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Window or portable AC in a glass door?
April 12, 2008 11:17 PM   Subscribe

How can I install a window air conditioner in a patio door? Are there special things I can buy to seal the top portion, or will I need to assemble something on my own?

It's getting warm, and I am getting ideas about buying a window air conditioning unit. I have two large glass doors, and I am thinking of trying to install the unit in the door. That would entail leaving it partially open, with the air conditioner in the bottom, and something filling the gap on the top.

What that 'something' should be remains a mystery. Does anyone have advice on how to install a window-mount air conditioner in a patio door? Alternatively, I could get a portable air conditioner, but would need to pass the exhaust vent through the patio door just the same. My apartment is a rental, so neither punching holes in walls, nor expensive cooling arrangements are really an option. I would prefer to buy a $100-200 window unit; splurging for a $300-400 portable one would already be pushing what I'm willing to spend.
posted by bsdfish to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
 
I had to install an window air conditioner in a vertically sliding window in a house I owned a while back. Obviously, that's not as big as a patio door, but I used a sheet of thick plexiglas, and used square bats of foam to plug the gaps around the sides of the unit. Otherwise, bugs will follow the light inside, plus you'll get hot air coming in. I held the plexiglas in place with thin wood strips nailed to the window frame. I'm not sure how much nailing you can do, but you may be able to rig something so that the plexiglas is wedged neatly in place with a minimum of hardware. Obviously, you will lose easy use of the door. Good luck!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:36 PM on April 12, 2008


I don't know the proper name for it, but this winter I put some of that shrink plastic insulation over a couple of my windows. It came in a little box with double sided tape to run around the edges, then you stick the plastic wrap stuff to that and shrink it with a hair dryer so it's tight.

It's not an elegant solution, and it would mean that you wouldn't be able to use the doors at all, but it seems like the most budget-minded solution. It worked well with my windows (but I have drapes covering them so I didn't have to look at it. If you care about aesthetics it's not the best choice.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 11:56 PM on April 12, 2008


Actually, on the note of vertically sliding windows, I have one two, but it's in the living room, not my bedroom, and since the apartment is on the 2nd story, installation would include a ladder, supports, etc. However, if it's a lot easier to install it in that window, that's an option.

The loss of the door isn't a problem at all. Please keep the advice coming! BTW, can those air conditioners be mounted sideways (long-side vertically), or does the orientation matter?
posted by bsdfish at 12:16 AM on April 13, 2008


Erm, I am an idiot; my windows are horizontally-sliding.
posted by bsdfish at 12:17 AM on April 13, 2008


They need to be oriented properly, because they need to drain the water. Also, the fan is designed to spin in the proper orientation, so turning it would probably stress the bearings.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:33 AM on April 13, 2008


I don't know the proper name for it, but this winter I put some of that shrink plastic insulation over a couple of my windows. It came in a little box with double sided tape to run around the edges, then you stick the plastic wrap stuff to that and shrink it with a hair dryer so it's tight.

I wouldn't trust the shrink film to adequately seal the space. The first big storm would probably blow it right out.

Around here (central Illinois) when they do that sort of thing it usually involves some plywood and minor construction. Given a weekend and some friends with power tools I think you should be able to throw something together.

BTW, can those air conditioners be mounted sideways (long-side vertically), or does the orientation matter?

Air conditioners are governed by the same principals as refrigerators. And I know that you're not supposed to tip a refrigerator at all. I think it has something to do with introducing air pockets in the cooling coils (although I could be wrong). Anyway, I wouldn't plan on it working.
posted by sbutler at 12:34 AM on April 13, 2008


Yes, the classic "hole filling" material is either a piece of plywood or, if you are fancy, a piece of plexiglass cut to the right size... When we did it at my parents house (many moons ago, before they were installed in the walls!), we just wedged the piece of wood into the window and shut it... It may have also had one of those window locks on it to keep it closed, not sure.. Anyway, it worked ok, although bear in mind this was in Australia, so we didn't really have to worry about the cold getting in when winter came around!

Also, it might be worth noting that cold air sinks, so if you put an air conditioner in a door, it will mean that your tootsies get cold first before it finally sort of levels out... There is therefore an argument for possibly trying to raise it up somehow, although I understand that might involve more construction work (although I guess since you are effectively nullifying the door, why not give it a go?)
posted by ranglin at 1:34 AM on April 13, 2008


I have doubts about a door being strong enough to support something as heavy and unbalanced as an air conditioner. Normally, all the load on a door is in the same plane as the door, but an air conditioner is a huge weight all sticking out one side of the house. If you build a support outside that takes all the weight, and give up on being able to open the door, you could probably do this. I wonder if it would be easier to build a dedicated opening in the wall.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2008


Portable air conditioners come with an expandable sheet metal housing for the exhaust that can easily fit a window.

Also, you don't need to be outside the window to install a traditional window air conditioner. Have you ever seen an apartment 5+ stories off the ground with an air conditioner? Do you think they had help from the fire department?
posted by crashlanding at 8:55 AM on April 13, 2008


I used a window air conditioner in a patio door for years (before I got married, obviously). I set the AC on a roller like auto mechanics use, on the outside patio concrete, and use some spare lumber pieces to get it at the right height. I bought a piece of lightweight panelling to fill the space above the AC; I attached two drawer handles to make it easy to handle. Didn't look great, but it worked.
posted by neuron at 12:49 PM on April 13, 2008


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