John, your gripe with window air conditioners is...

John G. Swanson
May 23, 2007



The Talk... Page 2

Survey Results for 05/23/2007:

John, your gripe with window air conditioners is...

...ridiculous. You sound like an architect.





...a real issue for the industry that deserves attention.





...shared by me, on occassion.





...irrelevant because it's all central air around here anyway.





Last week, I shared with you my pet peeve about window air conditioner units. They detract from the look of many beautiful old windows in my neighborhood in New York City and I wondered if anyone else shared my little gripe. Some of you out there, I figured, upon completing a window replacement or some such project, had to finish the job by reinstalling a dirty old A/C unit. Okay, my suggestion that it’s an affront to our industry may be a bit over the top, but I figured this experience had to irritate someone along the way.

Well, as you can see, about 40 percent of you think my pet peeve is ridiculous. Another 15 percent say my concern is irrelevant to them, because central air dominates their market. Thankfully, I’m not left out on a limb completely. About 20 percent of you have thought or expressed the same complaint. Another quarter of you think window air conditioners are a real problem. I even heard from several readers who share my concerns and note these units not only detract from the look of our products, but also their performance.

“I am a millwork buyer for a lumber yard and recently built a house with vinyl windows,” says one reader. “My wife and I recently purchased a room air conditioner and I am appalled at the installation instructions. The manufacturer wants you to drill holes in the bottom sash and screw into the sash...just where the metal ears are located. I invented a couple of sticks to fit between the lower sash and the top of the window to secure the unit. There must be a better way.”

An engineer from a large manufacturer points out, “Aside from the aesthetics (or lack thereof) of window mounted air conditioner units, there are the warranty/repair issues. What affects do the constant vibration, heat and weight do to a window over time (especially vinyl) or the exhaust heat/indoor cold air do to an insulating glass unit’s longevity?” he asks. “Unless you write exclusions into your warranty that specifically forbids them, you are liable for repairs, and if you include such exclusions what are the ramifications to sales? I know that our sales force had a fit when exclusion was mentioned.”

Given such concerns, I was especially pleased to get a couple of suggested solutions from readers.

“We are a window, door, and heating and air conditioning contractor. Your picture of a beautiful old home with traditional wood windows and a ‘window shaker’ A/C unit hanging out sends chills up my back,” writes Erik Barrett of Sunset Air. He goes on to explain there are products available that require no additional ductwork to heat and cool rooms. “They are called ductless splits. There is a small outdoor condensing unit with a copper lineset that runs to an indoor air handler or fan that can be as small as a bathroom fan,” he explains. “They work great for applications that are limited on space or where ductwork is not practical. They do not compromise the integrity and energy efficiency of windows. Several independent fans can operate from one outdoor condensing unit. These types of systems are used worldwide and will continue to grow in the U.S.” He urges readers to check out the Web sites of Carrier, Mitsubishi and Fujitsu for more details, or contact him with questions at

“As a commercial sales representative for Pella Window and Door, we see this situation quite often,” says Tom Polasky, who is based in the Cleveland area. “My favorite solution has been to order a separate sash glazed with an aluminum-skinned, plywood panel. The general contractor purchases a new air conditioner (often weighing less and much more energy efficient), cuts a hole in the aluminum-skinned plywood panel and professionally fits the new air conditioner. In the summer, this sash is installed and locked in place. The A/C unit is then installed in the opening the GC cut in the glazed panel. In the winter, the sash are switched and the owner is left with a "normal" looking window. In some situations, the panel/A/C unit is left in place year around. This presents no problem because the unit still has a factory sash locked in place. No cold drafts around an open window.”

It’s not ideal, Polasky continues, but “at least we supply a solution that improves the efficiency of the window unit, allows the window to remain shut, locked and secure and it looks much better than the old system.”

Polasky adds that with this modification to a standard window unit, warranty issues need to be taken into account. “We have never had a problem,” he reports, “but I cannot say this is the solution for all manufacturers.”


Some of you are thinking, “get a real issue,” but does anybody else get irritated by this? Tell us by answering this week’s poll. And, if you have any thoughts on the issue, cost effective solutions or any pet peeves of your own, email me. I’d love to hear from you.

For poll results and industry feedback about this topic, click to the next page, and read Page 2 of “The Talk...”



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