Cooling Options for the Hot Months
LESLIE: Gayla in Washington is on the line looking for some cooling solutions. How can we help you today?
GAYLA: So we’re looking at installing air conditioning into our home. We’re wanting to seal all the areas so it doesn’t get hot here too much – maybe like one to one-and-a-half months out of the year – but we really need it during that time. And so, we’re not sure if we really want to go the central-air route to get a full system or if – like if we could – we have a gas furnace. If we could get a gas one – or they also talked about heating pumps. We just don’t really know what the options are and what’s going to be the best investment in our money but also going to be effective during those hot months.
TOM: OK. How big is your house, Gayla?
GAYLA: It’s about 2,700 square feet.
TOM: Oh. And you want the entire house cool and comfortable and done evenly?
GAYLA: Yeah, pretty much. I mean the downstairs is already relatively cool but not the upstairs at all.
TOM: And you have a forced-air system right now?
TOM: Look, there’s no easy way to do this. You’re going to either get a central air-conditioning system or you’re not. If you had a smaller house or you had maybe just some limited, uncomfortable areas in the house, then what we might recommend is called a mini-split ductless, which can be used for zones in the house and big zones, like two-room combination kind of a thing. But I don’t think – you’re not – certainly not going to be able to evenly cool the entire first floor or the entire second floor of the house with a mini-split ductless. And frankly, you’d end up needing so many of them that it would be more expensive than putting in a central A/C system.
So what we would tell you to do is to go ahead and install a traditional central air-conditioning system, to make sure that the home is sized properly. And so the HVAC contractor can do a heat-loss calculation and figure out exactly how many BTUs you need, in terms of cooling power, to deliver cool temperatures on the hottest days of the summer.
You also want to make sure that the system that you use is an Energy Star-certified system, because that’s going to make a big difference in how much this is actually going to cost you to operate. The good news is is that the system is probably going to last twice as long as any other system in another part of the country because you’re going to use it half as much.
But there’s no inexpensive way to do this, even though you’re only using it for two months of the year. You’re still going to have to put in a central system with all the work that goes with that: buying the compressor, buying the evaporator coil, the condensing coil, the condensing pump, all that sort of thing. It’s a job, you know? So it’s going to be several thousand dollars to do this. But I would encourage you to make sure that you do it right and use the most energy-efficient system possible so it reduces your operating cost.
And also find out from your local utility whether or not there are any rebates available to you for using energy-efficient equipment. There very well may be; there’s an awful lot of them scattered about throughout the country.
GAYLA: OK. Great. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, Gayla? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.