Charlie’s unscrambles 5 faulty (and expensive) notions about air conditioning
Iowa is a long way from Florida, but the team at Charlie’s Tropic Heating & Air Conditioning bets they know exactly how egg farmers there feel in the wake of new health studies that highlight the nutritional value of the “incredible, edible egg.”
Farmers in America’s No. 1 egg-producing state must feel vindicated now that the word is out that eggs do not raise cholesterol. Just as they are savoring the chance to herald the news from every hen house, Charlie’s enjoys unscrambling some faulty notions about air conditioning from every house in northeast Florida with a humming outdoor compressor.
The problem with these faulty notions is that they lead customers to make some unwise choices in programming their system. While these notions contain a trace of logic, they nevertheless escalate fears. This caused inconvenience or waste energy and our customers’ hard-earned money. These are the five faulty notions we hear most often at Charlie’s – followed by the sunny-side-up realities:
Faulty air conditioning notion #1
“I’m always nervous about catching a cold from air conditioning, especially as summer begins.”
Faulty notion unscrambled: There is no reason to fear catching a cold from air conditioning. The common cold is caused by a virus, especially the rhinovirus, as confirmed by medical experts at the Mayo Clinic. You can also get sick when viruses: enter the mouth and eyes; travel through the air, especially when someone sneezes or coughs; or are spread by touching contaminated items. You may want to turn up the temperature on your air conditioner until you adjust to cooler indoor air, but it alone will not make you ill.
Faulty air conditioning notion #2
“Sometimes my air conditioner seems to run a long time when all it has to do is cool down my home.”
Faulty notion unscrambled: On the hottest days, your air conditioner probably does run a long time to reach the temperature you’ve set on the thermostat. This is normal – and a good sign that your air conditioner is sized properly for your home. (See next notion.) Second, while cooling is an air conditioner’s main job, it is not the only one. It also removes humidity, which actually was the prime motivator behind Willis Haviland Carrier’s invention. Your air conditioner eliminates humidity that seeps in through your home’s envelope – the roof, sub floor, exterior doors, windows and exterior walls. It also breaks down the moisture you add to the indoor air every day through activities such as taking hot showers and cooking.
Faulty air conditioning notion #3
“So when it comes time to replace my air conditioner, I should buy the biggest unit I can afford, right?”
Faulty notion unscrambled: The technicians at Charlie’s would do their best to talk you out of this wasteful move.
Just as homes come in different sizes, air conditioners do, too. An air conditioner that is too small for a home will run much longer and most likely not last nearly as long as it could – and should. An over-sized air conditioner will cool down a house quickly, alright, but actually too quickly – before it has time to dehumidify.
So while a home may feel cool, it will feel oddly stuffy at the same time. (The technical term for when an air conditioner turns on and then very quickly turns off is “short cycling.” This situation, too, can undercut an air conditioner’s longevity.) Charlie’s technicians take the time to size an air conditioner by assessing a home’s square footage, orientation to the sun, insulation, windows and other factors before making a recommendation – and always an economical one.
Faulty air conditioning notion #4
“Then maybe I’ll try to reduce the burden on my air conditioner by running my ceiling fans all the time.”
• Faulty notion unscrambled: Unlike air conditioners, ceiling fans do not cool the air; they simply move it around.
Ceiling fans are designed to cool people through a “wind-chill effect” that evaporates moisture from the skin. As you sit near a spinning fan and the moisture disappears, you will feel cooler – so much so that the U.S. Department of Energy says you should be able to set your thermostat about 5 degrees higher, which should save money on your utility bill. Ceiling fans are a helpful augment to air conditioners – when people are in the room to enjoy them. But they will not reduce your home’s temperature by even 1 degree, even if you turn one to full speed in every room. They should be turned off when no one is in the room so they don’t needlessly waste energy.
Faulty air conditioning notion #5
“Then I guess what I will do is crank my air conditioner way down when I get home from work. This way, it will cool down my home faster.”
Faulty notion unscrambled: This is the notion Charlie hears most often. And most often, we use the “faulty car analogy” to explain that while your car runs at many different speeds and consumes gas based on your speed limit and driving habits, your air conditioner has two speeds: on and off.
When you turn on your air conditioner, it runs until it reaches the temperature you’ve set on the thermostat. Then it turns off. The notion that an air conditioner works “hard” or “harder” in this context is factually incorrect. (The exception: window air conditioners, which usually have “low,” “medium” and “high” settings and blast cool air accordingly.) Since no one wants to come home to a stifling home, Charlie’s recommends either:
- Raising the temperature by 10 degrees before you leave for the day. Your air conditioner can continue to cool and dehumidify your home during the day. This will leave you with only a 10-degree gap to bridge upon your return or,
- Installing a programmable thermostat so that you can set your home’s temperatures well ahead of time.
Programmable thermostats are the subject of our next article. So be sure to return to learn how they can keep your home comfortable and your utility bills in check. Programmable thermostats are such nifty devices that even Mr. Carrier, the “father of air conditioning,” would be tempted to call them the “egg frittata” of the heating, air conditioning and ventilation world – an ideal mixture of compelling ingredients that is hard to resist.