October 31, 2014

Cool Off With a Room Air Conditioner -and Save Money

The hot, humid weather of summer is about to meet Americans’ continuing desire to cut costs this cooling season. Room air conditioners are a practical way to cool down when temperatures heat up, especially if you want to save money by only cooling the rooms you use the most.

New room air conditioners are significantly more energy efficient and now offer a variety of features, including varying fan speeds, remote controls, timers and different types of filters. The average room air conditioner manufactured in 2008 also uses 23 percent less energy than units made in 1990. ENERGY STAR units can save you even more.

Before going to the store to purchase a new unit, consumers should visit www.cooloff.org to search through a list of models that are AHAM-certified. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers tests and certifies room air conditioners in an independent lab to verify that the product performs according to the manufacturers’ claims.

To get the maximum benefit from a room air conditioner, consider two important factors — cooling capacity and efficiency. Many people size air conditioners incorrectly, purchasing an air conditioner with more cooling capacity than needed.

More is not necessarily better. A unit with too much capacity may cool a room so quickly that it won’t run long enough to lower humidity. This results in a cold, clammy feeling caused by chilly, humid air. More importantly, you will be wasting energy and lots of money.

Cooloff.org also offers a cooling calculator for consumers to determine the proper cooling capacity for their room. The Web site will also take you through a series of questions before recommending models that fit your needs.

Once you know what size unit you need, consider its operating efficiency. The higher the energy efficiency ratio, or EER, the more efficient the model. When shopping, you’ll also want to look for the “AHAM-certified” seal. Models certified through AHAM’s program have been tested and their performance verified by an independent laboratory, assuring consumers that the product will perform according to the manufacturer’s product claims for BTU’s per hour, amps and efficiency.

Once you have the perfect air conditioner for your home size, you’ll want to keep it running smoothly. Here are some maintenance tips from the AHAM:

* Turn off the unit and open doors and windows during cooler periods.
* Use the unit fan and portable fans to draw in cooler outside air and increase circulation.
* Use a higher (warmer) thermostat setting during peak periods or when the area is unoccupied. A 75 to 80 degree setting will cut power consumption by 15 percent.
* Don’t let heat build up all day and then try to cool areas quickly by turning the controls to maximum settings.
* Draw the shade or window blinds to reduce solar and outdoor heat.
* Regularly change or clean filters and check air flow for blockage or frost on evaporator coil.

Upgrade Your Heating and Air

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are often out-of-sight and out-of-mind when you’re looking to buy a new home, moving into one or just making sure your current home is in good repair. However, updating your HVAC system now can increase the comfort and energy efficiency of your home, and might even qualify you for a tax credit.

With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners may be eligible for a tax credit if they purchase certain types of HVAC systems, water heating equipment, or make other energy-related improvements to their homes now through Dec. 31, 2010. More information about the tax credit is available at www.AmericanStandardAir.com and www.irs.gov.

How do you know what HVAC improvements are right for your home? American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning offers a quick overview of basic components to consider when purchasing a new system or planning an upgrade:

Outdoor units: air conditioner or heat pump
An air conditioner offers cool, quiet comfort during the hottest days by extracting heat and moisture from indoors. A heat pump does double duty, acting as both an air conditioner and a furnace. But unlike a furnace, it doesn’t burn fuel to create heat — it uses electricity to keep your home warm in winter, cool in the summer and comfortable all year long. A Heritage Hybrid Comfort System combines two different energy sources and automatically operates in the most efficient and economical mode. American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning’s line of Allegiance air conditioners and Heritage heat pumps range in efficiency from 13 to 20 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, the measure of cooling efficiency.

Indoor units: furnace or air handler
A furnace works with an air conditioner to heat and evenly circulate air throughout your home. An air handler performs the same duties as a furnace in homes that use electricity instead of gas. It works with an air conditioner to circulate cool air in the summer. Or, when paired with a heat pump, it circulates cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.

Air cleaner or filtration system

For even greater comfort, an air filtration system can be added to your furnace or air handler to filter out unwanted airborne particles. A whole-home air filtration system can remove the allergens from the air your family breathes, including dust, dander, pollen and bacteria.

Humidifier
A humidifier adds moisture to the air in winter and in hot, dry climates. It can be attached to your furnace and programmed to automatically turn off once humidity reaches a certain level.

Thermostat
A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts temperatures throughout the day, ensuring greater energy efficiency and enhanced indoor comfort.

How to Buy an Air Conditioner

It’s only June, but around here it feels like the height of summer.  Everyone is discussing their air conditioning or the lack of it.  If you are considering purcahsing a new air conditioning unit, we have some advice for you courtesy of the NY Daily News.  You need to sure the unit you purchase is the right one for you. 

The good news is that air conditioner prices have come down substantially in recent years as manufacturing has moved overseas, said P.C. Richard & Son president Gregg Richard.

“A unit that costs $99 today would have cost $149 five years ago,” Richard said.

Expect to pay anywhere from $99 for a small unit to around $1,800 for a jumbo-sized air cooler. Doing some homework before you hit the stores will help you make the wise choice.

How powerful an air conditioner you will need – power is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units – should be your first consideration.

A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. BTUs, which range from 5,000 to 36,000 for room air conditioners, measure the amount of heat a unit can remove from a room per hour. Generally speaking, the bigger your space, the more BTUs you will need – and the more you will pay.

Sizing it right is key. If you get a unit that’s too small you’ll regret it when the mercury soars. But a unit that is too big for a room will cycle on and off too often, using up too much energy while not dehumidifying properly.

To figure out the correct number of BTUs, start by multiplying the square footage of your room by 35, Richard said. Other factors come into play as well.

A kitchen will likely require a unit with more BTUs than a bedroom of the same size because of the heat generated by appliances. Likewise, you might want to crank up the BTUs in a room that gets direct sunlight. For help zeroing in on the right number, go to www.consumerreports.org, which offers a free sizing worksheet.

Energy Star units use at least 10% less energy than conventional models. On average, an Energy Star emblem will add about $40 to the cost of a unit.

To figure out whether your electrical bill savings will justify the bigger price tag, go to getenergysmart.org, the site operated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, to find out how much you can save by replacing your air conditioner with an Energy Star unit.

“Buy the most energy efficient model you can afford,” advised Consumer Reports deputy home editor Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman.

Other considerations go into choosing the right model. In compiling its recent ratings, Consumer Reports tested factors like how noisy units were and how well they functioned during a brownout.

The Haier ESAD4066, which retails for $240, got Consumer Reports’ top grade among small models. The GE ASMO8LK, for $260, was the highest rated mid-sized model and the GE ASM12AL, for $350, was the cool winner among large air conditioners.

To save yourself a headache later, make sure you know where your unit will be anchored – through a wall or in a window – before making your purchase, and measure the space. If the air conditioner will be going in a window, make note of the type of window it is.

Check the electrical power supply in your room too. Smaller air conditioners will work with a standard 115-volt outlet. Units above 8,000 BTUs will require a dedicated line, though Friedrich makes a 10,000 BTU unit that does not need one, Brief said.

Units from 10,000 to 16,000 BTUs are generally available in both 115- or 230-volt models. Units of 18,000 or more BTUs will need a 230-volt outlet.

How often you will need to buy a new air conditioner depends on the quality of the unit and how often it’s used.

“Many are warrantied for three to five years,” Vandervort said.

Sometimes people will change a unit because it is noisy or when they want to change the décor of a room, Brief said.

Another reason to head to the air conditioner aisles is “when you have an old one and it’s not working efficiently. You may be using considerably more energy than necessary,” Vandervort said. Otherwise, “use it until it doesn’t work any longer.”

 

Get Maximum Energy Efficiency from Your Cooling System

The Air-Conditioning  and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) is the trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of the air conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment installed in North America.  They offer their advice on how save money and energy while using your heat and air at home.

A typical home cooling system has two parts: an outdoor condensing unit and an indoor evaporating unit, usually near the furnace,” said Stephen Yurek, president of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, the trade association that independently certifies the efficiency of home heating and cooling equipment. “The outdoor and indoor units are designed to work together. When the air conditioner is properly matched with a furnace or air handler, you get maximum efficiency and longer system life.

“Manufacturers report that a growing number of homeowners are only replacing the broken unit of their two-part system,” said Yurek. “These unknowing homeowners are going to experience several major problems with their systems because new equipment has been designed differently to achieve the 30 percent increase in efficiency and to use the new refrigerants.”

It is important for homeowners to know that Jan. 23, 2006 marked the beginning of a new era in home comfort, when the new federal minimum efficiency standard for central air conditioners and heat pumps increased from 10 SEER to 13 SEER. SEER is short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s a number similar to miles-per-gallon in automobiles, so the higher the SEER, the more efficient your system. A 13 SEER system is about 30 percent more efficient than a 10 SEER system. Consumers today can choose from a wide range of systems offering efficiency ranging from 13 SEER to 23 SEER.

According to AHRI, if the system’s two units are not properly matched, these major problems will occur:
· The system’s capacity to cool your home will be reduced and you will feel less comfortable
· Energy bills will increase due to reduced efficiency
· Reliability will suffer and compressor failure is more likely to occur
· You lose the opportunity to be eligible to receive a utility rebate or tax credit

Your best first step is to find a qualified and reputable contractor and get answers to these three important questions:

1. Will you be replacing the indoor coil with a new high-efficiency coil?
2. Does the new indoor coil properly match the outdoor unit manufacturer’s specifications for the system?
3. Can you verify the efficiency of the compressor or coil combination by showing me its certified SEER rating in the AHRI Directory of Certified Product Performance or by providing me with an AHRI Certificate of Certified Performance?

To help educate homeowners, AHRI offers a free brochure, “A Perfect Match: Replacing Your Central Air Conditioning or Heat Pump System.” The free brochure is available for consumers to download in the “Homeowners” section of the association’s Web site at www.ari.org.