Beat the heat

Panting like dogs by day, lying miserably in sweat-drenched sheets by night, many students will desperately seek relief from the heat this summer.

Summer temperatures and humidity often cause unnecessary discomfort and inflated home-cooling expenses for students living in campus residence halls and nearby houses, but simple tips can significantly improve the comfort level and efficiency of any room or home.

"It's a matter of health for some people," said Steve Kreps of Best Heating and Cooling in Muncie. "When it's 90 degrees outside, it can be as warm as 130 degrees in the upstairs of a house without air-conditioning."

Three factors affect human comfort when it comes to cooling, Kreps said. Ambient temperature, latent heat (humidity) and air movement all influence how cool a person feels.

In a home or residence hall that is not air-conditioned, keep curtains or drapes closed during the day, especially on the east and west sides of a building, so that solar heat doesn't infiltrate into the rooms, Swearingin said.

It also helps to use an oscillating fan to prevent air from stagnating, he said. Even inexpensive fans can be effective, because moving air feels cooler to the skin than does motionless air.

But fans don't actually decrease the air temperature in a room or house, said Brad Coovert of Lennox Air-Conditioning in Muncie.

"Ceiling fans are good because they don't allow the warm and cool air to stratify," Coovert said.

He said he recommends that ceiling fans be switched to a reverse setting to draw cool air upward instead of blowing risen, hot air downward.

Students operating window-air conditioners in residence halls and homes should be sure to use suitable electrical adapters so that the unit has an adequate power supply and doesn't become a fire hazard, Kreps said.

He also cautions his customers about using extension cords with window-air-conditioning systems.

"Many people do not realize that when an extension cord is wound or coiled it becomes an electromagnet," Kreps said. "It radiates extra heat and can become hot enough to start a fire."

If students rent homes with window-air conditioners, Kreps said he encourages them to reach an agreement with their landlord to maintain the unit just like any other appliance.

The key to cooling any room or home is to transfer warm air without creating excess heat, Kreps said. Simply making sure that a clothes dryer is vented correctly can prevent extra heat and humidity in a home.

Routine cleaning and maintenance assure central air- and window-air-conditioning units' optimal functioning. If an air conditioner's coil is dirty, heat remains trapped inside the room or house; window units' filters can be removed and rinsed clean, Kreps said.

"Replace furnace filters regularly because clogged, dirty filters are hard on compressors and don't produce maximum cool-air output," said Kent Haney of Sylvester Total Comfort and Security in Muncie. "If this isn't done, what might have been inexpensive repairs will undoubtedly multiply in cost over time."

Robert Gillespie of Gillespie and Son Heating and Cooling in Muncie said to allow a 14- to 18-inch clearance area from foliage and debris surrounding any type of cooling unit.

To reduce the expenses of air-conditioning, continuously running a furnace's fan keeps air circulating in a house without the cost of cooling it, said Tony Swearingin of Lehman's Air-Conditioning and Heating in Muncie.

"Protect the investment," Kreps said.

A qualified technician can check for leaks in and charge the refrigerant, test the voltage and amperage and clean an air-conditioning unit for between $50 and $80, depending on the service provider.


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