Keeping your cool in Cayman

 Tropical climates are tough to live in. If there are two changes that made Cayman much more comfortable, it has to be mosquito control and air conditioning, as the one allows you to enjoy the great outdoors, while the other makes hiding out from the worst of the day’s heat possible.
   For many, air condition makes up the biggest part of their monthly utility bill, which makes it vital to pay attention to the functioning of an air conditioning unit.
New regulations
   As of January 2010, air conditioning systems using R22 refrigerant are no longer being manufactured. The refrigerant, also known as HCFC-22, is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon, which contributes to ozone depletion when it is leaked into the atmosphere.
   “The ‘Montreal Protocol’ mandated that A/C equipment using R22 refrigerant should cease to be manufactured after January 2010. Many manufacturers ceased long before that date and supplies are drying up fast,” says Jane Peck of Otis Air Conditioning.
   Newer units use R410A, which is not damaging to the ozone layer, although it can still contribute to global warming.
   “Equipment using R410A is the replacement for all R22 air conditioning.  Your contractor or A/C supplier should at least have made you aware of this information so that you can choose the best option for your application,” says Peck.
Efficiency ratings
   As air conditioners can be very power hungry, it is essential to find an air conditioning unit that has a high efficiency rating. Air conditioners carry a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, which indicates how efficient the unit is.
   The SEER number is the cooling output in British Thermal Units per watt-hour during a typical cooking season. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the unit.
   “The minimum SEER rating you should be offered is 13 SEER – some of the new R410A systems are rated up to 19.5 and above. Get the best you can afford as this will save you money on your running costs,” says Peck.
   With the extensive cooling performed year round in Cayman, the savings to be gained from an air conditioning unit with a higher SEER rating can add up to hundreds of dollars per year.
   “Statistic and tests show that you can achieve up to 60 per cent savings on your A/C electricity consumption by using equipment with the new R410A refrigerant,” says Peck.
Regular maintenance
   Regardless of the SEER rating of a unit, air conditioners can become very inefficient if regular maintenance is not carried out. Not only will this cause higher electricity bills and reduced cooling capacity, it can also reduce the lifespan of the unit.
   The filter on an air conditioning unit needs to be replaced regularly in order to keep it functioning properly. Putting off replacing the filter too long can lead to damage to the air conditioning unit, shortening its lifespan and impairing its function.
   It is suggested that the unit be serviced every three months in order to ensure the unit remains efficient.
Air filters
   Many air conditioners use spun glass filters, which tend to be the cheaper option. However, these are not always ideal.
   “Use pleated filters wherever possible, especially if you have fur bearing animals or family member with allergies,” says Peck.
   The filters should be replaced regularly, with many filter manufacturers suggesting replacement every month if the air conditioner is used constantly. However, if the unit is regularly serviced, the filters can be replaced at that time. Be sure to check on the size of the filter when replacing it as filters need to be an exact fit.
Other factors
   Much of the efficiency of an air conditioning unit does not depend on the unit itself, but on other factors in the home. Installing ceiling and wall insulation can make a big difference to the building’s ability to stay cool.
   Using blinds to keep out the worst of the sun can also make a difference, as can the type of windows installed. Double glazed windows are much more efficient at insulating a home than single glazed windows.
   It is also important to check that sliding doors and windows seal properly. If the cool air keeps leaking out through gaps in the doors, it takes much more energy to keep a home cool.
   Ceiling fans can also be useful for distributing cool air throughout a home.