How to Install a Window Air Conditioner – Tips for Apartment Dwellers

It’s getting hot, and your apartment doesn’t have air conditioning. Now, you’re sitting around, jealous of your friends who have it. Don’t settle. You can install your own.

Don’t be afraid. It’s a lot easier than you’d think.

Now, technically, maybe you’re not supposed to have one. Check your lease. If it doesn’t say you can’t, maybe you can just go ahead and install it. At worst, the landlord will confiscate it, but if he’s the kind of landlord who’s slow to act, you’ll at least get some relief until it’s taken away.

Small air conditioners are designed to fit within an open window. Windows are typically 24 inches wide. Measure yours to double-check it. Measure how far up your window opens, too. This determines the largest air conditioner you can buy.

Head on down to the hardware store or appliance store, and get a cheap unit. I got one for around $60 that was an open-box unit. There are plenty of those, because people buy it, and return it after they’re intimidated by the installation. (They didn’t read this article.)

Make sure all the parts are intact, and the various fins move smoothly.

There aren’t too many things to install. The only part that really requires effort is a metal bar that holds the unit up. That requires a screwdriver.

There will also be a pair of accordion-fold brackets that will fill up the space to the left and right of the unit, between the unit and the window sill.

You might think it’ll be hard to hold the unit up, or could fall out the window, but, it won’t. This is because it’s small, and balances on the metal bar. Once the entire thing is screwed together, and the window is pushed down to hold the unit, it’s pretty steady.

Be careful not to grab the part of the air conditioner that looks like a radiator. That’s a radiator, and the fins are thin and fragile. Touching them can damage them, and reduce the efficiency of the unit.

The last thing you might need is an awning if you don’t already have one. An awning is necessary if the unit gets direct sunlight during the afternoon. That extra heat prevents the air conditioner from working efficiently. (Incidentally, to reduce heat in your apartment, use something to cover your windows so the sun doesn’t get inside.)

A cheap awning can be built from wood, but it’s not that easy to do if you’re not familiar with a little basic woodworking. You don’t want to hang bits of wood on your window that could fall and hurt someone. It’s best to see if you can locate the unit in a window that gets some shade. If not, you’ll suffer higher electrical bills.

But you’re already suffering, so, so what?

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