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Chill Out With a Window Air Conditioner

Record high temperatures this summer are exposing weaknesses in the nation's air conditioning armor. Tough-to-cool spots such as upstairs bedrooms may have reached the boiling point. As you laid sweating on your bed last night, you made up your mind to get relief. But how? With a window A/C unit!

Installing a window unit allows you to turn the central system higher at night for energy savings. And running it won't break the budget, either. The new window air conditioners are getting quieter, more energy efficient, and more sophisticated. Prices start at under $200 and range higher according to capacity, efficiency, and features.

Look for the EER (energy-efficiency rating) when you are shopping for air conditioners. The higher the EER posted on the equipment, the less electricity it will take to run it - which means you save money on utility bills. A rating of 9.0 is currently considered a good EER for home air conditioners. Some window units also have an "energy saving setting" that switches the blower off when the compressor stops to save electricity. Capacity. All AC equipment is rated in BTUs (British Thermal Units). Room air conditioner BTU ratings range from 5,000 - 25,000 BTUs. If you are interested in cooling one bedroom, a 5,000 BTU unit may be sufficient. The best way to accurately determine the right size air conditioner is through a Cooling Load Estimate. This calculation translates factors that include square footage of windows and number of people using the rooms into a BTU rating. If you want to know how to do your own Cooling Load Estimate, send a self-addressed, stamped, long envelope to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and ask for their Cooling Load Estimate Form. The address for AHAM is 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606.

Air Flow Directional Controls. These allow you to direct the air to cool a room evenly. Some models do not have them, while others might be equipped with three or four settings, on up to models that allow flow adjustment in eight different directions. You also have the oscillator option--automatic back-and-forth air flow.

Blower Speed Settings. Enable you to custom cool your room: high for fast cooling and low for peace and quiet. Look for at least three blower speeds.