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  • Rebecca B.

The Saga of the Window Unit


Oh, the window AC, where do we begin? They seriously haven’t made a better option yet for ALL the many buildings with no central air?! Yes, we have those “ductless” units now. Landlords are choosing to install those as an added perk to renters. But if you’re the renter, you’re not going to install that! Those things cost thousands of dollars, and thousands of dollars to install, because they have to vent outside. Excuse me? Sounds like a duct to me. And the little standing R2D2 units just don’t do the job for large rooms. Like Zabar’s and reruns of Friends, the window unit is here to stay.

If you’ve lived in New York through a summer, you probably know the ins and outs of BTUs and how to determine what you need. But if you haven’t bought a window unit in a number of years, you might not know how to buy an energy efficient AC. You can save a good deal on your electric bill and, you know, be kinder to the earth, if you consider efficiency when purchasing. Energy efficiency is measured by an energy efficiency ratio (some sites say “rating”), or EER. It is the ratio of BTUs to the amount of power consumed in Watts. The higher the EER the more efficient. Ok great, so what should you be looking for? This information is harder to find. All models these days must have an EER of at least 9.0. Models that exceed this minimum standard by 15% get an Energy Star rating, and they get to put a fun logo on their box, announcing their efficiency. Most sources say an EER of 10.5 is good, but you can find units with a 12 EER or higher these days. So you know, go big or go home.

Another thing to keep in mind is placement of the unit. Yes, you determine BTUs needed by size of room, but did you know that location is a factor too? If the room is heavily shaded, reduce capacity by 10%, if sunny, increase 10%. If the room is regularly occupied by more than two people (body heat!) add 600 BTUs. And if the unit is used in a kitchen, go ahead and add on 4,000 BTUs to that sucker. No one likes sweating while cooking. Also, if the AC goes in a corner, look for models that can send airflow in the right direction. Seems logical, but easy to forget in the isles of Home Depot. And one last tip from experience, when looking at reviews, you might want to consider the noise of the unit. When Handmaid’s Tale gets all quiet and intense, it’s a real bummer when Offred has to compete with our airflow noise.

So you’ve got your new, efficient, quiet AC, what do you do with the old one? Just put it on the curb with the other trash? Contrary to popular belief, you cannot do that. You can get fined by the city. “But I did that once and it was gone the next morning” you say? That was your neighbor dumpster diving. Good chance someone might take it, but just to be safe, you should make an appointment to have the chlorofluorocarbons removed before leaving it outside. They remove the CFCs, the AC is tagged, and then the sanitation workers pick it up. The city of New York actually makes it quite easy, you can schedule an appointment here: http://gis.nyc.gov/dsny/cfc/appt/search.htm.

Good luck shopping and stay cool NYC!

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