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Fans and Air Conditioners Buying Guide

by Christina Wright

Air conditioner in a window of a red brick building

A comfortable temperature is essential for every home. If your home is too hot in the summer and your cooling bills are out of control, you need air conditioners and fans. Air conditioners and fans not only keep your home environment comfortable; they can even save you money while helping the environment. This fan and air conditioner buying guide from explains your options and lists features to look for in your new fans and air conditioners.

Buying Air Conditioners:

  1. Why you want one: A portable air conditioner is perfect for cooling smaller rooms, and some of today's energy-efficient models can also handle larger areas with ease. Air conditioners now have many features to make them even more convenient. Portable air conditioners allow you to turn down your central A/C unit and only cool the room you're using, saving you money and energy.

  2. Easy installation: When you think of portable air conditioners, you probably picture big, square air conditioner units sitting precariously in a window. These air conditioners are available and work like a charm, but newer models make installation a breeze. New air conditioners sit on the floor below the window with only an exhaust hose going out the window. Make sure there's an electrical outlet near the window where you wish to install your air conditioner.

  3. Programmable timers: Many air conditioners now have programmable timers and other energy-saving features for your convenience. You can set the timer to turn the unit on before you come home from work or to only run the unit for a set amount of time.

  4. Air filtration: Every air conditioner has a filter, but consider if you need one that also cleans the air. Many portable air conditioners now have air purifiers and dehumidifiers built into the unit, so you get three appliances in one and cool, clean air at the same time.

  5. Remote control operation: Look for portable air conditioners that come with remote controls for the ultimate in convenience.

  6. Adjustable air flow: Air conditioners with adjustable air flow settings allow you to achieve the perfect rate of air flow for your comfort level. Most air conditioners have two or three speeds of air flow.

  7. Calculating the BTU: Matching an air conditioner's power to the square footage you want to cool is important when choosing an air conditioner. You'll need to look for an air conditioner with the right BTU (British thermal units) for the square footage in the room. Make sure to measure the room you want cooled before shopping for an air conditioning unit, and then use this formula to find the air conditioner with the right amount of power: You need 35 BTUs of power in your air conditioner for every square foot you want to cool. For example, a room that is 10 feet long and 12 feet wide has a square footage of 120 feet, so this room would need an air conditioner with about 4,200 BTU. A room with 225 square feet would need an air conditioner with about 8,000 BTU.

    BTU Variables

    • You will need a more powerful air conditioner if there is going to be more than one person in the room. Add 600 BTU for each additional person who will be in the room regularly.

    • Windows facing the hot afternoon sun let in more heat. For a west-facing room, look for air conditioners that have about 10 percent more BTU. However, if there are shade trees outside the window or if the room faces north, you won't need as much power.

    • You will need an air conditioner with a higher BTU in rooms that generate or retain lots of heat, such as a kitchen or a home gym.

  8. Buying Fans:

  9. Why you want one: You want a fan for the same reason that you sit in the shade or love a summer breeze. Fans can ease the stifling heat of summer days, and if your home has a few hot spots despite your central air conditioning, a fan can help spread cooler air around without adding to your A/C bill, saving you money and energy. You can also benefit from using a fan in the spring and fall, when it's warm in the house, but not hot enough to warrant turning on your air conditioner.

  10. Hand-held fans: Battery-operated hand-held fans can be taken just about anywhere, from your porch to an airplane. Most fit in your pocket or purse.

  11. Desk fans: If you sit at a computer all day, you may like to have a little breeze right in that spot. Some desk fans even plug into your computer's USB port.

  12. Tower fans: The narrow footprint of tower fans fits nicely into narrow areas without blocking much space. Tower fans are often very quiet, making them perfect for bedrooms.

  13. Oscillating floor units: The rotating movement of an oscillating fan creates a breeze in a large room. Most oscillating fans have enough power to cool a family room or living room.

Tip from

  1. Save even more on your energy bill when you purchase fans and air conditioners with the Energy Star certification. Energy Star appliances meet strict standards of energy efficiency, so you can control your home's climate and feel good about doing it.

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