My recent rental purchase is a 2-family without central AC. My plan is to provide window units. I have little experience with them.
Any experience or recommendations would be helpful. Any brands to avoid or suggest? I believe that each unit will need 2-3 window units, probably in the 5K-8K BTU range.
@Scott Weaner first of all make sure that the market doesn't demand central AC. I currently own 13 units in Lyons and Berwyn, IL, which are solid B class areas. I can have the tenants provide their own window units! I looked at a C class property out of area and the tenants were all provided with central forced air/central ac! And this was a C class property with section 8 tenants!
If you can get away with window units, why not see if the tenants will provide their own? You may not even need to provide any. Again, let the market dictate these types of things.
It might depend on the neighborhood. In a not-so-great neighborhood in (say) Minneapolis, the tenants might trade sweating for a few days in the summer for a reduced risk of somebody pushing in the A/C and breaking in through the window the rest of the year. In almost any neighborhood in (say) Phoenix, the tenants probably won't rent it without some kind of A/C.
You may want to look into installing latches on the windows, besides the ones that are there now, so the windows can be latched from the inside with the A/C in place. Somebody that really wants to get in can still do it, but it might help provide peace of mind for tenants.
Those size A/Cs will run on a regular 120 V circuit, but you might look around to make sure there are outlets close enough to all the windows you want to put them in. If you have to use an extension cord, get one of those beefy gray 14 gauge ones that come in 3, 6, and 9 foot lengths, and use the shortest one you reasonably can.
Also, in more than one house I've seen, the outlets in a couple of the bedrooms will be on the same 15 A circuit. Two 5,000 BTUs on one circuit is probably okay (about 8 amps total) but three won't leave you with much for other things. Two 8,000 BTUs on one circuit (about 12-13 amps total) doesn't leave much for other things.
Window A/Cs have filters just like central A/Cs do. In some of them it's a fabric panel you have to replace or wash; in some of them it's more like the lint filter on a dryer (a plastic or wire mesh) that you just scrape off/wash off and reinstall. Some of them let you get the filter out from the front grille with no other disassembly or tools; some of them you have to undo a screw or take the plastic front of the A/C off to access the filter. You might look to see how easy it is to clean/change the filter, and also how easy it is to get a replacement filter if one gets lost or damaged.
I don't have any recommendation on particular brands. You might look in Consumer Reports and see if they've tested them lately.
I hope this helps!
Updated about 2 months ago
Updated to add: Window A/C units will generate a small amount of water from condensation as they run. Most of them are designed for the "outside" (condenser) fan blade to blow this water onto the condenser, which helps cooling. When it's not very humid, this takes care of all the water. However, when it's really humid out, there's too much water for the fan to get rid of, and a little bit will drip out, usually from one of the outside corners. All this means is that if you have a choice of where to put it, pick a window where the water drip won't bother something below it. Like, if it's a corner bedroom, and one window would make it drip on the yard and the other would make it drip over the back door, pick the one that drips on the yard. Some larger units will come with either a plastic fitting that you can attach a hose to, or a knockout in the metal housing that you can punch out and attach a plastic fitting for a hose. You can then route the hose away from a door or window below. You don't have to run the hose to a real, official drain... it's just a way for you to move the drip over a few feet if you need to.
Another idea might be to install through the wall units with a sleeve and permanent installation. This would allow you to put in a larger sized unit safely. It is much harder to steal from the outside, and kids can’t push them out the window or get hurt. Mount them higher in the wall out of reach from kids and thieves. You just need to provide a outlet next to it.
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