Pro’s and Con’s of Central Air Conditioning in Ontario
It was not too long ago that the thought of central Air Conditioning in Ontario homes was a sign of absolute luxury. When the first warm days of summer come around, I find myself still adhering to my mother’s urgings to ‘close the windows and draw the blinds and drapes’ – the only way we knew to make our upstairs bedrooms tolerable when we went to sleep. Now, most of us can’t imagine life without Central Air. The funny thing is that over time we have come to recognize the strengths – AND the weaknesses of Central Air Conditioning in Ontario.
Air Conditioning Systems – an overview.
Before I can really get into the pro’s and con’s, perhaps a brief description of how central AC works – which will help us identify where its good, and where it has troubles. Most of us think of Air conditioners as the large object outside the house that vibrates when its running. Something that looks like this:
The fact is that this is one of five different parts that cool your house. Looking closer at the outdoor unit, you might have noticed that some insulated copper lines run from the unit through the wall. They actually are connected to a coil inside your furnace (that absorbs the warm air). Although it is not producing heat, furnaces are still required for central air conditioning. The fan in the furnace circulates the air in the house and drags the warm air across this indoor coil. The furnace then pushes the cold air through the duct system and out the vents that are located in rooms throughout the house.
The final piece of the puzzle is the thermostat – the brains of the system. Here the homeowner gets to set what conditions he wants the cooling system to work by. The thermostat then senses the temperature and when it is higher than the set point, sends a signal to both the air conditioner and the furnace fan to start up.
Advantages of Central Air Conditioning in Ontario
Central Air is very popular in Ontario because of a number of reasons, namely:
- Cost – for a few thousand dollars you can move cool(er) air to all parts of your house that are ducted. click here for an average cost.
- Unobtrusive – other than the outdoor unit and the lines running to the furnace, it is invisible to the eye.
- Flexible – very few days require cooling in Ontario, so it doesn’t run when it isn’t needed (the majority of the time).
- Long lasting – because we don’t run our AC’s all the time, they tend to last a lot longer than a furnace. This means less need for repairing your air conditioner.
Disadvantages of Central Air Conditioning in Ontario
There are certain things about homes and the weather in Ontario that make it difficult for Central Air Conditioning to be as effective as most homeowners need:
- Ductwork – only in the last 20 years have homes been built with the proper ductwork to ensure rooms on upper floors get effective cooling. As we all know, there are a lot of homes that are older than 20 years old and it is really difficult to make central air work on the second floor of these buildings.
- Humidity – people who have lived in other places know all too well how humid our summers are. Humid air holds heat much better, so in order to cool a house effectively, the ductwork needs to be effective at pulling the warm humid air out of ALL areas of the house. Rooms that don’t have return vents can not remove humidity effectively.
- House is One Zone, measured only in one spot – go back to the brains of the system, the thermostat. The only way the house is getting cooled is when the air around the thermostat is above the set point. Unfortunately, we live in areas of the house that are not close to the thermostat. This is especially bad if your thermostat is close to your furnace. It gets the freshly conditioned air, and when it gets enough of it, it tells the system to shut down. Unfortunately, the rooms that are further away from the thermostat still need to be cooled. Because air goes the path of least resistance, all of the cool air will go out the vents closest to the furnace, starving the areas that are further away (and still warm).
- Windows – while windows help heat the house in winter (assuming they’re double paned, insulated, sealed, etc.) they make a warm house warmer in summer. This is especially bad when the windows are not close to the thermostat. When you have them away from the ‘stat, the area around the ‘stat stays cool, while the room with the windows heats up even faster. While this isn’t a huge problem when the windows are on the same floor as the thermostat, we all love to have lots of windows in our bedrooms! Not only will we have hot air rising, if the house is old, we won’t have ducts pulling the air out of the bedrooms, and the windows will be heating those rooms up even faster than the rest of the house!
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the pro’s and con’s of Central Air Conditioning in Ontario, but it does try to illustrate some of the problems trying to condition an entire house from one central plant.
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A great big thank you goes out to you and the Hogg Mechanical Technician for fixing my 84 year old mother-in-law’s home furnace. The unit stopped working during the night of the 3rd of March and you came to the rescue within an hour notice on the 4th, which was a very cold day.