Air conditioning systems have never been cooler or better than they are right now. They’re more energy-efficient, quiet, and compact than the ones that came out only five years ago. There’s also a bigger selection of air conditioners right now than there’s ever been.
With that said, it’s key that we pick out the absolute best system for our homes if we want to spend less and cool more. Without further ado, let’s talk about what it takes to buy the right air conditioning for our homes.
Finding the Right Size
Before we can move on to types and costs, we first have to take exact measurements of the room we’ll be cooling.
That’s because if we were to put a powerful AC unit into a room that’s around 100 sq ft, it could create high levels of humidity. Also, it would consume a lot of power, and the energy bill would be through the roof.
On the other hand, putting a small AC unit into a huge room wouldn’t cool it properly; we’d have to let it work all day, and again, we’d be consuming more energy.
So the first thing to consider is the device’s performance in the form of British thermal units (BTUs), one of which is equal to 1055 J. For a room that’s smaller than 150 sq ft, we’d need an AC unit that has a capacity of 5,000 BTUs.
On the other hand, if the room is 300–350 sq ft, we’ll need 8,000 BTUs. However, for a grand living room or storage space that’s bigger than 2,000 sq feet, we’ll require a unit that has a capacity of 34,000 BTUs.
For more information on calculating BTU, Energy Star has written an excellent guide.
Types of Air Conditioners
One of the most important things that’ll determine the price and efficacy of our air conditioners is its type. To start, there are five AC unit types to choose from:
- Ductless mini-split
Window AC Units
Window-mounted units are the most widespread type because of their low price point. In fact, depending on their size, most window units cost between $150 and $300. Of course, these prices can vary, and some of them can even be around $800.
They’re usually big enough to cool one room that’s 100–650 sq ft. What’s more, window units are fairly easy to install, and almost anyone can do it.
Also, most of them work with existing electrical wiring, and they’re usually a great choice for those living in areas with moderate climates.
However, their biggest downside is that they’re usually designed for double-hung windows.
Portable AC Units
As the name implies, we can move portable AC units from one room to the next, depending on our current needs. These can usually only heat one room at a time and come in both vented and ventless variants.
At the end of the cooling season, portable units are pretty easy to store and don’t require a lot of space.
However, they tend to be more expensive and take up significant floor room. The average cost of a portable AC unit ranges from $250 to $500. What’s more, depending on the type, they can be noisier than window-mounted units.
Wall-Mounted AC Units
Now, wall-mounted AC units are more difficult to install than portable or window ones and require a bit of drilling. Since we would need a professional to install them, their price will go up a bit.
However, they look pretty much the same as their window-mounted counterparts and can cool a room that’s about the same size. Also, each wall-mounted unit has a sleeve that will support its weight.
Keep in mind that they’re a bit more expensive than portable AC units and can range between $400 to $700.
Ductless Mini-Split AC Units
For those of us who don’t have the necessary ductwork to install a central unit but need more BTUs, the ductless type might be the way to go. These AC’s have two parts — indoor and outdoor units and can chill a couple of rooms at the same time.
What’s more, ductless units are usually installed high up on walls so that they don’t take up any floor space. Also, they won’t obstruct our window views or natural light.
Unfortunately, they’re more expensive than the previous three types and require some serious installation. We can expect to pay around $700 to $2,500 for a ductless mini-split unit.
Central AC Units
Central AC units push cold air through ducts that are behind our ceilings and walls, and they can cool an entire house. But they do need to be professionally installed since they’re extremely complex machines.
Also, central units can be pretty expensive because they require pre-installation evaluations and modifying or installing ductwork. For all of these reasons and more, the prices of central units can range from $1,500 up to $7,000.
Important Air Conditioning Terms
Before buying any AC unit, it’s important to understand some of the more technical terms.
To start, most rooms in our home will have a circuit rating of 15 A of electricity. So unless we can get a dedicated line for our unit, it should be less than that.
Also, if the room we’re installing the AC unit in has high humidity levels, it should be able to combat that. Since most of these devices can remove between 1 to 10 pints per hour, this should be an important deciding factor.
Lastly, the air conditioner needs to have the appropriate plug type for our home. For example, most units come with a three-pronged plug that’s 125 V/ 15 A.
On the other hand, larger AC units can also have either 125 V/ 20 A or 250 V/ 15 A plugs. These unique plugs would require us to call a professional to install them, which again, can drive up the price.
Features to Look For
As AC technology is progressing, companies are coming out with more features for them. For example, nowadays, we can buy AC units that have energy-saving switches or “check filter” lights.
What’s more, we can even buy ACs that have built-in timers, a sleep mode, or oscillating vents. Of course, the more bells and whistles the unit has, the higher the price will be.
At the end of the day, which AC unit you decide to go with will depend on the size of your home.
We would recommend portable or wall-mounted units for those living in smaller houses or apartments.
On the other hand, for those who need to cool down bigger rooms or storage areas, a central unit might be best.
Also, we’d recommend units with dehumidifying features to those who have high moisture levels in their places of residence. Finally, if you or anyone in your home has mobility issues, make sure to get an AC unit with remote control options.