It’s Friday, right? What publication date did I get right now? Great!

It’s May. Chicagoans may have noticed a significant change in the weather conditions recently. The outside temperature rose by around 20F this week, with an accompanying rise in humidity. You are one of many renters who live in buildings with central air conditioners. This is not the right article for you. This article is for those who have moved into vintage apartments that did not have central AC since last summer. You probably spent the past 48 hours contemplating how to put in a window AC. Here’s everything you need to know.

Are You Really Going to Need AC?

Although Chicago’s record-breaking temperatures have reached 111F in recent years, midsummer average temperatures are in the 80s. It’s not that bad, but it’s cold in other parts of the country. This is due to the high humidity that makes it feel hotter than it actually is.

Window units can make a significant difference to your bill, even though air conditioners can be expensive. I looked up Comed’s hourly rates, and found that the peak cost for July 2013 was 3.2 cents per Kilowatt-hour. There are delivery surcharges, taxes, and other fees that come with it. Double it to get a more realistic cost. This means that a small window unit would run for about 80 cents per hour. However, the air conditioner’s cost is also important.

Some people may think they would prefer a humidifier. Air conditioners can remove heat and humidity but they need a window to exhaust heat. Dehumidifiers can only remove humidity. This can be a great option for renters who live in apartments with limited access to fresh air and garden units. A small dehumidifier will cost roughly the same electricity as an air conditioner.

A swamp cooler, also known as an evaporative cooler, may be a better option than a window AC if you are moving to Chicago from the south. Swamp coolers work best in dry climates, and they are not recommended for use in Chicago summers.

You may be able to use window fans throughout the year if you aren’t home for a lot of time and your apartment faces the north. If you work from home and your windows are in direct sunlight, or you need to be able to do things around the house in relative comfort, then you will definitely want to invest in window units.

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Check your Lease

Some landlords do not allow tenants to install window air conditioners. These units can cause permanent damage to expensive parts of a building, and often require drilling into the window frames. The landlord’s insurance policies might not cover damage to window units that tenants install. This applies not only to the building but also to pedestrians walking below the unit in case it falls to the street.

If you’re certain that you must have air conditioning, then check your lease to make sure it’s possible. It’s a good idea for landlords to ask about air conditioners if the lease doesn’t mention them. The lease may limit the number and types of units you can install. It may also state that you will need to hire someone to do it.

Check Your Power

Some window units are powered by 110 volt power outlets. Larger units will require a dedicated 220 voltage outlet. Most apartments don’t have 220 volt outlets, except in the laundry area. This is because some dryers use them. You will notice if there is a dedicated 220-volt outlet in your apartment to power an air conditioner. It will be different than a regular outlet and likely located under a window.


You should also consider the power situation in your apartment. Old apartments may only have one circuit for the entire apartment. You don’t want a large power hog like an AC unit sharing a circuit with sensitive electronics like a PC or home entertainment system. Locate the fuse box or breaker box for your apartment. Count the circuits. If you have less than one AC per room, you might want to cut back on the window AC. Do not expect to run any other heat or cooling devices, such hair dryers or toasters, on the same circuit.

Select Your Location

North-facing windows are best for air conditioners because they don’t get direct sun. As air conditioner usage is most common in the afternoons and evenings, an east-facing window is a better choice. You want windows that aren’t too big or too small. Avoid windows that are covered with ivy. It may be possible to identify where air conditioners have been installed by previous tenants by checking the frames of your apartment windows.

As someone who walks a lot in the city, it would be nice if the window didn’t face the sidewalk. Nobody likes condensation on their heads.

You should not place the air conditioner above any steam radiators in your apartment. It can be difficult to install and remove the radiator. Landlords who provide heat for apartments have to keep the radiators on at least until June 1. This could lead to situations where the air conditioner is competing with the radiator for temperature. Although you can close the valve to prevent the radiator from heating up, many apartments have radiators that cannot be moved due to their poor condition.

Cold air doesn’t flow well around corners so L-shaped rooms are not a good fit.

An AC unit is a must in every bedroom that is used as a sleeping area, and any other rooms that are used during daylight hours.

Find Storage

Your window air conditioner will only be in use for about four months each year. It will need somewhere else to live the rest of its life, and that’s not your window. It will likely be slightly damp and dirty once it is taken out of the window. This is something to keep in mind if it is going to be placed on the floor of your apartment for the remainder of the year. It’s a great idea to store it in a storage box. If you don’t have a storage locker, you will need another place to store it.

Schedule the Installation

This section is placed before the one about buying actual air conditioners. This is intentional. This is deliberate. Tenants who lock themselves out at random will be subject to time-sensitive repairs that could lead to a large lawsuit. You should expect to wait for the appointment for at least two weeks.

Although your landlord may be very organized and have extra staff ready for this task, it is still best to plan in advance. Make sure to book your installation appointment as soon as possible.

Make sure you kennel your pets when the day arrives. Make sure to clearly mark which windows should be equipped with air conditioners. Also, clean the area around the window to make it easier for the installer.

Get Your Appliances

It is important that you get an air conditioner that is powerful enough to cool the room it is cooling. However, not too powerful. A 5000 BTU unit will suffice for most bedrooms. A 6000 BTU unit will be sufficient for even the largest rooms in a Chicago apartment. You might need to add 1000 BTU if the window is in direct sunlight.

Before purchasing an air conditioner, it is a good idea to check with your family, friends and use appliance listings on sites like Craigslist. You should make sure that you only purchase used appliances that were manufactured in 2010, or at least in 2015. Air conditioners cool their units by using chemicals in sealed tubes. One of those chemicals, HCFC-22, or R22, has been phased out because it is harmful to the ozone layer. It is being replaced by safer and more damaging substances. In 2010, the US imposed the first restrictions on R22 use. 2015 saw even more stringent laws. Check the label for the serial number to verify the date of manufacture on any air conditioner.

You should also ensure that your air conditioners are compatible with your power source. You don’t need a 220-volt socket if you have only 110 volt outlets.

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While air conditioners are great, you should also consider installing blackout drapes to keep the sun from heating the room during the day. Curtains can be very expensive and require drilling to install. Optically made shower curtains are half the cost of blackout drapes if you have a tight budget. Lonni Silk Stripe Curtain – HalfPriceDrapes
Stick on hooks are a better option if your landlord won’t allow you to install a curtain rod. Although it won’t look great, you’ll still be cool.


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