As the hellish temperatures of summer approach, the worst thing that can happen (besides spontaneously bursting into flames) is having your lovely bowl of ice cream instantly melt. You now have two options: 1) eat your ice cream while sitting in your refrigerator, or 2) buy an air conditioner. We suggest the second option, because buying an air conditioner is a lot cheaper than treating frostbite.

Your search for an air conditioner doesn't need to be a traumatic experience (unless someone holds up the store). This SYW will tell you EVERYTHING that the salespeople won't tell you, including how powerful a unit you really need, how much you should pay, and how to make sure it will last for many summers to come.

We'll even explain how an air conditioner works: there are two small dwarves named Ned and Boo that live inside every air conditioner in the world. When you turn your air conditioner on, they begin to dance, which makes them breathe heavily. And as everybody knows, dwarf breath is very cold. Voila!

(You should be aware, however, that there are these "scientists" out there who would say that an air conditioner consists of two separate parts: a condenser and an evaporator coil. A refrigerant gas is compressed and then cooled within the condenser before being sent through the evaporator coil to cool the air that circulates around it. A blower then forces the cooled air out into the room.)


What type of air conditioner do you need?

There are two different kinds of air conditioning systems out there: a unit air conditioner, and a central cooling system. What's the difference? A unit air conditioner is the big box you put in your window, and a central cooling system hooks your entire house up to one system, and each room gets cooled through vents. Guess which one is more expensive?

If you're reading this SYW, then a unit air conditioner is probably what you're looking for. It's the best kind to get if you live in a small house, apartment or studio, or if you've just added an extra room on the house and don't want to hook an entire system up to it. It's also cheaper (usually costing in the $150 - $250 range if you get it on sale, but more about that later). If you have a relatively large house that you want to get cooled quickly with the flick of a button, then you might want to consider getting a central cooling system, but this can cost you thousands of dollars. Click here to read more about the process of installing a central cooling system.

Where do you need it?

OK, so let's assume that you decided to get a unit air conditioner. Good choice, friend. The first thing you need to do is select the room in which to install the unit. Be aware that if you select a room that is connected to an adjacent space through an open door or archway, the two rooms together constitute one room when trying to buy an air conditioner. Interpretation: you will have to purchase an air conditioner efficient enough to circulate air sufficiently for the size of both rooms together. Keep this in mind when you measure how many square feet the air conditioner is going to keep cool.

Also, remember that cool air does not travel around corners, so don't expect to place an air conditioner in a curving hallway and keep your bedroom at the other end of the hall at 65°F. It won't work.

Measure the room and window

It's important to measure your selected room (or rooms) VERY carefully. Why? Because 90% of your decision-making process involves the size of the room that you want to keep cool. So measure the entire room once, twice, or even three times to get it right. Write down the height, width, and length of the room.

You also have to measure the dimensions of the window in which the unit will be placed. How embarrassed would you be if you spend all this time to get an air conditioner only to find out that it doesn't fit in the window? Furthermore, some brands don't list the precise dimensions of their air conditioners on the units themselves, so you should bring a measuring tape and measure it yourself. If you're a guy, you're probably already used to measuring your unit, so this shouldn't present a problem (we couldn't resist).