I write this on what is forecasted to be the hottest day of the summer so far this year. Our office, in a beautiful old building near the beach in Santa Monica, has a lot of windows but no air conditioning. Every summer we play a game of window and door roulette, opening some, closing others, to get the right balance of cool ocean air cross breezes. But when there is no breeze, well, we have no choice but to take frequent breaks to get popsicles!
Most households and many offices here in Santa Monica do not have air conditioning. The expense of owning and maintaining an air conditioner is rarely justified by the limited number of days air conditioning is needed. But when one of those days comes along, wow is it nice to have AC!
So, when to use AC and when not to use AC? Ultimately it depends upon personal preference, here are some tips to help determine your preference.
Typical home air conditioners are phase change heat exchangers that use a chemical refrigerant. The refrigerant, typically a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs), is set to be banned by the Montreal Protocol in 2020 because it contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. The next best chemical refrigerant, the HFC, contributes to global warming. We just can't win.
HCFCs are a problem when leaked into the environment. So the first tip is to keep your AC unit in good operating condition so that it doesn't leak. Your owner's manual will give a maintenance schedule to follow. Good AC maintenance vendors can be found at Angie's List or by calling us. We are always happy to help.
The second tip is to save energy by setting your thermostat responsibly, to no lower than 72 degrees. Program your thermostat to run your AC only when needed. There is no need to cool an empty home.
Third tip, if you haven't already, invest in a smart thermostat such as the Nest. Smart thermostats can be managed remotely and typically have a user-friendly interface. Speaking of which, no amount of efficiency settings on your thermostat or AC unit will do you any good if you don't know how to use them. Spend a minute reading your operating manual or watching a Youtube video tutorial.
If you are using fans to keep cool, Tip 4, try the "economizer" method. At night when the temperatures are cooler, bring cool air in using fans. During the day, shut windows and doors to keep that cool air inside.
Tip 5, during the day you can run a window fan on exhaust to pull the hot air out, just keep windows and doors closed.