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Conditioning the air or how to make a summer bearable in this climate

Yes, it's hot out there. You don't need me to tell you that.

A few weeks ago, my plan to try to live this summer without air conditioning, with the help of breeze and awnings, fell apart, as I almost fainted with heat exhaustion. The combination of two active toddlers, heat, and not enough water did me in. Hubby immediately went into action, and supplied us with 3 brand-spanking-new air conditioners, and combined them with the 2 we bought last year, installing everything within a few hours time.

I hate to admit this, but the last few days, I LOVE coming home. The House is at a comfortable 78-80 degrees (yes, that is quite comfortable). And they are on only during the day, since the House does get a really nice, cool breeze at night.

But, with the heat coming so fiercely, it started us again on the conversation of installing central air conditioning. Here are some options that we are entertaining:

1. Install the awnings and ceiling fans in all the upstairs rooms, and keep the window units. This is probably the most cost effective option. With the awnings, the idea is to keep the sun from the glass, which left unprotected transfers the heat into the House. Some of the salesmen I've talked to said there has been extensive research done on this, and savings can be as much 25%. I am well aware of this, being from the Mediterranean. We never had air conditioning and the principle of keeping the house cool in the summer was simple: when the sun is up, the window shutters must be closed, and the windows open. This will keep the heat out and let the breeze in. As soon as the sun sets, we turned off all the light (so not to attract the mosquitoes, unless we had screens) and every door and window was open, to let in the cool night air.

The benefits of having ceiling fans both in the summer and winter have been proven over and over again. This will keep the upfront cost at a minimum, and with ceiling fans and awnings, might add some value to the property.

1a. In addition to this, we could also replace some of the older windows that need replacing. This wold serve a double duty: first, we would restore the windows to their original design and look, and secondly, improve both heating and cooling inside the House. Also, it looks like some of the windows on the north side haven't been flashed properly, as there are streaks of water on the kitchen wallpaper every time it rains.

Personally, this would be my preferred method, because it's minimally invasive to the House and our lives.

2. This option is to install multi-split duct-free split system throughout the House. These are ductless units that can cool off up to four (4) rooms. And since this is a split system, it can also heat these same rooms. Our House would need about 3 or 4 of these, depending on the placement. Their advantage is that they are extremely quiet and the installation is not messy. They look a lot like your standard window unit, but they are installed through the outside wall, which has its advantages. And you'll need fewer units. Drawback is that they are there permanently, so if you don't like the look of them, tough.

The hubby is very much in favor of this option.

3. As you probably suspect, this is the big one - central system. Consequently, the price tag is also in the $50K range, because in addition to installing the actual system, there are few other things to consider:

a) Once the sheetrock is removed to install the ductwork, there are few other items that should be taken care of, like insulation under the roof. We suspect that whatever is there can be improved.

b) Also, it looks like the electrical wiring is rather old, as the junction box we wanted to used to install a new ceiling fan on the 3rd floor nearly fell off, so that will need attention. And, the electricians that did some of the recent work told us that certain things that were done maybe 10 to 15 years ago, are not up to code.

c) Then, we would probbaly want to replace windows on the 3rd floor at the same time, as they are leaking terribly.

d) Once everything is under construction, then we would probably want to reconfigure some of the spaces on the 3rd floor, like awkwardly placed closet in the hallway, outside the guest room.

e) The ductwork will eat away all of our closet space.

f) Because of the shape of the roof, we can't get away with installing just one machine. There will need to be two, as the space underneath the roof at one part of the House is not high enough to install the ductwork.

g) Did I mention the dust and the possible need to move out while this is happening?

So, this is probably the least likely option.

There you have it. What are your experiences? Let us know. Help us make this decision.

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