It’s only June, but around here it feels like the height of summer. Everyone is discussing their air conditioning or the lack of it. If you are considering purcahsing a new air conditioning unit, we have some advice for you courtesy of the NY Daily News. You need to sure the unit you purchase is the right one for you.
The good news is that air conditioner prices have come down substantially in recent years as manufacturing has moved overseas, said P.C. Richard & Son president Gregg Richard.
“A unit that costs $99 today would have cost $149 five years ago,” Richard said.
Expect to pay anywhere from $99 for a small unit to around $1,800 for a jumbo-sized air cooler. Doing some homework before you hit the stores will help you make the wise choice.
How powerful an air conditioner you will need – power is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units – should be your first consideration.
A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. BTUs, which range from 5,000 to 36,000 for room air conditioners, measure the amount of heat a unit can remove from a room per hour. Generally speaking, the bigger your space, the more BTUs you will need – and the more you will pay.
Sizing it right is key. If you get a unit that’s too small you’ll regret it when the mercury soars. But a unit that is too big for a room will cycle on and off too often, using up too much energy while not dehumidifying properly.
To figure out the correct number of BTUs, start by multiplying the square footage of your room by 35, Richard said. Other factors come into play as well.
A kitchen will likely require a unit with more BTUs than a bedroom of the same size because of the heat generated by appliances. Likewise, you might want to crank up the BTUs in a room that gets direct sunlight. For help zeroing in on the right number, go to www.consumerreports.org, which offers a free sizing worksheet.
Energy Star units use at least 10% less energy than conventional models. On average, an Energy Star emblem will add about $40 to the cost of a unit.
To figure out whether your electrical bill savings will justify the bigger price tag, go to getenergysmart.org, the site operated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, to find out how much you can save by replacing your air conditioner with an Energy Star unit.
“Buy the most energy efficient model you can afford,” advised Consumer Reports deputy home editor Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman.
Other considerations go into choosing the right model. In compiling its recent ratings, Consumer Reports tested factors like how noisy units were and how well they functioned during a brownout.
The Haier ESAD4066, which retails for $240, got Consumer Reports’ top grade among small models. The GE ASMO8LK, for $260, was the highest rated mid-sized model and the GE ASM12AL, for $350, was the cool winner among large air conditioners.
To save yourself a headache later, make sure you know where your unit will be anchored – through a wall or in a window – before making your purchase, and measure the space. If the air conditioner will be going in a window, make note of the type of window it is.
Check the electrical power supply in your room too. Smaller air conditioners will work with a standard 115-volt outlet. Units above 8,000 BTUs will require a dedicated line, though Friedrich makes a 10,000 BTU unit that does not need one, Brief said.
Units from 10,000 to 16,000 BTUs are generally available in both 115- or 230-volt models. Units of 18,000 or more BTUs will need a 230-volt outlet.
How often you will need to buy a new air conditioner depends on the quality of the unit and how often it’s used.
“Many are warrantied for three to five years,” Vandervort said.
Sometimes people will change a unit because it is noisy or when they want to change the décor of a room, Brief said.
Another reason to head to the air conditioner aisles is “when you have an old one and it’s not working efficiently. You may be using considerably more energy than necessary,” Vandervort said. Otherwise, “use it until it doesn’t work any longer.”