Welcome to Part 4 of our look at your HVAC system – and a look at air conditioning. And again, we’re Boston-based, so it seems a little odd to be talking AC this time of year, but for our friends in Texas, Florida and Southern California, air conditioning is a year round necessity for your home. So without further ado …
Popular Mechanics published a great timeline in “a brief history of air conditioning”—so we’ll spare you the details, other than the facts that it was originally known by the unwieldy moniker “The Apparatus for Treating Air,” invented by Willis Carrier. It was such a big business, that his name is now synonymous with one of the world’s largest HVAC companies – and it also adorns the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.
At first a staple of industrial plants and later movie theatres, the first home to have air conditioning was the Minneapolis mansion of Charles Gates – and his AC unit was an unwieldy 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet long. You can’t blame him for rarely ever using the thing!
These days there are three main types of residential air conditioners—window units, ductless splits and so-called “central air.” Window or ductless split units will only cool one room, while central air implies cooling an entire house.
For the purposes of this piece, we will concentrate on the latter. Central A/C “conditions” the air in your home from a central area, typically near your heater—cooling and dehumidifying the air, then blowing it through your duct system and out through the supply air registers located in each room. An outdoor fan system moves the hot air from the air registers out of your home.
Central air conditioners rely on many of the same principles as your refrigerator, with one difference: “Air conditioners don’t have the exterior housing a refrigerator relies on to insulate its cold box. Instead, the walls in your home keep cold air in and hot air out.” Without good insulation in your home, rooms can become leaky, allowing conditioned air to escape and creating a comfort nightmare.
Once a luxury, air conditioning is increasingly a staple of newly-constructed homes. According to the U.S. census bureau, 88% of new single-family homes constructed in 2011 included some sort of air conditioning, showing the strong demand for more comfort and control in homes. However, too frequently, the luxury of central air conditioning is still controlled through thermostats, which will always force you to compromise your comfort
Like heating, one of the challenges of air conditioning is keeping the temperature comfortable throughout your home. One option is opening and closing vents, but this isn’t particularly efficient, and doesn’t allow for easy control on a room-by-room basis. It also isn’t particularly good for the air conditioner, and could lead to severe problems if it isn’t carefully monitored. We’d suggest checking out Ecovent, which gives you the power of room by room temperature control with your central air conditioning system. This allows you to be more comfortable throughout your home, while running your air conditioning system safely and efficiently.