Q&A: Do you recommend window or through-the-wall air conditioners?

Consumer Reports News: May 14, 2010 12:09 AM

We're going to buy some new room air conditioners and are choosing between through-the-wall units that require a sleeve and window-mounted units. Which do you recommend?

If sleeves are installed in your exterior walls, use through-the-wall, or sleeve-type, air conditioners. The sleeves simplify installing and removing the units, and some people prefer the look of through-the-wall models. But sleeve-type air conditioners typically cost more, and you'll have fewer choices when shopping.

A couple of things to remember about through-the wall models. The sleeve can restrict airflow or possibly contribute to recirculation of the warm exhaust air back into the louvers on the sides of the units. What's more, unless there's a tight seal inside the room between the sleeve and the air conditioner, warmer outdoor air could enter your home. Both of these problems will cause your air conditioner to work harder and run more, driving up your electricity bill.

If there are no air-conditioner sleeves at your home, go with window-mounted air conditioners. You could add the sleeves, though you'll likely want or have to pay a pro to do the work.

No matter which type you choose, be sure you properly install and secure it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Another option is to install a split-ductless air-conditioning system (story available to subscribers). This setup offers some advantages over other room air conditioners and won't cost that much more to install than adding sleeves for through-the-wall models.
When you're ready to shop for your A/Cs, use our free buyer's guide to air conditioners and check out our updated ratings (available to subscribers). To take advantage of a cash for appliances rebate, see our interactive map to determine whether incentives are available in your state.

Essential information: Maintain your air conditioners and learn how to cut your cooling costs.

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