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A Guide to Installing Any Kind of Air Conditioner

The Setup and Installation of Four Different Types of Air Conditioner Units

window-ac-aptThere's really no two ways around it, air conditioners are a necessity in the sweltering summer heat.

It's simply just too uncomfortable and frankly too dangerous to rely on open windows or the availability of community cooling rooms anymore, and residents need to have some sort of air cooling system in place.

Depending on if you own a home, rent a house, or live in an apartment there are different air conditioner options available, specifically either:

  1. Portable air conditioner
  2. Window air conditioner
  3. Split air conditioner
  4. Central air conditioner

No matter what type of air conditioner that you choose to install in your home, there is one hurdle that needs to be faced, the installation.

It seems that each A/C unit put in faces both their own conveniences but also their own quirks. For example a portable air conditioner sets up in minutes but must be kicked around the room all summer.

Almost everybody is familiar with a window air conditioner but that's likely because of the annoyances of taking them in and out of the window several times per year. A split air conditioner is convenient but a rarer model, and central air conditioners involve an extensive set up but are virtually undetectable after that.

AC installation is an important part of the process and in essence could help you decide between which type of system could go in your living quarters. Here are some of the processes and quirks that are involved in each different type of air conditioner setup:

How To Install a Portable Air Conditioner

The portable air conditioner is the fastest growing in popularity of all the home a/c units. There are a number of reasons for the consumer surge in portable air conditioning installations:

  • Easy to install with just one person
  • Fit in all different types of windows instead of just standard sizes
  • Portable air conditioners with heat feature can be used year round
  • Can be used as an accessory with central air systems and placed in a bedroom or living room to keep extra cool without turning down the thermostat to the whole house

The number one reason that portable air conditioner units are returned to stores are because consumers don't realize that the systems must be vented.

After all the air is literally being conditioned, meaning the water is being removed from it with heat and this warm air needs to be pushed out a window. Once you master the venting of the portable a/c you can virtually install a unit anywhere.

Step 1: Purchase a Unit To Fit Your Opening

One of the main reasons that people choose not to install a standard window a/c unit is because they don't have regular sized windows, or ones that open at all.

You must remember that portable window units need to still have an exit strategy, whether that be outside a vertical window, hole in the wall, or through a drop ceiling. First examine the openings in your house or apartment before buying the a/c.

window-kit-300Step 2: Setup the Window Kit

Whether you have a vertical sliding window 18" to 38" wide or a horizontal casement style windows 18" to 48" high, you'll need to setup the window kit

  • This first involves cutting a foam strip that is supplied with the window kit to the proper length.
  • Next attach the foam piece to the window part that moves.
  • Once the foam is in place insert the actual plastic window piece and close the window tight.
  • Pull out any expansion pieces so that there is a nice tight seal between your room and the outside world.

Step 3: Secure The Seal

Most window kits go the extra measure when it comes to securing the vent panel and expansion pieces as they recommend screwing them into place with as many as 9 supplied screws or more.

Once the window kit is solidified, insert a foam seal between the glass and window pane as a precaution against air and insects entering the room.

Step 4: Final Setups

Once the window kit is in place the final steps to install a portable a/c are nothing more than applying a security bracket to the window so it can't be opened from the outside, hooking up a vent from the air conditioner to the window panel, and plugging the system in a grounded outlet.

There is some maintenance involved with a portable air conditioner install, mostly draining the condensed water and figuring out how the remote control works but the units are very convenient.

How To Install a Window Air Conditioner

Window air conditioners are another popular installation choice because they're both easy to put in and convenient to operate.

  • A window a/c can be installed to keep just one room cool, saving money from cooling the entire house.
  • They are the cooling method of choice in apartments and even bedrooms for those who prefer a rather chilly sleep.
  • While the newer models of window air conditioners have changed in regards to the amount of electricity they draw and how quietly they run, the window a/c installation process has remained largely the same.

Getting Ready For a Window Air Conditioner

To the seasoned window installer, putting the unit in place and getting it set up to run is literally under 10 minutes start to finish.

Most veterans would agree that the hardest part of the job is lugging the heavy air conditioners out of storage and up a flight of stairs. If you already have the unit it should be cleaned out and a clear path should be made to the window where it will be placed.

Note- If you don't already have a window air conditioner, it's important to purchase one that is the right size for the room where it will be installed. An air conditioner that is too small will cycle constantly and burn out faster. One that is too big won't have a chance to properly condition the air and take the water out of it. To find the correct size first measure the room being cooled and then consult the Energy Star chart on the proper BTU level a/c needed.

ac-install-seal-300Installing a Window Air Conditioner

The tools needed to install a window air conditioner are minimal, if any. What you will need though is an extra hand to balance the unit in place while it is secured.

  • First set the bottom of the window air conditioner into the bottom sill of the window.
  • This should balance the unit enough until the window pane can be pulled down and secured into place so that the a/c doesn't fall out and get damaged or do damage.
  • Once the air conditioner is marginally secured in the window, locks should be placed so the window pane cannot open.

Create a Seal

The next step in installing a window air conditioner is creating a seal so that the cool air doesn't escape. You'll need to center the unit in the window opening so that the side vents can be pulled out and nailed into place, preventing air from escaping via the side of the a/c unit.

Installing Split Air Conditioner

For many consumers a split air conditioner offers the best of all worlds in the a/c department.

The term split means that half of the system is on the outside while the rest is on the inside. In this case the compressor unit and many of the loud running features are outside while a duct system rests comfortably inside - without taking up window space mind you.

Installing a split air conditioner is a more advanced process.

split-ac-inside-300Bridge The Gap Between Inside and Out

One of the nice things about a ductless split air conditioner is that it doesn't need windows or an expansive duct system to cool a room, making it great for garages and similar areas of a home or business.

What absolutely needs to be present, though, is a hole between the inside and outside of a home so that refrigeration lines can be run to the vent system. The first step in installing a split air conditioner is deciding where it's going to be mounted and cutting a hole for those lines.

The Three Sections of a Split Air Conditioner

There are obvious some pretty detailed steps to installing a split air conditioner with an outside condenser coil and inside vent. To better understand the basics of the install it's easier to break them down in three areas:

  • Outside Condenser - This large receptacle resembles what one might be accustomed to seeing outside of a home with a central air conditioning unit. Since the cooling capacity is much smaller the single air condenser isn't near the size as a central air unit. The condenser is placed outside so that the noise of it running doesn't bother people inside and so that there's more ventilation for the hard-working coils. The condenser is placed on a slab near the home.
  • Inside Vent - The inside vent is the brains of the operation where the temperature is controlled and the cool air is delivered. The vent is the messenger so to speak, the condenser does all the hard work outside and the vent brings the good news inside.
  • The Connectors - Of course lines are needed to connect the two devices with copper wire delivering refrigerant, wires carrying electricity, and tubes dispensing the water that is formed in the cooling process outside.

The whole setup is much more elaborate and will be covered more in depth later, but the brief explanation does give homeowners and business owners an idea of the process.

Installing a Central Air Conditioner

While a portable a/c, window air conditioner, and split system unit are designed to cool one or maybe two rooms in the home, the whole house solution is the central air conditioner.

  • The most detailed process of the central air conditioner setup is the running of duct work to all the different rooms in the house.
  • More often than not the best time to install a central air conditioner is when a house is just being built or when an expansive remodel is being done as that allows the best access to install the ducts.
  • That being said the central a/c installation can be retrofitted as well.

Central A/C Components

Where the central air conditioner differs from a split system is not just in the duct work, but also the middle man so to speak.

Whereas a split system runs coolant from the condenser right to the vent, the central a/c features an inside coil that processes the air.

The evaporator coils sit on a furnace or an air handler and suck in air, evaporating the refrigerant, and sending the processed air out into the home. In a nutshell, installing a central air conditioner involves three main setups:

  • Thermostat - The thermostat controls the first phase of a central air conditioner, the temperature control. This is the device that will tell all the other components to kick into action when it detects that temperatures are getting too high.
  • install-central-ac-300Cooling - The cooling process involves the compressor condensing refrigerant, the condenser coils sending the liquid to the evaporator coils where it is turned into a gas and the compressor converting the gas back into a liquid to complete the cycle. This passage of refrigerant from a liquid to a gas back to a liquid is the process in which the air gets cooled.
  • Air Flow - A circulation of air through the vents is important for proper a/c system efficiency. This involves duct work that is properly contained, vents that deliver air into the room, and return ducts that capture the air and keep the process cycling. Making sure air filters are changed often is perhaps the most important aspect of a central a/c unit.

A central air conditioner installation is one best left for professional service personnel. It is well beyond a DIY job and a significant investment that you'll want done correctly.

Air Conditioner Installation Summary

There is an air conditioner installation type for each household, apartment, garage, or business. You just need to weigh the access points you have available, the size of the room needed cooling, and available budget.

It may be a trial and error process but you'll eventually find a unit that helps you keep your cool.

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