Incredibly effective for cooling and dehumidifying your living space in the summer, air conditioners are available in a multitude of models. Most modern condo units in Toronto come with air conditioning, but what do you do if it breaks and you need a quick fix? Portable and window-mounted air conditioners spring to mind. Affordable and easy to install, both types have their pros and cons. But which one is right for you?
Portable air conditioners
If you know you’ll be moving at some point and prefer investing in something you can take with you when you leave, a portable air conditioner is a convenient solution. Plus, it gives you the freedom of being able to move it from room to room.
A portable air conditioner works by removing heat from the air inside the room and exhausting it out the window before returning the cooled air to the room. This makes it perfect for the sliding, awning, or casement windows typically found in condos.
You can even use one with the sliding patio doors leading to your balcony. Newer portable units have a self-evaporating function, meaning the condensation is recycled back into the ambient air of the room. For older units, you need to drain the water from the collector or you risk flooding your floor. Otherwise, a portable air conditioner requires little maintenance.
Modern portable units are very quiet so there’s no annoying hum to disturb your Netflix nights. There are even units that produce white noise to help you sleep. And, because it’s portable, you can move your unit into your kitchen if you need to cook for a crowd on a hot summer day.
Make sure you choose a unit equipped with casters so that you can easily roll it from room to room because portable air conditioners can be heavy. They also take up some floor space so if your condo is a bit tight on square footage, a portable unit might not be right for you.
Window air conditioners
A window air conditioner is designed to cool one room. Properly installed, this unit is very discreet, making it an excellent choice for smaller condos because it doesn’t take up floor space. Plus, the hot air is exhausted from the back of the unit directly outdoors. That means there’s no risk of flooding.
If you have sliding windows or casement windows, the kind that swing out like a door, there are now vertical window air conditioners designed especially for them. Otherwise, if you’re handy, you can install custom-cut sheet of acrylic glass around the traditional horizontal window air conditioner to seal the window opening (this may or may not be allowed by your condo board).
This is the unit for you if you plan on having an air conditioner in one room only. Most are even equipped with remotes, so you can turn it up or down from your bed or the couch.
Don’t buy more – or less – than you need
Air conditioning power is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), so a 10,000 BTU unit will cool a larger room than a 5,000 BTU unit. An ENERGY STAR portable or window air conditioner will save you money on your electrical bill. As a general rule, you’ll need 20 BTUs for each square foot of living space.
Tips for increasing the cool factor
Here are a few tips for keeping cool while keeping costs down:
- Make strategic use of your fans. They will help to maximize airflow through the rooms you’re cooling.
- In the evening and in the morning, use the air conditioner fan to bring fresh air in from outside.
- Close the doors and windows of the room you’re cooling, and keep closet doors closed.
- During the day, close curtains and blinds of windows in full sun exposure.
- Keep the air filter clean. It will help your air conditioner run efficiently.
The upshot is, both portable and window air conditioners provide a quick DIY fix for a spring or summer refresh. Which one you choose will depend on the size of your condo and how you want to use the air conditioning unit.
By Judith Brown