October 20, 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.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

It’s really heating up outside and if you are like me, you want your home to be a respite from the heat. An air conditioner that is properly serviced runs more efficiently providing you with a cooler home for less money. You’ll ensure that you come home each day to a pleasantly cool house and that you will not tax either the unit or your budget. Here are some simple things you can do to keep your cool.

Replace or clean the filter every month

Air conditioners are outfitted with a simple electrostatic filter in the front grill area to filter the air that passes through them. If your unit has a filter you should replace/clean it once a month during the cooling season.

Inspect cooling coils for frost or ice build-up

If the temperature outside the room where the air conditioner is placed becomes cool — approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower — check the coils on the front of the air conditioner to be sure they are not icing up. If they are, turn the air conditioner off until the temperature rises. Also, make sure the filter is clean.

Don’t short cycle the cooling system

Air conditioners have a cooling system identical to a refrigerator’s. It’s important not to turn the unit off and then back on right away. Wait at least ten minutes after shutting the unit off to allow pressure in the refrigeration system to equalize once again. This will prolong the life of your air conditioner.

Store the unit in a basement or utility room, not a garage

Mice and other small animals love to nest in air conditioners. Thay can cause serious damage to the unit by chewing on wiring and insulation. Also, wasps and birds like to nest in uncovered units left in windows. Avoid these problems by storing units in a protected area, away from small animals, or by installing a cover on the part of the air conditioner that is outside.

Clean condenser coils annually

Condensing coils on an air conditioner will get very dirty over time. Dirt tends to accumulate on the inside of the coils, out of site. Remove the entire cover of the air conditioner to gain access to the coils. They can be cleaned by blowing compressed air at them or by using a soft bristle brush to wipe the dirt off. Be sure to also clean any dirt or lint build up in the bottom of the air conditioner so condensate water will be picked up by the condensing fan slinger properly.

Heating and Cooling Purchases Down

U.S. factory shipments of residential cooling and heating equipment declined in February, compared with the same month a year ago, while the commercial market for these products maintained steady growth, according to the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).
Central Air Conditioners and Air-Source Heat Pumps

Combined U.S. factory shipments of central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps for February totaled 335,897, a 13 percent drop compared with February 2007 total shipments. Heat pump shipments for February totaled 123,122, a 10 percent drop from the same month a year ago.

Warm Air Furnaces

U.S. factory shipments of gas warm air furnaces dropped 22 percent to 153,812, compared with February 2007 totals. Oil warm air furnaces for the same month fell 39 percent to 3,680, compared with February 2007 shipments of this equipment.
Room Heaters

A total of 3,562 vent-free room heaters were shipped in February 2008, a 22 percent drop compared with the same month last year.

Water Heaters

Residential electric water heater shipments for February totaled 361,529, slightly outpacing residential gas water heater shipments, which totaled 350,174, but shipments for both types of water heaters fell about 3 percent compared with shipments for the same month last year.

February gas logs and insert product shipments totaled 10,070, a 24 percent drop compared with the same month last year, while gas stove shipments for the same month jumped 34 percent compared to February 2007. Gas fireplace shipments for February 2008 totaled 2,616, a 19 percent drop compared to the same month last year.