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Energy Efficient Air Conditioning
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement
In order to get the most out of your air conditioning system, it is
important to understand the different designs, components, and
operating principles. Paying close attention to the proper sizing,
selection, installation, maintenance, and correct use are keys to
lowing your overall costs.
How it Works:
Air conditioners and refrigerators work in very similar ways. Air
conditioners consist of chemicals that convert from a gas to a
liquid and back again. It uses these chemicals to transfer heat from
the air inside of a home to the outside air. The system is divided
into three main parts which include a compressor, a condenser and an
evaporator. The condenser is an outdoor coil and the evaporator is
an indoor coil. The compressor is a pump that moves a heat transfer
fluid (or refrigerant) between the evaporator and the condenser. The
compressor pushes this fluid through the circuit of tubing and fins
in the coils. It is when the fluid evaporates in the indoor
evaporator coil, that hot air is removed and the home becomes
Types of Air Conditioners:
• Room Air Conditioners: Used to provide cooling only where needed.
They cool off individual rooms, as opposed to the entire house.
Generally, they are cheaper than central air systems; however, their
efficiency is typically lower. Small systems can work off any
115-volt household circuit. Larger models will need a dedicated
• Split-System Central Air Conditioners: Central cooling units used
in homes, where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not
feasible. Mini-split systems are ductless, individual cooling units
that require a conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant
tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain to link an outdoor
compressor/condenser and indoor units.
• Packaged Central Air Conditioners: Used to cool an entire home.
Supply ducts and registers carry cooled air from the air conditioner
to all areas of the home. As the air begins to get warmer, it then
flows back to the central air conditioner through return ducts and
registers and the process is repeated. A central air conditioner is
either a split-system unit or a packaged unit.
British Thermal Units (BTU's) are used to rate the size of air
conditioners. A different rate is given depending on the number of
BTU's of heat that can be given off per hour. An air conditioner's
efficiency, performance, durability, and initial cost rely greatly
on not only its size (BTU rating), but also on the below factors.
• The amount of heat the occupants and appliances in your home
• The amount of shade that is on your home's windows, walls, and
• The amount of insulation in your home's ceiling and walls.
• The size of your home and how many windows it has.
• The amount of air leaking into your home from the outside.
Make sure that when installing an air conditioning system, you know
that bigger is not always a better option. The size of your home and
proper installation play a bigger role on the success of your
system. Consult with a professional installer about the air
conditioning system that is right for your house.
Air Conditioner Efficiency
Investing in an energy efficient air conditioner is highly
recommended. You will find a price tag attached to such models, but
the money you will save in the long run will not only cover the
initial cost, but it will save you more. Each air conditioner has an
energy-efficiency rating. Room air conditioner are rated using the
Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER. Central air conditioners are rated
using the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. These ratings
can be found on the Energy Guide Label. Certain manufacturers will
also use the EnergyStar® labeling program.
You will need to hire a qualified service technician when your air
conditioning system requires more than the usual maintenance. You
want to make sure that you are not getting ripped off during these
service visits. To ensure that you are getting proper service, make
sure that your technician covers the following check ups:
• Checks the refrigerant for the proper amount. A low level
indicates a leak, to be found and repaired before adding more Freon.
• Checks for leaks.
• Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems.
• Check the accuracy of the thermostat.
• Clean evaporator and condenser coils, as needed.
• Check filters and condenser.
• Check all electrical components and controls.
• Oil motors as needed.