This year's cool start to the summer had at least one positive side effect for consumers: Air conditioners are widely available in local appliance stores. Taylor Plott, a salesman at Hancock TV and Appliance in Quincy, Mass., said plenty of models are still in stock.

This year's cool start to the summer had at least one positive side effect for consumers: Air conditioners are widely available in local appliance stores. Taylor Plott, a salesman at Hancock TV and Appliance in Quincy, Mass., said plenty of models are still in stock.


Generally, an air conditioner delivering 5,000 to 6,000 BTUs will sufficiently cool a small bedroom, Plott said, while bigger spaces may need a unit that delivers 8,000 to 10,000 BTUs. But he said to keep in mind that tall windows, high ceilings and even a room's proximity to the kitchen can affect an air conditioner's ability to keep things cool.


"All of those factors add a lot of BTUs," he said.


Paul Drane, a sales associate at George Washington Toma TV and Appliance in Weymouth, Mass., said customers should know the square footage of the room they're looking to cool, so the salesperson can find the air conditioner that's the best match. To get a ballpark BTU estimate, Drane said, multiply the square footage by 30.


And unless you have a house with an open floor plan, you shouldn't assume that a large window unit will do the work of a central air system.


"People tend to not understand that cold air will not go around corners or through doorways," said Plott, adding that a few smaller units may be more effective at cooling a level with multiple rooms.


To speed up installation, Drane recommends buying a model with a slide-out chassis. Instead of resting directly on a windowsill, these air conditioners fit into a sleeve that is placed in the window beforehand.


"If I drop the sleeve out the window, it's no harm, no foul," he said, noting that you can just brush it off and put it back in. "Can't do that with the unit that falls out the window completely."


Alex Spanko may be reached at aspanko@ledger.com.


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GRAND CENTRAL


If you own your home, central air conditioning may be a more cost-effective option in the long run. A traditional central-air system, with new ductwork and an exterior unit, can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $22,000 to install, depending on the size of the home and the unit. While initially expensive, these units are more efficient, thus saving the owner money over time, while also adding value to the home. Proper maintenance is key. Have an HVAC technician perform an inspection and change the filters at least twice a year to avoid costly repairs. Ductless central air is generally cheaper to install, and can be used in conjunction with regular window models. In this system, an outside compressor is connected to a number of small cooling units placed around the home. Depending on the number of units, installation can cost between $6,000 to $20,000. Because they have no ductwork to inspect and clean, ductless systems are also cheaper to maintain.


Source: Sunny McDonough, operations manager, Coastal Heating and Air Conditioning in Quincy, Mass.