My home is at least 10 degrees above the outside temperature at all times. When it’s a comfortable 70 degrees outside, it’s 80+ inside. Everyone says summer in Seattle is the best, but I find it hard to enjoy it when my home is so warm. Do I need air conditioning? And if so, what do I need to do to keep it maintained? — Anthony
We live in an area, Anthony, where air conditioning is a question of preference. As you mentioned, summer is generally comfortable. We sit in the pocket between 75-85 degrees and we don’t usually need to deal with unbearable humidity. Compare this to the southern regions of the United States, where the thermometer consistently touches 100 degrees. You better have air conditioning if that’s what your summer looks like.
But the Pacific Northwest is different. Some houses have enough shade from trees that the cost of air conditioning doesn’t make sense.
It sounds, Anthony, as if your home is not one of those. It would be wise to add air conditioning as it will help with your quality of life!
So what should you be considering?
The 2 main options are a unit versus central air. An air conditioning unit can be purchased at Lowe’s or Home Depot and the cost varies. These units are usually single-room air conditioners that wedge into a window. Central air, on the other hand, has an external piece of machinery that works as a condenser, usually in the backyard. A set of pipes runs from the external machine to an air handler located near the furnace.
While a unit might be cheaper on the front end because you can install it yourself, central air has its benefits in terms of ease of use, home aesthetics, and efficiency, which is a big deal on your monthly bills! What works best for you, Anthony, is dependent on your budget and end goals. We’d be glad to walk through your options!
The Other Half
But installing an air conditioner is half the battle. You also need to consider the best ways to use and maintain the system to keep it efficient and to keep you and your family comfortable.
For starters, change your filters every month for maximum efficiency. Filters actually have a rating to help you understand efficiency, called the minimum efficiency reporting value (or MERV). 1-4 is on the low-end for residential units. 9-12 is on the high end. The rating goes up to 20, not that you’d need that efficient of a filter.
Additionally, keep your air conditioning on a timer. There’s no need to cool your home when you’re not around. You can save money and still feel comfortable if you connect your air conditioning to a timer on your schedule.
Also in terms of efficiency, keep doors in your home open so air can run through from room to room. And keep windows and blinds closed. You want the cool air to stay contained in your home.
From a bigger picture, you’ll want someone to come in annually to give your system a comprehensive check. We’d be glad to help! We’ll check to make sure your compressor and condenser are free from impediments. It’s good to have 24 inches of space around the unit. We would also check on insulation. Just as insulation helps efficiency in the wintertime to keep warm air in, insulation in the summer ensures cold air making it through your ducts and into your home.
Laws are trending toward higher and higher efficiency requirements so most AC units that are older probably don’t make the cut. But it’s good to upgrade or to get something that is efficient, not only for law requirements, but also for long-term cost benefits.
We’d be glad to navigate the air conditioning dilemma with you, Anthony. Summer will be much more enjoyable if you are comfortable in your home!
Have a question for Careothers? Email him atAskCareothers@TendHome.com.