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3 On Your Side: Buying Window Air Conditioners

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Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When temperatures soar, you really can’t put a price on comfort. But if you’re in the market for a window air conditioner, 3 On Your Side’s Jim Donovan found you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot.

As temperatures sky rocket today the home depot in Cherry Hill had shelves stocked with air conditioners and employees ready for the rush.

“We’re going [to] have a bunch of customers in here buying all kinds of air conditioners today,” says Home Depot manager, Stanley Gaskill.

Gaskill says that before you head out to the store to buy one, measure the window.

“You have to make sure that you have the right air conditioner size so that the wings can extend all the way out. And make sure that there’s no gaps and you’re losing more of the air of the actual window,” explains Gaskill.

You’ll need to know your room size, too.

Consumer Reports says, in general, a 5,000 – 6,500 BTU air conditioner can cool between 100 and 300 square feet. A 7,000 to 8200 BTU is adequate for cooling 250 to 400 square feet. And 9,800 to 12,500 BTU models cool up to 650 square feet.

Prices start at around $100 dollars and go up from there, depending on the unit’s size and features. Some have digital timers, others have remote controls, and portable units work if your windows are really small.

“If you have smaller windows [but] you want a bigger air conditioner, you can just vent the hose out of the window and you can move the air conditioner around the room,” says Gaskill.

Window air conditioners shouldn’t be left running all day while you’re at work, or your electric bill will be sky high. They’re designed to cool off a room within a short period of time; it can be turned on when you get home. However, with central air, you don’t want to turn it off completely, because it will take forever to cool down your house. Set your programmable thermostat to somewhere in the high 70s, and you can always lower it when you get home to be a bit more comfortable.

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