Ode to an Air ConditionerCredit: Photo by Brian Donavan

When it's hot, you want a place to cool off. A window air conditioner can be a great option if you have a room in your home that either can't be cooled by a central unit or is warmer than the rest of the home. Before spending money and time installing in a window air conditioner, let's ask a few questions. 

1. Do I have the right kind of window?

Not all window air conditioners, or the windows that hold them, are created equal. The window opening needs to be wide and tall enough to hold the unit. For a normal double-hung window, most air conditioners will fit just fine. However, if you have a casement window, you will need to purchase a unit made specifically for casement windows. These AC's will be taller than a traditional window AC. 

The window must also be strong enough to hold the weight of the air conditioner. Most units will weigh 80-110 lbs and will be held by the window frame. The frame needs to be in good shape so that the AC can rest on it safely.

2. Are there power outlets nearby?

The power chord for most window units is usually 6 ft. long. If you are in the United States, most of these units can plugged into a normal 110 v outlet. If there is not outlet nearby, you will need to install one, which will require an electrician. We do not recommend the use of an extension chord as it can create a safety hazard.

3. Is there enough room outside for the unit?

Over two thirds of the air conditioner will be outside and exposed to the elements. This area needs to be clear of debris, trees, or any other obstacle that will interfere with the air conditioner working properly.

Although the unit will be supported mostly by the window frame, most units will have brackets that will provide additional support by attaching the base to the outside wall. You will need to determine if you are willing to drill holes into the siding.

4. What type of unit will I need?

Air Conditioners are rated based on BTU's or British Thermal Unit. The higher the BTU rating, the larger the area that it can cool. For example, a unit with 10,000 BTUs will cool an room between 150-250 sq. ft. Other factors that affect the amount of BTU's will be how well the room is insulated (the better the insulation the less BTUs you'll need), if the room faces the sun, and where the unit will be in the home. You will need a stronger unit in a kitchen as opposed to a bedroom, for example.

There are also other factors to consider, but these will help you figure out if a window AC is right for you.