The main purpose of an air conditioner is to remove heat from the air and recycle cooler air back into the house. This in turn cools the house down.
Air conditioners do more to a home environment than just lower the temperature. Air conditioning can also have a profound impact on the quality of air one breathes, thus contributing to better air quality in a home by filtering and dehumidifying the air.
It is important to purchase the correct size A/C for the space. Never buy a bigger unit than you need, because a larger unit will cool too quickly and not reduce the humidity.
An air conditioning unit is measured in cooling capacity. Cooling capacity is measured in BTUs (British thermal units), the amount of heat that it takes to raise or lower the temperature of one pound of water for 1 F.
Manitoba Hydro offers a formula to determine the correct size unit for a home; 700 square feet per ton of cooling for older houses, 800 square feet per ton in newer homes.
Tip: Take into consideration windows; heat gain from poor windows can drastically alter A/C results.
Before purchasing an A/C, choose a reputable, knowledgeable and experienced contractor. Compare prices; call for references regarding service, quality installation as well as after-hour assistance.
Why heat and cool a house when no one is home? Programmable thermostats are essential in giving homeowners an even cooling and heating environment with a .5 to one per cent variance.
Tip: Thermostats mounted on a wall with direct sunshine may not allow for an accurate reading.
Make the choice between central air conditioning versus window units. If you need to cool three or more rooms at once, central units might prove to be more cost effective, less noisy and will add value to a home. On the other hand, window units are less expensive and transferable.
If you don’t want to bring a window air conditioner out of storage each summer, build the unit directly into the wall.
No ducts in the home? With a ductless split system, central air can be installed even if a home does not have ductwork. Cool air is piped into an evaporator that is controlled using a remote control to set the comfort level.
High-velocity central air conditioning is another option in home cooling. Though more expensive, the structure does not need to be torn apart to install ductwork. HVC works on the principle where hot and cold streams of cooled air enter a room, creating circulation without drafts, thus temperatures stay even from floor to ceiling.
Having your furnace run 24/7 on low will give you an even cooling and heating environment. Add to this a filtration
system and significant changes will occur. Shop around for a filtration system; some are claimable on income tax or health fund. In order to receive a doctor’s prescription to claim the system on income tax, the filtration system must be 98 per cent effective at a .3-micron level.
A/C on the fritz? Before calling for repair: check A/C, furnace and blower unit breakers or fuses.
Over the coming years R22 units will be phased out and replaced with ozone-friendly units.
Make sure outdoor electrical disconnect is on (for newer units). Check thermostat setting; make sure cooling mode and temperature is set below room temperature. Check outdoor unit for leaves, debris or grass. Check furnace filter or electronic air filter for blockages.
To clean a room A/C: Unplug and remove from window. Take off air inlet grill and filter, wash and replace. Vacuum coils with soft brush attachment. Spray water through fins from fan side (cover wiring and motor). Check to make sure drains are clean. Lubricate motor (check owner’s guide). Reinstall.
Before purchasing central air ask about the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. Central air conditioning efficiency levels changed as of February 2005. The government now rates the minimum SEER of air conditioners at 13 (previous rating was 10). Tip: The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the unit.
Important Note: R22 air conditioning units have been the unit of choice for residential heat pumps and air conditioning for more than four decades. Over the coming years R22 units will be phased out and replaced with ozone-friendly units. As of 2010, R22 Freon will no longer be used in central air conditioners. Enter — R410 — a more environmentally friendly Freon.
Note: R22 units will be repairable until 2030.
Reena Nerbas is the author of the national bestsellers, Household Solutions 1 with Substitutions, Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets and Household Solutions 3 with Green Alternatives available online and in stores across Canada. She graduated as a home economist from the University of Manitoba and speaks professionally on the subject of fixing life’s messes by using products behind everyone’s cupboard doors. As well as being a columnist, Reena can be heard on radio and TV programs across Canada and the U. S. I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming! Check out my website: www.householdsolutions.org.