Air Conditioners

An air-conditioner serves 2 purposes: it cools the air and removes moisture from it.

Air-conditioning your house, or even just one room, brings relief during the hot months of Summer.

It also allows pollen allergic-sufferers to keep their windows close during the morning when the pollen count is the highest.

The type of air-conditioner you select depends in large measure on the area you want to cool down and on how much you are willing to spend.

Basically, there are four (4) types of air-conditioners.

1) Room air-conditioners

2) Central air-conditioners

3) Split system air-conditioners

4) Portable air-conditioners

Room Air-Conditioners

They are the most common and are usually placed in a window or in a wall.

They are most suitable for individual rooms from 100 up to 750 sq.feet.

Though they are very affordable and you can buy them in about any large-item store, they can also be quite noisy and not very attractive aesthetically.

Apartments that do not have central air-conditioning will either have room air-conditioners installed or it will be up to the tenants to install one at their own cost.

The challenge here is not to buy an air-conditioner that is not powerful enough to cool the apartment, no matter how good the sales are.

Central Air-Conditioners

They are ideally suited for cooling the whole house and usually make use of the existing heating duct system. Most houses will therefore have a central air-conditioner.

The disadvantage with this system is that it is not very energy efficient unless the different areas of the house are zoned to allow cooling at different times.

Where you place the outdoors unit is also problematic.

Most municipal laws do not allow the unit to be placed between houses (and that is where most homeowners install them) because the noise is usually magnified due to the alley effect.

Most home owners do not like installing the unit in their backyard because the noise can be detrimental to enjoying a relaxing and quiet time in the backyard.

However, if your unit is too loud, your neighbor may seek recourse to the municipal law and have you remove it from between your two houses.

Be smart and a good neighbor: ask first and ensure that you are not installing a unit close to a neighbor’s windows.

Also, ensure that the unit is level if placed on the ground. Some contractors will do a shoddy job: they’ll just throw a flagstone on the ground and place the air-conditioner on it. With time and continued vibration, the unit gets off-level as the earth settles and moves. An off-kilter air-conditioner unit will make loud noises and cost you quite abit to straighten.

Split System Air-Conditioners

They are more energy efficient and look more attractive in appearance than the window type.

Because the compressor is located outside the house, some models can be whisper-quiet.

Several units (placed strategically in different parts of your house or apartment) can be connected to a single compressor.

This is not a DIY project and therefore can be quite expensive to install.

Portable Air-Conditioners

They consist of an indoor section and an outdoor section which are connected by a flexible hose through an open window.

They can cool an area of up to 380 sq.feet.

They are usually small units on casters which can be moved from room to room.

The idea is that, being portable, you can therefore move it to the area in curent use.

While this sounds fine in theory, in practice it is a drag and quickly prove to be too much a hassle to operate for most homeowners.

They are also relatively expensive and should be avoided unless there is no other choice.

Choosing The Right Air-Conditioner

When choosing an air-conditioner it is important to consider 3 factors:

1) Room size

2) Noise level

3) Energy consumption

Room Size

There is nothing worse on a hot muggy day (or night) than to switch on the air-conditioner and wait forever for the house or room to cool down.

Most people make the mistake of buying a model that is not powerful enough for their needs. But be careful of buying one that is more than you need!

If the room to be cooled is too big, the air-conditioner will be working excessively and it will take a long time to reach the required temperature, or it may even never reach it. Furthermore this can eventually lead to an earlier burn-out of the compressor.

On the other hand, if the room to be cooled is too small, the compressor will be switching on and off very often and it will not have time to remove sufficient humidity in the air. Consequently the room will feel damp and uncomfortable.

Not only is the investment for a larger unit higher but it is also less efficient. A small air-conditioner uses less energy than a larger one even though it runs a longer period of time to cool the area. Finding the right size air-conditioner is therefore important.

Calculating The Size

Calculate the area of the room to be cooled by multiplying its length by its width (we’re using ‘feet’ here).

Use the chart below to determine the right capacity (measured in Btu/h):

Area in sq.feet
100 to 150
250 to 300
350 to 400
450 to 550
700 to 1,000

For example: If the area of the room is 500 sq. feet, the correct size air-conditioner would be 12,000 Btu/h.

If the height of the room is higher than normal then the Btu capacity has to be increased proportionally.

For a kitchen where use of the oven and other appliances generate more heat than in a normal use room, it is recommended to increase the Btu by 4,000 Btu/h.

Noise Level

The constant humming or clanking can quickly get to your nerves.

Some people have found that their neighbor’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious monster-of-an-air-conditioner makes it impossible to sleep peacefully at night.

It is therefore important to acquire one which is as quiet as possible. The last thing you want is for you (or your neighbor) not to be able to sleep at night because of a too noisy air-conditioner.

Energy Consumption

Air-conditioners are heavy consumers of electrical power.

It is highly recommended to invest in an ENERGY STAR® air-conditioner with 12 EER or SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Raio) or more. The higher the SEER the more energy efficient it is.

With energy cost skyrocketing each year, the extra money you spend now will be amortized within a few years.

An energy-efficient air-conditioner may consume 15% or less energy than a regular air-conditioner. For every unit increase of SEER, the amount of energy saved is 10%. So, if you choose an air-conditioner with a SEER of 11 instead of 10, your energy consumption decreases by 10%.

Convenience Features

Some air-conditioners even provide you with convenience features such as a remote control which you can use to adjust the air-conditioner while you are sitting on your favourite chair or lying on your bed reading a book or watching TV.

A self-timer is also useful to start or shut off the unit at specific times, when it is not required, thus saving on energy.


Set your air-conditioner at the highest comfortable temperature you can bear. You will save 10% energy for every °C increase.

Clean the air-conditioner’s filter regularly. Anything blocking the air circulation means less energy transfer and less efficiency.

If possible, position the compressor of your air-conditioner in a shady area, e.g under a tree, not in direct sunlight or use a shade cover above the unit (there must be enough distance between them to allow free air flow) to prevent sunlight to hit the cooling unit. About 10% energy can be saved.

Use a fan to circulate the cooled air uniformly across the room. For central air-conditioner, its fan should be set to shut off at the same time as the compressor.

Avoid placing a heat source (e.g. lamp, TV, oven) near the unit. Avoid the sun falling on the unit control (and sensor). The extra heat might cause it to run longer.

Check the insulation and air leaks in the room. Fix if necessary.

Editors Recommendations

Room air-conditioners:
Kenmore 75051 5,300 Btu
Carrier ACA051T 5,400 Btu
GE AGM06 6000 Btu
LG LWK0710WGL 7,000 Btu
GE AGM08 8,000 Btu
Goldstar WG8000E 8,000 Btu
Kenmore 75101 10,000 Btu
Friedrich QuietMaster SS10L10 10,200 Btu

Central Air-Conditioners:
Lennox HSXA19-024-230 2.0 tons
American Standard 2A7A8030A1 2.5 tons

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