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by Katy Lindamood
Window air conditioners can be a life saver in the summer months. They provide a comfortable escape from the hot outside temperatures. Window air conditioners are especially helpful in reducing heat-related health issues and making sleep more restful.
What is a BTU?
Window air conditioners are rated based on the BTU output. BTU -- or British thermal unit -- is defined as the amount of air needed to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree. When choosing an air conditioner, you won't be choosing it based on the dimensions alone, but also by the number of BTUs the unit will remove from the area each hour.
What size window unit do I need?
The size of the window unit needed will depend on the size of the room you wish to cool. To determine which size you need, measure the width of the room by the length and multiply those numbers together to determine the square footage. For a room that's less than 150 square feet, a 5,000 BTU air conditioner is the proper size. For every 100 additional square feet over 150, add 1,000 BTU. Units are generally available up to 26,000 BTU; however, the larger the unit, the heavier and less energy-efficient it will be.
Where should I place the unit?
Most heating and cooling experts agree that it's better to have multiple smaller units rather than one large unit if possible. This will allow you to regulate which areas are cooled and keep energy costs lower. Window units should be placed in areas of the home that are used most frequently, including the kitchen and living areas. If it comes down to only being able to choose one location for a window unit, the bedroom might be the best spot. It's difficult to sleep when it's hot and humid, and having a window unit in the room helps.
How can I increase the output to cool more areas?
If only one unit is used and you want to cool other areas of the house, you can attempt to increase the output by placing a fan in the doorway of the cooled room facing outward. The fan will help pull the cool air out of the room and into other areas of the home. The downside to this is that the unit will have to work harder and your energy bills will increase.
Can I install a window unit by myself?
Small, portable air conditioner units can usually be installed by one person, but depending on the location of the window and the size of the portable air conditioner, an extra pair of hands is always helpful. Always read the instruction manual that comes with the unit before attempting to install it because not all window air conditioners have the same type of brackets or housing. You may need help holding the unit in place while you install the brackets and secure it.