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Room or window air conditioners cool rooms rather than the entire home or business. If they provide cooling only where they’re needed, room air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central units, even though their efficiency is generally lower than that of central air conditioners. For ways to save on cooling costs with a room air conditioner, check out our Energy Saver 101 Infographic: Home Cooling.
Smaller room air conditioners (i.e., those drawing less than 7.5 amps of electricity) can be plugged into any 15- or 20-amp, 115-volt household circuit that is not shared with any other major appliances. Larger room air conditioners (i.e., those drawing more than 7.5 amps) need their own dedicated 115-volt circuit. The largest models require a dedicated 230-volt circuit.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY OF ROOM AIR CONDITIONERS
A room air conditioner’s efficiency is measured by the energy efficiency ratio (EER). The EER is the ratio of the cooling capacity (in British thermal units [Btu] per hour) to the power input (in watts). The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner. When buying a new room air conditioner, look for the ENERGY STAR label.
SIZING AND SELECTING A ROOM AIR CONDITIONER
The required cooling capacity for a room air conditioner depends on the size of the room being cooled — room air conditioners generally have cooling capacities that range from 5,500 Btu per hour to 14,000 Btu per hour. A common rating term for air conditioning size is the “ton,” which is 12,000 Btu per hour.
Proper sizing is very important for efficient air conditioning. Buying a bigger room air conditioner won’t necessarily make you feel more comfortable during the hot summer months. In fact, a room air conditioner that’s too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit. The reason: an oversized unit will cool the room(s) to the thermostat set-point before proper dehumidification occurs, making the area feel “clammy” and uncomfortable.” A small unit running for an extended period operates more efficiently and is more effective at dehumidifying than a large unit that cycles on and off too frequently.