Should I buy a window / portable air conditioner?
May 14, 2006 3:12 AM   Subscribe

Should I buy a window / portable air conditioner for my home office?

I live in Phoenix, Arizona in a approx 2000 sq ft house. During the summer it gets hot as hell and although my family and I don't mind the heat per se, the ambient air gets too hot to work in our office and more importantly, my computers (4) start to complain. Thus we end up turning on my central air conditioner.

My wife and I have thought about buy a window or portable air conditioning unit for the office but we have always heard that they are very inefficient compared to a centralized unit .. so you might as well turn the centralized unit anyway..

It seems like a waste to cool down the whole house just to cool down one room..

Does anyone have any input on this?
posted by cowmix to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
You can go to home depot and get an air conditioner for $100 to $125. That's pretty small expense in my view. Go buy one. I bought two last summer and never again will I do without!
posted by bim at 3:18 AM on May 14, 2006

They do work well- my grandmother had one for years and years and we could have stored sides of beef in her room. However, you might want to keep in mind that you're basically leaving an open window in your home office when you install one of these. The units that screw into the window-frame offer a small measure of protection, but they're still easier and quieter to remove than the window would be. Police recommend installing steel bars to keep the bad guys out and your good stuff in.
posted by headspace at 4:08 AM on May 14, 2006

I live in Florida and don't tolerate heat well at all. We have a 2 story house with central air that runs almost year round. The master bedroom gets terribly hot since we face east so we put a cheap window AC in last summer (to stop my complaining according to my husband) and now on the hottest days of the year you can use my bedroom as an extra freezer in our house.

I got mine from Wal mart for about 100 bucks and it's definately the best purchase I've made in years.
posted by hollygoheavy at 4:47 AM on May 14, 2006

Have you considered a swamp cooler for that room? We live in the desert where the temps top 120 degrees and only use our AC on the most humid days of the year during the monsoon season. Swamp coolers consume a fraction of the power AC units require, are more environmentally friendly as they use water to cool instead of refrigerant and provide a steady suppply of fresh air rather than recirculate stale air.

The initial cost of a window swamp cooler is $100-200 more expensive than window AC unit, but it'll pay for itself quickly and is ideal in the desert environment.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:49 AM on May 14, 2006

Do it -- especially for your computers. Keep your office door closed and there shouldn't be an efficiency problem. My $200 window AC cools down my small studio apartment just fine. Just make sure you buy something with an appropriate BTU rating for your space -- if you buy something too weak, it will just end up running longer anyway.

Also, have you looked at evaporative coolers? They're less expensive than an AC, and supposedly they do well in the southwest.
posted by Marit at 6:52 AM on May 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far..

Here is a quick follow-up.. is cost to run the unit proportional to the size of the area it is cooling? For example, if I am paying $150 month to cool my whole house with my centralized air condition unit.. will the window unit cost a fraction of that?
posted by cowmix at 6:52 AM on May 14, 2006

Oops. Jinx?
posted by Marit at 6:52 AM on May 14, 2006

To answer your followup, a window unit is generally much cheaper to operate than central AC but that cost can vary widely depending on its efficiency. As Marit pointed out, it is important to buy a unit with the appropriate BTU rating for the space you are cooling. Buying a smaller unit than is needed will cost you in the long run.

A window AC works best if you are cooling just one room and keep the door closed while the opposite is true for a swamp cooler. Air flow is key to success with a swamp cooler and that means keeping the door open and providing an exit for the air through an exterior door or window in another part of the house.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:25 AM on May 14, 2006

Response by poster: The problem with the evap units is the humidity factor. From mid-July to September the humidity in Phoenix jumps up.. the heat is still going.. so the evap units become useless.
posted by cowmix at 7:49 AM on May 14, 2006

We have the same seasonal humidity problem here in Joshua Tree and use the central AC quite a bit during that time of year. I came across this handy site for determining the BTU rating necessary for cooling a room.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:03 AM on May 14, 2006

Actually I came to mifi today to ask this VERY QUESTION, as I currently don't have any ac (and don't particularly want one, but am facing the reality of being pregant in the top floor of an old building in NY in August). Naturally a window ac would do the trick, but the appeal of the portable is that I won't have to cool the entire apartment, and I have a great view that I don't want to destroy for only 1-2 months of cooling. So to refine cowmix's question further: is a portable ac excessively inefficient, esp. compared to a window AC? Are there any hidden drawbacks to a portable, other than manual drainage? Thanks.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:27 AM on May 14, 2006

I got a portable and don't I think I would recommend it. It was more expensive than a window unit and though theoretically you can roll it around, it's really bulky and no one has that much closet space to store it when you don't need it. It also takes up a lot of floor space near the window.
Get the window unit and take it out of the window in the fall so you can enjoy your view again.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:07 AM on May 14, 2006

But did it cool adequately, CunningLinguist?
posted by ch1x0r at 11:53 AM on May 14, 2006

I switched from an evaporative cooler to an 8,000 energy efficient window air-conditioner. After all these years of discomfort, the air-conditioner was cheaper to run than the swamp cooler and much, much nicer. The new air-conditioners are a lot more efficient, but buy the right size, you don't want one that is too big or too small.
posted by phewbertie at 2:58 AM on May 15, 2006

I do not recommend a portable air conditioner, the one with an exhaust that you direct with a big pipe outside any window.
The reason? Much less efficient, and the exhaust pipe becomes so hot that is actually turns into a radiator and it heats up the room.
posted by convex at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2006

The way to go about building it, is not start from the ends, but build one frame, and then interweave the second frame , in other words, decide what frame you want to start with, build it on the ground on the side, raise both, introduce horizontal members, then add the 2nd interweaved logs to strengthen the structure and finally, add more horizontal members on top to create the surface. And as I mentioned before, make sure you add the suitable kind of support at the ends, you will need vertical support wall like, to support the ends, horizontal support will not be enough.
posted by convex at 11:30 AM on May 16, 2006

Woops, sorry wrong thread. So sorry.
posted by convex at 11:32 AM on May 16, 2006

did it cool adequately, CunningLinguist?

Oh yes, it does a great job. But so does the window unit.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2006

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