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Air-conditioning options abound

It's that time of year again when the thermometer hits the high point and the heat and humidity can be so oppressive a meat locker seems like an appealing cool spot. If the home's air conditioner never seems to get the whole house cool enough or some rooms just feel like a sauna no matter the thermostat setting, here are some options to consider:

Traditional, or a split

A split system is the most common type of air conditioner used to cool homes. With a split system, the filters, vents, ductwork and temperature control panels are inside the home, while the condensing unit is outside. Split systems work by forcing cool air through the ductwork, which replaces warm air within the home and removes moisture. These central air systems can efficiently cool an entire home, but a second system is often needed to adequately control temperatures on upper floors. These systems are also more costly to install and repair than other AC units.

Window units

Room air conditioners, or window units as they are often called, are used to provide supplemental cooling for smaller spaces — generally a single room. The concept of a window unit is not that different from a split system. Although it is mounted in a window, the condenser, fan and evaporator is outside, while the controls and vents are inside. Window units are substantially less expensive than a traditional system, but are far less efficient with their cooling capacity.


Portable air conditioners are an alternative to window units that can be set up in a room without the need for exterior ventilation. Most new units use refrigerant and require only occasional filter cleanings. They're fairly simple to plug in and turn on. They're great for adding additional cooling efforts to spaces such as upstairs bedrooms, converted attics or cooling small, nonair-conditioned work spaces. Although they are less obtrusive and more mobile than window units, they tend to be a bit pricier.

AC sizing

There are multiple ways of sizing an AC unit for a home or business. If replacing a unit that cooled appropriately, it's a safe bet the same size is the way to go. If buying a new one, it is always best to consult a professional contractor. If sized incorrectly, the unit will be inefficient and may do an inadequate job. For instance, an oversized air conditioner will cycle on and off too frequently and prevent it from properly dehumidifying the air. An air conditioner that's too small will frequently have to run at full capacity, which could decrease the lifespan of the machine. It may also be incapable of adequately cooling the entire space.

What is a BTU?

The term BTU, or British Thermal Unit, indicates how well a heater or air conditioner can affect the temperature of a room. A higher number of BTUs means better heating or cooling.

Care of your AC unit

It is a good idea to change disposable air conditioning filters every 60 days. A general rule for any HVAC system owner is to have equipment thoroughly inspected at least once a year. Annual service visits will keep the system running at maximum efficiency and can help extend the life of the unit.

Air-conditioning options abound 07/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 22, 2011 4:30am]
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