I am hesitating between an air conditioner and a heat pump. Which one should I choose?
Given our Canadian climate and our heating needs, the purchase of a heat pump is strongly recommended. A heat pump provides unparalleled comfort and energy efficiency. Over the years, these products have undergone many technological improvements and several models available on the market operate at very low winter temperatures, even below -26° C. For a few hundred dollars more, you can rely on a system that will provide year round comfort, while allowing you to save energy during the heating period.
Since I don’t own the house I live in, what kind of unit should I install?
You have many options. First you must determine your budget and which rooms need to be air conditioned, either the whole living area or certain rooms only like bedrooms and the living room. Since you do not own the house, you will most likely opt for a mobile unit that you can bring with you when comes the time to move.
Window air conditioner
- Inexpensive, window or individual air conditioners are easy to install and represent the best option. It is worth it to shop around for your unit while taking these following tips into account:
- You should buy an air conditioner that suits the space you need to cool. Do not make the mistake of buying an overly powerful unit which reaches the set temperature faster therefore not running long enough to dehumidify the room. Resulting in an unpleasant feeling of discomfort due to the cold, damp air.
- Check the energy efficiency rating and opt for ENERGY STAR products
- In the store, ask salesperson to run the unit you are considering, this way you can assess the noise level.
- As with any other type of air conditioning unit, ask about the warranty and choose a unit backed by the best available warranty. Some very good quality products are covered by a 5 year warranty.
Portable air conditioner
- A portable air conditioner has wheels which makes it easy to carry from one room to another and requires minimal installation to be fully functional. It is usually installed near a window in order to place the exhaust duct in the opening of the window. Then once connected it is ready to operate. Portable air conditioners are affordable, compact and fit right into a closet once the hot season is over. They can be quite noisy and some may be bothered by the look and seeing the exhaust duct at the window.
My heat pump is at least 15 years old. Can I expect to wait another 5 years before replacing it?
Most heat pumps have a service life of about 15 years but seasonal maintenance by a certified contractor can extend the life span of the unit for several years. However, if energy savings are a concern, it is worth replacing it because newer units have undergone many improvements over the years and now offer significantly increased energy efficiency ratings than older models.
Other than electricity, are there any other energy sources available to power an air conditioning system?
For now, electricity is the main source of energy available to power air conditioning systems. Of course, by tapping free energy from the ground, geothermal systems are the air conditioning systems that use less energy. Geothermal systems only require electricity to power the heat pump but not to generate cooling or heating.
Major manufacturers are currently working on the development of net zero units. Among other methods, photovoltaics are being tested however no products are currently marketed.
What is the ideal cooling temperature?
It is strongly recommended to keep a house at a constant temperature of 22° C. Too often, and especially during heat waves, settings are lowered below 22° C, which can create huge gaps between the inside air and the outside air and cause harmful health situations. Health agencies recommend to never exceed a gap of over 8° C between indoor and outdoor temperatures. Also, very low indoor temperatures result in much higher electricity consumption.
Should my air conditioner run permanently?
It's mainly a question of comfort, but generally it is not necessary to operate the system permanently. Some basic precautions are suggested to reduce the operation hours of your air conditioning equipment, such as not leaving doors or windows open while unit is running and closing curtains and blinds to keep the freshness inside the house. When outdoor temperature are lower let the fresh outside air enter the house. This way you will increase your energy savings!
Some products on the market are designed to reduce unnecessary operation. Fujitsu RLS3H ductless heat pumps, for example, are equipped with an energy saving program (ESP) which manages operating ranges according to your activities. If you leave the room without turning the unit off, ESP knows that you left and 20 minutes later, set temperature is increased by 4°F when cooling and reduced by 8°F when heating. When you come back to the room, it returns to previous operating mode. This prevents wasteful operation to save energy without you having to think about it.