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FRIDAY, AUGUST 17, 2007
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Window AC unit can save money when used right

Dear Jim: I thought about installing a window air conditioner instead of using my central heat pump to cool the entire house. Does this make sense to do and what window unit features should I look for? — Parker N.

Dear Parker: At times, it does make sense to use a window air conditioner instead of a heat pump or central air conditioner. If you are home alone, there is no need to keep the entire house cool when you will be primarily in just one room.

Even though a window unit is not as efficient as a central one, using it instead of the central one saves electricity overall.

During mildly hot weather, running a window unit may adequately cool much of the house because the total cooling needs are low. The same is true during the winter if you install a window heat pump model instead of a cool-only model. I use a heat pump model that vents through the window in my home office.

Efficiency

The efficiency of window air conditioners and heat pumps are called EER, or energy efficiency ratio. Some window air conditioners have an EER as high as 12. Central systems are rated by SEER or seasonal energy efficiency ratio, which is somewhat similar and some have a SEER as high as 20.

When selecting your window air conditioner, sizing it properly is important. The size of an air conditioner or heat pump is rated by its output in Btuh, or Btu per hour.

If a window model is too small for the room or area, it will run almost constantly and not be able to adequately cool the room on the warmest days.

If the model is too large and you live in a humid climate, it may not have to run long enough so the room will not be adequately dehumidified.

This creates a cool muggy feeling similar to a damp basement. Most retail outlets have charts with recommended cooling capacities for various room sizes. Factor it up a bit if your room has many windows or faces the sun.

The features you select should depend upon your budget and how it will be used. Select the highest efficiency model with perhaps fewer features even if it costs a little more initially.

Increasing the EER from 8.5 to 9.5 can save as much as about $400 over ten years in northern climates to about $750 in southern climates.

If you plan to use the window model in a bedroom, quiet operation is important. A model with a soft-start reduces the sound each time it cycles on.

For the most electricity savings, select a model with an option so the blower cycles on and off with the compressor. Also consider a feature that varies the cooling output as the cooling needs of the room change.

The following companies offer window air conditioners: Fedders, (908) 604-8686, www
.fedders.com; and Friedrich, (800) 541-6645, www.friedrich .com; Frigidaire, (800) 374-4432, www.frigidaire.com; General Electric, (800) 626-2005, www .geappliances.com; and Whirlpool, (800) 253-1301, www.whirlpool .com.

Energy tax credits

Dear Jim: We are having a house built and it will be energy efficient. I know I can take the energy tax credit for improvements to an existing house. Can I take the tax credit for efficiency items installed in our new house? — Bob J.

Dear Bob: You will realize the energy tax credits for a new house. The builder can take them when the house is being built and hopefully pass the savings on to you. These savings may already be figured into the building cost quote.

If the builder does not take the tax credits, you can take them in the year when you actually move into the house as your primary residence.

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

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