1) Determine How Much Cooling Capacity You Need

If you are looking to buy a new air conditioner, there are a number of issues that you should keep in mind before you make the purchase. Of course, i...
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If you are looking to buy a new air conditioner, there are a number of issues that you should keep in mind before you make the purchase. Of course, it's best to do your research and even buy a new AC before the next heat wave hits. Here are some basic shopping strategies to guide you through all the questions that you must answer before you buy an air conditioner.

1) Determine How Much Cooling Capacity You Need The amount of cooling capacity primarily depends on three factors: the size of the room that you plan to cool, how many windows are in it, and the climate for the region in which you live. If you buy unit is too small, the room will not be adequately cooled. On the other hand, an oversized unit will shut off before it is out a chance to remove all of the humidity from the air. The smallest air-conditioner units available these days – those that are 5000 to 6000 BTUs – are capable of cooling a small bedroom or home office or any space between 100 and 250 ft.². As a general rule of thumb, you need an additional 1000 BTUs for each extra 100 ft.². The most common size air conditioner sold in the US these days is a medium-sized unit of 6000 - 7000 BTUs. A midsize unit of this size will do a great job cooling rooms sized from 300 to 400 ft.². If the room you are trying to cool is particularly sunny, however, you should opt for an even larger unit (from 8000 BTUs or higher). Here is a table to give you an idea of the size of air conditioner you need depending on the size of your room.

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ROOM AREA 100 to 150 sq. ft. 150 to 250 250 to 300 300 to 350 350 to 400 400 to 450 450 to 550 550 to 700 700 to 1000

CAPACITY 5,000 Btu/hr. 6,000 7,000 8,000 9,000 10,000 12,000 14,000 18,000

There are a few other considerations to keep in mind regarding how many BTUs you may need. • If your room has a great deal of shade, you can reduce the capacity by 10%. • If the room is particularly sunny, however, you should calculate the size of your room as 10% higher. • If more than 2 people will be in the room the majority of the time, you should add 600 BTUs. • If you intend to use your air conditioner in the kitchen, you'll want to increase the BTUs by 4000 or so. This will help to compensate for the heat from the kitchen and appliances.

2) Check for Energy Efficiency Make sure that you check the energy efficiency for the unit that you are thinking of buying. Federal law requires air-conditioner manufacturers to include a yellow Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) label on the units they sell. This gives you a general idea about the amount

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of energy consumption that the air conditioner requires. The EER number is determined by dividing the BTUs by the watts of power used. Generally speaking, a higher EER means that the air conditioner will use less energy. In turn, this means that your electricity bills will be lower. These days, the EER number can range from 9.7 up to 12. Be aware that manufacturers will generally refer to all of their air conditioning units as “highly efficient.” In reality, however, many units just barely meet the federal minimum requirement for energy efficiency. If energy efficiency is particularly important to you, take a look on the label to see if the unit has a third party certification for energy efficiency. A certification sticker from the American Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is a good sign that the unit is particularly efficient. So how much money can an energy efficient AC actually save you? As an example, if you buy an air conditioner with an EER of 11 instead of 10, you are looking at a slightly lower energy bill each month. Over the life of the unit, you may save around 50 bucks. If you are looking for immediate savings, check with the manufacturer to see if you might be eligible for a rebate from your local utility provider or your state energy commission. Some of these government organizations provide rebates for people who buy air conditioners, which are Energy Star compliant. To gain an Energy Star compliant rating, an air conditioner has to exceed the federal standard EER by at least 10%. It is important to pay attention to the EER number before you make

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your purchase, particularly if you live in a part of the country where you will be using your air conditioner regularly. The EER can have a significant impact on your monthly electric bills.

3) Check the Features In addition to checking the price and taking a look at the energy guide label, you should also closely examine the actual AC unit that you are considering buying. Examine the control panel. Determine if the controls are clear and arranged in a logical fashion. Get a sense of whether the unit is easy to operate or not. It is best to go for a unit that has adjustable air louvers because this will give you more flexibility in determining where you want to direct the air. By contrast, some units come with fixed louvers, which do not allow you to direct air where you want it. Other features that might interest you include coolness and fan settings. Many units come with a feature that lets you determine the degree of coolness that you want at any given time. Others let you choose between a high, medium, or low fan speed. These features can give you more control over the temperature of your room and also save energy. Other air conditioners come with a sleep mode, which allows the room temperature to increase a few degrees in the 1st hour of sleep and then lowers it 7 hours later. These days, most room air conditioners come with features like

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temperature readouts, timers that allow you to set them to turn on automatically (like right before you return home from work), and remote controls.

4) Determine Which Type of Unit You Want The next step is to determine the type of room air conditioner you want. Until recently, your only option for room air conditioners was a window unit. These units are placed snugly in the window frame and a vent the hot air outside through the back of the unit. Window units can be seen jutting out of the windows of buildings all over the country. And because so many of them are manufactured, the prices of window units are actually quite reasonable. In fact, you can find window air conditioners to cool small rooms for less than $100. In recent years, a number of new “portable” air conditioners of entered the market. Manufacturers tout these units as excellent alternatives to window units because they can be moved from room to room and they do not block one of your windows. Many consumers like the idea of a portable air conditioner as an alternative to a room where it would be difficult to install window unit. Research indicates that portable air conditioners don't cool as well as window units. In one study by Consumer Reports conducted in 2004, for example, the portable air conditioners provided only about half as much cooling power as the window units of similar size.

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Moreover, portable air conditioners are often far pricier than window units. Your typical portable or “windowless” air conditioner starts at about $350-$400. The other problem with the portable AC units is that they are not technically “windowless.” In fact, all portable air conditioners have to be placed near a window or sliding glass door to allow a venting hose to exhaust the heat air outdoors. Because of this design, a portable air conditioner with one exhaust hose uses that single hose to both draw in and push out the warm air. This leads to decreased efficiency. If you do decide to go with a portable unit, make sure that you get one that has dual exhaust hoses. These units are far more energy efficient because they use one hose for exhausting the hot air and one hose for pulling in the air to be cooled.

5) Be Aware of the Noise Most room air conditioners are pretty loud when they are on the high setting. In other words, you'll have a hard time listening to soft music in a room where the AC is cranking on high. If you are sensitive to noise or you plan to use the air conditioner in your bedroom while you are sleeping, is a good idea if to ask around about the level of noise the air conditioner produces. If you cannot listen to it in the store, pay close attention to review sites and see if other consumers comment on the noise.

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6) Maintenance and Safety Tips If taken care of properly, room air conditioners can last for up to 10 years. To keep your unit working efficiently, here are some tips for maintaining it. For a window unit, make sure that it is securely fastened in the window. You must ensure that you use the safety hardware that comes in the box with the unit. This can include brackets for mounting as well as sash locks for the window. The Department of Energy recommends that window air conditioners be placed level so that the drainage system works properly. Also, make sure that you use new weather stripping around the perimeter of the air conditioner if necessary. If possible, try to place the air conditioner in a window that gets decent shade. This can help to extend the life of the unit. When installing your window unit for the summer, make sure that you vacuum out any debris that may have collected in it before installation. Of course, if your window air conditioner is brand new, you can skip this step. To vacuum out your unit, simply remove the screws on the outer panel to gain access to the inside. Clean it out. Also, make sure that you vacuum the indoor and outdoor fins with the brush attachment before running the unit. You also need to ensure that your filter is clean. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the filter every 2 weeks during the summer season. Remove the filter, vacuum it, and wash it in warm soapy water. After rinsing, let it dry completely before you reinstall it.

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Here are some additional safety tips: • Before you purchase room air conditioner, ensure that your wiring can accommodate it. Most air conditioner units these days require a 3-prong outlet with 15 amps. • If you plan to use multiple air conditioners in your home, it is best to have a dedicated circuit for each one. If you are unsure whether you are wiring can deal with multiple air conditioners, it is a good idea to talk with a certified electrician. Finally, never use an extension cord the power your air conditioner.

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