Through mid-July, Arkansas experienced the fewest 90-degree days in the past decade. Many folks were enjoying comfort with minimal or no air conditioning. But, the dog days are here, and normal summertime temperatures have arrived. Thanks to the modern marvel of air conditioning, we can seek relief from the heat by the flip of a switch. Fortunately, window air conditioners make cooler homes possible for homeowners who do not have, and possibly cannot afford, central heating and cooling systems.
Window units have been around for a long time. The original patent date for a window-ledge air conditioner dates back to 1931. However, post-Great Depression economic barriers, limited power availability in rural America, and the efforts and sacrifices to support World War II thwarted access and popularity until the 1950s.
Today, nearly 25 percent of Arkansas’ electric co-op residential members seek relief from summertime heat with one or more window air conditioners. That is because window units offer many benefits. For instance, they are easily accessible from most retail or home supply box stores. There are many sizes available to accommodate a variety of spaces and rooms. Most are easy to install and, if you choose, removable after the cooling season.
Comfort comes with a cost, and much like a space heater, window units require a significant amount of energy for operation. Older, residential models can cost approximately $3 to $4 daily, or over $100 per month if operated 24 hours per day, seven days per week. However, newer models run more quietly and are more energy efficient. Some are equipped with a remote control, have oscillation distribution vents and more!
If you are in the market for a new unit or replacing an older model, it’s important to gather some information before shopping. Confirm the electrical outlet chosen for the unit and its corresponding electrical circuit can accommodate the operating wattage requirement. Overloaded electrical outlets and circuits can trip breakers, blow fuses and unfortunately, in rare cases, may cause a fire. When in doubt, always contact a licensed electrician to inspect and confirm that the outlet and circuit can handle the electrical needs of the window unit. In some cases, the electrician may need to install a dedicated line to assure safe and proper operation.
Also, you’ll need to know the square footage of room to be cooled. Simply measure and multiply the room’s length and width. For instance, a room 14 feet by 12 feet equates to 168 square feet. Also, measure and jot down the height and width of the window and carry these figures to the store. Manufacturers now utilize a package labeling index on each box that includes the information gathered from your home. Simply look on the label to confirm the room’s square footage and window size. Then, verify your selection accordingly. A smart energy tip when shopping for window units is to always look for the Energy Star® logo on the box. Like all Energy Star® appliances, window units with this designation are more energy efficient than their older counterparts.
Proper installation is important for efficient operation and health and safety. As unlikely as this may seem, window units can and do fall out, so be sure the unit is safely anchored per the manufacturer’s instructions.
To cap off an energy-efficient installation, seal out unwanted air leaks around the unit, window sill, sash and frame with foam gasket material. Also, seal out unwanted heat gain around the uninsulated expanding or accordion side-curtains by installing foam panels. This is a brilliant and custom-fit solution for
insulation, and air-sealing the uninsulated area between the unit and window frame. These do-it-yourself items are available from home supply box stores or online.
so be sure the unit is safely anchored per the manufacturer’s instructions.
In September, we’ll reveal the winners of our 10th Annual Energy Efficiency Makeover contest, the Great Light Giveaway, where 170 winners will be receiving an LED lighting retrofit kit containing over 70 LED bulbs generously donated by General Electric. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any energy efficiency questions. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/smartenergytips.org as well as listen to our podcasts.
Bret Curry is the residential energy marketing manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), which provides wholesale power to Arkansas’ 17 electric distribution co-ops.