Willis Carrier invented the electric air conditioning system in 1902. Carrier received a patent on his invention in 1906. Carrier also invented an automatic thermostat to control his air conditioner.
Carrier’s air conditioner was designed to cool air and reduce humidity. It used a compression-expansion cycle to cool a refrigerant that could absorb heat from the air and cause water in the air to condense. Modern air conditioners operate using the same engineering principle.
While the modern air conditioning system is based on tried-and-true engineering, air conditioning systems can be fickle. Here are ten air conditioning tips to keep your beach home cool this summer:
Choose the Right Kind of System
If your beach home does not have an air conditioning (AC) system, installing a new AC system can help keep your home cool. Before buying a new AC system, however, it is worthwhile for you to educate yourself about the types of systems available so you can choose the right system for the layout, size, and climate of your beach house.
Although Carrier’s air conditioning system is the basis of modern air conditioners, a few different systems have evolved using the compression-expansion cycle:
- Central air conditioning: This system has an outside compressor unit that compresses refrigerant. When refrigerant is compressed, the work of the compressor causes the temperature and pressure of the refrigerant to increase. The refrigerant passes through a condenser in the outside unit and gives up the heat but maintains its pressure. An inside unit includes an expansion valve and evaporator. When the high pressure is allowed to expand, then evaporate, its temperature drops dramatically. This temperature drop cools air blown over the evaporator. The cooled air is delivered throughout the beach home through ducts and blown into the home through air registers. These systems are best suited for beach homes with existing duct work that cool air can be delivered to keep your home cool.
- Window air conditioners: These systems operate on exactly the same principle as central air conditioning but they combine the compressor unit and evaporator unit into a single unit. Moreover, rather than blowing cooled air through ducts, the cooled air is vented directly into the room. These systems are well suited for small beach houses with one or two rooms.
- Ductless mini-split air conditioners: These systems include an outside compressor unit and a separate evaporator unit inside each cooled room. These systems do not use ducts. Instead of blowing air through your beach house, the system delivers refrigerant from the compressor to the evaporators. Because there are no ducts, you do not need to worry about leaking ducts, poorly insulated ducts, and duct cleaning. Moreover, because each room has its own evaporator, you can control the temperature in each room independently to keep your home cool.
- Reversible heat pumps: A reversible heat pump is essentially a central air conditioning system in which the condenser can also act as an evaporator, and the evaporator can also act as a condenser. During the summer, air is cooled by the evaporator inside the home to keep your home cool. During the winter, the evaporator becomes a condenser and air is heated by the condenser inside the home to keep your home warm. Reversible heat pumps provide a limited amount of cooling and heating. Therefore, these systems are especially well suited for year-round beach houses in climates that are not too hot during the summer or too cold during the winter.
- Hybrid systems: These systems use central air conditioning to keep your home cool during the summer and a furnace to keep your home warm during the winter. The central air conditioning and furnace use the same blower and ducts but are otherwise separate systems. These systems are the best option for beach houses in areas that experience a wider range of temperatures than a reversible heat pump can handle.
Choose the Right Size System
If your beach home has an air conditioning system, you can use the specifications from the existing air conditioning system when you buy a new air conditioning system. However, if your beach home does not have an existing AC system, you will need to calculate the capacity of the system you need.
When choosing an air conditioner, a bigger capacity is not better. Rather, you need a system that is not too large or too small for the size and climate of your beach home. Choosing a system with the right capacity is important for a few reasons:
- Large capacity systems are more expensive to buy than lower capacity systems.
- A system that is too large will be inefficient and you will pay extra on your cooling bill to run the system for capacity you do not use.
- An oversized AC system will run less frequently, preventing it from dehumidifying the air.
- Larger systems have a greater carbon footprint than smaller systems.
- An AC system that is too small will run more frequently and at higher loads, shortening the system’s life.
- An undersized system will not cool or heat the space completely.
- A system with capacity on the low end of the range will not be able to cool your beach home on peak demand days, even if it runs fine the rest of the time.
You can find calculators online for estimating the capacity of an AC system for your beach home based on square footage, number of windows, number of doors, and ceiling height. However, HVAC installers can provide a professional estimate of the right size system for your beach home. You may even benefit from obtaining a few estimates to ensure that you are getting the right size system to keep your home cool.
Install the System in the Right Place
When you have an air conditioning system installed, be flexible about the location of the compressor. The installer will likely suggest a few locations that meet the following criteria:
- Close enough to the beach home that the coolant lines can be run inside easily.
- Out of direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. The AC system will not run as efficiently if it gets hot exactly when you need to keep your home cool.
- Protected from falling or flying objects. Wind storms, leaves and fruit from trees, and other objects striking the compressor can damage it and require costly air conditioning repairs.
- Safe from wind storms. Wind during hurricanes or tropical storms can damage or even carry your compressor unit away.
File Your Product Registration
When you buy a new AC system, make sure you keep your receipt and installation paperwork and file your product registration card online or by mail. These records will be needed if your AC system is defective and you require a repair under the warranty offered by the AC manufacturer.
In some cases, the HVAC company that installed your AC system might file your warranty card for you. Make sure you receive a confirmation or copy of the warranty registration card in case you cannot reach the HVAC company and need warranty service. Also, you will need to provide a copy of the warranty card to a buyer if you sell your beach house before your AC system warranty expires.
Prepare It Before You Use It
If you already have an air conditioning system installed in your beach house, you should inspect it every summer before you turn it on. Turning it on without first inspecting it can cause damage, particularly if parts have corroded or objects have fallen into the compressor over the winter.
Aside from avoiding damage to your air conditioning system, HVAC systems operate at peak efficiency if they are inspected twice a year and receive regular air conditioning maintenance. Some of the air tasks that will be performed during inspections and maintenance include:
- Change filters: Changing the filters not only helps airflow and allows the system to keep your home cool efficiently, but it can also reduce allergies triggered by airborne dust, pollen, and animal hair that collect on the filters.
- Inspect electrical system: Corrosion and small animals can damage wiring and electrical contacts. This can prevent a system from working correctly and create an electrocution hazard.
- Clean the compressor: A compressor clogged with leaves or other debris is at risk of overheating.
- Inspect coolant lines: Leaky coolant can be dangerous and cause your AC system to malfunction or run poorly.
- Lubricate and inspect the blower and blower motor: A noisy system can sometimes be fixed by lubricating the blower and blower motor and cleaning it of debris.
Use a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats can save up to 10% on energy every year when used correctly. Contrary to urban legend, AC systems are more efficient when they are turned off or turned down when you are not at home or overnight. Thus, you will save money by programming a thermostat to turn off (or warm up) when you are not at your beach home, and turn on to keep your home cool when you return.
The next evolution of programmable thermostats is the smart thermostat. The smart thermostat connects to your WiFi network so that it can be controlled by a phone app or PC software. This provides many benefits that can save up to 30% on your energy bills per year:
- A smart thermostat can be programmed using your phone when you have already left home.
- Smart thermostats can sense when you leave home by sensing when your phone leaves your WiFi network or leaves a predefined range defined by Bluetooth.
- Smart thermostats can learn your patterns and react automatically to adjust your air conditioning system accordingly.
Close Your Windows When Your AC is On
There is a school of thought that you must open a window to “pull” cold air through the home when your air conditioning system is running. According to this theory, opening a window helps the air conditioning system keep your home cool by creating airflow through your home.
This theory is wrong. Leaving windows open when your air conditioning system is running can have many negative effects on your AC system.
- Air cooled by the AC system will be blown out of the open window and must be replaced. This costs energy and money.
- Since the air is not being cooled as quickly, the thermostat will keep the AC system running. This wears out your AC system.
- Open windows allow humid outside air into the home. This defeats the dehumidifying benefits of AC systems.
The only time a window should be open when running an AC system is when you have a window air conditioner. Because these AC systems include window installation, the window must remain open to pull in fresh air and vent heat from the beach house to keep your home cool.
Turn It Off at Night
Most beach homes receive a cool breeze at night off the ocean or lake. This can be used to cool your home at night instead of air conditioning. Using this cool air can reduce your cooling bills and reduce the load on your air conditioner. If you do not have a programmable or smart thermostat, you can simply use the thermostat control to turn off the AC at night.
You will likely want to create airflow through your beach home to take full advantage of cool outside air. You will need to open windows on opposite ends of the home so the inside air can be displaced by the outside air blowing in. You may also use box fans, ceiling fans, or the fan setting on your AC system to move air through the home to keep your home cool.
Insulate Your Home
Although it is more associated with winter heating, insulating your home will also keep your home cool. Heat is energy and moves from warm areas to cool areas. During the winter, this causes heat to move out of the warm home into the cold outside air. During the summer, this causes heat to move into the cool home from the hot outside air.
Insulating windows, doors, and garage doors, for example, can be a quick and easy way to prevent cool air from your AC system from mixing with warm air coming in from outside. If your windows and doors were not sealed when they were installed, caulk can create an airtight seal. Similarly, if your garage door seal has worn down since your garage door installation, replacing the seal can stop warm air from flowing into your home.
Prepare for Winter
At the end of summer, prepare your AC system for winter. This will protect your AC system during the cold, wet, and windy winter weather and ensure it will be in working condition when you need it next summer.
Whether you do it yourself or hire an HVAC services company to assist you, some steps you can take include:
- Clean debris from the compressor unit.
- Cover the compressor unit with a tarp.
- Change filters.
- Shut down power to the compressor.
- If your beach home is in a climate that freezes, wrap the coolant lines in insulation.
Having a good air conditioning system can make your beach home much more enjoyable. Keeping that air conditioning system in good working order can save you money on replacing and maintaining the system. Moreover, the system will operate more efficiently and your energy costs will be lower when the AC system is properly maintained.