As we gear up for summer many people are thinking about their cooling needs. And perhaps some of our friends in the Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino area are considering a room or window air conditioner in order to cool a specific room rather than a large central unit designed to cool the entire home or business. Room air conditioners are usually less expensive to operate than central units, but their efficiency is generally lower than that of central air conditioners. Well, those of us working here at GAMA Air want to provide you with some tips on selecting the right unit for your room and for installing and maintaining the unit.
Selecting the size
If you decide to go with a room air conditioner, it is extremely important to choose the proper size based on its cooling capacity. A unit with too much cooling capacity will be expensive to operate and although it may quickly cool the air it may not remain in operation long enough to dehumidify the air; making you feel ‘cold and clammy.’ On the other hand, a unit that is too small won’t cool the air enough and will simply be a waste of money.
The appropriate cooling capacity for a room air conditioner depends on the size of the room being cooled. Room air conditioners generally have cooling capacities that range from 5,500 Btu per hour to 14,000 Btu per hour.
Once you have determined the size unit (cooling capacity) needed for your room, you should then consider its operating efficiency. An efficient room air conditioner uses less electricity making it less costly to operate.
A room air conditioner's efficiency is measured by the energy efficiency ratio (EER). The EER is computed by dividing Btu/h (cooling output) by the watts of power consumed (electrical input) in accordance with U.S. Department of Energy Test Procedures. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner. Thus, a 12,000 Btu/h model which uses 1,900 watts to operate will have an EER of 6.3, while another model of the same capacity might use 1,350 watts giving it an EER of 8.8. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the unit is.
Before installing a room air conditioner, you need to check your home wiring for the right circuit amperage and voltage. Smaller room air conditioners (those drawing less than 7.5 amps of electricity) can be plugged into any 15- or 20-amp, 115-volt household circuit that is not shared with any other major appliance. Larger room air conditioners (those drawing more than 7.5 amps) need their own dedicated 115-volt circuit. The largest models require a dedicated 230-volt circuit. Be sure the outlet is properly grounded. Never remove the grounding prong from the plug.
If possible install the unit in a shaded window. Be sure to keep all windows and doors tightly shut and add weather stripping if needed to help keep warm air out. Close fireplace dampers and seal openings to the attic or other uncooled areas. You may wish to consult a professional for advice on recommended ceiling and wall insulation. Just give us a call here at GAMA Air, we’ll be happy to help.
Additional tips for energy efficiency and maintenance
- During cooler periods turn off the unit and open doors and windows to the room.
- To help draw in cooler outside air and increase circulation be sure to use the unit’s fan and other portable fans if available.
- Set the thermostat to a higher (warmer) setting during peak periods or when the room is unoccupied. A setting of 75 to 80 degrees will cut power consumption by 15 percent.
- Avoid activities that generate heat and humidity (i.e., cooking, showering and laundering) during high heat hours.
- Close the shades or window blinds to reduce solar heat and outdoor heat. Also, having reflecting and double-pane glass will help. You may also consider placing the unit under or near an awning, overhang, louvered sunscreen, trees or shrubs, fences or adjoining buildings which will provide shade – but be sure not to block the back of the unit.
- Be sure to change or clean the filters on a regular basis; and check air flow for blockage and evaporator coil for frost.
- Use a vacuum cleaner attachment to clean accessible parts of the unit but be careful not to damage them.
- Check and clean the unit at the start of the season. During the off season, make certain it is cleaned and then properly covered and disconnected.
A window AC is an option for some people. But if you are thinking of doing it because your central air cooling system isn’t keeping your house comfortable, it is possible there are other options for you that are better in the long run. Just give us a call here at (310) 651-6936 or use our online form to schedule a checkup.
Do you have a question about your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner? Visit our “Ask an Expert” page, fill out the form, and our resident expert will get back to you quickly.