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If sweltering days and nights without central air conditioning threaten your summertime comfort, consider putting a unit in the window. Installing a window AC is within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers if you follow the 10 tips here. You’ll get the job done safely and swiftly—and will soon be saying, “Ahhhhh!” no matter how hot it gets.
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Best Location For Window Ac
DON’T assume you’re permitted to install a window unit.
While most single-family homeowners are free to install a window AC, if you live in an apartment, condo complex, or a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association, check with management or the HOA board before investing in a unit. Some complexes don’t allow window ACs for aesthetic reasons (they’re not the most attractive additions to a building’s exterior) or because an improperly installed unit could fall from the window, creating a safety hazard.
DO assess your windows.
Not every window is suited for an air conditioner. Almost all such appliances are designed for a double-hung window, meaning there is a fixed upper pane and a lower pane that slides up and down. Sliding windows that move from side to side, and casement windows that tilt outwards to open, aren’t options for these air conditioners.
You’ll also need an electrical outlet that accepts three-prong plugs fairly close to the window; most window units have a cord only about six feet long. Never use an extension cord for window ACs. This could void the warranty on many air conditioners and present a fire hazard if the extension cord isn’t rated for appliances.
Finally, for best performance, consider the area directly inside and outside the window. An air conditioner should be in a shady or partially shaded window, because direct, intense sunlight can decrease the unit’s efficiency by as much as 10 percent as it struggles to handle all that hot air. Also, remember that the air conditioner requires sufficient clearance for unimpeded air flow, so choose a window free of furniture, trees, shrubs, walls, or other obstructions within 20 inches of the unit on the inside or the outside of the window.ADVERTISEMENT
DON’T neglect to check your measurements.
There are two sets of measurements you’ll need to choose the right window air conditioner: the height and width of the window opening and the square footage of the room the unit will cool. Normally, the air conditioner’s packaging will specify both the size range of acceptable windows and the maximum square footage the unit can cool, so make sure your measurements are within the guidelines for the unit you’re considering.
To measure the window, open it as far as it goes, and then use a tape measure to determine the inches both from side-to-side and from top to bottom.
If you don’t already know the square footage of the room you hope to cool, have a helper hold the tip of the tape measure against the wall as you extend the tape to the opposite side to get the length; then repeat on the other side of the room for the width. Then multiply the two numbers to obtain the square footage. For example, if your room is 11 feet wide and 12 feet long, it is 132 square feet.
DO choose appropriate power for your space.
You’ll need two other numbers, typically indicated on an air conditioner’s packaging, to purchase the right unit: energy efficiency rating (EER) and British thermal units (BTUs), which is a measurement of the appliance’s cooling ability.
EERs can range from 8 to 12: The higher the number, the more energy-efficient the air conditioner. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends an EER of 10 or more for the best efficiency and savings on your electric bill.
The larger the room, the higher the required BTUs to cool it. If the air conditioner isn’t powerful enough for the space, it will run continuously without reaching your desired temperature. Too powerful, and the unit will tend to cycle on and off too quickly, which won’t allow enough time to reduce room humidity effectively and leads to uneven temperature throughout the space. Generally, a window unit’s BTU rating will match the manufacturer’s recommended room size, but to calculate it yourself, try the online BTU calculators here.ADVERTISEMENT
DON’T attempt installation without a helper.
Window air conditioners typically weigh between 50 and 100 pounds, so maneuvering the appliance into the window and then holding it in place while it’s being secured with screws requires an assistant. Installing a window AC on your own is an easy way to injure yourself, or accidentally drop the unit out the window.
DO prepare the window and install brackets, if necessary.
Before installing a window AC, open the window as far as it goes, remove the screen, and clean the windowsill, glass, and window frame. Measure the width of the windowsill, and use a pencil to mark its center.
A properly installed air conditioner should sit securely in the window without an additional support bracket. However, very heavy units (those more than 100 pounds) do require additional support and some locations, notably New York City, require the use of a bracket for all window air conditioners regardless of weight. Generally, you’ll need to buy a support bracket separately. Most home improvement centers that sell window units also sell brackets, and you’ll also find them available online. Expect to pay from $30 to $100 for a support bracket.
There are different configurations of AC brackets, but most either resemble a small shelf or a pair of “legs” that extend slightly outside the window to help hold the unit firmly in place. These days, many window unit support brackets, such as the Ivation Window Air Conditioner Support Bracket (available on Amazon), require no drilling or screws for installation, greatly simplifying installation. The Ivation has an expandable bar that fits securely in the lower window frame while two rubber-tipped “feet” rest against the exterior wall to support the air conditioner’s weight.
DO attach mounting rails and side panels.
Some window units come with the top and bottom mounting rails—which help hold the air conditioner securely in the window—already in place. If your unit does not, use the included screws to attach the mounting rails, making sure to tighten all screws completely.ADVERTISEMENT
Next, attach the accordion-style side panels by sliding them along the grooves on each side of the air conditioner. When the entire installation process is complete, the panels will fill in the gaps between the air conditioner and the sides of the window frame.
Once the mounting rails and side panels are in place, lift the window unit–with your assistant’s help–and set it in place on the windowsill. The bottom mounting rail should fit into the lower window frame, positioning the air conditioner correctly and helping hold it in place. Line up the middle of the air conditioner with the mark you made earlier indicating the center of the window. Now, have your assistant hold the window unit steady while you lower the open window sash until it sits on the top of the air conditioner, with the unit’s top mounting rail resting directly in front of the lower edge of the sash. This serves as another safeguard keeping the window unit in place.
DON’T forget to measure the unit’s tilt.
Many window units require a very slight tilt away from the building to keep condensation in the drip pan outside the room, rather than puddling down the wall inside your home. Typically, the tilt shouldn’t be more than one-half of an inch, but check the installation guide for the manufacturer’s recommendation. Some newer units don’t require a tilt, as the manufacturer has installed the drip pan at a slight angle.
DO install the L-brackets and foam window gasket.
Have your assistant continue to hold the window unit in place while you use a power screwdriver or drill to install the L-brackets—the letter L-shaped pieces that serve as a final safety measure to keep the air conditioner securely in place. One side of each L-bracket screws into the lower edge of the sliding windowpane’s sash and the other side of the bracket screws to the side of the window frame, securing the sliding pane in place. This prevents the window from opening, which could cause the unit to fall out. Depending on the manufacturer, your air conditioner will come with one or two L-brackets.ADVERTISEMENT
Once the upper pane is secured, there will be a gap between the two panes of the window. Fill that gap with the foam seal included with the unit. Cut the seal if necessary to fit your window, and then press it into the gap. This keeps drafts from outdoors out of the room. Neglecting to fill the window gap with the foam seal makes your window unit work harder to control the indoor temperature, and potentially lets moisture, dust, and insects enter your home, as well.
DON’T leave side flaps unsecured.
For the final step, extend the accordion side panels of the air conditioner until they touch the sides of the window frame. Use the screws that came with your air conditioner to secure the side panels to the window frame, using a power screwdriver or drill.
Congratulations! Your new window air conditioner is safely installed. Plug it in, turn it on, and enjoy the cool relief from summer’s heat.
best position for air conditioner in living room
How to Properly Install a Window Air Conditioner
Window air conditioners are simple to install and save big money when compared to construction of a central air system. They can be installed in just a few easy steps and easily removed for storage when the unit is not needed. Below is a basic walk-through of a window air conditioner installation, but users should always consult their owner’s manual for manufacturer specific instructions.
Choosing the Location of the Unit
The perfect location for a window air conditioner is closest to the center of the room and on the shady side of the house. If you need to choose one or the other, pick the shade side. Units located in the hot afternoon sun will be required to work harder to cool the room. You’ll also want to position the unit close to an outlet to avoid using an extension cord. If an extension cord must be used only use one rated for window air conditioner use. (Also, see our Learning Center for more information on the proper power supply rating for your unit)
Prepare and Inspect the Window and Surrounding Area
Inspect the window sill and sashes for any damage or rot and repair if necessary. A rotting sill could become worse with an air conditioning unit mounted on top and it also presents a safety hazard should the unit fall due to disrepair.
It’s also important to remove any obstacles that may interfere with the installation at this stage. Storm window frames and window screens may need to be removed entirely. Also clear the area around the window so it can be accessed easily. Window air conditioners can often be clumsy to handle so keep the area clear of any tripping hazards. It’s a good idea to recruit a friend to assist with the installation.
Pro Tip: Since this might be the last time the window will be opened for several months clean the inside and outside of the window for clear viewing.
Install Brackets (If Required)
Some units require a bracket to be installed to the outside of the window. These attach to the outside of the house and require some leveling adjustments after installation. When installing these into metal frames, metal screws should be used; wood screws should be used when installing into vinyl or wood. Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
Position and Secure the Unit in the Window Opening
You’re now ready to place the unit into the window opening. Open the window to provide just enough room for placement of the unit and collapse the accordion panels inward to ensure that they do not interfere with initial positioning. Carefully place the unit in the opening and lower the top sash to hold the unit in place. It is important to consult your owner’s manual regarding the angle the unit should be positioned in. Some units require being angled backward to assist with condensation drainage, others do not. Make any adjustments as needed.
Next, expand the accordion panels outward into place to reach the edges of the window and screw them into the bottom sash. If holes are not already present in the bottom sash, pilot holes should be drilled in order prevent the wood from splitting. Use a drill bit slightly smaller than the screw size to make pilot holes.
Next, you must prevent the window sash from moving upward while the air conditioner is installed. Some window air conditioners will come with angle brackets that are used for added security. These L-shaped brackets are installed by fastening them into the front facing of the top window sash and to the top of the bottom window sash. Another alternative is to cut 2 x 2 inch stock to the exact length needed from the top of the bottom window sash to the top frame of the window and wedging the stock between the two.
Weatherproofing and Insulation
Because the window is now open there will be a gap between the two panes of glass . Seal this opening with foam weather stripping that came with the kit, or purchase some from your local hardware store. If the window faces a side of the house that receives a lot of wind or rain it’s a good idea to think about adding caulk to the outside of the window. This added step will improve the air tightness of the installation and keep any water, wind and pests from getting through.
Plug It In
You’re now ready to plug the unit in. Keep in mind to use a properly rated power supply for your unit, and to use a properly rated extension cord, if needed. These cords are rated for heavy current and the packaging will state either “Air Conditioner Cord” or “Major Appliance Cord”.