Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Air Conditioning for the Man Cave

Every now and then I find myself facing a project with a little less electricity and a little more elbow grease. After a family friend donated a window air-conditioner, I decided it would be a good idea to install it into my un-airconditioned man cave in my families garage. This is home to surround sound, an LCD TV, a few game consoles, and an HTPC. It gives my friends and siblings a place to hang out and be loud without bothering the folks in the main house. It's also a nice place to stay when we have company at home. The downside is that during the summer it can get pretty roasty out there. The process looked something like this: 
  • Cut a hole in the sheet rock (check for wires!)
  • Cut stud
  • Install frame
  • Cut outside hole
  • Install air conditioner
  • Install bracing
  • Install trim
  • Mud, sand, paint, and touch-up

Hole cut and bracing installed

Here you can see the rectangular bracing I made for the hole. Four sections of 2x4 make up the support for the opening, and the entire thing is screwed into the section of stud that I removed. If you remove the existing stud section carefully enough (which I didn't) you can re-used this piece. I had to be extra careful with the Sawzall because some shifting occurs when removing the stud. This frame provides both structural support for the wall, and provides a nice base for the AC unit to sit on.

AC installed, paint drying

This is the AC unit installed. It was slid into the hole just enough so that the front control panel could be removed for cleaning / maintenance. The metal frame was screwed into the 2x4 exterior frame using self-tapping sheet metal screws. You can see I did a little paint touch-up around the window while I was at it.

Trim and bracing installed. I didn't do the radiator damage, I promise!

Lastly, support was added to the exterior to support more of the AC units weight to to provide stability. I used a large metal L-bracket bolted into a stud on one end and resting against the unit on the other. I had to carefully notch out a section of the trim to allow the bracket to slide underneath. Both spray-foam insulation and silicone caulking was added to the opening around the outside of the AC unit, as well as the holes where the trim meets the grooved siding. 

Conclusion: It works great! For a 12x12 room, this thing cools it down in a hurry. If you're wondering why I didn't use the window, the unit would not fit horizontally. It also cannot operate on its side (found this out the hard way with an old AC unit). I also opted not to hard-wire the electricity since there was an outlet nearby, and it would be easier to remove to service if it weren't hard-wired. It gets covered with a tarp during the rainy winter season, but it sure is welcome during the summer!


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