You might not have heatwaves on the brain. After all, this is Alberta, so it probably feels like winter just ended two weeks ago. So let’s set the mood… cloudless skies. Dry days. Hot nights. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cooling off on a hot summer day? Air conditioning. Well, that and maybe an ice-cold beverage!
Don’t fear, there are plenty of cooling solutions to make your home more comfortable during those scorching summer days. The catch? Some cooling options use more electricity than others, so we’ve created this handy guide to help you choose what’s right for you.
When it comes to A/C, there are three options to choose from: central, split, and window (portable) units.
Central and split air conditioning units are covered under Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations, so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for the EnerGuide label or ENERGY STAR® symbol. These labels assure you that the unit is one of the top energy performers on the market.
When shopping and comparing your options, you’ll also want to consider SEER ratings; SEER stands for ‘Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio’ (the ratio of the cooling output of an air conditioner over a typical cooling season, divided by the energy it uses in Watt-Hours). The current minimum SEER is 14 for air conditioners. The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient the unit, and the more money you’ll save over time!
So with these options and energy efficiency in mind, how do you decide what works best for your home? Let’s break it down.
Central vs Split
Central systems respond automatically to changing temperatures by treating the air in a central location and then distributing it throughout the home via fans and a series of ducts. They’re the most common because they’re less expensive to install and virtually invisible, but they do require annual maintenance and full cleanings every 3–5 years.
Ductless mini-split systems have two components: an outdoor compressor and an indoor air-handling unit. These components are linked together and operated by remote control. Because this system doesn’t require ductwork, it’s a convenient option for older buildings or condo buildings. You’ll pick your desired temperature and turn it on and off when needed. Split systems are often quieter and lower maintenance. On the downside, the wall units aren’t very attractive, and the initial installation cost is typically higher.
Window and portable units typically use less than 1/3 of the energy required for a central unit, but those savings can be eaten away if your home requires more than one unit. Window units are great for apartments and condos that may only require a small space or singular room to be cooled. They can also be handy as they’re often portable (dependent on model size and window availability) and they don’t require professional installation, making them the least expensive cooling option. Just be diligent in reading manuals and instructions in order to ensure proper usage and maintenance.
Looking for a breezier solution? Fans use about 1% of the energy of a traditional A/C unit, which means a lighter load on your energy bill. Added bonus, they also cost less upfront than an A/C unit! Fans offer the flexibility to position them wherever you need a little extra airflow in your home and can offer circulation benefits all year round.
The main downside is that they don’t cool as efficiently. Fans typically aren’t recommended when temperatures soar above 35 degrees Celsius, and they also aren't effective at removing humidity from the air, which holds heat.
To make the most of your portable fans or A/C units, you may want to kick it old school and consider installing a ceiling fan. We know, they can be an eyesore, but they’ve come a long way aesthetically, and they are still one of the best methods to cool down a room. You’ll want to make sure the blades are spinning counterclockwise in the summer to push cool air down and into your space.
Bonus Home Tips
Let’s face it, no matter what you do, some homes are hotter than others. Maybe your windows are south-facing, and trees are not providing enough shade? Or your humidifier is running all year round? Whatever the case, here are a few extra tips to help keep your home cool and comfortable.
- Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed. Any small holes and cracks found in your home can be responsible for letting hot air inside (and cold air in the winter). Check for proper seals around windows, doors, pipes, light fixtures, and really anywhere there’s a connection of materials entering or exiting your home.
- Keep the sun out. Window coverings are here to save the day, and they might make more of an impact than you’d think. You could notice a 10-degree difference from curtain closure alone! You’ll want to close curtains and blinds during the sunniest parts of the day, and then open them in the evening if you desire.
- Light shining in from your sun-soaked patio? Consider installing a retractable awning to help shade the space and keep light from shining into your home. Talk about double-duty!
- Dry it out. If you have additional humidifiers running in your house, summer is the time to consider turning them off. Humidity holds heat, so when the temperature crawls above the 25 to 30 range, ditch the humidifier.
- Too hot? Get out of the kitchen! Try preparing meals and cooking in the morning when it’s a bit cooler, use a slow cooker, or better yet — crank up the outdoor grill! By giving your oven a holiday for the summer, you'll eliminate extra heat coming from your appliances. Check out these salad, slow-cooker and grill recipes to keep your bellies full, and the inside of your home cool!
A little bit of planning up front can ensure a comfortable summer season. Get in touch with us if you want to talk through your energy options. Stay cool!