Why are PCs like air conditioners? They quit working properly when you open Windows. Get it? But when all your windows are closed and the AC still isn’t working properly, it doesn't seem funny anymore. Thousands of Westchester homes are so leaky, that even when windows are tightly shut, the AC (air conditioning) is working in overdrive to compensate for the escaping air. It probably seems your electric company is playing the joke on you when you get the monthly bill. So what can you do to make AC affordable, even on the most sweltering summer days?
Build up your home’s defenses
Being comfortable takes more than pumping cold air into a hot room--you've got to defend against the heat too! There are two main things you can do: air sealing and insulation. “The better a house is insulated, the better it will maintain cooling and keep the heat from infiltrating your home,” says Vince Hannigan, Home Performance Coordinator of Bruni & Campisi Energy and Conservation Services. Hannigan explains that insulation is an extra layer between your home, and the outside temperature; it keeps cold air in, and hot air out. But without proper air sealing, insulation can’t do it’s job. Air sealing is the process of using foam, caulk or other materials to seal up all of the tiny holes, cracks and other openings where air is leaking from your home. Each individual hole may be tiny, but when you add them all up, it’s usually the size of a standard window… it’s like having a window wide open year round, leaking the cold air you’re paying for.
Summary: Defense = air sealing + insulation
Maximize the impact of your offense
Once your defensive bases are covered, it’s time to move onto a strong offensive strategy. The most efficient way to quickly cool a hot room is by using ENERGY STAR rated air conditioning equipment. ENERGY STAR ACs use less BTUs than other systems, which means less energy consumed, and lower electric bills. For homes with duct systems, Hannigan recommends central air conditioning units by Carrier or Luxaire. However, if you aren’t ready to install central AC, another option is a ductless mini-split system. “We prefer Mitsubishi. They’re the highest efficiency rated systems, and you can better zone control a certain area,” he says. “Last but not least, maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Most people do not have their systems cleaned and tuned each year and they should. Keeping the coils clean is what allows the AC system to breathe, and if it can't breath it runs harder, longer, and less efficiently.”
Summary: Offense = ENERGY STAR units + maintenance.
By now you’re probably wondering where to even start. Lucky for you, Westchester County is home to a non-profit organization that helps Westchester residents become as energy efficient as possible. It’s called EnergizeNY, and the staff are there to help homeowners sift through all of the different programs out there, and find the best energy efficiency options for each person. Elyssa Rothe, Education and Support Director and Energize NY says, “The first step is to get an energy assessment to see what the best options are for your home. It’s free for most NYers. The second thing is to implement the most cost-effective energy upgrades with a certified contractor.” It’s very easy to get an energy assessment, just sign up at www.EnergizeNY.org , or call the office at (914) 302-7300 to find out more.