If, like me, you live on the West Coast, then you probably had to break out your air conditioner early this year too. I’m definitely not complaining because this weather has been amazing, and lucky for the kids, it has been great for all of their end of year school functions like the track meet and sports day.
In my house we’ve used a portable air conditioner for years. I don’t think we could sleep through the summer months without one, but sadly ours died at the end of last year. Knowing we would be buying a new one, I decided to do my homework to see if we wanted to stick with the portable variety or go with something different this year. We decided to go with portable again, but if you’re not sure which way to go, read on to see the pro’s and con’s of the air conditioner varieties.
Some things to think about before buying a new air conditioner
- How often you will be using it
- How big is the room you want to cool?
- Do you want a temporary or permanent air conditioner?
Making these decisions first will help lead you to the right air conditioner and you can quickly move onto the next step: which is finding the right unit you want to purchase!
Types of air conditioners
There are 4 basic types of air conditioners available today: portable, window, through the wall, and mini split. Since I love to watch home renovation shows I had heard of all of them, but was a little confused as to how they all differed.
Portable air conditioners
At my home we have always used a portable air conditioner, mainly because we knew in our last 2 homes we would be moving at some point and would want to take it with us. We also liked the option of being able to move it from room to room.
Portable air conditioners are quite heavy so when you look for one make sure it has rolling castors on the bottom for easy moving. I love that they are really easy to install and many of them offer other functions such as a heating as well. You can really get your money’s worth.
Just a note: they do take up quite a bit of room and floor space so if you live in tight quarters then a portable unit might not be the one for you.
The portable air conditioner uses the air from inside the room to cool, and it exhausts out the window. You do need to think about water drainage with a portable unit. Some have a built in self-evaporating function that recycles the condensation back into the air, if not you have to drain out the water or risk it flooding over which can be a mess to clean up.
Our previous unit was a Danby and we were happy with it so we decided to stick with it and purchased the Danby 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner. A side benefit we enjoy is the white noise produced by the unit. My husband loves that it helps drown out noises when he’s trying to sleep.
Window air conditioners
I think we’ve all seen this variety in the windows of many homes. When installed properly, window air conditioners can look quite discreet, and you’ll definitely appreciate it when it cools your room right down throughout the summer.
Each unit is designed to cool one room and since they are in the window they don’t take up floor space. Window air conditioners are a great option for smaller homes or apartments too, because the hot air exhausts out the back to the outdoors and you don’t need to worry about drainage from the unit.
I do like that they don’t take up valuable floor space but since our bedroom windows swing open like a door, we unfortunately can’t fit one in it. This 10,000 BTU model would be a great alternative for us otherwise. It can cool up to 450 sqft.
Through the wall
Through the wall air conditioners are very similar to the window variety, but instead of being installed in the window they are installed directly into the wall and vented outside. They are more labour intensive to install, and depending on your level of handiness they may require a professional’s help with the installation process.
They exhaust just like your dryer does through a sleeve installed to the outdoors. This type of air conditioner doesn’t take up floor space or window space, and they are available in a higher cooling capacity than their window counter parts.
The mini split
The mini split isn’t something you see very often, but these units are great if you are wanting to cool many rooms in your house. They are more energy efficient, have a slim design, are generally quiet when in operation, but they will cost you more from the get go.
Again, if you are not handy, then you will want to hire a professional to install these units as they require some tubing installation to connect the indoor unit to the compressor and condenser outside.
Each indoor unit is considered a zone and only cools that one room, but there is an option to have a multi-zone unit which would allow you to cool many rooms at once.
What are BTU’s
Now that you know all about the varieties of air conditioners available, you can think about BTU’s. If, like my husband, you love a freezing cold room to sleep in, then BTU’s are really important.
BTU stands for British Thermal Units, and they measure the amount of heat an air conditioner can remove from the air over a given period of time. The higher the BTU’s the greater capacity it has to cool the air and the greater size room you can cool as well.
When considering BTU’s you must consider the size of the room you are cooling. The info on the air conditioner box usually gives you the BTU’s as well as square feet it can cool. Take a look at this handy BTU chart to see what type you’d like to get.
|100 to 150 square feet||5,000 BTUs|
|150 to 250 square feet||6,000 BTUs|
|250 to 300 square feet||7,000 BTUs|
|300 to 350 square feet||8,000 BTUs|
|350 to 400 square feet||9,000 BTUs|
|400 to 450 square feet||10,000 BTUs|
|450 to 550 square feet||12,000 BTUs|
|550 to 700 square feet||14,000 BTUs|
|700 to 1,000 square feet||18,000 BTUs|
|1,000 to 1,200 square feet||21,000 BTUs|
It is really important to get the right BTU’s for the size of room you want to cool. If you don’t, you might not be able to cool off your space. Our new unit easily cools our large master suite, and with our door left open it even helps cool down the rest of the upstairs area.