Cool Centrally Or Room By Room
To cool or not to cool? When it gets hot outside – there is no question about it. However, there is another question that isn’t always so easy to answer. What is the most cost efficient way to cool a home – a central unit or a window model?
If you don’t currently have an airconditioner and are considering a purchase then think about this rule of thumb: If you intend to cool three or more rooms at once, then a central unit may prove to be most cost effective. On the other hand, if you only wish to cool one or two rooms you may want to consider a window airconditioner. This might sound a little silly, but you might even want both systems. If you have a home with many rooms, but frequently occupy only one, then a central unit combined with independent unit in the room you use most can save you big dollars in the long run. Well, not everyone can afford the luxury of two systems, but given the ability to make the initial investment, the long term savings can pay for the second system in no time.
If you are uncomfortable about lugging a window unit up from the basement every year, then don’t use it in the window. Build it into the wall instead. When built into the wall the unit can be left in place year round without obstructing a window. And by the way, if you have an air-conditioning unit mounted in a bedroom window you may be endangering the occupant of that room. Normally, in a fire, there are two ways to escape from a bedroom – the entry door and the window. With a widow-mount air-conditioner the chances for escape are reduced by half – yuck!
Regardless of which type air-conditioner that you have, the energy efficiency of a newer unit can reduce costs by up to 25%. On the other hand, regardless of the age or type of unit, make sure to change filters after each and every 90 days of use.
A few important facts about wall-mount air-conditioners. Before going to the store to purchase a new unit measure the size of the room you want to cool. The length, width and height are used to calculate the volume of air in the room that will have to be cooled. Thus, the appropriate size air-conditioner can be determined. An energy saver is another important feature to look for. As thermostats do to the entire unit, the energy saver feature will cycle the compressor on and off so that it doesn’t operate continuously. You don’t have to know whether the compressor is on or off as long as you are aware of the fact that the energy saver feature will reduce your energy cost. Your personal comfort also is important. A three speed fan control (low, medium and high speeds) is an absolute must. Using a thermostat in conjunction with the fan speed allows the user to bring the room temperature down to the desired comfort level very quickly at which point the fan can be adjusted to a lower speed that will maintain the temperature. Last, but not least, choose a model with a timer. Setting the unit to come on a half hour or so before you get home will assure comfortable conditions upon arrival. Conversely, the timer can be used to turn the unit off once you have fallen asleep. By the way, portable electric times that can be found in the local home center are geared for small appliances not built-in air-conditioners. A portable timer that would operate a wall unit would not be a cost effective purchase.
A central air-conditioning unit is a bit more complex to purchase because the equipment occupies more space and ducting is involved. But the good news is that – when it comes to ducting – where there is a will there is a way. As with the wall unit the energy saver is available with the central unit too. If you want maximum comfort at minimized operating expense be sure to include several cold air return locations. By virtue of their nature air-conditioners also act as a sort of a dehumidifier. However, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure when it comes to high humidity, so don’t rule out a built-in dehumidifier. Another super accessory for any central system (heating or cooling) is an electrostatic filtering system. This is one option you don’t want to pass up if your family is plagued with allergies. The filter unit never has to be replaced – all you have to do is give it a thorough cleaning every once in a while.
Finally, keep energy efficiency in mind when selecting any large electric appliance. The cost of electricity isn’t likely to decrease in the next century or three. And, good luck!
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