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Addicted to AC

A few cool tips on keeping the power bill under control

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BEATING the summer heat with nary an air conditioner in sight might let you claim the greener high ground, but in Manitoba, you’ll be in the minority.

Three quarters of households in the province have an AC unit kicking around, and more than half of those are central air systems.

Green ambitions aside, ridding the country of artificially cooled air seems unlikely to happen any time soon. The prevalence of central air went from 15 per cent in the early 1990s to 37 per cent a few years ago, while window/room unit use rose by five per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

But there’s no telling how often Manitoba’s AC­owners use their units, and no reason they have to go full throttle when they do. And the quarter of house­holds that are sans AC might have already guessed that blasting chilled air isn’t the only way to beat the heat.

There are a few easy things you can do to keep the warmth out and cool in, like opening windows at night, taking advantage of cross breezes, and closing win­dows and blinds during the day.

But how a home is built and situated can also mean the difference between tolerating the summer and enjoying it. That’s why you might find it hotter in a newer home than in a comparatively energy-inefficient older one, and why planting a few seedlings now could make a big difference down the road.

"An older house might perform better if it has established planting around that provides shade to the house, things like that," said Marten Duhoux, chair of the Manitoba chapter of the Canada Green Building Council.

Cooling should be part of home design, he said, add­ing at a recent project for Habitat for Humanity, "we paid a lot of attention to large overhangs, making sure windows were shaded, and a lot of good design practi­ces."

In AC-equipped households, turning off the air while nobody’s home is far more efficient than letting it run all day. It’s also important to keep your AC cared for, said Duhoux.

"The newer it is, you can expect it to be more ef­ficient," he said. "But it’s also just like a car. You’ve got to maintain it and make sure that it works at its top efficiency."

Annual air conditioner maintenance will run you somewhere between $70 and $120, said Craig Heglin, owner and operations manager at Kirkfield Heating & Air Conditioning. Cleaning the coils prevents equip­ment damage down the road, he said.

lindsey.wiebe@freepress.mb.ca

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