Stay Cool: Your Guide to Finding the Best AC Units
Whether you’re moving apartments, renovating your dream house, or just looking to upgrade an old machine, you always want to find the best AC units for your situation. Just like you wouldn’t use a pizza oven to reheat a bowl of soup, different air conditioners are designed for different requirements. The best AC for the garage will not be the best AC for bedroom dehumidification. Choosing the wrong machine means choosing to pay more money for a worse climate. You can find the best personal air conditioners for your home by considering three factors: what room you’re cooling, what you use the room for, and how much you’re willing to pay.
Square Footage: BTUs and You
First, let’s talk floorplans. How large of a space are you looking to cool? The best AC for a house isn’t going to be the best AC for a studio apartment. In addition to understanding the size of each room in your home, think about whether you keep doors in your home open or closed. Open doors increase the square footage your air conditioner needs to cover, but improve the overall airflow in your home.
Once you’ve figured out the rough area to be cooled, it’s time to learn about British Thermal Units, or BTUs. Like other British units of measurement, BTUs have been replaced in modern science by the Joule (one Joule is about 1055 BTUs). Unfortunately for science teachers everywhere, air conditioning and other appliances are usually rated in BTUs.
Here’s a handy chart that tells you how many BTUs you need based on the square footage you’re dealing with. Notice that ranges of square footage require the same number of BTUs. Keep that in mind when thinking about the open and closed doors in your home.
How and Where You’ll Use Your AC
Now that we’ve figured out square footage, let’s move on to how you’ll be using your AC. How many people are in the room you’re cooling, and do they move around often? The more activity in a room, the warmer it will be, which means the best personal air conditioners aren’t as good for groups. Consider if there is something like a fireplace or an oven in the room, with additional ventilation to outside. Opening those vents create additional ways for air to move around, so more warm air will creep in. The right AC for your kitchen might not be the best AC for bedroom dehumidification.
When trying to find the best AC units for your home, geography also matters. As you move closer to the equator, cooling an area requires more energy. That’s because areas closer to the equator receive much more sunlight. Geography should also be a factor when you’re thinking about how often you’ll be operating the unit. In temperate climates, you might only run an AC a few times a week, but in humid places your AC could be running constantly. In a humid enough environment, it might be worth investing in a separate dehumidifying unit so you don’t need to operate your AC constantly. In particularly warm climates, using multiple, smaller units to cool individual rooms can be more cost-effective than using a single large unit to cool your entire home.
The last element of location is installation. South-facing windows let in more sunlight, which means an AC unit in a south-facing window is less efficient. Regardless of which direction the window faces, any window that receives a lot of sun is a bad fit for an air conditioner. In some cases, people install awnings just to keep the sun off their AC. If your unit is installed in the corner of a room, make sure the vents are oriented correctly to distribute the air. You don’t want your AC blowing cool air directly into the wall!
The Costs, Personal and Environmental
No one likes wasting money. Everything we’ve gone over so far will help you find the best AC units for different situations, and optimizing that decision will save you money. Another financial factor to consider is age. Older machines run less efficiently, costing more to cool less. If a machine is old enough, there’s a chance the refrigerant is an outdated compound, like Freon. Modern refrigerants, like R32, are less harmful to humans and the environment. With comparable costs, you should bias towards newer machines.
Some newer machines are connected to the internet and can be controlled remotely. With the Windmill, for example, the phone app lets you schedule your AC to turn on and off to match your day. Taking advantage of these features will save you money, as you won’t be wasting cool air on an empty home. In some ways, you could say the best personal air conditioners are the ones used efficiently.
Can the best personal air conditioners also be the best AC units for planet Earth? While we all want to stay cool, there’s no point in having air conditioning without any air to condition. When purchasing an AC unit, see if you can find information on the operational efficiency. Environmental Certifications like EnergyStar are a good way to find eco-friendly units. In addition, some companies, like Windmill, participate in carbon buyback programs or find other ways to provide ecological restitution.
The reality of the situation is that there is no way to operate an air conditioner without consuming energy and contributing to climate change. A study by the International Energy Agency from 2018 predicted that air conditioning will be one of the largest drivers of energy consumption over the next thirty years. By 2050, the IEA predicts the power demand from ACs will triple. However, the same report demonstrates how more efficient air conditioners could cut that energy use in half while lowering harmful emissions. Going forward, the best AC units will be eco-forward and responsibly manufactured.