Do It Yourself: Options exist for ductless cooling units

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013

Q. We have baseboard heat in our house and, of course, no ductwork, so we can’t install a regular air-conditioning system without a major makeover. We’ve been using window air conditioners, which work well but are getting too heavy for us to remove and reinstall out of season. What other cooling options do we have?

A. One option is a split-system air-conditioner, which doesn’t require ducts. These systems have a compressor outdoors and cooling units in the rooms to be cooled.

The cooling unit usually sits on the floor or is attached to a wall. Refrigerant is delivered to the cooling unit through a tube. These systems are usually contractor-installed and can be pricey but can cool effectively if properly sized and installed.

Expect to spend several thousand dollars if you choose one of these.

Another option, which has a smaller up-front cost, is a portable air conditioner. These have wheels that let them be moved from room to room. A flexible pipe runs from the cooler to a window, where it is held in place by a removable panel. Moisture removed from the air by the cooler’s dehumidification action is expelled through the pipe to the outside. These units are reasonably priced, and there is no lifting needed. The cooler can be stored in a closet or corner during the off season.

I have seen advertisements for 8,000 to 11,000 btu portable coolers priced at around $300. Many have remote controls. Critics of portable air conditioners say they are not as effective as comparable window units, use more energy and are noisy.

Window-mounted coolers, by contrast, are highly effective and reasonably priced. They can cut cooling costs because you cool only the space occupied. A good window unit that will easily cool a small room can be bought for less than $150; prices for larger units with more features run considerably more. Unfortunately, window units are banned in some housing developments and apartment houses because they are considered unsightly and/or dangerous (they must be well secured in the windows to keep them from falling out).

But if seasonal removal and installation is a problem, they can be left in place and insulated with special covers. You could also have a handyman take care of annual removals, or enlist friends, relatives or neighbors to help. Window-style air conditioners can also be permanently installed in wall cutouts.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422.

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