Air Conditioning 101

Can you imagine life without air conditioning? Your hotel room in New Orleans with no A/C…..no thanks. Humans, especially here in the U.S. have become very attached to their air conditioners and despite the fact that many places don’t have the need for air conditioning it is increasingly becoming an expected add-on to homes and businesses everywhere. Even thousands of years ago in Persia they couldn’t handle the heat and invented the earliest known form of air conditioning, which involved a remarkably modern system of catching wind, passing it through water and blowing it into their dwellings.

Later, in the 19 th century the first conceptions of modern air conditioning were thought up but residential use as a practical matter didn’t start until the 1950’s. Shortly thereafter use in automobiles started.

Many years later vast improvements have been made to air conditioners and nowadays you can get portable air conditioners, room air conditioners, window air conditioners (swamp coolers) and central air conditioners. The early toxic gases like ammonia and methyl chloride have been replaced with Freon, but that is not enough anymore. Freon has been damaging the ozone layer for years and recent legislation will see it phased out and totally discontinued by the year 2020.

All air conditioners work under the same theory – to take heat out of the air using some sort of ‘refrigeration’ cycle. They are also designed to lower humidity, which contributes to air comfort.

Types of Air Conditioners

1. Window Units

Next time you are driving around a big city just look up and you will see these types of air conditioning units hanging out of windows everywhere. Although unattractive from the outside, these units are made small enough to fit into window frames and can be retrofitted to existing homes or buildings making them somewhat more cost effective.

2. Portable Units

Portable air conditioners are just that – a simple unit often on wheels that can be used in multiple locations.

3. Room Units

See window units above. Also available as wall units to condition a particular space when fitting a window space is not available.

4. Central Units

These larger units are often combined with a central heat unit to provide both heating and cooling. Often more energy efficient, today it is important to look for the energy star rating of these models. Tip: when installing the outdoor compressor necessary for these units make sure it is placed in a shady area. This can reduce energy usage!

5. High Velocity Units

This is a new technology which is ideal for use with radiant heating systems and can be retrofitted to an entire house without unattractive wall or window units. Also known as mini-duct, these systems still use an outdoor compressor to cool the air but inside use small flexible tubing and a high pressure blower to deliver the cool air throughout your home. The small tubes are an advantage because they can be snaked and threaded through existing walls, the registers in the ceilings are approximately two inches wide instead of large metal registers we are used to. They become almost invisible when mounted properly near the top of walls or on the ceiling.

Air conditioners use a lot of energy so whatever type of air conditioning unit you choose be aware of the environmental impact and your true cooling needs. There are many manufacturers to choose from including Trane, Carrier, Rheem, Sanyo and York just to name a few.…

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