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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2018
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Keeping cool


The Holy Week has traditionally signaled the start of the hot, scorching days of summer and this year was no exception. The days are now searing hot and that will make keeping cool a constant challenge in the coming weeks.

Our first line of defense against the heat would be opening those windows and using electric fans. Homes that are designed to take advantage of natural ventilation can get away with this solution. The only thing we should watch out for would be the proper maintenance of electric fans since they don’t make em like they used to. Today’s electric fans that are cheaper but more prone to break downs need to be checked to see if they need lubrication or repairs as they are potential fire hazards if they get stuck up and overheat. Parents who leave their kids at home all day need to make sure their electric fans are in good working condition as the summer heat ramps up.

When electric fans can’t provide relief from the heat, there is always air conditioning. The key with using aircons during these summer months is to make sure they provide optimum cooling at minimum cost and that can only be achieved with proper maintenance.

The most overlooked aircon maintenance task is the cleaning of the filters. This is a simple task that can be done by most people. It is easiest done for window type aircons where cleaning the filter is as simple as popping the front panel open, sliding the dirty filter out, washing it with a hose, drying it and then popping it back in.

For split type aircons that are mounted up high, the task may be a little difficult as it could involve ladders and a bit of climbing. When it comes to car aircons, the DIY inclined might have buy a new filter and consult their manuals on how to access the cabin filter that is usually located behind the glove box.

Cleaning filters is a simple task that can reap significant improvements in terms of the cooling and energy efficiency of the aircon. Anyone who has seen a dirty filter would see how it clogs up the air flow and makes it difficult for the cooling unit to do its job.

Sometimes, the dirt and grime are too much for the filter to handle and the aircon unit needs to be cleaned by a professional. This is something that could be prevented by regular filter inspection and cleaning but this is a maintenance activity that most of us should prepare for as the summer months approach. Aircon cleaning will require special tools and equipment so it is best left to the professionals. It is something that will make our aircons work better as well as prevent future breakdowns or refrigerant leaks caused by corrosion due to the dirt and grime that has been allowed to accumulate in the cooling coils and fins.

Aircon maintenance is best done before the heat gets really bad because it is easier to deal with a breakdown when you don’t need the aircon as much. It may be a little too late in the summer by now but when it comes to maintenance, the saying it is better late than never still makes perfect sense.

Aside from the benefits of maintenance, another tip for aircon users who are conscious of the cost of electricity is to keep the temperature at a reasonable setting. While super cold settings like turning the thermostat on maximum coldness or ridiculous room temperatures like 16 degrees centigrade can make you feel rich, it will result in a bigger electric bill as the aircon(s) are overworked. Keeping the aircon thermostat at a more reasonable level (say 24 degrees) might not make your room feel like a Scandinavian country but it is usually comfortable enough for most human beings. The reduced inside-outside temperature difference will also prevent problems like sniffles and headaches.

If you come to think of it, most houses and malls do not need to be super cold. A super cold atmosphere might give a premium vibe and allow fashionistas to layer their clothing in this tropical country but it penalizes our environment in terms of carbon emissions. Aircons set at 24 degrees work less and therefore consume significantly less electricity than those set at ridiculously low temperatures like 16-18C. Multiply that energy saved by the 365 days a year and imagine how much electricity we are consuming and heat we are generating in the name of fashion and trying to feel first-worldy.

My aircon thermostat in the car is usually at just ½ of max. At my home that has been maximized for natural ventilation, we don’t usually use aircon unless it’s really hot but when we do, the thermostat is set at only ¼ of max. This saves energy, cuts costs, and reduces expectations for airconditioning. Low thermostat settings also give me an early warning if something is wrong. When I have to turn the thermostat down (remember, lower temperatures are cooler) it warns me that my aircons are not functioning as efficiently as they were and the filters might need cleaning.

We may not think about airconditioning so much but hot summer days like the ones we’ve been having lately give us no choice but to take a look at our aircon habits and tendencies and it often turns out that if we come to think of it, there are many things to think about, even on topics as mundane as airconditioning.

Good luck in keeping our homes, cars and offices cool and efficient in the coming weeks.*


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