Air conditioning: What do I need to know about air conditioning before purchasing a unit?

Primary tabs

What do I need to know about air conditioning before purchasing a unit?


My wife and I want to buy an air conditioning unit, but they are an expensive investment. What should we consider before wanting to buy a unit for our home?

Our answer

Buying an AC unit can be a daunting endeavour, but if you break it down into steps, it can help narrow down the options you want to look at:

  1. Consider what type of air conditioner you need. There are two of the shelf options: 
    1. Portable Air Conditioners: These units are best suited for sliding doors, windows that cannot fit a traditional window unit, and apartments where you are not allowed to install a window unit.
    2. Window Air Conditioners: These units are more energy efficient, quieter, and do not take up any floor space. However, installation can be tricky and could require the help of a professional.
  2. Read CNET’s article on Window Air Conditioners vs. Portable Air Conditioners: Which One Is Best for You? for a detailed contrast of window vs portable air conditioners.
  3. Measure the square footage of your space. To find your square footage, you need to multiply the area’s length by the space’s width. 
  4. Determine what BTU you will need to cool your room appropriately. BTUs are British Thermal Units that measure the cooling strength of ACs. The higher the number, the stronger the AC. Too weak of a BTU for a large space will result in the AC not sufficiently cooling down the room. Too strong of a BTU will result in excess energy waste, humidity build up, and potentially trip your circuit breaker. The Consumer Report article How to Properly Size a Window Air Conditioner describes how to calculate your needed BTU using your square footage. It also lists how much extra BTU you need for heat-emitting sources, such as kitchen appliances.
  5. If you have settled on a portable AC unit, you should review the product's SACC, or Seasonally Adjusted Cooling Capacity, for the most accurate measure of their effectiveness. Please refer to this article What is SACC to learn more about SACC.

Once you know what type of unit you want and how much BTU or SACC it should have, you will have narrowed down the selection to a less overwhelming list. 

Here are two lists of the 10 Best Portable Air Conditioners In Canada - July 2022 and the 10 Best Window Air Conditioner In Canada - July 2022 you might want to consider.

If you still can’t find what you're looking for, please ask us a question.