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Air conditioning

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This is a list of the most important GBA articles on air conditioning, fans, and natural methods of cooling.

If you are looking for an index that spans all categories, with a special focus on “how to” articles, check out this resource page: “How to do Everything.”

  • Green Basics

    Air Conditioning

    For Central Systems, Look for High SEER Score UPDATED 5/30/2012

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Air Conditioner Basics

    What does a Vermonter know about air conditioning? I live so close to the Canadian border that half of the radio stations are in French. If my house needs cooling, I just let the fire in the wood stove die down. When I first began reporting on air conditioning topics over a decade ago, I felt out of my element. Impelled by the certainty that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, I’ve managed over the years to badger a few air-conditioner experts, all of whom contributed to my education. So now I finally know the difference between an evaporator coil and a condenser coil.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Air Conditioner Performance In Extreme Heat

    During the last week of June, many major U.S. news outlets sent reporters to Arizona to issue updates on the area’s extreme heat wave. Outdoor temperatures hit 119°F in Phoenix. Some airplanes were grounded because the hot air was too thin for small jets to take off. Car steering wheels were so hot that some drivers wore oven mitts. Vinyl records delivered by mail arrived warped. Emergency room physicians reported an increase in burn cases: hands were burned when people touched their cars, and children’s feet were burned when they went barefoot outdoors.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Climate-Specific Air Conditioners

    If you live in a humid climate (for example, in Florida), you need an air conditioner that does a good job of dehumidification. But if you live in a dry climate (for example, in Nevada), dehumidification is almost irrelevant, because the outdoor air is so dry. In Nevada, all you need is an air conditioner that lowers the temperature of the air in an energy-efficient way.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Window-Mounted Air Conditioners Save Energy

    Window-mounted air conditioners (also called room air conditioners) aren’t particularly efficient; the best available models have an EER of about 10 or 11. Central air conditioners (also called whole-house air conditioners or split-system air conditioners) are significantly more efficient; it’s possible to buy one with an EER of 14 or even 15. So if you care about energy efficiency, you should use a central air conditioner, not a window air conditioner — right? Well, not necessarily.

  • Building Science

    A 3-Ton Air Conditioner Will Rarely Give You 3 Tons of Cooling

    Today I'm going to give you three reasons why your 3 ton air conditioner isn't really a 3 ton air conditioner. Of course, there are more than three reasons, starting with the fact that it's not 3 tons in weight. That unit refers to cooling capacity and harkens back to the days of ice.

  • Energy Solutions

    Choosing an Air Conditioner

    [Author's note: Some modifications have been made since this blog was originally posted.] I have never owned an air conditioner, and I don’t have any immediate plans to change that. But if I did, what would I look for? For only occasional use and when you don’t want to spend more than $1,000, the options are limited to room air conditioners, which are most commonly installed in windows. These cool the rooms in which they are installed, though in a small house or one that’s very-well-insulated and tight, a single window unit may be able to cool much of the house.

  • Building Science

    How to Tell If Your Air Conditioner Is Oversized

    Back in 2009, I had a new air conditioner installed our condo. The previous one was an ancient 25 years old and barely limping along. It wasn't cooling much, and the summer electric bills had risen.

  • Energy Solutions

    Removing Moisture from Homes with Air Conditioners

    Last week, I addressed strategies for controlling moisture sources in homes during the summer — one of the contributors to discomfort during hot humid summers. This week, I’ll examine how to remove unwanted humidity using air conditioning equipment, starting with some fundamentals. To understand moisture removal, it’s important to brush up on a bit of physics. Air is able to hold only a finite amount of water vapor, and that amount is governed by the temperature of the air.

  • Building Science

    Simple Steps to Improve Air Conditioner Performance

    It's getting hot out there. Here in the Southeast, we love our air conditioning.  In fact, without air conditioning, far fewer people would live in places like Houston, Hattiesburg, and Sopchoppy. And that's true for the hot, dry places, too, like Phoenix, El Paso, and Boron. So if we're going to have air conditioning in our homes, we want it to work.  It should be effective and efficient.  It should keep us cool without creating new problems, such as excessive noise, bad indoor air quality, or comfort that varies from room to room.

  • Guest Blogs

    The Difference Between Air Conditioners and Dehumidifiers

    There’s a great Patton Oswalt bit where he contemplates meeting George Lucas in 1996 (gotta love the oblique intros). After slobbering over the original Star Wars trilogy and just about suffering an aneurysm over a possible new trilogy, his enthusiasm tapers off dramatically. He finds out what the new movies will be about, namely all the background filler behind his favorite characters and moments — which he hasn’t the palest interest in. To paraphrase, we don't care where the stuff we love comes from; we just love them.

  • Article

    Central Air Conditioning: Bigger Isn’t Better

    Whether it's new or a replacement, a properly sized and installed system affords greater savings and comfortWhether upgrading your underpowered air conditioning system, or installing a brand new unit, it is important to know exactly what you need.

  • Q&A Spotlight

    Does Radiant Floor Cooling Make Sense?

    Steve Mackay is already committed to radiant floor heat in the house he is building. Why not, he wonders, use the same system for cooling?

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Calculating Cooling Loads

    A few decades ago, residential air conditioning was very rare in colder areas of the U.S., and cooling load calculations were usually unnecessary. These days, however, new U.S. homes routinely include air conditioning equipment, even in Minnesota, so most U.S. builders are faced with the need to calculate cooling loads.

  • Energy Solutions

    Resilient Design: Natural Cooling

    Over the past month and a half, my blogs been focusing on resilient design — which will become all the more important in this age of climate change. Achieving resilience in homes not only involves keeping them comfortable in the winter months through lots of insulation and some passive solar gain (which I've covered in the previous two blogs), it also involves keeping them from getting too hot in the summer months if we lose power and our air conditioning systems stop working.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Fans in the Attic: Do They Help or Do They Hurt?

    There’s a lot of confusion surrounding attic fans. Here at GBA, we regularly receive e-mails from homeowners with questions about attic fans: What’s the purpose of the fan in my attic? How often should I run it? Do I need a bigger fan? Before addressing these recurring questions, it’s important to define our terms. First, we need to distinguish between three different types of ventilation fans.

  • Green Building Curmudgeon

    Ceiling Fans Are Evil

    I can’t count the number of times I have walked past a neighbor’s home and seen the porch ceiling fans running with no one there to appreciate them. All the fans are doing is wasting electricity and contributing a little heat to the outdoor air. I am tempted (although I have never acted on the impulse) to pull the chains and turn the fans off or leave the neighbors a note.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Using Ceiling Fans To Keep Cool Without AC

    When I was a young backpacker traveling through India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand in the 1970s, I couldn’t afford air-conditioned hotels or restaurants. In these tropical conditions, I became quite accustomed to the benefits of Casablanca-style fans.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    Hot-Climate Design

    People who live in Florida or Texas often accuse energy-efficiency experts of having a cold-climate bias. They’re right: most energy-saving tips are written with cold-climate buildings in mind — perhaps understandably, since Americans spend about twice as much for residential heating as they do for cooling. Whatever the origins of this pervasive cold-climate bias, it’s time to rectify the situation with a few hot-climate design tips.

  • Musings of an Energy Nerd

    My House is Too Hot

    During the summer, your house is too hot. What’s the solution? The simplest thing to do, of course, is to get a bigger air conditioner. That crude solution certainly works: if you blast enough cold air into a building — even a leaky, poorly insulated building — you can lower the indoor air temperature. (Of course, adopting this approach is no guarantee of success, since central air conditioning systems are often poorly designed and haphazardly installed.)

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