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Everything you need to consider when shopping for an air conditioner

Don't know which AC to buy for hot summer temps? We've got you covered.
It could be another scorching hot summer in Metro Vancouver. If you just want to chill, here is what you need to know before your put your money down on an AC unit for your home or work.

The 2021 heatwave caused all kinds of air conditioners to fly off the shelves before many Metro Vancouver residents could properly and comfortably cool off. 

If you are hoping to purchase an AC unit this summer, there are some key questions you'll need to ask yourself when looking for an affordable, eco-friendly unit before the stores are sold out. 

What type of air conditioner is allowed in my space?

Before even beginning to think about what kind of unit you're looking for, knowing what is and is not allowed in your space is key. If you’re renting in Vancouver, referring to strata bylaws that outline rules and regulations about air conditioners is a great tool to find important information specific to the building/home you live in.

Recently, a new bylaw was passed that built-in air conditioning will be included in new homes in Vancouver. While this bylaw won't be put into effect until 2025, it is something to keep in mind for those budgeting to become new homeowners.

When in doubt, always ask your landlord/property manager for updated information.

How old is the space I live in?

If the building or house you live in has a lot of cracks and is not as insulated properly, your air conditioner will have a harder time cooling down your space. Overworking your air conditioner could cause damage to the appliance and make you pay extra for something that isn’t efficient.  

If your space is new and properly insulated, you could opt for a smaller unit that won’t have to work as hard and will be more cost-effective.

Doing what you can to prevent drafts and improve insulation is a low-cost way to maintain your air conditioner's performance. 

What size should my air conditioner be? 

Creating a comfortable temperature to live in has a lot to do with how big your space is. An air conditioner that is too powerful could cost you way more than you need and one that is too small may not cool your space enough. 

Luckily, BC Hydro offers a formula to help you calculate the desirable performance of an air conditioner for the size of your living space.

AC performance is calculated in British Thermal Units (BTU). Calculate your AC unit’s desirable BTU by finding the square footage of your place and multiplying it by 25 BTU. 

For example, if the space you live in is 13 feet by 17 feet, your square footage would be 221 square feet (13x17 = 221). Multiplying this by 25 BTU would give you 5,525 BTU (25x221 = 5525). Therefore, your space would need an AC unit with a performance of 5,525 BTU. 

What type of compressor should my air conditioner have? 

The compressor is the part of an air conditioner that uses the most power. As such, asking questions about what type of compressor is used will directly affect the efficiency and cost of your air conditioner. 

For maximum efficiency, choosing an appliance that has different modes or speeds can allow efficiency for days that are hotter or colder than others. 

Do I need a window to have an air conditioner?

Unless you are able to and want to invest in a window-mounted AC unit, you do not need a window. Portable ACs, or ones with a heat pump, are great alternatives to window-mounted ones. Given this, you still need to have access to the outside to use them. 

Can I buy an eco-friendly air conditioner?

In terms of sustainability, no air conditioner is "good" for the environment. This is because air conditioners emit man-made greenhouse gases, such as hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) and fossil fuels, such as CO2 to run. While some emissions are "better" than others, it's always best to choose ones that will emit the least amount. 

BC hydro highly recommends choosing a device that has an Energy Star rating, which means that it's certified to be energy efficient. 

Properly insulating your space, finding the right sized air conditioner, and choosing one with multiple modes, are all things to think about when choosing an air conditioner that is less damaging to the environment. 

How else can I cool down without buying an air conditioner?

Lastly, there are a number of ways in which you can stay cool this summer without buying an air conditioner. 

1. Close your windows during the day and open them during the night.

2. Buy dark-coloured blinds.

3. Place ice cubes or cold water in front of a fan.

4. Take cold showers.

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!