The Frigidaire brand name is so well know in the United States that it is thought to be the source of the generic term “fridge” for any type of refrigerator. The company was founded in 1916 and for 60 years was a subsidiary of General Motors (1919 – 1979). It is currently owned by Electrolux1.
While General Electric is still the largest U.S. manufacturer of window air conditioners2, Frigidaire remains in the top five and retails under other brands (e.g. Kenmore). Major outlets include independent retailers and some national chains (Lowes, Best Buy)3. Units range in capacity from 5,000 BTUH (British Thermal Units per Hour) up to 25,000 BTUH.
Prices are based on capacity and features with the high-end units as much as $800. This is still substantially cheaper than other types of air conditioning units because there is no duct work or refrigerant lines that have to be run – units are self contained and run on 110 volt household power supplies. A major disadvantage of all window systems is a higher cost to operate them. Units typically have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 10 at the most, while central air systems can go as high as 20. Occasionally, the government offers rebates (as much as $50) for replacing an older air conditioner with a newer, more energy efficient model. Dealers are usually aware of these and use them as a selling point.
Reviews of Frigidaire window air conditioners are generally favorable4. They are reasonably priced (Kenmore – a Frigidaire brand – sells as low as $100) and as long as they are properly sized for the room, do a good job. A typical application will have a 5,000 to 6,000 BTUH air conditioner for a 200 square foot room (10 by 20). It is generally recommended that a larger unit be purchased rather than a smaller unit because operation costs will be less and cooling will be quicker (less variation in room temperature).
Complaints center on noise issues. Because window air conditioners have two fans and a compressor all operating in a compact space, the noise can be higher than expected. This is especially noticeable for units mounted in bedrooms or otherwise quiet areas. The same air conditioner that seemed relatively quiet in the store will seem much louder when there are no other distracting environmental noises.
Shopping for the correct air conditioner
Understanding your cooling needs and specific application will reduce stress and allow for intelligent choices when searching for the best match. Start with the size of the room you intend to install the air conditioner in. This will give you a ballpark figure on how many BTUH to look for.
A sizing chart can be found here. Notice that whether the room is sunny or not matters. Unless there is protective shade during daylight hours, any South facing installation should be considered “sunny.” In climates where summer temperatures commonly exceed 100 F, bump up the output by 50%. This also applies in areas of the country with frequently high summertime humidity, because an air conditioner works harder when air-moisture content is high.
The next step is to consider window openings. A large opening can be made smaller to fit a window unit, but a smaller opening won’t work. “Blocking” is a method of closing off extra window space with plywood or cardboard to leave the proper sized hole for the air conditioner. Window units drain excess moisture to the outside, so this is also a consideration – don’t mount them where dripping water will be a problem.
With these considerations, you have enough information to find a model. A comparison chart with prices for Frigidaire units is on their website: http://www.frigidaire.com/products/air-conditioners-dehumidifiers/window-air-conditioners. Note that “exterior depth” refers to the outside portion of the air conditioner – the larger models will require installation of a support bracket on the house exterior. A support bracket may also be required if the unit is installed on an upper floor or by local code.
Modern air conditioners, even window mounted units, come with a variety of features. One excellent innovation is the ability to remotely control the temperature setting. This allows placement of a thermostat device in a part of the room that correctly balances cooling instead of relying on a thermostat built into the air conditioner itself. In general thermostats should be set based on experienced comfort level, rather than a particular number. This is because the temperature we feel is partly based on humidity.
Other features include the ability to clean and filter air as it cycles through the machine. Window units may also come with the ability to exchange inside and outside air for better ventilation. Remote controls are an option, as well as multiple fan speeds. For sleeping areas, the room will commonly be cooled during the evening before bedtime and then either shut off or have the fan speed lowered while sleeping – quieting the unit and relying on cooler nighttime temperatures.
For areas of the country that experience strong swings between very hot days and cold nights, some window air conditioners also offer a heating mode. They reverse the normal cycle so that warm air is blown into the room.