Just like radiators, I’ve always thought window air conditioners get an unfairly bad wrap. They are relatively cheap (usually between $100 and $300 per unit), most models are efficient if properly installed and there is no need to install expensive ductwork throughout the building.
That being said, they have their share of drawbacks as well. However, the fact is that there are times when window AC units are the only viable choice and in those cases the best you can do is make the most of the situation.
One of the most important things to do when using window AC units is to make sure they are properly installed. Take the unit pictured in the image above for example. I saw this unit at a property I was walking by this morning and it was clearly installed incorrectly. I could actually see into the room on the left and right sides of the condenser. There is also no external support to keep the unit balanced. All that seems to be holding it in place is the window itself.
This is bad for a few of reasons. The first is that the opening around the window will allow easy access for hot and cold air as well as moisture and insects. Seeing as the whole purpose of the air conditioner is to make the building more comfortable, I’m going to guess you don’t want that. Improper installation can also lead to the deterioration of the window, windowsill and/or the brick below. When moisture is not allowed proper drainage from the area it doesn’t take long to break down wood or mortar. If you look around at St. Louis buildings with window AC’s you’ll notice that many have issues with the tuck pointing around the windows with AC units installed.
If these issues weren’t enough to have you concerned, consider the element of safety: both for those in and outside the building. An improperly secured window unit could easily fall out of a window, crashing to ground below. If someone happened to be underneath…. well, you get the picture. Think of the same effect as that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer knocks Jerry’s “black market” Commando 8 air conditioner out the window. Only not funny.
On the other end of safety concern is the easy access this opening creates into your building. Not only does it leave your tenants open to victimization by criminals, it endangers you as well. With all the copper theft and other vandalism around town, any easy access to your building needs to be cut off. Proper installation would eliminate both of these issues.
Hopefully you’re now convinced that proper installation is important. Now for the other side of the equation. It’s obvious that your tenants can’t be trusted to care about your building as much as you do. As such, they cannot be trusted to install window units themselves. If you are not currently providing window air conditioners for your tenants, perhaps it time to consider changing that practice. Its worthwhile for the reasons above, and it improves the rentability of your units as well. If you want to save a few bucks, it might be worth checking out what kind of deals you can get with your local supplier or big box store (Lowes and Home Depot are good bets) at the end of the summer. You can always find good deals when the hottest days are past us.
As for the best way to install a window AC unit, it really depends on the model and the specific installation. I’d recommend thoroughly reading the instruction manual of any unit you purchase and make sure you exercise a little common sense with your install. If you don’t feel comfortable installing the unit yourself, you could also consider hiring a professional.