Ventless portable AC in New England? Get landlord to pay for hotel? Cry?
July 28, 2022 12:49 PM   Subscribe

We moved, yay! New place is supposed to have central air, it is broken, may take weeks to fix and there is a heatwave scheduled PLUS for extra fun the windows are non-openable, boo. Any hope?

The management company informed us the day we moved in that the HVAC needed replacing. They sent out three different companies to get estimates on costs. The last tech who was here says they could fix it no problem but his guys are booked for 4-6 weeks out. Meanwhile, It was miserably hot this past week, and here in Massachusetts it is going to be hideously hot next week. My partner is sensitive to both heat and being ripped off, (this place is significantly more expensive than our old breezy apartment with a window AC,) and he is furious. We escalated things with the managemnet company to ask for rent compensation and/or accomodation, but no word yet. I made a call to the state inspector and because the unit is "working" they can't do anything. (Air blows out of the vents, it just isn't, ya know, cold. It has been in the high 80s for most of the week in here.) I don't think they have a legal obligation to address this, but I would love to be proven wrong.

We are looking at portable AC units but it seems like they either need to vent outside or are not designed to work in humid Northern climates. Overheating is a health risk for my partner and workarounds like big-ass fans and ice bowl aren't going to cut it. Have you had luck with a ventless cooling unit in a humid place? Had success wresting a hotel stay out of a MA slumlord? Any suggestions welcome. Stay cool out there, friends!
posted by prewar lemonade to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
Best answer: Where are you? That will make a difference concerning your landlord-tenant laws.
posted by NotLost at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2022

Best answer: Is AC listed as a feature of the apartment in your lease?
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:16 PM on July 28, 2022

Best answer: I made a call to the state inspector and because the unit is "working" they can't do anything. (Air blows out of the vents, it just isn't, ya know, cold. It has been in the high 80s for most of the week in here.)

There are three parts of central air conditioning:
1) The house blower fan, which is also what helps heat from the furnace spread blow throughout the house
2) The outdoor condenser, which is the unit outside the house
3) The evaporator coil, which sits inside a duct by the blower.

Items 2 and 3 are the "air conditioning", item 1 is just... a fan for heating or cooling. Make sure the state inspector isn't saying that just because your air handler blower works that it's fine for the unrelated condenser or coil to be broken.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:27 PM on July 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: ventless cooling unit

Ventless cooling units, AKA "evaporative coolers" or "swamp coolers", cool the air they blow by forcing it through a wet filter. The water in the filter absorbs some of the heat from the air, evaporating and cooling the air slightly. If you're in a humid place (anything above about 50% relative humidity, depending on air temperature), the water can't evaporate, so no cooling is going to happen.
posted by hanov3r at 1:53 PM on July 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We are in Massachusetts. The lease doesn't say anything about the central air/HVAC unfortunately.
posted by prewar lemonade at 2:26 PM on July 28, 2022

Best answer: I think that your landlord is probably breaking firecode by having non-openable windows. You might try contacting the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.
posted by hydra77 at 2:56 PM on July 28, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: "Each habitable room must have a window, skylight, door or transom for ventilation that must open to 4% of the floor area. Skylights where it could rain into the building don’t count."

From here: Your windows are required by law to be operable. In which case a portable AC that vents out a window might do the trick.

In any case, I would use this information to politely raise some hell. If your windows don't open the unit is not habitable.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:23 PM on July 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's clearly not habitable with non-opening windows in the hottest part of summer. Ask for clarification on why an inspector would call it working. Get sensors and thermometers and take readings for 2 days. Go to a residential hotel, the kind consultants stay at when they're in town for a month, and if they won't pay for it, sue them. You may get assistance from a local tenant support/ legal aid organization.
posted by theora55 at 3:31 PM on July 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe one of these can help:
posted by furtheryet at 5:42 PM on July 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The non-opening windows is going to be a big deal for fire safety. Contact EVERYONE about that; it could save your life.
posted by stormyteal at 6:35 PM on July 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You may be able to rent a portable AC unit or an evap cooling unit from Home Depot or Lowe's.

Maybe you can ask the main office to foot the bill of the rental until central AC is fixed.
posted by kschang at 1:02 AM on July 29, 2022

Best answer: Portable AC's need an external vent, so if none of the windows are operable, those will not be helpful for OP. I would push on the window operability thing with your landlord and try to get them to put you up in a hotel until the AC is fixed.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:02 AM on July 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi all! No conclusive update yet, but the HVAC is scheduled for repair starting today, and the management company has agreed to compensate us for the days it is not working. We are planning to address the window safety issue once the HVAC is resolved. Meanwhile, we're staying with a friend until the AC is working/heatwave passes, whichever comes first. Thanks everyone for your insights and suggestions. They helped a lot!
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:58 AM on August 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the update; I always like to know how things turn out.
posted by theora55 at 8:57 AM on August 13, 2022

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