For some folks, an air conditioner is a convenience; for others, it’s an absolute necessity. If you live someplace where summers (and parts of other seasons, too) are sweltering, an air conditioner offers respite from the heat, which not only feels more comfortable, but also makes it less likely that electronics and appliances will overheat, or at the very least, make an already hot house even hotter. In addition to cooling the air, air conditioners also remove excess moisture from the air, making one an absolute must-have for those whose summers include humidity level numbers that nearly rival the temperature. While central AC units are predominant in most of the homes and rental units in the hottest and most humid regions, portable units can be an adjunct to a whole-home system or, in the case of homes and rentals without central air, a lifesaver. Window units may still be the most common portable units, but more and more manufacturers are recognizing the need for standalone models that don’t require window mounting or any other permanent installation.
As mentioned above, air conditioners remove excess moisture from the air in addition to cooling it. This aspect of an AC’s functionality isn’t all that important to those who live in arid climates, but there really isn’t a separate machine type for drier climates. If you live in an area where humidity isn’t a factor, you might be able to save a few bucks by not needing a unit that excels in this category or has one of the larger moisture-collection containers or a self-evaporating onboard dehumidifier that negates the need for a separate collection container. You also won’t need to worry much about how easy these receptacles are to empty. If, on the other hand, humidity is nearly as much of a concern as the heat, make sure you look for a model that removes as much moisture from the air as possible because drier air is easier to cool and just feels more comfortable.
When it comes to how powerful a unit you need, there are a number of factors to consider. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as a certain number of tons covers a certain number of square feet. Tons as a measure of cooling power goes back to the days when room cooling was achieved by massive blocks of ice. A ton of cooling power refers to how much cooling power an actual ton of ice has. Not terribly helpful now, right?
While many units will relate their power to square footage, keep in mind that things like room configuration, AC unit placement, humidity level, and the energy efficiency of your windows and roof also come into play. Standalone units in rooms that are crowded, especially with electronics or other heat-generating devices or appliances, will need to be more powerful or have to work harder than units in rooms without the extra heat. That extra heat could also come from direct sunlight through regular glass windows or outside heat coming in through drafty windows. In other words, a 100 square foot room that’s well sealed and not full of devices putting off their own heat will require less power to cool than an equally-sized room that’s affected by any of the above heat-increasing factors.
If you opt for a window unit, make sure you measure the opening accurately before you choose a model. If you select a model that’s smaller than the opening, you can find various gap fillers to enclose the extra space. If you end up with a model that’s larger than its intended opening, well, that would be bad. In addition to needing to fit the window opening, these units need to remain level so that proper draining of collected moisture can happen. If you don’t have a window, you’ll want to find one of the many standalone portable air conditioners (also called PACs) available today, since window units, because of drainage and exhaust needs, aren’t generally appropriate for indoor use.
Visit airconditionerlab.com for reviews, including pros and cons, of some of the most popular window units and stand-alone models that are also on the budget-friendly side.