I finally got air-con

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For years I’ve resisted air-conditioning at home.

Partly it was the cost, partly it was that I really wanted to pursue passive cooling as much as I could — measures that used little or no energy.

To that end, three rooms have ceiling fans, three more have standing fans. The three rooms with the biggest windows have external blinds.

And there’s insulation in the roof. (I haven’t yet explored options for wall insulation or double-glazing, which I suppose I should, especially given it’s a weatherboard house.)

All this helps the house stay cool… to an extent. It’s much cooler than outside on the really hot days, and much better than it used to be, but it still gets up to an uncomfortable 30ish degrees indoors on 35+ days.

This summer I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get an air-conditioner, which will cool the livingroom and adjacent areas.

Split system air-conditioner

Part of what got me over the line was that I finally found an air-conditioning company willing to publish useful information for prospective buyers, rather than making you ring them up and have the sales pitch blasted at you. Thanks Current Force Electrics.

For ages I’d been looking for a rough indication of how much it might cost, and no other company’s web site publishes that type of information. It’s like window shopping but there’s no prices in the window. I don’t know about you, but it puts me off.

Current Force also have useful information helping you work out capacity you need for a particular space, and they clearly explain some of the types of installations, with regard to positioning the outdoor unit. They also do quotes by email, by getting you to send in photos of the space.

I’ve ended up with a 5 KW (cooling) / 6 KW (heating) Fujitsu model, which should be plenty of power for the space, given the other measures already in place.

They installed it on Thursday. It took about 90 minutes. Since then, the weather has been cool, but it’s expected to reach 36 degrees on Wednesday, so air-conditioning will make a big difference to the indoor temperature — and to my power bills, no doubt.

A future house upgrade might be solar power to help offset the additional power, if I can figure out where on my smallish roof it should go.

I’d also potentially consider smaller air-conditioner units in the bedrooms.

My sense is the fans are usually adequate at night — in fact I’m going to get the ceiling fan from the livingroom moved into a bedroom.

But one argument for fitting out the bedrooms with split system units that can both cool and heat is to phase-out use of my old gas central heating in the winter — doing this job with green power (preferably roof-top solar) instead of gas is more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly, and quite possibly cheaper as well.

And if overall temperatures keep rising, it’s probably inevitable that passive cooling just won’t cut it anymore.

The heat in the house

I spent the day working at home yesterday rather than venture out into the world of 43 degree temperatures and train heat troubles, though admittedly I also missed out on comfy air-conditioning at work.

My house doesn’t have air-conditioning. It does have internal blinds in most rooms, the exceptions being the kitchen and the bathroom, which get a little warmer than the rest of the house on days like that.

It’s fine if the internal temperature stays below the mid-20s. Much higher than that, and I’m not going to pretend it’s pleasant, but running a fan (and forgoing a shirt) and drinking plenty icy cold drinks is generally enough to make it bearable.

As Monday wore on, the temperature rose steadily outdoors; more slowly inside. I tried to keep track of it by checking the thermostat temperature every so often, and comparing to the Bureau of Meteorology’s observations for Moorabbin Airport, which is probably the closest weather station.

By 10am it was 30 degrees outside, but 23 inside. Outdoors it peaked at 43.4 around 5pm, but inside the peak was 32 degrees around 7:30pm — as hot as I’ve ever seen it indoors — and it stayed up that high until bed time, by which point outside it had started to drop, though not very far.

How my house dealt with Monday's heat

This morning as I write this, the BoM says it’s 33 outside. The thermostat says 30 inside, but opening up the house makes it feel like cool air is coming in, since there’s a bit of a breeze.

On my shopping list to help deal with the heat is a ceiling fan for the livingroom (the only main room lacking an antique light fitting), and having seen how external blinds have made a huge difference at M+J’s house and also at my mum’s (and they’re quite cheap, even professionally fitted), I’m considering those too for the NW-facing rooms.

Air-con? I doubt it; for a few hours of a few days a year it doesn’t seem worth it. Evaporative cooling? Maybe.

And I’ll keep the icy cold drinks coming.

How did your place cope?