Press-Republican

June 3, 2013

Assess needs before purchasing appliances

By STEVEN HOWELL
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — It’s time to crank up the AC and fire up the grill. 

Air conditioners and barbeque grills are two of summer’s biggest expenses. Here are a few guidelines to make sure you purchase the right ones:

AIR CONDITIONERS

Kevin McKee, sales manager at Wilson’s Appliances in Plattsburgh, says if you’re buying an air conditioner, first determine what type you want: a window, portable or built-in model. All come with their own pros and cons.

For example, a window model needs to be temporarily installed annually.

And don’t be fooled by the term “portable.”

“You’ll still need some sort of exhaust for the hot air,” McKee said.

Portable air conditioners come with a hose similar to a clothes dryer. In addition, portable ACs are more expensive and less efficient than their window counterparts.

Next, you’ll need to determine the size of the room or the space you’ll need to cool. The term closely associated with an air conditioner is BTU or British Thermal Unit, and there is a general rule to follow.

“Take the square footage of the room you’re trying to cool, multiply times 10, and add 4,000,” McKee said.

Let’s do the math. If you have a room that’s 20 by 10 feet, that’s a 200-square-foot room. So 200 square feet times 10 equals 2,000. Add the additional 4,000.

“So you’ll need a 6,000 BTU air conditioner to cool that room properly,” McKee said.

Keep in mind you’ll probably need more power, BTUs, in a room that gets full sun or is placed in a working kitchen.

For pricing, the higher the BTU, the more expensive.

In addition, McKee says that if you’re a light sleeper, you may want to consider the AC noise level. Dial models tend to be noisier.

“A digital model costs a little bit more, but you can actually set the temperature,” McKee said. “These will shut off when the room reaches that temperature.”

McKee says a new market trend for home ACs is called a split system. A central air conditioning system features an exterior unit with lots of interior wiring and duct work. A split system uses an exterior compressor with tubing that runs to smaller units mounted in the wall.

“It’s a lot less expensive than central air conditioning, but it will give you the same effect,” McKee said.

Central AC can run in the neighborhood of $10,000, while a split system would be about one-third the cost.

BARBECUE GRILL

As for buying a new barbecue grill, McKee says to first consider three factors: “Where are you going to put it, how many people do you cook for, and what do you like to cook?”

The type of grill you buy should be determined by whether you have a big patio or a small deck, cook for you and your spouse or a small army, and whether the menu is just burgers and hot dogs or ribs and roasts rotisserie fare.

Next, consider if you want to use a propane tank or are able to hook your unit up to a natural-gas line.

Also consider just how handy you are as some assembly may be required — depending on the retailer. Some retailers, including Wilson’s, offer full assembly on grills.

“If you’re good at it, a grill can take 45 minutes to assemble,” McKee said. “If you’re not, it can take hours.”

McKee adds that one of the most important components of the grill is the grate, the actually grilling surface on which you place your food.

Porcelain enamel grates do a good job of retailing heat, but they don’t last that long, McKee said. You’ll need to replace them about every two years. Cast-iron surfaces do the best job of retaining heat but are a little bit hard to clean.

“These need to be seasoned with cooking oil,” McKee said. “Like a cast-iron skillet.”

Stainless steel is the third type.

“They’ll last forever, will never rust and are easy to clean,” McKee said. “But they don’t retain the heat as well as cast iron.”

McKee enjoys a penchant for the Weber line.

“You can get a small, portable very good grill for as low as $100 and a really decent grill from $200 to $300,” McKee said.

With proper care, McKee says a grill can last up to 20 years.