Portable air conditioning installation in 5 easy steps

Atlanta summers can be steamy. If your central air conditioning is on the fritz, cool off with a portable...

Atlanta summers can be steamy. If your central air conditioning is on the fritz, cool off with a portable air conditioner. This economical cooling solution can remove humidity and hot air in an area of 300 to 750 square feet, making your favorite room or small apartment livable when the mercury soars. After a quick trip to your favorite home improvement store, it's time to tackle a portable air conditioning installation. Grab a screwdriver--your AC will be up and running within 20 minutes.

Step 1: Choose the location for your portable air conditioner unit. Since it's on casters and sits inside your home, choose a window next to level flooring, not a staircase. A portable air conditioner can't cool an entire house, so place the unit where you'll get the most benefit. Consider the bedroom for a good night's rest, a home office to stay productive or the living room if you are having guests over. Portable air conditioners can be removed from a window and moved from room to room, but not quickly.

Step 2: Assemble the unit. Before starting the actual air conditioning installation, you need to attach the vent hose to the unit. Some brands require mounting the end of the vent hose to the rear of the unit using a screwdriver. Other vent hoses simply twist and lock into place, making set-up a breeze.

This is also a great time to remove all shipping packaging. Remove plastic or foam inserts inside the AC unit's air filter, remove tape from the movable vent fins and make sure the casters roll freely. Some are encased in packing foam during shipping.

Step 3: Prep the window. Open the window just a little wider than the portable air conditioner bracket. This will vary from 8 to 12 inches in height. Place the rectangular piece in the window sill. Carefully extend the length of the bracket so it fills the open space. Pull the window down so it rests on the top of the bracket. If the bracket doesn't fit snug, use wood shims, a piece of foam insulation or a piece of plastic to cover the excess opening. After all, you don't want hot air from outside to leak into your cool room. Use curtains to hide the edges of the bracket if desired.

Tip: Don't use spray foam or another semi-permanent product to make the bracket fit. You will need to remove the unit from the window during cool weather or rainstorms.

Step 4: Make the connection. Secure the end of the vent hose to the bracket in the window sill. Again, this may require a screwdriver, or it may be able to simply click into place. Most vent tubes adjust accordion-style. Keep the tube as short as possible by placing the AC unit close to the window.

Finally, let the air conditioner sit in place for a few minutes. This is especially important if the unit was on its side when getting transported home. Giving the unit a few minutes to sit upright drains the coolant back into the storage area, making the AC run more efficiently. If you choose to move the unit to various rooms throughout the day, always give the unit a few minutes to settle before using.

Step 5: Plug it in, and turn it on! Set the unit to the desired temperature. Be reasonable; this isn't a central air unit. Since portable air conditioner units have smaller motors than a full-house unit, they can't cool as quickly or as efficiently. Aim for setting the thermostat to 10 degrees cooler than the temperature outside. Turn on the dehumidifier setting and adjust the position of the vent fins. That's it! Grab a glass of sweet tea and sit back. The room should begin to dehumidify within a few minutes. Remember, the furniture, walls, carpet and other room accessories are also being cooled. It can take up to an hour to initially cool the entire space to the desired temperature.

After an hour, check around the base of the unit and the window sill for any leaking condensation. This means the venting hose hasn't been installed properly or the air conditioner is sitting on a downward sloping angle from the window. The AC unit needs to sit even with the window or be slightly elevated to vent properly.

Tip: Use fans to distribute the cool air around the room, down a hallway or into an adjacent room.

If the portable air conditioner is not cooling enough or not covering enough space in your Atlanta home, it might be time to call a heating and cooling professional for an estimate. Ask for the cost to fix or replace the central air conditioning system. Sometimes going with a new energy-efficient system is smarter than sinking money in repairs.

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