Keeping cool

In Cayman’s hot and humid climate, keeping cool can be a challenge. And with the high price of electricity, it can also be costly. But with so many air conditioners on the market, how do you know which system will suit your home?

There are a number of factors that the buyer needs to consider, including the size of the premises, the air flow within the home, how each room is used, the position of windows and the home’s insulation.

Not all air conditioners are created equal with some far more efficient than others. This is essential to remember when deciding on a system for your house, as the electricity used to run air conditioners amounts to more than half a home’s average power bill.

A simple rule of thumb when choosing an air conditioner is that the higher the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating, the higher the efficiency and cost savings of the system. For example, a 10 SEER air conditioner requires 30 per cent more watts than a 13 SEER of the same tonnage or output.

A high-efficiency air conditioner will be more costly than a low efficiency system, but the expensive system will quickly pay for itself in terms of savings on your electricity bill.

The lowest standard system in Cayman is 13 SEER, but local companies offer clients higher SEER units. At Polar Bear Air Conditioning, central systems of up to 23 SEER are available.
“People should look at getting the highest SEER rating they can get,” says Allan Weech of Polar Bear Air Conditioning.

Allan also recommends that home owners invest in a hot water exchange unit, which uses the heat generated by an air conditioning unit to create free hot water.

For those who want to minimise their impact on the environment, solar-powered air conditioning units are available in Cayman. Polar Bear Air Conditioning stocks solar air conditioning units with a SEER rating of up to 32. And when the air conditioner is not in use, the solar power can be used to operate lighting and small appliances.

When choosing an air conditioning system, home owners also need to consider whether they want a centralised system or individual wall- or window-mounted units, known as ductless systems, which cool single rooms.

When deciding where to place an external condenser, find a shaded spot where the unit won’t be underneath the blazing sun, as this will increase energy costs. Allan believes it is a good idea to place the unit on the north side of the home.

Noise, or lack thereof, should be a factor when choosing an air conditioner. Listening to an air conditioner roar throughout the night can be annoying and can disturb your sleep, so find a model that offers quiet cooling.

Ensure your system has a fan-only switch, so the equipment can be used for night-time ventilation. A filter check light is also useful as it will remind the home owner to check the filter after a pre-determined number of operating hours.

Advances in air conditioning technology in recent years mean that modern systems offer far higher efficiencies than those produced previously, so even if your unit is only eight or 10 years old, it is worth upgrading.

No matter how efficient your air conditioning system, if your home is not properly sealed, all that lovely cool air will seep out and the hot air outside will find its way in. Proper seals on doors and windows are essential to keep out drafts and hold that expensive cold air inside, where you want it.

The position of windows in a home also determines how hot it gets indoors. Once the sun hits that glass, it’s going to get warmer inside. Double, triple or even quadruple glazing can help with this, as can blackout shades, blinds and curtains.

Once you’ve got your new air conditioner up and running, the next step is to ensure it is maintained properly. The experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning believe regular maintenance is the key to an efficient system.

Air conditioning systems are like cars. Unless you have them periodically serviced, their performance will be greatly reduced over time and their life span brought to a premature end.
Arrange for frequent inspections of the system as this will ensure enhanced performance, an extended lifespan for your air conditioner, reduced energy bills and fewer repairs in the long term.

The maintenance checks should include cleaning and/or replacing filters, inspecting the condenser and evaporator coils, checking the blower motor and wheel, and inspecting the safety controls.

Before deciding on a new air conditioning system, get a professional to carry out a heat load calculation on your home to ensure that you don’t choose a system that is too large or too small for your premises.