Published on May 20th, 2014 | by Peter Young


Assessing Your Living Space For A Window Air Conditioner

Window A:C

Window air conditioning (A/C) units are a great way to stay cool and survive the next sweltering summer heat wave. But are you overcooling your living space, or paying more on your electric bill than you have to?

Tools you’ll need for the job:

  • A measuring tape
  • Calculator

Instructions: assessing your living space for a window air conditioner

1. Consider the space around where you’d like to place your A/C unit. You’ll need to consider more than just the size of the room to ensure both proper installation and function of a window A/C unit. Be sure to check the following:

  • Be sure the A/C unit isn’t taking direct sunlight. A/C units will have to work harder and use more energy if they are in direct sunlight.
  • Make sure there are no heat generating appliances near the A/C’s thermostat. If the thermostat thinks it’s hotter in the room than it really is, this will cause the unit to work harder and use more energy. If there are items that would cause the thermostat to have an inaccurate reading, move them away from the thermostat.
  • Look for open airways (that can’t be sealed) in the room. The cool air created by your unit will leave through these open airways and cause your unit to use more energy to cool your desired space.

2. Determine the shape of the room. Rooms can typically be divided into a few basic shapes. Squares, rectangles and triangles. If the room you intend to cool is a square or rectangle, simply multiply the length by width to get the rooms square footage. If it’s a triangle, use length by width and divide by two. These equations will give you the square footage of the room, which will determine the size of A/C unit you will need to efficiently cool the space.

3. Measure the square footage of the room. Take your measuring tape and measure both the length and width of the room you intend to cool.  If there any open airways (that can’t be sealed) that lead to other rooms you’ll need to measure the square footage of these rooms as well to determine the appropriate size of A/C unit you will need.

4. Find the most energy efficient unit for the room. A/C units are rated by the number of British Thermal Units (BTU’s) they can produce in one hour. You can reference this chart, provided by ENERGY STAR, to see how many BTU’s are required to cool your intended living space. Typically, energy efficiency ratings (EER) of 12 or higher are pretty efficient. Anything less is bound to just cost you a lot more than you need to spend on your electric bill.

As usual, you may find a cheaper option for up-front cost, but the cost of ownership will outweigh that slight discount you get up front with higher utility bills every month. 

5. Final considerations. Depending on where you end up deciding to install your window A/C you may, or may not, want to adjust your units size. Consider the following:

  • If you install it in a kitchen, increase your unit’s rating by 4,000 BTU’s
  • If more than two people regularly use the space, increase the rating by 600 BTU’s

A/C units aren’t the only option when it comes to beating the heat. Check out this article on green strategies for keeping cool.

Also, be sure to check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Tiny Revolution.

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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