In the hot summer days there is nothing better than relax in your air conditioned living room after work. Air conditioners became the integral part of our homes and almost two third of homes in the United States have air conditioners and their number is continuing to rise. There are some criticism because that huge number of air conditioners use huge amounts of energy (almost 5% of all electricity produced in the U.S.), but we think that air conditioners aren’t the problem here. If the electricity is produced as a renewable energy there is no pollution because air conditioners don’t pollute. If you want to know how to produce renewable energy yourself read our article, Do I need solar panels?.
The problem arises when you have to decide what air conditioner is the best for your home and how to get the best value for your money. There are several types of air conditioners and a lot more manufacturers with thousands of different models. We advise you that you learn as much as you can about air conditioners before you actually buy one, because you can easily make a mistake which can be very costly. In this air conditioner buying guide we will provide you with all the information that you need to know before you decide on the specific air conditioner.
How air conditioners work
Air conditioners and refrigerators basically work the same way but instead of cooling just the small, insulated space inside of a refrigerator, an air conditioner cools a room, a whole house, or an entire business. For the process of cooling air conditioners use chemicals that easily convert from a gas to a liquid and back again and that chemicals are used to transfer heat from the air inside of a home to the outside air. Air conditioner has three main parts: a compressor, a condenser and an evaporator. The compressor and condenser are usually located on the outside air portion of the air conditioner and the evaporator is located inside the house. That is the part that cools or heat your home.
An air conditioner cools your home with the evaporator. The condenser, a hot outdoor coil, releases the collected heat outside. A compressor moves a heat transfer fluid (or refrigerant) between the evaporator and the condenser and forces the refrigerant through the circuit of tubing and fins in the coils. The liquid refrigerant evaporates in the indoor evaporator coil, pulling heat out of indoor air and cooling your home. The hot refrigerant gas is pumped outdoors into the condenser where it reverts back to a liquid, giving up its heat to the outside air flowing over the condenser’s metal tubing and fins.
Types of air conditioners
The first step in selecting your air conditioner is to select the type. This is the most important task and it is in most cases determined with your budget, size of your home and the amount of space you want to cool. There are five main types of air conditioners: central air conditioning system, split system air conditioners, wall (built in) air conditioners, window air conditioners and portable air conditioners.
Central air conditioners
Central air conditioners circulate cool air through a system of supply and return ducts. Supply ducts and registers (i.e., openings in the walls, floors, or ceilings covered by grills) carry cooled air from the air conditioner to the home. This cooled air becomes warmer as it circulates through the home and then it flows back to the central air conditioner through return ducts and registers. This is the best air conditioner by far because it cools the entire house. On the other hand it is the most expensive system and it requires a lot of modification in your home. That is why we advise you to install a central air conditioning unit when constructing a new house or when you decided to renovate your home. But if you don’t mind the workers, the complete installation can be done in a few weeks.
Window air conditioners
Window air conditioners are by far the most popular as they are easy to install and they are affordable.These types of air conditioners can be used as a primary cooling source in a room or in combination with your central AC. Installing a window unit is an easy DIY project but before purchasing a window unit, you’ll want to take measurements to ensure it will properly fit your window. Window units are made for three different types of windows — standard, slider and casement. These units are installed in an open window with the hot air exhaust facing outside and the cool air return system facing inside. A shaded window will offer extra cooling efficiency.
Wall air conditioners
Wall or built-in air conditioners can be installed in your wall for permanent placement and operation. Most of wall units provide both cold and hot air operation for more versatile use. They are a great solution for rooms or additions to your house that may not be connected to the central heating and air conditioning system. Wall units are more expensive and they require opening a hole in an exterior wall, which means they can be placed just about anywhere. This type of air conditioners don’t take up window space and they allow a more airtight and secure fit. Also, many window models can be installed through the wall. You just have to add a frame to support the unit. As window air conditioners, smaller wall units can also be installed by handy do-it-yourselfers. Larger wall units require professional installation as more parts may be required for proper installation.
Portable air conditioners
Portable air conditioners offer more flexibility than window or wall air conditioners because they don’t require permanent installation and can be moved from room to room. If you plan on transporting your portable unit regularly, be sure to find a model with casters because they can be quite heavy. These units use the air from inside the room to cool the condenser and exhaust the hot air out of a hose that vents through a window, sliding door, wall or ceiling. Water is drained from portable air conditioners in few different ways. In self-evaporating systems, often referred to as “swamp coolers,” the water condensation is recycled back into the air. If you buy a condensate pump, excess water will be pumped outside through a hose while some models require you to manually empty the water tank every few hours. When choosing a portable air conditioner, be sure to measure the room size (length x width) and match the room size with the BTUs of the air conditioner.
Mini-split (ductless) air conditioners
Mini-split air conditioners are becoming increasingly popular and they are a great solution for homes without ductwork. Mini-splits are ductless, multi-zone units and they are extremely energy-efficient, especially when compared to portable and window air conditioners. They also tend to be quieter and more pleasing to the eye, enhancing your home environment in more ways than one. Mini splits operate via an outdoor condenser that powers the indoor evaporating element for a comfortable, year-round temperature. Also, some models can double as a dehumidifier and others can be controlled with a wireless remote, enabling temperature changes with the touch of a button. Mini-splits are suitable for cooling multiple rooms or an open area. They’re also great for regulating the temperature of larger rooms such as a lounge room or master bedroom. Mini-split air conditioning units require professional installation and they generally need to be installed in such a way that the compressor is placed outside the home with the internal fan facing the inside of the room. Placing the fan unit and the compressor on the same wall will help to keep installation costs to a minimum.
Package Terminal Air Conditioners
Package Terminal air conditioners, also known as PTACs are stand-alone heating and air conditioning units being installed through a wall. The PTAC system is ductless that eases the installation process, making it an easy-to-install unit for your home and makes the overall price cheaper. You can add a refurbished PTAC unit from PTAC4Less to make your home office more comfortable.
Size of the air conditioner
Size matters when choosing an air conditioner and it is important to get a unit with the cooling capacity to handle the room where it will be installed. Cooling capacity of air conditioners is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). BTUs measure the amount of heat an air conditioner can remove from the air over a given period of time. The higher the number, the greater the cooling capacity, but bigger isn’t always better. In order to properly cool a room you have to match the BTU capacity of the air conditioner to the dimensions of the room that needs cooling. An underpowered air conditioner won’t cool a large room properly and one that has too high of a BTU rating cools the area so quickly that it doesn’t have time to dehumidify the air, which can leave the space feeling cold and clammy. When selecting the appropriate BTU rating to match a room by square feet, consider ceiling height, sizes of windows and doorways, and whether the unit will be in a sunny room or a kitchen with extra heat from appliances. You can easily determine how much BTUs your air conditioner must have from the chart above.
We advise you to always look for Energy star certificate when buying your new air conditioner. When it comes to evaluating the energy efficiency of a room air conditioner, pay careful attention to the unit’s EER and its BTU rating. All new air conditioners are required to carry an EER, or energy efficiency rating, which ranges from 8 to 11.5. The EER is important because air conditioners with higher EERs yield the most savings in monthly electric bills. The EER also indicates the unit’s impact on the environment and the higher the EER, the fewer the greenhouse emissions. Check the yellow Energy Guide label on new room air conditioners when you’re shopping. A rating of 10 or higher on the label will produce the most in energy savings, though these models are likely to cost a little more but don’t mind the extra cost becase it pays itself of in the first year.
If you have followed the article you’ve already decided which type and size AC unit to buy. Now you can further narrow down your selection based on features specific to individual models. We will explain the most common features on air conditioners so that you can decide what features you need on your new air conditioner.
Most of the new split system air conditioners offer a humidity control function to regulate the amount of moisture in the air. This feature is particularly useful if you live in a tropical climate, or if you suffer from respiratory problems. We advise you to get the AC with humidity control because it can also prevent mold on your walls.
Ability to direct air flow
Air conditioners usually have adjustable louvers that allow you to direct airflow vertically or horizontally. Don’t ever buy AC without ability to direct air flow! Consider your room layout, and make sure to select a model that allows you to direct the airflow to the areas of your room where cooling will be most needed.
Air purifiers use a filtration system to clear the air of harmful pollutants (such as fine dust, dust mite debris, smoke particles or bacteria) to create a cleaner and more comfortable environment within the home. Most of the new split system air conditioners offer an air purifying function, which is a great feature to look out for.
A remote control is a must have, handy, feature that enables you to switch your air conditioner on or off and adjust the temperature without needing to get up and walk over to it. Some of new air conditioners have Wi-Fi control and they can be operated by online app.
Most of the models also provide the option to be run as a heater. This is a great option for those times between seasons when it’s a little chilly, but not cold enough to turn your home’s furnace on. We advise you to always buy the AC with the heating feature because AC is more energy efficient for heating between seasons than standard electric heater. Be advised that air conditioners can not heat on the temperatures below 41° F (5° C) and if you try you will most likely brake your AC outer unit.
Timer is another useful feature to look out for. Timers enable you to set the air conditioner to start operating before you get home from work, so you can walk straight into a lovely cool home at the end of a hard day. Air conditioners with a timer function can also be set to switch off during the night, to save electricity while you’re asleep.
Odor removing function
Models that offer an air purifying function generally also provide an odor removing function. This is great for removing the smell of mildew from damp homes, as well as other unpleasant odors such as cigarette smoke or pet odors. We advise you to look for this feature on your new AC because it can be very handy.
Nowadays air conditioning is an integral part of every home and we advise you to install an air conditioning unit in your home if you already don’t have one. If you read the article thoroughly, you probably have the idea what air conditioner is best for your home. As we already said, central air conditioner is the best solution but it requires a lot of remodeling and it is the most expensive solution. Portable air conditioners are the cheapest but they can cool only one room at the time and they are not efficient as split system, window or wall air conditioners. Between split system, wall and window air conditioners, we advise you to choose split system air conditioners because they offer the best performances and can be used for multiple rooms with only only outside unit. To further help you to choose the proper air conditioner for your home, we give you the list of top three split system air conditioners for cooling up to 1000 sq.ft. to choose from.