Folks residing in the greater Baltimore area know that springtime is one of the most charming times of year around Charm City. The Orioles return to the baseball diamond, the iconic waterfront buzzes after another long winter, and area parks—from Patapsco to Patterson—fill up with people enjoying the outdoors.
With temperatures already starting to climb, perhaps one not-so-charming part of springtime in the Baltimore area is the return of the heat and humidity that come with it. And for those living in homes without central air conditioning, that can make these next few months particularly uncomfortable.
Fortunately, portable and window air conditioning units help living spaces stay cool even without central HVAC. These appliances have gotten more affordable over the years, as well as more efficient. But before you buy one or bring out your A/C unit from storage, there are some important points to consider that will keep your home comfortable and your family safe. When getting ready to use that A/C unit, remember that it’s not just plug-and-play!
Before cooling down, power up properly
Studies show that about 15 percent of a home’s annual utility bills will be spent on cooling, which can climb even higher if that involves contending with the infamously muggy mid-Atlantic air. It’s hard work to cool a home, especially around Baltimore!
That means portable and window A/C units need to be powerful enough to cool the rooms they’re in, and—this is crucial—units must also be properly wired to receive the level of electricity they require.
Certain portable air conditioners can run on standard 115V electrical outlets, but it’s not always that simple. More powerful window units and systems that are designed to cool large spaces (e.g. open-concept living areas) draw much more power. Having one of those heavy-duty air conditioners connected to an insufficient (or poorly wired) electrical system poses a fire risk, which isn’t cool at all.
You’ll want to check with an experienced professional electrician in the Baltimore area before running your A/C on full blast. Working with a licensed expert will ensure that your home’s electrical system can handle the extra load of running multiple portable A/C units. Your electrician can also consult with you on the popular option of installing dedicated outlets for air conditioners.
The best A/C setup for your specific residence will vary, and consulting with a pro will make sure all the volts, watts and amps are in order so you can simply chill out.
Best practices for portable or window A/C systems
In addition to working with an electrician beforehand, you can also follow a few simple tips to make sure that your portable or window A/C system performs at its best. Here are a few.
- All about airflow. Whether you’re placing a portable A/C unit in a living area or choosing which window to use for a window unit, think about how the cool air will flow out of the appliance and through the rest of the room.Window A/C units usually just blow air in one direction, so think about which window will provide the best path for cool air, or supplement the window unit with a traditional oscillating fan. Also pay attention to how your room is vented, as many portable A/C units need to exchange and expel hot air. Give it a good place to go and beware of creating a potentially hazardous negative pressure situation.
- Get with the program. Even if your home doesn’t have a central air system with a programmable thermostat, most portable and window A/C units can be programmed to make their cooling most effective and efficient. One of the advantages of portable A/C units is that you can choose to use them only in rooms you use regularly, and you can set them to cool on your schedule. This will save you money and prolong the life of your portable or window A/C units.For example, if you need a cool spot to sleep, consider programming your unit(s) to bring your bedroom down a few degrees in the hour or so before you typically head to bed. The “supercooling” method (which also works with central A/C systems, of course) is great for making summer nights comfy and means your A/C won’t be working as hard while it’s cooler overnight anyway.
- Avoid the hot spots. Try to avoid placing portable A/C units in rooms that get a lot of sun, as that radiant heat will make the system work harder to reach the desired temperature. And just like most appliances, they work best when they don’t need to contend with overly hot or humid indoor environments.As far as people and pets are concerned, air conditioning units tend to generate heat themselves, so it’s best to situate family members at least few feet away from them. Having a portable A/C unit at your bedside might seem like a good idea, but in reality it might make you sweat!
For homeowners and residents in the Baltimore area thinking of buying and installing portable air conditioning systems, be sure to reach out to the friendly team at Milton Electric first. The Milton team has been helping local folks with all their electrical needs since 1950 and they’ll help you keep your cool this spring and summer.