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Ask an Expert: Best apartments for central a/c?

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Q. I'm looking to buy a two-bedroom co-op with central air, but so far I haven't seen that many options. If I have to install central air myself, what sort of apartments are the best candidates, as far as layout, ceiling height and any other factors?  Is there any type of apartment I should avoid?

A.  Before getting to layout and ceiling height, the first question you should ask has more to do with the building than the apartment--i.e., whether the co-op or condo board has ever approved central a/c before. 

A board that's gone down this approvals road before "is less likely to react against such a proposal," says property manager Thomas Usztoke.  

He notes that boards tend to be most amenable to central a/c systems that are installed completely within the apartment versus systems that rely on exterior mounted components, like a condenser on the roof.  (See The big chill: Putting central air in a prewar apartment.)

Instead, through-wall condensers are typically mounted below a window facing an airshaft, or sometimes in the upper portion of the window itself, if the view isn't a treasured one, says architect Thomas Degnan.  

"In general, look for apartments with high ceilings and an interior light well access [airshaft] where potentially a wall-thru a/c condenser can be installed," says Degnan.

An upgraded electrical system is a plus too. Otherwise, new power will need to be run from the basement, which gets pricier the higher you go.


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The big chill: Putting central air in a prewar apartment

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