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Quiet, Cool Alternative Beats Heat

July 10, 1994|JAMES DULLEY | Dulley is a Cincinnati-based engineering consultant

QUESTION: I want to add air-conditioning, but I cannot afford a central air system. I don't want noisy room air conditioners either. How efficient are the new quiet ductless mini-split models?

ANSWER: New ductless air conditioners are efficient and extremely quiet. These air conditioners are ideal for any home, especially ones without air ducts (hot water or electric baseboard heat) or for a room addition. Not having to install ducts lowers the total cost. Heat pump models are available too.

A mini-split ductless system is somewhat like a central air ducted system because the compressor is outdoors. Small quiet cooling blower units (only 8 inches deep) are mounted on the walls or ceilings in one to three rooms. Often, three indoor blower units are adequate to cool an entire house.

The chilled refrigerant from the single outdoor compressor flows through small tubing to the indoor units. Some models allow you to locate the indoor units up to 100 feet from the outdoor compressor.

To install the indoor unit, you only have to cut a 3-inch diameter hole in an outside wall. Refrigerant tubing and electric power come from the outdoor compressor unit, so you do not have to run wiring indoors.

Even if your house has a ducted hot-air furnace, a ductless cooling system has advantages over central air--zone cooling, hand-held remote control, cool air outlet high on wall and cleaner air for people with allergies.

Zone cooling can lower your electric bills. With a ductless system, you can easily keep your higher-activity areas (workroom, play room, etc.) cooler than other rooms. Built-in computerized clock thermostats let you automatically raise and lower the temperature in each area.

Many ductless systems have hand-held remote controls (like a TV remote) to adjust the temperature, blower speeds, humidity control, louver directions, etc. from your easy chair or bed. There is also a control keypad on the wall right beneath it.

Since the small indoor blowers are mounted high on a wall or a ceiling, the cool air naturally circulates evenly throughout your rooms. This reduces isolated cold spots. Some models also have a special low-humidity mode.

If you have allergies and want to keep your bedroom air allergen free, a ductless systems allows you to isolate that room while keeping it cool. There is also a built-in blower filter to further clean the air.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 585 showing a buyer's guide of 11 ductless air conditioner manufacturers listing cooling outputs, efficiency ratings, types of remote controls and special features. Please include $2 and a self-addressed envelope.

Send your requests to James Dulley, c/o Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. Allow three to four weeks for delivery.

When Should Fireplace Damper Be Closed?

Q: I know that I should close the damper in my fireplace chimney in the winter, but is it necessary to close it in the summer too? Since hot air rises, the hot outdoor air should not come down.

A: If you air-condition your home, you should close the fireplace chimney damper. Even though it is cooler indoors, the sun shining on the chimney makes it warm. This creates an upward draft and draws out cooled air.

If you do not air-condition and you rely on ventilation, leave the chimney damper open in the summer.

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