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Keep Your Cool
What to Know Before You Buy an Air Conditioner


You may live in a balmy climate year round or experience the discomfort of humidity solely during the summer. No matter where you live, however, the sticky warmth or burning dry heat of summer quickly becomes uncomfortable. The right air conditioner will help you keep your cool. Consider the following air conditioner tips while you prepare to make your purchase.

Type. Air conditioners come in three styles: a unit (or window), portable or central cooling system. Unit and portable air conditioners are all you’ll need to cool one room in your house. A central cooling system is needed if you want an air conditioner powerful enough to run throughout your entire home.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website. You will learn how to properly measure the room you want to cool and find out the corresponding BTUs needed to thoroughly cool that room. The Good Housekeeping website also has a BTU calculator. More powerful air conditioners have higher BTUs.

Installing or upgrading a central cooling system is a more complicated process. You will want to hire a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) expert to visit your home and advise you on your specific equipment needs.

Installation. We’ve already covered the importance of working with a professional if you want to install a central cooling system, but you can determine your installation needs if you buy a window or portable air conditioner.

You’ll need to know the precise measurements of the space where you want to install the window air conditioner, so be sure to measure the window. This will also be useful when you’re shopping for an air conditioner because you will know how large or small the unit needs to be to fit in to its designated space in your home.

Typically, window air conditioners contain step-by-step instructions and mounting brackets in the packaging that walk you through installing the unit. Keep in mind that you may need to purchase bricks or wood to properly tilt the window air conditioner outside for draining purposes.

Portable air conditioners require little or no installation. Some portable units collect water in a bin that must be emptied while others simply redistribute the water in to the air. Portable air conditioners that come with tubes need to have a hole in the wall where water can be emptied outside through the tube.

Cost. An air conditioner is a long-term investment beyond the initial purchase. Unless you only occasionally use your air conditioner, you will incur day-to-day operating costs on your electric bill. Energy-efficient models may cost more initially, but you'll more than make up for the higher purchase price in terms of lower electric bills.

Consult the Energy Efficiency Rating on air conditioner models. Higher rated models are more efficient. You can also simply look for Energy Star air conditioners. Energy Star units meet strict federal standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They use at least 10% less energy than traditional air conditioners, and they often have advanced features like timers.

Features. Different air conditioner styles and brands offer varying features. Consider the advanced features you might want to have your air conditioner include before you shop. You can find air conditioners with oscillating vents, temperature remote controls, Sleep mode options and more.

After you’ve compiled your list of measurements, installation requirements and desired air conditioner features, do your research. Read air conditioner reviews from consumers and experts to find out the best air conditioner styles and brands.

Good luck!

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Reprinted with permission.

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