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    Updated on May 21, 2020. Posted on Jun 19, 2018

    Here's How To Choose An Air Conditioner For Your Apartment

    We'll make finding the right unit easy breezy.

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    Whether you're moving into a new apartment that doesn't have an air conditioner installed or your old one broke, buying a new air conditioner can feel like a giant headache. No fear! We're here to help.

    Universal Pictures

    Every AC owner's worst nightmare. 👆

    First of all, figure out which type of AC best suits your needs and budget.

    An infographic comparing central AC units, room AC units, ductless mini-split units, and evaporative coolers
    energy.gov

    Check out this full infographic and more info on home cooling from the U.S. Department of Energy!

    If you're cooling a whole house, you could consider a central or ductless mini-split AC system because they are a lot more powerful and can cool large areas evenly. These tend to be quite expensive and may require professional installation.

    If you live in a very dry climate, consider an evaporative cooler, which releases moisture into the air for added comfort (like this one).

    If you're only concerned with cooling an apartment (or individual rooms), a room AC will probably best suit your needs. These are the three types of units you'll be looking at:

    A side-by-side comparison of portable, window, and through-the-wall AC units
    Walmart / Via walmart.com

    Window units generally are cheaper ($100–$600) than wall units and portable units ($300–$800). The price will also depend on how large and efficient a unit is.

    Here are some questions to consider:

    - Do you have windows?

    - Do you need to move the unit from room to room?

    - Are you allowed to drill a hole in the wall?

    - How long are you planning on living in there?

    Window units are (relatively) affordable, space-saving, and easy to install and uninstall.

    Midea window air conditioner
    Amazon

    If you have multiple rooms, you may have to install one unit for each room for even cooling. These units usually require a support bracket installed outside the window for security.

    Get this one from Amazon for $169+ (available in four sizes).

    Also, consider the shape and size of your window when choosing a window unit.

    AC units installed in standard windows, slider windows, and casement windows
    sylvane.com

    Make sure to measure the height and width of your window opening and check the dimensions of the AC to see if they are a good fit. Look in the description of each unit for the minimum window height as well as the maximum and minimum window width to ensure that the unit won't be too big or small for your window.

    If you have a sliding or casement window, you may need a specially designed vertical window unit.

    Don't forget to purchase a support bracket if your apartment doesn't already have one.

    A window AC unit installed with a bracket
    amazon.com

    This is an important safety measure to prevent your AC from falling out of the window and injuring someone! 😱 Also, remember to check that the bracket is made to support the size and weight of your unit — this info can be found in the product description or the electronic user manual.

    Get the one above from Amazon for $29.08 (supports up to 165 lbs.). Also, check out other options here (up to 80 lbs.), here (up to 85 lbs.), here (up to 105 lbs.), and here (up to 165 lbs.).

    Through-the-wall (or built-in) units are harder to install, but they don't take up window space and can be used for windowless spaces. They also have a more airtight fit, which means less energy loss.

    An AC unit installed inside the wall instead of mounted on top of a window
    amazon.com

    You will need to consult your superintendent or landlord about installing one of these units! They require a sleeve, which is a metal device that holds the air conditioner in the wall to support its weight, and this may require professional installation if the room doesn't already have one.

    Get this one from Amazon for $449+ (available in three sizes).

    Portable units are easy to move around from room to room and can be rolled away for storage.

    A freestanding AC unit attached to a hose that vents through a window
    Amazon

    They also vent through an open window and take up some floor space. Some portable units have reservoirs that need to be emptied, while others do not. New units (like the one pictured) can pull double duty — you can also use it as a heater in the winter.

    Get this one from Amazon for $309.99+ (available in four sizes).

    Measure the square footage of your apartment/room to determine how powerful your unit needs to be.

    A guide on how to determine a room's square footage for square, rectangular, triangular, and more complex room shapes

    The cooling capacity of an AC unit is measured by BTU (British thermal unit). Basically the larger the room, the higher the BTU you'll need.

    A chart showing size of area and the recommended AC capacity
    Best Buy / Via bestbuy.com

    BTU measures the amount of heat an air conditioner can remove from the air within a certain amount of time. Higher BTU = greater cooling capacity. BTUs can range from 5,000–20,000. AC units with higher BTUs can cool larger spaces and tend to be more expensive.

    Choosing the correct BTU that corresponds to the dimensions of your apartment is important because it will ensure that you get the most energy-efficient cooling system for your space.

    You might think, well isn't the higher the BTU the better??? Not so. While a unit with too few BTUs might struggle with cooling a large room, an AC that's too powerful in a small space will cool the room too quickly without having enough time to dehumidify the air, which will leave you feeling cold and clammy. *Shudders*

    Other factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right BTU rating: ceiling height, room insulation, sun exposure, location (like whether it's in the kitchen or bedroom), and local climate.

    The Home Depot / Via homedepot.com, homedepot.com

    As a general rule for rooms with excessive sunlight, select a unit with 10% more BTUs than what is required by the size of the room. If you're placing the unit in the kitchen, select one with an additional 4,000 BTUs than what is required by the room size. For rooms that regularly contain more than two people, add an additional 600 BTUs per person.

    Opt for an energy-efficient model, which means lower greenhouse emissions and monthly electric bills.

    Example of an EER label on an AC unit
    Amazon / Via amazon.com

    You can find the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) on the unit. EERs range from 8 to 12. The higher the number, the more efficient. Look for the Energy Star label — Energy Star-certified room air conditioners are 10% more efficient than non-certified models. Also, look for units that come with energy-saving/econ settings!

    Before you purchase, make sure your outlets match the plug. You'd be surprised at how many kinds of plugs are out there!

    Examples of different kinds of outlets
    youtube.com

    Most AC units run on 115-120V and have a standard three-prong/grounded plug. However, there are some that run on 230V and have a special plug that you may need an adapter for.

    Also, think about what extra features you'd enjoy (within your budget) — a remote control? A timer? An energy-efficient or quiet mode? The ability to double as a heater/fan/dehumidifier?

    Costway portable air conditioner
    amazon.com

    For example, this portable unit comes with a remote and has three modes: air conditioner, fan, or dehumidifier. It also has a 24-hour programmable timer.

    Get it from Amazon for $289.99.

    Now that you're armed with knowledge, here are some top-rated AC units you can buy online:

    1. A sleek and energy-efficient window air conditioner that'll cool your room without being an eyesore.

    Friedrich window AC
    Amazon

    BTU: 8,000–24,000

    Suggested square footage: 350–1400

    Energy rating: 12.2

    Voltage/plug: 125V

    Remote: Yes

    Measurements: 14"H x 19"W x 21"D

    It has three cooling speeds, a fan-only mode, dehumidifying mode, digital thermostat, and 24-hour programmable timer. You can adjust the air flow in four directions. It can also be installed through the wall. It has a washable, antimicrobial filter.

    Promising review: "This is an incredible unit. I've owned no fewer than five AC units previously, but this is my first Friedrich. You get what you pay for. I had a chance to look at this unit run with the cover off. Very well designed. It's relatively heavy. Most importantly, it's quiet. True, everyone's definition of quiet will be different. But this unit produces an overall sound that's less of an annoyance and more closely resembles that of white noise. Compressors (not to be confused with the motor that drives the fan) can be very loud. But Friedrich has done their homework here by choosing the right compressor, arranged nicely on dampers, to make a smooth sounding unit that delivers a nice burst of cold air. The automatic swivel distributes the air to a fairly wide cross section of the room." —Jason Oakley

    Get it from Amazon for $469+ (available in six sizes).

    2. An easy-to-install portable unit perfect for cooling off a small urban apartment.

    Honeywell portable AC
    Amazon

    BTU: 10,000

    Suggested square footage: 350–450

    Energy rating: 
N/A (power consumption is 6.3 Amps/700 Watts)

    Voltage/plug: 110-120V

    Remote: 
Yes

    Measurements: 14.6"W x 27.7"H x13.5"D

    This unit has a built-in dehumidifier that can remove up to 44 pints per day (with an auto-drain system). It has two fan speeds, a smart digital humidistat, and a 24-hour timer.

    Promising review: "This portable AC is well designed and attractive to the eye. If you have never installed an AC, this unit will be the easiest you ever install. It literally took more time to take it out of the box than to install it. This 8,000 BTU unit is perfect for my small NYC studio apartment. In Manhattan, most buildings require that you hire a professional installer when installing a window AC, and this usually starts at $150 dollars — that's money I did not have to spend when I bought and installed this unit myself. The AC is small in size and has wheels, meaning you can move it easily and place it in the most convenient space in your studio." —R Santos

    Get it from Amazon for $429.99.

    3. A through-the-wall AC with a remote control so you can change and maintain the temp from across the room.

    Koldfront through the wall AC
    Amazon

    BTU: 8,000

    Suggested square footage: 300–350

    Energy rating: 10.6

    Voltage/plug: 115V/NEMA 5-15P

    Remote: Yes

    Measurements: 14.5"H x 24.2"W x 20.3"D

    It has a sleep mode, 24-hour timer, and an energy saver feature.

    Promising review: "The packaging was right on and with clear instructions on installation, coupled with plenty of material foam to seal all outstanding exposer. I was pleasantly surprise how quiet, and efficient cooling system, along with a very slim and simple to operate remote control." —william saunders

    Get it from Amazon for $379.

    4. A bucket-less portable air conditioner you won't need to keep manually draining.

    Honeywell portable AC
    Amazon

    BTU: 12,000

    Suggested square footage: 550

    Energy rating: 9.6

    Voltage/plug: 115V

    Remote: 
Yes

    Measurements: 29.3"H x15.2"W x 18.1"H

    This unit uses an auto-evaporation system that allows for hours of continuous operation with no water to drain or no bucket to empty. Its dehumidification capacity is up to 69 pints per day. The washable filtration system can easily be cleaned under a faucet. It has a digital thermostat control and a 24-hour energy-saving timer.

    Promising review: "So far I’m extremely very happy with this. I’m in Arizona, and we have to endure extremely high temperatures, especially in what appears like endless summers. Typical summertime temperatures are around 115℉+. I’m so tired of having high electric bills because I have to cool down the entire house. I purchased this air conditioner and have been using it daily. It’s great! I don’t have to cool down several of the rooms in the house that I don’t go into on a daily basis. The cold air that comes out from this air conditioner is very, very cold. I’m very happy with my purchase and have recommended this to other family members out here in Arizona to consider purchasing one for themselves. It’s easy to set up, I had no problems doing this. It’s not super loud either. I should have bought this years ago and saved a lot of money on my electric bills." —chris

    Get it from Amazon for $457.99.

    5. A budget-friendly window option with all the features you'll need.

    Haier window AC
    walmart.com

    BTU: 5,000

    Suggested square footage: 150

    Energy rating: 
11

    Voltage/plug: 115V

    Remote: No

    Measurements: 13"H x 16.44"W x 12.56"D

    It has two cool settings, two fan speeds, and two-way air direction. There's an auto-cool setting that adjusts fan speed depending on cooling need. There's a timer that lets you program the unit to turn on or off anytime in a 24-hour period. The sleep mode auto-adjusts temperature for overnight comfort.

    Promising review: "I got two of these small units to take the strain off of my very old and inefficient central unit. My electric bill averages about $50 less per month with these running 24 hours a day. Yes, these window units run all day and night from about March 'til about October. Never shut them down except to clean the filters. And I'm starting on the third year. For about a hundred dollars apiece, they have paid for themselves. They are quiet, easy to maintain, and two of them cool my 1200 square foot home 95% of the time. If I run the central, it's only on very hot afternoons. I highly recommend these window units." —chuck

    Get it from Walmart for $139.

    6. A compact window unit perfect for smaller spaces with tiny windows.

    Frigidaire mini window AC
    amazon.com

    BTU: 5,000

    Suggested square footage: 150

    Energy rating: 
11.1

    Voltage/plug: 115V

    Remote: 
No

    Measurements: 12"H x 16"W x 15.3"D

    It can accommodate windows with a minimum height of 13" and width of 23" to 36". It also has a washable mesh filter.

    Promising review: "I ordered this in 2016 because it was cheap, and I’m ordering another one in 2018 because this AC unit dances circles around the fancy one my husband and I bought for our bedroom last year. This is simple, and it WORKS. It can easily cool a small apartment if left on high." —CurliFry79

    Get it from Amazon for $255.79.

    7. A powerful and energy-efficient portable AC that you'll be blown away by.

    A
    Whynter

    BTU: 14,000

    Suggested square footage: 450

    Energy rating: 
8.86

    Voltage/plug: 115V

    Remote: Yes

    Measurements: 18.5″W x 15.75″D x 30.25″H

    This unit has a self-evaporative system that exhausts most or all condensate under average ambient conditions. You can choose from four operational modes: auto, air conditioner, fan (three fan speeds), and dehumidifier (71 pints/day). It comes with a 3M filter and a washable pre-filter.

    Promising review: "Great unit. Took our apartment from well over 90 degrees to a very comfortable 75 on the hottest days during a heatwave. The self-evaporating system worked without a hitch even on the most humid of days. Love it!" —domenica

    Get it from Amazon for $379.

    8. A compact portable unit that won't take up too much floor space.

    EdgeStar compact portable unit
    amazon.com

    BTU: 8,000

    Suggested square footage: 250

    Energy rating: 
9.5

    Voltage/plug: 115V

    Remote: Yes

    Measurements: 19.25”W x 24.75”H x 13.25”D

    It has three fan speeds and a 24-hour programmable timer. You can use it as a dehumidifier (up to 50 pints per day). It uses a non-ozone-damaging refrigerant and is made with all RoHS-compliant components that are free of harmful chemicals.

    Promising review: "Just arrived and so far I'm delighted by this product! The biggest surprise was how quiet it is, especially when the fan is on low; very easy to live with. It also seems to be extremely efficient, as it cooled a very hot bedroom in just an hour or so. Other pluses: Good-looking and compact with a filter that is easy to clean." —Walter Cox

    Get it from Amazon for $269.

    Live your chillest life! ❄️

    Disney

    🎶 Let it blow, let it blow ... the cold never bothered me anyway! 🎶

    Reviews here have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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    Allison Krausman / BuzzFeed

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