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How to Install Your Own Air-Conditioning Unit, According to Experts

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For many, the beginning of April means the start of warm weather. So it’s not too surprising that, according to Lewis Shenker, the president of New York City–based appliance dealer Gringer and Sons, it also means the start of the busy season for professional air-conditioning installers. But with stay-at-home and social distancing orders in New York and many other states in place through at least the end of the month (and maybe even longer), the odds are high that many of us won’t be able to welcome strangers into our apartment for awhile. How, then, should those of us who’ve never installed our own air-conditioning units go about it safely at home? To find out, we spoke to four professionals (including Shenker) about the best practices and products you would need — except for the air conditioners themselves (but if you’re looking to buy one, check out our round-ups of expert-recommended regular and smart models.)

According to Joe Lakin of Brooklyn’s Best Air Conditioning, the general rule of thumb about self-installing window air conditioners is “if you can lift it yourself, you can install it yourself.” (But if you cannot lift it yourself, he and the other pros say you should probably wait until you can get the help of a professional.) Should you be able to lift your own AC, Allan Schuster, the general manager of Gringer and Sons, says to first ensure the ground beneath your window is free of pedestrians or anything else you wouldn’t want the machine to accidentally fall on. “These units are missiles,” Schuster told us. “If not installed correctly, they can seriously hurt someone.” And it’s generally a good idea to check with your landlord or building management (if you have either) that window ACs are allowed before installing. From there, the pros say the process is fairly straightforward and, thanks to one nifty product, doesn’t require much in terms of extra supplies (look, ma: No drills!). Read on for everything they say you’ll need — and how to properly use it.

A safety bracket

A properly installed safety bracket is the only item our experts say you’ll definitely need to install your window air-conditioning unit effectively. According to New York City’s Local Law 11, any window AC units installed in buildings six stories or taller must be properly secured (i.e. not simply held in place using the weight of the window.) Our experts say that the most common way to comply with this law — and prevent your unit from toppling to the ground as you install it — is with a metal bracket, which functions as a shelf of sorts outside of your window that your unit can safely rest on.

According to Howard Lupowitz of Mike’s Air Conditioning, many people rely on dangerous makeshift brackets, such as bricks and planks of wood, to stabilize their units. “But if you do that,” he told us, “you’ve now got two things that can fall and hurt someone.” Many proper brackets require a drill to install, but both Lupowitz and Lakin told us about this newer, no-drill-required bracket from Black and Decker, which they say is the best for amateur installers. As Lakin puts it: “A non-screwing bracket works best for most people, as it requires no drilling. It’s safe and it’s simple.” These brackets, he explains, “take advantage of gravity and physics” instead of screws. He adds that you can “basically install any air conditioner with this” on window ledges that are between four and 11-inches deep (which covers most ledge sizes), as the bracket’s 200-pound weight capacity is greater “even than the weight of the largest air conditioner.”

Lupowitz says installation is as simple as “following the instructions,” and that, basically, you “place the bracket in the window, slide the air conditioner in on top of it, and shut the window down on the whole thing.” Lakin agrees that, if you follow the instructions (like this installation video the brand made), the process is “dummy-proof.” And both note that no-drilling required brackets have the added benefit of being just as easy to uninstall when the time comes.

A pair of cut-resistant gloves

The above safety bar is really the only product the experts say you need in order to properly self-install a window AC. But if you want some extra protection for your hands during installation, Lakin recommends these cut-resistant safety gloves. “The back of an AC unit has coils that are very sharp,” he told us. “For protection, you want heavy-duty gloves when you lift it, as the coils will easily rip through a regular glove.”

A sealant

Another helpful product recommended by our experts is a sealant, which they say you can use to close up any air holes between AC and window after installation. Lupowitz explains that even a successful at-home installation is often never “100-percent draft-free,” as the adjustable panels on either side of an AC can leave gaps between the unit and window frame. Schenker agrees that having a sealant is useful to “fill around the outer edges” after installation. If you plan to take the air-conditioning unit out come fall, Lakin advises using a piece of foam like this as a sealant, because it can be easily be removed when it comes time to uninstall. (In fact, he says many ACs will come with such foam for this exact reason.) If you’re self-installing an air conditioner that you don’t plan on removing, Lupowitz says you can use a stronger caulk sealant (which, just note, will be harder to remove).

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How to Install Your Own Air Conditioning Unit