent out hot air.
Your new air conditioner will need to be on a hard, level surface and be placed a distance from the wall. Your instruction manual should tell you how far from the wall you’ll need to place it.
Inside the box with your portable device, you’ll likely find a vent hose, vent hose adapters, and a window slide connector. You may also find foam, weather strips, or screws.
Step one: install the window kit
A window kit lets you securely vent hot air from your air conditioner outside. These kits will work with most windows including those that slide up and down or those that slide side to side.
You can easily place the kit in either type of window by following the instructions in the included manual, but a good thing to keep in mind is you may have to add filler if the window opening is larger than the window kit itself. Popular filler materials include plywood and plexiglass. If the kit is too large for your window, you can use a utility knife to cut it down to size.
The most important thing is that no air should leak through and no sunlight should be visible when you close the window on top of the window kit. If your model includes weather stripping, you can install it to prevent leaks.
Step two: attach the hose to the portable air conditioner
If your portable unit has a connector on the back, just place the hose in the connector. Attach the hose to the window exhaust connector in the center of your window kit and extend it until you have your portable AC placed a safe distance from the wall.
Don’t kink the hose when extending it and try to keep your unit in a short, straight line from the window.
Step three: plug your portable AC in and enjoy the cold air
All that’s left to do is plug in your portable air conditioner and begin enjoying your cool room.
Good to know: can I use a portable air conditioner in a windowless room?
To efficiently cool your room, portable air conditioners need to be vented. A window is the most optimal way to vent, but you can also place your vent hose out of a sliding door, exterior wall, drop ceiling, and in some cases, a chimney. If you’d like to vent your portable AC in this way, you’ll most likely need to purchase additional accessories to get the right fit.
Installing an air conditioner is easy
Now that you know how easy it is to install a window air conditioner or a portable air conditioner, you can set yourself up for a summer where you sleep peacefully and enjoy a cool room when you get home. Take a look at all air conditioners available on Best Buy right now and choose one to keep the air cool and comfortable in your home.