Air conditioning is something most of us don’t give a lot of thought on a daily basis. We flip a switch, and it’s on. It’s become a basic necessity that we take for granted and yet can’t imagine living without. In just a little over 100 years, air conditioning has not only become indispensible, it’s completely changed the way we live our lives.
So many indoor activities have grown in popularity by leaps and bounds. Movie theaters were once one of the only places in town with air conditioning, so it was a great escape from a hot afternoon for some. Now, we do not have to leave our homes, with our televisions, home theaters, gaming systems, and computers–which also require cooling. Without the advancements in cooling first made by air conditioning, some of these may not have been possible.
Even the way houses are designed has changed. Before air conditioning became standard in most homes, they were designed with high ceilings, lots of windows, and open air corridors to provide airflow. Afternoons and evenings were spent outside on the porch, where people sometimes even slept on especially hot nights.
But aside from keeping us cool and comfortable, the air conditioner has other functions as well. One of the most important objectives of the original definition is to provide ventilation. ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) recommends having enough ventilation to completely change out the air inside house every four hours, depending on the design of the house. Older homes sometimes have leakier walls and ducts, and usually get enough ventilation through that way. Of course, this is not the most energy efficient approach to ventilation, and can cost more in power bills.
The purpose of a home air conditioner is to move heat from inside to the outside. Each unit is sized to meet a specific “load” on the house. If more heat is produced indoors, whether it’s from having more people or appliances, or because of changes in the house, the air conditioning may not be able to keep up. That’s why selecting the right unit, and the right professionals to install and maintain it properly, is essential.