Before opening the electrical cover on the A/C unit, be sure to shut off all power to the compressor unit and the indoor furnace or air handler, and verify that it is off. Note that this may mean shutting off a circuit breaker that serves the furnace and air handler, and then, near the compressor, pulling out the disconnect block (or shutting off the 220-volt power) to the outdoor compressor.
If you’re purchasing from a big-box store, you can expect to pay approximately $120-$1,000 for a window unit. Window units are appealing for their quick setup and relatively low cost, but they can use more energy over time than central air and only cool the room in which they’re installed. The price will vary depending on the type of air conditioner you buy and its cooling capacity. Window units, which require minimal installation, are one of the most affordable options on the market. Portable air conditioners don’t have the cooling power of a window unit, but they do have the perk of being transportable from room to room. Expect to pay between $225 and $800 for a portable air conditioner, on average. The cost of an air conditioning system with coils, condenser and line (not including installation or ductwork) can range from approximately $2,000 to $4,000 or more. If you don’t have (and don’t want to put in) ducts, a ductless mini-split air conditioner is a good option, although pricey up front. Pricing can range from $650 to $4,250 per unit on average; you’ll need one unit for each room in which you want temperature control.
Because an air conditioner moves heat between the indoor coil and the outdoor coil, both must be kept clean. This means that, in addition to replacing the air filter at the evaporator coil, it is also necessary to regularly clean the condenser coil. Failure to keep the condenser clean will eventually result in harm to the compressor, because the condenser coil is responsible for discharging both the indoor heat (as picked up by the evaporator) and the heat generated by the electric motor driving the compressor.
A little simple math can help determine the size system you need. A rule of thumb is 20 BTUs per square foot. So, a 500 square foot room would need 10,000 BTUs to cool or warm it efficiently. This assumes that you live in a temperate region and have adequate insulation with no energy loss. In the real world, all units have some degree of energy loss. This is reflected in an HVAC system's SEER rating for cooling and AFUE rating for heating.
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