Are you in the market for a new air conditioner? Have you been considering a room air conditioner instead of a central air conditioner but aren't sure what you should be looking for? Purchasing an air conditioner of any type should be researched before hand simply due to the amount of electricity your air conditioner could potentially use. If you purchase the wrong unit you may end up with extremely large monthly electric bills and inefficient cooling.
As a consumer you definitely want to find the best performing unit for you. You want to find a unit which is very energy efficient because not only will it save you money in the long run, it's better for the environment as well. Energy efficiency is about making the best or most efficient use of energy in order to achieve a given level of comfort and convenience.
What is a Room Air Conditioner?
A room air conditioner is an air conditioning system designed to cool a room or rooms instead of the entire house. Do you live in a smaller home, townhouse, condo or even apartment? Would you prefer or do you require a non-permaneant air conditioning installation? If you answered yes then a room air conditioner may be a good matched for you. In comparison to central air conditioners, room air conditioners are dramatically less expensive to operate - even though they are often less efficient.
While central air conditioners often need higher voltage connections a room air conditioner can often be plugged into any 15- or 20-amp, 115-volt household circuit. If you have a larger room air conditioner you may need a dedicated 115 volt-circuit. In only the most extreme cases will you ever need a dedicated 230-volt circuit.
Room air conditioners are often vented or window mounted so they can effectively expel hot air out. Be wary of any room air conditioner that does not offer proper ventilation.
How are Room Air Conditioners Rated?
If you are familiar with central air conditioners you may be already familiar with the SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Room air conditioners are rated not on in SEER but rather in EER or Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER of a given room air conditioner is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity in British Thermal Units (BTU) per hour by the power input in watts. You can find room air conditioners offering a range of cooling powers from 5,500 BTU per hour to 14,000 BTU per hour.
While the national appliance standard requires that any room air conditioner built after 1990 to have an EER of 8.0 or greater, and the latest Energy Star standards require in some cases an EER of 10.7 or greater I support the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) recommendations. The ACEEE recommends at least an EER of 11.6. Why? This will guarantee your unit is energy efficient throughout the year and when it is needed most - the hottest summer months.
Selecting a Room Air Conditioner
Once you've decided to purchase a room air conditioner make sure you look for the Energy Star label. If every room air conditioner sold in the U. S. were Energy Star qualified, we could prevent 1.2 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions to put that into perspective that is equivalent to the emissions from 100,000 cars. Energy Star room air conditioners use at least 10% less energy than conventional models.
In the room air conditioner game Energy Star isn't the only certification to be looking for. You should also look for Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers or AHAM Certified units. Why? AHAM Certified room air conditioners have their EER ratings verified by an independent laboratory.
Getting the Right Size
Room air conditioners like all air conditioning units are rated by the number of British Thermal Units (BTU) of heat they can remove per hour. Another common way of rating air conditioners is by the “ton, " some example are 5,500 BTU per hour or 14,000 BTU per hour.
Getting the right size room air conditioner for your application is crucial. If you get the wrong size you can easily waste large volumes of electricity. The size of your air conditioner depends upon:
- How large is your home and how many do you have?
- How much shade do you have? Do you have shade on your home's windows, walls, and roof?
- Are the ceilings and walls of your home insulated properly?
- Do you have air leaks?
- How much heat do you, the occupants, and appliances generate?
Remember the key to any air conditioners efficiency and performance depend on you properly matching the size of the AC unit to your specific application.
If you find this a bit confusing then you can always use the free AHAM tool. AHAM offers a handy online tool which can help you calculate your air conditioner (or evaporative cooler) needs.
Installing your Room Air Conditioner
When you install a new room air conditioner you should try to locate the air conditioner in a window or wall area near the center of the room. It is also beneficial to install your air conditioner on the shadiest side of your house. Try not to let your installation increase air leakage - you can minimize this by fitting the either the room air conditioner or its ventilation snugly into its opening and sealing gaps with a foam weather stripping material.
Are Room Air Conditioners my only non-permeneant cooling option?
If you live in a drier climate, somewhere with a relatively humidity level below 50%, then you may be well matched for an “Evaporative Cooler" sometimes referred to as a “Swamp Cooler. " An evaporative cooler cools by using a fan to force air through moistened pads. As the hot air passes through the pads, the pads absorb the heat and cool the air in some cases as much as 15-20 degrees.
Evaporative coolers are not for everyone. In the wrong climate, in the wrong conditions an evaporative cooler can create conditions of high humidity in the air which in turn can cause condensation and even corrosion.
In the right conditions and climate, evaporative coolers, can provide cost very effective cooling. When compared to air conditioners, evaporative coolers use an average of 75% less electricity. Evaporative coolers are very energy efficient.
If you think you are a good candidate for an evaporate cooler you can use the free AHAM tool referenced earlier to calculate the proper size for your specific application too.
In many parts of the world air conditioning can seem like a life saver, but it comes at a cost - first in dollars spent for electricity, and second in carbon dioxide pollution from the generation of electricity. According to the the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) we create an astounding 140 million tons of CO2 cooling our homes. You can easily save electricity by purchasing a correctly sized Energy Star rated room air conditioner. By saving electricity you are doing your part to fight global climate change.
Sam Greyhawk is an energy efficiency evangelist who works with Cool-N-Save(tm), an Energy Star Partner, based in Huntington Beach, California.
Cool-N-Save(tm) is an energy efficiency device that instantly improves the efficiency of your existing air conditioner. Installed in ten minutes with no tools required, Cool-N-Save(tm) is an Energy Star Partner and has been scientifically proven by Tulane University to improve air conditioner efficiency by up to 30%. Saving energy helps fight global warming. Cool-N-Save(tm) is a low cost way for you to dramatically reduce your air conditioner energy usage.