Know what to consider when buying an air conditioner

  • Watch your Btus. The first thing you're going to come across when you go a/c shopping is the term "Btus." Here's what it means: every air conditioner has a cooling capacity number that ranges from 5,000 to 18,000 Btus. The higher the Btu value, the stronger the air conditioner is. (For the people out there interested in such things, "Btu" stands for "British thermal units.")

  • Find the EER number for each unit. "EER" stands for "Energy Efficiency Ratio." Air conditioners with high EERs are good, because they cost less to operate. Unfortunately, they're also more expensive, so you have to find a balance.

  • Warranty: Perhaps the most important feature of all, particularly if you have a history of bad luck with electronics. Be sure that your air conditioner comes with at least a one-year warranty that covers labor and parts on the entire unit. This way, if something breaks down, you can return it and get a new one or send it in to be serviced free of charge.

  • Temperature range: If it spans less than 20 (e.g. 68-86F), it may not be sufficient for your needs, particularly if you live in a hot, arid climate such as Hell. Or Florida.

  • Temperature increments: Be sure that the temperature can be incremented in notches of 1-2. This allows for greater precision and prevents electricity waste. If you have the cash, get an air conditioner with a digital system (as opposed to a dial), because it allows greater precision.

  • Sleep setting/Energy saver switch: Some unit air conditioners have a sleep setting so that at night when you are sleeping, the air conditioner slows the cooling process to a minimum, saving money and energy.

  • Slide-out filter: Every unit air conditioner has a filter that must be cleaned. Save yourself an immense hassle and get a slide-out filter air conditioner, not a frame-enclosed one. The slide-out filters are easy to remove and re-install.

  • Fan speed settings: How many fan speeds are offered on the unit? The more settings available, the better the energy saving will be (and the more choices you have).

  • Installation: Make sure your unit air conditioner comes with installation directions. There's nothing worse than getting the thing home and suddenly realizing you have no idea what you should do with it.