Residential air conditioner units chill the home as well as adjusting humidity levels. The
conventional units remove excess humidity, swamp coolers add it. Theyre rated by SEER ratings which
indicate energy efficiency.
Efficiency will become much more important when Cap and Trade legislation takes effect, because
energy costs are going to go through the roof.
Theres other things that homeowners can do to control energy usage and
lower power bills.
The Typical Central Air Conditioner
that share a blower with ductwork are generally installed in most modern homes during the initial construction.
Theyre composed of an evaporator coil (located in the furnace), a condenser unit (sits on a small
slab or on cinder blocks outside the home), and the insulated ductwork (the air distribution system).
It is worth noting that some homes really don't need this much horsepower. It doesnt make any
sense to pour appliance funds in a large central system for the homeowner or condo resident who
only experiences short and mild summer seasons.
Luckily, there are some some more affordable alternatives for just these situations.
Consider Window-Mount Air Conditioner Units
Window-mounted AC units arent engineered to be portable, but they perform a great service in
cooling a single room or work area. When might one be considered? Its a great solution for a
Its impractical and wasteful to install a central unit in a case like this in areas that dont
get much of the summer doldrums.
Another situation to consider is when engaging in a remodeling project and adding on a room.
Regardless of whether hiring a home addition contractor or taking it on as a do-it-yourself effort,
the additional cubic footage will most likely overwork the existing central system.
The installation of an auxiliary window unit will keep straining the the central unit.
Portable Air Conditioning Units
Portable air conditioning units are becoming more popular and provide a good return on investment.
They carry the advantage of being easily moveable from one room to the next. Its also considered
by some to be green environment control.
This is because a minimal energy consumption is being used to provide a reasonable comfort level.
Another area these windowless air conditioners are useful is where it's just not practical to
drain the condensed humidity that they recover from the air.
These units have a removable pan that slowly fills with water. As soon as the pan nears being full,
a sensor will shut the unit down, thereby avoiding a spill. Very clever.
When are Swamp Coolers the Right Choice?
Swamp coolers are made just for use in hot dry locations. With the lack of ambient humidity, the
one thing not to do in these locations is attempt to remove even more moisture from the surrounding
As a matter of fact, swamp coolers are designed to provide the opposite effect. They add additional
humidity to the home air. This is why theyre also called evaporative coolers.
How Swamp Coolers Work
Evaporative coolers are surprisingly simple. Basically, its a box with blanket pads, usually a
cellulose material, suspended inside it. It uses a water pump to regulate the moisture content held
in the cellulose.
As the blower fan moves the returning warmer air through the cellulose, the moisture
The resulting evaporation then cools this air by what might be called a radiator effect. The change
in temperature is up to about 20 degrees. The cooled air is moved into the living space by the fan.
In this manner, the home is cooled and humidified.
What to Look for in a New A/C Unit
Even though the a houses square (or more accurately, cubic) footage determines the tonnage of
the air conditioner system, the key thing from a ROI perspective is the systems energy efficiency.
For central systems, look for the SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) while window
units specify a EER rating (Energy Efficiency Rating).
Most units range between a rating of 13 to 16, with 16 being more efficient.
Additionally, look for the Energy Star label. This is a good indication that the new system will keep
your utility bills low. Energy tax credits have changed with the Obama economic stimulus package, mostly
for the better, and a new AC purchase may qualify.
Tax credits are designed to lessen the amount of taxes a homeowner owes, whereas deductions apply to
the earned income that is subject to tax.