• Energy Solutions Energy efficient air conditioning?
    By Paul Lambert and Dan Mellinger | March 05,2013
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    I run a small hotel and weíre starting to think about the summer season. I may be replacing a few through-the-wall room air conditioning units that didnít work so well last year. These things are real expensive to run, too ó is there an energy-efficient option youíd recommend?

    ó LW, Windham County

    Dan: Yes: heat pumps. Packaged terminal heat pumps are gaining popularity lately, and theyíre really cool. Actually, they both heat and cool, and their technology is far more energy efficient than plain old air conditioners because they harness the energy from outdoor air as opposed to relying solely on electricity. And, the fact that theyíre able to both heat and cool a room is a real bonus.

    Paul: A lot of Vermont businesses have been making the switch to heat pumps in recent years, and youíll be happy to know that itís a pretty simple upgrade. They install the same way a through-the-wall air conditioner does, and can use the same wall opening. We should mention, though: whether you replace these units or not, there are a few basic ways of saving energy when it comes to using them listed at www.efficiencyvermont.com/for_my_business/solutions_for_me/lodging/tips/conditioning_tips.aspx.

    Dan: Iím glad Paul mentioned that. Whether you upgrade or not, both air conditioners and heat pumps require free air flow in order to work properly, but that often gets forgotten. Take a look at the units in question. Are they visible? Some people like to hide them, but any furniture or drapes blocking a unit will impede air flow, so that air youíve paid to condition gets pulled right back into the machine for further processing. This can really add up on your bill, and itís going to take a lot longer for the room to reach temperature, too. So make sure the unit is left open to the room. Also, check to see that regular vent dusting is part of your housekeeping protocol.

    Paul: The same goes for the other half of the unit: the external components found on the outside of the building. It might be tempting to cover these up with flowers or foliage, but if landscaping impedes air flow into the unit, youíre going to end up paying for it. So, keep any objects, living or not, at least three feet away from vents. That includes cob webs and leaf debris. And in winter months, keep them free of snow and ice.

    Dan: Also, make sure that whoever maintains these units is keeping up with manufacturer recommendations: cleaning and replacing filters, checking for loose screws, etc. As with any piece of equipment, itís only going to work correctly if itís in correct working order. Proper maintenance will also reduce replacement and repair costs.

    Paul: And, hereís one more reason to make sure your air conditioners are functioning right: guest experience. Guests who get the room temperature they want quickly and consistently are going to be happier, meaning fewer complaints and better online reviews.

    Dan: For more information, including a list of products and contractors, contact us at 888.921.5990 or info@efficiencyvermont.com. We can answer any further questions you might have, and help you choose a course of action thatís right for your inn. Also, make sure youíre signed up for our Lodging eNews at http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/for_my_business/solutions_for_me/lodging/general_info/email.aspx, which offers all sorts of tips on saving energy in a hospitality environment, and is mailed out every other month. Thanks for a great question, and we hope to hear from you.

    Learn more: For more Energy Solutionsí questions and answers, or to ask a question of your own, visit us online at www.efficiencyvermont.com, or e-mail info@efficiencyvermont.com.

    About Efficiency Vermont: Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermontís environment. For more information, call 888.921.5990 or visit www.efficiencyvermont.com.

    The columnists are business energy experts Paul Lambert and Dan Mellinger. v
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