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FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2007
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Portable A/C can save on bills

Dear Jim: I like fresh air, but my children have allergies, so I close the windows and air-condition sometimes. I thought about getting a portable air conditioner to use in various rooms. Are they efficient? Lynne M.

Dear Lynne: Using a portable air conditioner or heat pump would be an efficient solution for your family.

They are mounted on castors so you can easily roll one from room to room depending upon where your children are having problems.

Most operate on standard 120-volt electricity, so they can be plugged into any wall outlet near a window.

I use a Soleus portable heat pump model in my own home/office for year-round savings.

In addition to cooling the room during summer, it also functions as an efficient portable electric heater during winter. It produces 14,000 Btuh of cooling and 11,000 Btuh of heating (more than standard 120-volt space heaters).

A portable air conditioner /heat pump operates similarly to a typical window unit.

The primary difference is it is on castors and rests on the floor. Round air ducts, similar to dryer ducts, connect the unit to a window adapter.

You open a window, place the adapter in the opening and close the window against it. This exhausts the heat outdoors when cooling.

The efficiency of a portable air conditioner is similar to a window air conditioner. Although this is less efficient than the newest central air conditioners, using one can still save money.

By keeping just one or two rooms comfortably cool, you can set your central thermostat higher and save electricity overall. Use it in the dining room for dinner, roll it into the living room for television and then to the bedroom for sleeping.

There are two basic designs of portable units. One design uses a single duct to the window adapter.

This is the simplest system and works well, but it does draw some cooled or heated room air to the outdoors. I use a Northstar one-duct model, with a remote control, in my second-floor bedroom at night.

The other design uses two ducts. All of the air flowing through the condenser is drawn from outdoors and exhausted back outdoors. This is more energy efficient, especially when operating a heat pump model in the heating mode during winter. Some two-duct heat pump models can also be set up with only one duct.

Handling water

Another feature to consider is how the condensed water is handled in the cooling mode. Some evaporative models mix it with the air exhausted outdoors so there is nothing to empty.

Other models, which also work well as dehumidifiers, capture the water in a small tank which you must empty. I use the distilled water from the tank to water my plants.

The following companies offer portable air conditioners: Northstar, (800) 326-1365, www .freecomac.com; Soleus Intíl., (513) 985-1211, www.soleusair .com; Sunpentown, (800) 330-0388, www.sunpentown.com; Toyotomi, (203) 775-1909, www.toyotomiusa.com; and Windchaser, (800) 405-2943, www.windchaserproducts.com.

Dear Jim: I have a wood stove in a room that is over a storage cellar. I thought the heat would eventually work its way down to the cellar, but it does not. How can I get the heated air down into the cellar? Jan K.

Dear Jan: Heat energy from a hot stove radiates in all directions equally, but hot air rises as you have found. Put a vent through the floor in one corner of the room that is seldom used.

Somewhere near the stove, install a floor fan to blow the warm air down into the cellar. This will force cold air up the corner vent. By the time the cold air reaches people, it will have mixed with the warmer air and be comfortable.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.

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