How To Install a Window Air Conditioner

In many parts of the country, temperatures are rising steadily as summer approaches. In apartments without central air, the race toward summer means that it’s time to install a window air conditioning unit. If you’re anxious about doing so, fret not: After reading this guide on how to install a window air conditioner, you’ll be equipped to properly mount and seal your unit and enjoy a cool apartment no matter how hot summer gets.

install window air conditioner

1. Check whether the window can accommodate an air conditioner

Not all windows will be secure enough to safely accommodate an air conditioner. A window with rot or damage in or near the frame is not safe for installing an air conditioner. Arrange for the appropriate repairs to be made before installing your air conditioner, and while you wait for these repairs to be made, learn how to stay cool without AC. You may also discover that your window air conditioner won’t be stable without a support bracket, wood slats, or other additional materials.

No matter what, never install an air conditioner in an unsafe window. Window AC units are expensive and can sustain extensive damage if they fall from your window. More importantly, a falling AC unit can also severely injure passersby. 

2. Gather the appropriate tools

To safely, securely install a window air conditioner, you’ll need the following tools:

  • A power drill and twist drill bits
  • Wood screws and sheet metal screws (often provided in proper sizes and amounts with window air conditioner purchase)
  • A screwdriver, ideally multi-bit
  • Any spare foam insulation you have on hand (often provided with your window air conditioner purchase)
  • Possibly a microfiber cloth, broom and dustpan, or vacuum for cleaning any dust that accumulates after drilling holes

Once you have these, you’re ready to install your window air conditioner.

3. Assemble, place, and secure your air conditioner

Unbox your air conditioner and assemble the side accordions according to the instruction manual provided. The instructions should detail how to secure the side accordions to the top railing of the air conditioner. Once the accordions are properly installed, you can safely mount your air conditioner.

To do so, open the bottom sash of your window as high as it will go. Then, slowly and carefully insert the air conditioner in your window while aligning the flanged bottom portion of the unit with your window sill and the top railing with the bottom of the open sash. While holding the unit in place, lower the bottom sash onto the top railing so that it firmly holds the window air conditioner in place and rests against the unit’s top railing.

4. Screw the air conditioner railing into your window sash

After completing the previous step, your air conditioner is only partially stable in your windowsill. To fully secure it, you’ll need to drill screws through the holes in your air conditioner’s top railing and into the bottom of the window sash. Be sure that you’re drilling into the plastic or wood in your window sash rather than into the glass of the window itself. If your window sash is made of wood, you may need to first drill pilot holes into the sash where you’ll later insert your screws.

5. Extend the air conditioner curtains

With your air conditioner now screwed into your window, you can extend the side curtains to cover the space between the air conditioner and the window frame. The thin plastic comprising these accordions can block insects and outside objects from entering your apartment, but they aren’t fully insulating, and window air conditioner installation tends to introduce gaps in these barriers. That’s why the next step is so important.

6. Add extra insulation

Many air conditioners come with extra insulating materials to secure the seal around your window. Most units will include a strip that goes between the top sash of your window and the elevated bottom sash, as the gap there can introduce extra air from the outside into your apartment. You may also want to add insulation above or around the side curtains to fill any gaps and enhance the plastic’s insulating properties.

What else should I know about my window air conditioner?

When installing your window air conditioner, read the instruction manual thoroughly for any directions specific to your unit. You should also locate the instruction manual section about changing your filter or, if applicable to your unit, enabling its smart technology features. Alternatively, if installing a window AC unit seems too challenging or worrisome for you but you still need better airflow in your apartment for the summer, you can always consider a portable AC unit.

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