How Easy Is It to Find Chicago Apartments with Air Conditioning?

Every time the temperature breaks above 70, one of the most vital questions on apartment renters' minds turns out to be, “Does my apartment have A/C?” Veterans of renting vintage apartments in Chicago may be well versed in the annual summer tradition of hauling window A/C units out of storage and placing them in critical spots around the apartment. But what’s out there for renters who desire A/C in their next Chicago apartment? There are plenty of options. In this blog post, we will list the various types of air conditioning available for Chicago apartments and the key questions that renters should be asking their neighbors and landlords about keeping their apartments cool in the Chicago summer.

What Type of A/C Can I Expect in My Chicago Apartment?

The most common form of air conditioning among Chicago apartments is the window A/C unit. These ubiquitous metal boxes can be seen protruding from countless apartment windows during the warmer months (and year-round for intrepid apartment dwellers who’ve somehow managed to perfect the craft of weather sealing around these bulky window units).

Renters who’ve already acquired a window A/C unit or two should ask about availability in their next Chicago apartment. Ask the listing agent or landlord if the building allows window A/C units, and if so, whether the landlord will provide one. If yes, ask whether the existing unit is in good condition and whether the landlord will replace it if it breaks for reasons unrelated to the renter’s usage. Ask whether the landlord charges any additional fees for installing new A/C units, and whether the tenant may install one on his or her own. Also, if electricity is included in the rent, ask whether the landlord charges an A/C fee to cover the additional electricity fee associated with running the window unit.

Central A/C is a feature that may be less common among Chicago apartments but it’s a huge draw for renters who are particular about staying cool in the 3-4 months out of the year when Chicago experiences proper summer temperatures. Renters who are keen on finding a place with central A/C should focus on the apartment features and amenities section during their apartment search. This section of the apartment listing will detail whether or not the A/C is central air or window units.

Smart Thermostats in Chicago Apartments

Renters who want to use a smart thermostat in their next Chicago apartment will find that many new construction apartments include one of these nifty home appliances. The programmable thermostat of yesteryear is being replaced by so-called “smart thermostats” with brands like Nest among the category leaders.

What makes these devices “smart?” These devices are connected to the Internet and there’s usually an accompanying mobile app so the apartment’s temperature can be controlled via smartphone.

apartment kitchen with window-mounted A/C unit to help cool down dining area

Are Landlords Responsible for Providing A/C in Chicago Apartments?

Chicago landlords have to maintain a minimum temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit for their Chicago apartments from September to June. There’s a whole ordinance dedicated to this, in fact. Not surprising since Chicago does have protracted winters, but what about the summer months? Are landlords required to keep apartments in Chicago cool? The answer is no, landlords aren’t required to provide air conditioning in Chicago apartments.

Landlords are responsible, however, for providing essential services like heat, running or hot water, electricity, gas or plumbing in Chicago apartments under the city’s Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (aka the CRLTO).

I Can’t Buy an A/C Unit Right Now - What Are My Alternatives?

Keeping cool without the aid of a window A/C unit or central air conditioning is tricky but it’s not impossible. Renters can start with the modest investment in a box fan. These straightforward appliances are exactly what they sound like; a box-shaped frame with a fan rotating in its center can be picked up at almost any supermarket or convenience store for about $20. While it doesn’t oscillate in the same way that a free standing fan might, sticking a box fan into the apartment window and then switching it on draws in cooler air from the outside so it can provide some quick relief for a hot apartment.

Renters can also invest in curtains for their apartments. These are more than aesthetic choices because a sturdy curtain can block out UV rays from the sun that will heat up an apartment during the longer daylight hours of summer. Drawing the heavy curtains in the middle of the day may not do wonders for a renter’s mood, but keeping things shady in the apartment means lower air temperatures during the day. Renters may want to practice this for rooms that sit empty most of the day like bedrooms.

Lastly, renters should look above for assistance. And to be clear, this refers to ceiling fans. Check to make sure that rooms like bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms have ceiling fans. If these aren’t already installed in the apartment, renters may be able to purchase a cheap overhead fan and ask their landlords to install it for them. Fun fact: ceiling fans can also help keep apartments warm in the winter by pushing down warm air and recirculating in the apartment. Naturally renters will be more attuned to using the fan to disperse warm air in their apartments during the summer. But pitching these indispensable home appliances to landlords as energy saving devices may help make the case that they be included with a new apartment lease.