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Air Conditioner Buying Guide

A comprehensive air conditioner guide that will give you all the information you need when shopping for a new air conditioner.

Getting Started

Take the edge off of smoldering summer heat with an air conditioner perfectly fit to your space. This buying guide is your complete reference for anything and everything air conditioner. BTUs, voltage, styles, and modern features are covered in detail to help you pick out the right air conditioner for your room.


When picking out an air conditioner, it's important to choose a unit with the proper cooling capacity (measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs) for the room it will be cooling. Air conditioners with either too little power or too much power can both lead to future problems. An underpowered unit will struggle to cool a room effectively, running constantly and using excess energy. To avoid this, many people will simply buy the most powerful air conditioner that they can afford, but that will also have unwanted effects. Air conditioners are designed to remove both heat and humidity from a room. An air conditioner that is too large for a room will cool that room too quickly and then shut off without removing the humidity, giving the air a damp, uncomfortable feel. So the first step in shopping for a new air conditioner is to measure the room or space it will be cooling, in order to choose an appropriately-sized unit.

To do this, determine the square footage of the room (multiply length x width).  Below is a handy chart that will help you find the right size room air conditioner to meet your needs.
Room Size(Sq. Ft.) Room Size(Sq. m) BTU
100 up to 150 9 up to 14 5,000
150 up to 250 14 up to 24 6,200
250 up to 300 24 up to 28 7,000
300 up to 350 28 up to 33 8,000
350 up to 400 33 up to 37 9,000
400 up to 450 37 up to 42 10,000
450 up to 550 42 up to 51 12,000
550 up to 700 51 up to 65 14,000
700 up to 1,000 65 up to 93 18,100
1,000 up to 1,200 93 up to 112 21,000
1,200 up to 1,400 112 up to 130 23,000
1,400 up to 1,500 130 up to 140 24,000
1,500 up to 2,000 140 up to 186 30,000
2,000 up to 2,500 186 up to 232 34,000

Once you have your base BTU requirement, the following adjustments are suggested:

  • For rooms with heavy sun exposure, increase capacity by 10%

  • For rooms that get little to no sun, decrease capacity by 10%

  • If the room is regularly occupied by more than two people, add 600 BTUs for each additional person.

  • If your AC will be used in the kitchen, increase the capacity by 4,000 BTU.


The next step is to determine which type of air conditioner you need to purchase. This will be determined by what type of windows you have, or if you have a room designed to accomodate a wall air conditioner.

Window Air Conditioners
These are the most common types of portable air conditioners, and are made for windows that slide up and down.  The AC sits on your window sill and vents hot air to the outside. Moisture pulled from the air in your room is also released outside. Accessories can be purchased to assist in ensuring a perfect fit for any window, and the AC can be installed permanently or in a way that makes it easy to remove for the winter.
Casement Air Conditioners
A casement air conditioning unit is designed specifically for windows that swing out to the side (usually with a hand crank) or slide open sideways.

Portable Air Conditioners
Intended for rooms with windows that cannot accomdate mounting a full AC unit, or for those who want the ability to move the AC unit from room to room. A portable air conditioner is placed on the floor and uses a flexible hose to vent hot air to the outside. The venting hose can usually fit through a small space, such as the center vent often found in basement glass-block windows.
Wall Air Conditioners
These are installed through the wall of a building in a designated opening and require a sleeve. Sleeves are sold separately and can be found in the air conditioner accessories category.
Central Air Systems
Central Air Conditioning systems consist of one main conditioning unit that pumps cool air through ducting that runs throughout a building, eliminating the need for separate AC units in each room. If you are looking to do away with portable or window air conditioners, Abt Electronics is licensed to install central air systems.  This service is only for our Chicagoland customers and individual homes will need to be estimated before choosing a central air system as well as installations.

Call us at 888-228-5800 for further information and pricing inquiries.

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Once you've decided which type and size AC unit to buy, you can further narrow down your selection based on features specific to individual models. Features like the AC controls, ability to use a remote or the inclusion of integrated air filters are all things to consider.
Ability to Direct Air Flow
Air conditioners usually have adjustable louvers that allow you to direct airflow vertically or horizontally. Consider your room layout, and make sure to select a model that allows you to direct the airflow to the areas of your room where cooling will be most needed.

The most basic air conditioning units will have very simple controls: a knob for temperature and a knob for fan power. These models are great for getting a blast of cold air into a room, but don't allow for subtle climate controls. More advanced models are equipped with digital displays that let you set a more accurate target temperature, can be programmed to go on or off at certain times and often have sophisticated energy saving modes.

Also consider models with a remote control, which makes temperature adjustments easy from the bed or the couch.


A few models also provide the option to be run as a heater. This is a great option for those times between seasons when it's a little chilly, but not cold enough to turn your home's furnace on.

What's my plug type and what voltage do I need?
Your plug type will let you know the voltage and amperage requirements of your new AC. Make sure your new AC Unit matches your existing electrical requirements. Attempting to plug your AC unit into an outlet with a different plug type or voltage can be very dangerous. Below is a chart illustrating plug types and their corresponding electrical information.

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