What air conditioner could I use with a thin window?
July 22, 2012 9:52 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for an AC unit for my apartment, but my sideways opening window seems to be too thin and tall for the units I've seen online. Have I any recourse?

I started renting a studio in the Bay Area a couple months ago (around 150 sqft), and am looking for an AC unit. However, when open, the window I could put it in is 15 inches wide and 4 feet tall. I cannot imagine turning an air conditioner on its side would end well, so would it be possible to find a unit that I could run a tube off of, or something? Thanks. Also, utilities are included in my rent, so that is completely immaterial, and noise does not bother me (noisy city); I just want to be cool.
posted by cap11235 to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
When I was in this situation the apartment management company had a list of window a/c providers. Ask to see if your apt manager has such a list.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:56 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do your windows slide open horizontally? If so, google "casement window air conditioners". Otherwise, google "portable air conditioners", unless your windows are also the kind covered over with screens that you have to crank open from inside, in which case you could *maybe* do a portable unit, but it would involve a ton of cardboard and not work as well.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:11 PM on July 22, 2012

(the windows crank open from inside, the screens remain in place)
posted by unknowncommand at 10:12 PM on July 22, 2012

How about a portable air conditioner? I think they have dryer-style hoses that vent to the outside.
posted by alphanerd at 10:14 PM on July 22, 2012

Response by poster: My windows slide horizontally. The casement units seem rather expensive, but I'll look at the portables, thanks.
posted by cap11235 at 10:14 PM on July 22, 2012

I would go with the casement option if at all possible. The portables with the hose are startlingly ineffective in my experience. And they're expensive too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:04 PM on July 22, 2012

The other huge disadvantage to the portable units is that you have to either put a hole in the wall for condensation drainage, or empty a holding tank periodically (on a humid day this could be every couple of hours). If the tank isn't empty the unit stops running the cooling cycle.

The extra money for the casement unit is well worth it.
posted by HuronBob at 3:58 AM on July 23, 2012

Most vertical-format ACs are wider than 15 inches ... you might be better off getting permission from the property manager to install a standard horizontal AC in the wall (most come with instructions for doing this). It may end up actually being cheaper than a vertical or portable AC anyway.
posted by Koko at 5:22 AM on July 23, 2012

I also have a casement window, and last year used a portable AC. It sucked.

Firstly, I got a cheaper one with only one hose, so the exhaust from the one hose going out my window meant that the thing was always pulling hot, humid air in to my room. That meant that it never got that cold and was always super humid. The next problem was the dripping. Due to the humidity this thing would condense 3-4 gallons of water per night. It had an internal reservoir of about 3 quarts so I ended up having to set it up on top of a milk crate with a DIY little tube leading to one of my largest kitchen pots just so it would run all night without needing to be emptied.

These problems might not be as bad if you get a two-hose unit that does not pull outside air into the room, but I would definitely look at the casement ones if I were you, even if they're pricier.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:17 AM on July 23, 2012

Oh, I meant to add that this year I built one of these to use a standard AC in my casement window and it works great. Sadly it seems your window may be too narrow, but this might work if you can find a very skinny AC.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:19 AM on July 23, 2012

Window AC units aren't supposed to work when mounted on their side but this one is now in its 3rd summer of problem free operation. The temps occasionally surpass 120 degrees here and my (now-deceased) centenarian grandmother's bedroom needed a cooling boost. I expected the unit to fail so I bought it at Costco because of their generous returns policy.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:12 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're right, you can't operate a standard air conditioner on its side. But if you can find one that will fit (horizontally speaking) in your window, I once built something a lot like what Aizkolari mentioned to adapt a regular window air conditioner to a casement-style window, and it worked beautifully. I highly recommend it if possible; it saves a lot of money!

Also, regarding portable units. If you buy a portable air conditioner, make *SURE* to buy one with *two* window hoses. The one-hose units waste a tremendous amount of power (and hence cooling capacity), as drjimmy11 very correctly mentioned. I had one once; it took a LOT of electricity, and *barely* cooled the room. It is my distinct understanding that the two-hose units work much better.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:28 PM on July 23, 2012

Wow, buggzzee23!

It was my understanding that running an air conditioner on its side like that would tend to starve the compressor of lubricating oil, leading to its very early demise. If yours has run for three years though, perhaps the O.P. could do something similar! Perhaps modern refrigeration circuits can deliver sufficient lubrication even at non-recommended installation angles.

If he or she tries it, I would definitely recommend buying from someplace like Costco, with a generous (or, in this case, abusable, I suppose) return policy.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:31 PM on July 23, 2012

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