COMPARE & SAVE: AIR CONDITIONERS
During the summertime in many regions, you will hear the constant buzz of air conditioners as they cool homes and businesses. There are several types of air conditioners. One type is mounted in a window and typically only cools one room of a home. Another type has a unit outside, along with an indoor thermostat and return system. It can cool a whole house. Large businesses have even larger air conditioner units that are often mounted on the roof of a tall building.
If you shop for an air conditioner at the wrong store, you could easily pay up to 40 percent more than another retailer charges for the same exact model. It’s worth the effort to compare prices and find the best deal. You can also perform research that helps you choose a model with low maintenance and operating costs. First, you’ll need to decide what kind of A/C unit to buy.
A window air conditioner is often the best option. It generally costs a bit less and cools rooms to lower temperatures. There’s no need to manually pour out the condensation water. However, a floor air conditioner is preferable for windowless rooms and buildings that forbid window units. It’s also far less vulnerable to thieves.
After you choose a general type of A/C unit, you may use several different techniques to compare products and prices. You can peruse printed catalogs or circulars, visit stores in person and call retailers on the phone. Internet options include specific retailer websites and product search tools. Keep in mind that no one method can provide data on every air conditioning product in your area.
Most people know that department and appliance stores sell air conditioners. However, it’s easy to overlook some worthwhile alternatives. Many wholesale discount clubs, office supply centers and hardware retailers also sell them. Surprisingly, some drug stores offer competitive sale prices on this product. You may not need to travel far to find a desirable A/C unit.
- Home improvement centers
- Local and chain appliance stores
- Large discount stores
New or Used?
If you choose to buy a used window or floor air conditioner, you’ll probably save a considerable amount of money. It could also cut the distance you need to travel. In addition to classified ads, used A/C equipment occasionally appears at garage and storage facility sales.
There are a few disadvantages: filters could be dirty and many warranties can’t be transferred to new owners. If possible, check to see if a model has been recalled before buying it. Consider looking at refurbished units for a mid-priced alternative.
When you look up A/C prices on the Web, remember to make a note of any “online prices” that aren’t available in stores. Some retailers offer member discounts or rebates. Don’t forget to search the Web for recent promo or coupon codes. Taking a few minutes to find a department-specific or storewide code could easily help you save $15 to $25 on a $150 unit.
Air conditioning equipment consumes a substantial amount of power, so it’s wise to take energy efficiency ratings into account. Units with favorable EERs or Energy Star labels tend to cost more initially but reduce costs in the long run. They also decrease the amount of pollution that power plants generate.
An Energy Star unit will make a bigger difference for your wallet and the environment if you live in a relatively hot climate. Keep in mind that efficient air conditioners still waste energy if they’re unnecessarily powerful; compare the maximum wattage as well.
Stores normally offer the best prices on air conditioning units as the cooling season wanes. August is a desirable month for A/C shopping. Nonetheless, lower-value sales still occur during other parts of the year. Many retailers let customers combine coupons with sale discounts. During a sale, stores are more likely to accept coupons that read “$10 off $50 or more” rather than “20 percent off.”
As you hunt for the best sales and other discounts, don’t overlook the importance of quality. Try to find both amateur and professional reviews of an A/C unit before you order it. An advantage of buying a model that has remained in production for over a year is that any initial defects are more likely to have been corrected.
Appliance companies often include long-term guarantees with their A/C products. They frequently remain in effect for two to five years. However, a warranty may be shortened if you don’t complete the registration form. Be sure to compare warranties as you shop.
Keep in mind that window units normally last around six or seven years if used regularly. Floor air conditioners tend to achieve somewhat longer lifespans. One reason is that they have much better protection from severe weather.
If more than one retailer carries the same air conditioner at a similar price, learn more about each store’s customer service. Find out about a company’s return policy. Does it repair the appliances it sells? What financing and delivery options are available? If these aspects are mostly equivalent, it makes sense to select the retailer with the nearest location.
Many department, hardware and drug stores award members with reward points when they buy things. This may result in substantial discounts on future purchases. An air conditioner can be worth a lot of points, so it’s worth looking at these programs and thinking about joining one before you go shopping.
Online product and review pages tend to include a lot of information. Generally, the most important characteristics of an A/C unit include its BTU output, efficiency rating, dimensions, quality and safety. You may also want to compare the noise levels of different models. They are measured in decibels; look for the lowest number.
- Not too big, small or loud
- Won’t cost too much to run
- Fits the window securely
Some models offer convenient but superfluous features. For example, they might have digital readouts or remote controls. It’s only wise to take these extras into account if you’re comparing two otherwise equivalent products at the same price. Keep in mind that sophisticated electronics may slightly raise energy consumption and increase a unit’s vulnerability to power surges.
Consider the long-term costs of owning a specific air conditioner. How much do retailers charge for replacement filters or extended warranties? If it has a remote control, find out how much it would cost to replace the remote or its batteries. You can usually save money in the long run by choosing a well-made model with a comparatively simple design.
Unless you’re a pro wrestler, a window air conditioner probably isn’t something you want to carry home from the store. Fortunately, many retailers offer home delivery or shipping options. If you normally travel on foot or by motorcycle, remember to carefully compare the fees for these services. Delivery tends to be cheapest at stores that include free shipping with purchases that exceed a specific cost.
Retailers may run out of air conditioners when they’re in high demand during the late spring. The same thing can happen as they hold clearance sales in September. After finding a great deal, don’t forget to call ahead or check the store’s website to confirm availability.
It’s best to save up enough money before buying an A/C unit. However, this may prove difficult if your current air conditioner suddenly fails in the middle of July. Before you buy, be sure to compare various retailers’ in-store financing options with the rates on any credit cards you may have.
To sum it up, comparing the features and prices of floor or window air conditioners is a time-consuming yet worthwhile process. The right choice depends on your specific needs. A homeowner in South Carolina might spend extra cash for a highly efficient 10,000 BTU window air conditioner, but a person with a small first-story apartment in a high-crime area may favor a 5,000 BTU floor unit.