When we talk of ACs or Air Conditioners we normally talk of the cooling type of conditioners. Factually speaking, air conditioners include both cooling and heating. So, when you choose the best air conditioner, you first need to decide whether you want cooling only or both cooling and heating. Obviously, ACs that have both cooling and heating are more expensive to purchase as well as to install.
There are basically 3 types of ACs: Window, Split, Portable. All ACs have 2 major components, compressor and blower. The basic idea is that the compressor should have access to the outside atmosphere so that fresh hot air can be sucked in, cooled and blown into the room. The stale air in the room is cycled and expelled back into the atmosphere. Along with the compressor and blower, an AC also includes input/output air ducts or pipes and electrical wires.
When you choose the best air conditioner it is better to go for copper air ducts rather than other metals as copper is less prone to oxidation/rusting and provides faster cooling. But copper ducts are slightly more expensive than other metals. The AC also requires a pipe to remove the condensation. Otherwise water will drip into your room.
Windows or Package ACs
Window ACs are single-unit machines. One casing contains both the compressor and the blower. Window ACs are pretty heavy units requiring strong support both for installation and maintenance. However, home or office windows nowadays are mostly light-weight sliding or aluminum types, not the heavy iron or wooden types of yester-years. Hence, if there are no windows in your room that can support a heavy machine, or if you want to keep your windows intact without cutting iron grills and wooden and glass parts, then you may have to cut a hole in your wall, install the AC, and cement up the gaps.
This heavy support is also very important for monthly or quarterly cleaning and maintenance. This is because during maintenance or repairs the main unit needs to be slid out towards the front of the casing. Thus, only a few inches of the casing supports the entire weight of the machine as long as the maintenance work is going on. If the window or wall support for the casing is not strong enough the whole machine will come crashing down. Now, if you can take care of this issue, then Windows ACs are cheaper to purchase and maintain than the other types of ACs.
Split ACs have 2 separate units for the compressor and blower. The compressor is installed outside the room/building while the blower is installed inside the room. There is still some cutting to be done on your wall or window for the input/output air ducts and electrical wires that connect the interior and exterior units. But this cutting is a lot less than in the case of Windows ACs. Normally a single blower connects to a single compressor; but multiple blowers in the same or different rooms can be connected to a single high-capacity compressor.
Installing and maintaining a Split AC is more difficult than Windows ACs in the case of high-rise buildings. Imagine installing a Split AC on the 5th floor of a 10-storey building. The technician has to descend or ascend 5 floors and then have some kind of sitting or standing support. This is required so that he/she can drill holes, mount the brackets, mount the compressor on the brackets, open the compressor unit for cleaning, etc. All of this is both expensive and risky without the proper tools. Even if the compressor unit is mounted on rooftops or lower levels the cost of additional lengths of ducting, piping, wiring, etc. would be a significant factor when you choose the best air conditioner.
A variation of a Split AC is Cassette AC. Here the outside/exterior unit remains the same while the interior unit is a flat structure that fits into the false ceiling thus maintaining the aesthetics and beauty of your interior decoration. Central air-conditioning, which is available in large offices, 5-star hotels, etc. is basically a variation of Split ACs, and comes with facilities for room-wise or area-wise control of temperature and blower speeds.
A Portable AC is like a Windows AC, containing both the compressor and blower in one casing. Hence, it is a lot less heavy. Wheels make it easier to move. The only additional requirement is a hole in your window or wall through which the ACs vent or exhaust tube can pass. This is a tube that exhausts the stale air from the room. Of course, if you will be using the AC in an outdoor or semi-outdoor location, then you don’t need any holes in your window or wall.
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The cooling capacity of an AC is normally expressed in tons or BTU (British Thermal Units). You may have seen descriptions like 1 ton or 1.5 ton. 1 ton is equivalent to 12,000 BTU per hour, 1.5 ton is 18,000 BTU per hour, 2 ton is 24,000 BTU, and so on.
The cooling capacity is dependent on various factors such as volume of the room, sun facing walls, normal weather conditions, etc. Hence, these are important factors when you choose the best air conditioner. For example, capacity requirements may be less for hilly areas than normal plains. Similarly, capacity requirement may be more for rooms in the top floor or with western facing walls which bear more of the sun’s direct rays than other rooms. Here is a very generalized chart of cooling capacities:
|Volume of the room
|Capacity (BTU per hour)
|Upto 1,000 cu.ft.
However, it is best to talk to the experts before taking a decision.
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Choose the best air conditioner: Non-Inverter or Fixed Speed AC
When you start your AC you set it at a particular temperature, say 75°F. Let us assume that your room temperature at that point is 86°F. Your AC compressor will continue to work until your room temperature comes down to 73°F. At that point the thermostat in your AC will turn off the compressor. As the compressor goes off, the temperature in your room will start to rise again. When the temperature reaches 77°F the thermostat will turn on the compressor again. Thus, over a period of time, as your room temperature fluctuates between 73°F and 77°F, the compressor in your AC will turn on and off repeatedly.
Now, every time the compressor turns on it draws a lot of electric power which becomes expensive in the long run. Moreover, the temperature in the room keeps fluctuating over a temperature range which means that there is uneven cooling of your room; thus, you feel warm for a few minutes, then you feel cool for a few minutes, and this cycle keeps repeating.
Inverter or Variable Speed AC
However, with the advent of Inverter or Variable Speed ACs, the compressor is never turned off fully. As the temperature goes below the set figure of 75°F, say 73°F, the thermostat reduces the speed of the compressor. Then when the temperature goes up again to 77°F the thermostat increases the speed of the compressor. Thus, even though the starting power consumption is high, the average power consumption over a period of time is much lower as compared to non-Inverter ACs.
Obviously Inverter ACs are more expensive to purchase than non-Inverter ACs but the long-term savings in electric bills is much higher, more than 40%. Inverter ACs are also much more durable than non-Inverter ACs because there is no frequent starting and stopping. To help you choose the best air conditioner here is a comparison of Inverter and non-Inverter ACs:
|Room Cooling & Heating
|Room Temperature Fluctuations
Choose the best air conditioner: SEER2 Rating
The SEER2 Rating system denotes the energy efficiency of an AC. In the past, air conditioners were rated by their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). But now, there’s a new rating called the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2 (SEER2). The SEER2 system uses a scale of 13 to 25. The higher the rating, the more efficient is the appliance.
Thus an AC with a rating of 21 will cool your room faster and more efficiently than an AC with a rating of 20 for the same amount of electricity. This also means that you will be saving more in terms of electric bills with a 21-SEER2 rating than a 20-SEER2 rating. So, what is an ideal rating? This depends on where you are located in the US. There are 3 zonal ratings for the North, South West and South East. It also depends on what type of AC you want to buy. Split systems have slightly different ratings from package units. To sum up, the higher the rating the higher the buying price but the lower your electric bills.
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Choose the best air conditioner: Additional Factors to consider
Filters are a very important factor when you choose the best air conditioner. Remember when you are using the AC your room is cut off from the normal environment. This could lead to various kinds of unwanted circumstances such as humidity and growth of bacteria. So, when you choose the best air conditioner, you will want to check whether it has an efficient dehumidifier and anti-bacterial filter.
Similarly, since there is suction of outside air through the AC, a dust filter and auto-cleaning are also important considerations. Obviously, your AC will need servicing on a periodic basis, maybe once a month or once a quarter. But for the periods in-between dust filters and auto-cleaning mechanisms built into the AC are desirable so that you do not suffer any ill effects of dust, pollution, etc.
Nowadays, most ACs have these filters in-built, but it is still safe to ask and read the brochure and online reviews before finalizing your decision.
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Anando Banerjee has been providing different types of services, as an employee and thereafter as a self-employed professional, to clients in multiple industries in various countries of the world since 1984. He has an MBA in Healthcare Management.