Select the right air conditioner to cool off and save on energy costs with this buying guide.

Learning Air Conditioner Terminology

Selecting the right air conditioner is easy if you have the correct information. Before you go shopping it is important to learn the key terms when referring to air conditioners.
One of the most commonly used terms when referring to air conditioner is BTU. The BTU is short for the British Thermal Unit which is used internationally to measure energy. One BTU of heat that is required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. A BTU when used referring to air conditioners measures the amount of heat one unit can remove from a room. As the number of BTUs increases so does the size of the unit, the weight, and the price. The average AC unit generates around 5,000- 24,000 BTUs. If the BTU in the AC it too low or too high for a room you will end up being too hot or too cold.

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Choosing the right AC unit is an important decision.
  • EER - The term EER refers to Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is found by dividing the number of BTUs a unit has by the number of watts. The higher the EER is the more efficient the AC will be. An AC with a high EER is often expensive but may be able to save energy. The average rating of EER for a unit should be between 8 and 11.5. if you live in a very hot area you may need to purchase a unit with at least an EER rating of 10.
  • Thermostat - The Thermostat is used to adjust the temperature of an AC unit. There are manual and programmable thermostats. Some units can come with a remote control, timing system, and digital temperature displays.
  • Filter - The filter is needed to keep the air in the unit clean. When shopping for AC units try to find filters that are easy to clean or cheap to replace.
  • AC Fan - The AC fan keeps the airflow moving. The speed of fans can be adjusted to help control the temperature.
  • Chassis - The chassis is a frame that will support the AC unit and needs to be sturdy.
  • Thermal Heat Pumps - The air conditioner’s packaged thermal heat pumps are units that are installed through the wall. They are often found in hotel rooms.

Tips for Installing an AC Unit

  • When measuring space for air conditioners be sure to take accurate dimensions. Exact measurements are needed for a proper fit.
  • Be sure to find an air conditioner with the proper power supply. Smaller AC units work with 115 volt outlets while larger ones may need a special circuit to work.
  • Be sure to take in measures to stay safe when installing an air conditioner. If the unit is heavy you should have help carrying it and installing it. Some of the older models may be louder than the newer ones. When installing the unit be sure to read and follow the directions exactly. For safety reasons the unit must be installed securely. Weather stripping should be applied to prevent air from escaping around the unit. When possible install the AC in a window that sees a lot of shade to keep the cool air in.
  • Be sure to keep up with maintenance on the AC unit. To ensure it is working properly keep the filters and coils clean. To make an older unit work well remove the inside grill and clean the foam filter. You can get the best performance from your unit by keeping the filter clean. When removing the unit remove it from the outside of the home. Clean out all dirt, bugs, and leaves around the unit. Remember to seal up the window in preparation for the cooler seasons.
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