Home maintenance - air conditioning

Summertime brings longer days, outdoor activities, and high electricity bills as air conditioners work overtime to keep the indoors cool and comfortable. Like all mechanical devices though, air conditioners wear down with use and need to be periodically replaced. This can be an expensive proposition, but doing research ahead of time can save money.

Air conditioner repairThe most important factor in buying a new air conditioner is deciding how large a unit is needed. Generally speaking, the larger the area that needs cooling, the larger the air conditioner needs to be. Buying a unit that is too small to handle the needs of the area may save money initially but is probably a poor longer-term choice. Occupants will have to suffer through rooms that are too warm, and energy bills will be higher than necessary since the unit will be running more than is optimal. This overuse can also result in additional wear and tear, potentially reducing the lifespan of the unit.

Buying the biggest model on the market is not an ideal choice either. The larger models will cool a house more quickly than a smaller model but will do so without removing enough humidity from the air. This can leave a room cool but damp. Bigger models are also more expensive to install and operate. Because of the downsides of buying an air conditioner that is either too big or too small, finding a unit that is rated for the specific square footage of a space is a key consideration.

Summer is hot in TorontoAnother important distinction is how energy efficient the unit is. Almost every unit on the market is described as energy-efficient, but there are objective standards to use for comparison. One such objective rating is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio which can help distinguish between models and highlight which is actually the most energy efficient.

A consumer can also save money by deciding if the whole air conditioning unit needs to be replaced or if only one part needs to be fixed. Air conditioners work by pumping coolant from the compressor outside through coils inside. Heat and humidity from the air inside transfers to the coolant, which is then pumped back outside. This effectively transfers the heat and humidity outdoors, leaving the air inside cooler and drier. If the compressor is not working, the coils are damaged, or coolant levels are not appropriate, the air conditioner will not function properly. Fixing one of these issues may resolve the overall problem without the cost of replacing everything.

Replacing an air conditioner is not always the final, or only, solution. Looking through the home or building for areas where cool air from the inside can leak through the cracks around windows and door frames, causing your air conditioner to work overtime and raising your hydro bill. It will save you money if you make the home or building more energy efficient so your home stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Caulking areas around windows and doors is a cheap alternative to replacing a seemingly inefficient air conditioner. Finally, adding insulation to walls and in the attic, and replacing old windows can also improve the energy efficiency of a home and help an air conditioner do its job better.

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Marisha Robinsky, REALTOR
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