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.