This is one of those occasions where I get to tell you that I was wrong. I tried something and it failed. In theory it was sound, would have saved energy, and improved comfort. The plan was to add a window air conditioner in my office at home. With the weather we’ve already had before even getting to the hot summer months, it sounded like an ideal setup. Unfortunately, like other things in IT, it was riddled with bugs.
Motivated by energy efficiency, it seemed to make sense that I could reduce electricity usage in my house by installing a high efficiency window air conditioner in the room that was going to be used as an office. Despite having central air, it should be considerably more cost-effective to have an individual room cooled where I spend a lot of time (writing articles for you fine folks, for example) than trying to cool the entire house.
Defeating the heat in an standard-sized room that has two heaters (the desktop computers), two humans, and a number of other heat-producing electronics (monitors, battery backups, lights, etc) should not only make things more comfortable but also improve the lifespan and performance of the things in the room (especially the humans). By closing the door to the office, we have a manageable size that a small window air conditioner is capable of chilling down. The Zenith unit I bought was supposed to produce 5,000 BTUs and be sufficient for a 10×15 foot room. That gives us some wiggle room and should help account for the built-in heat sources.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as well as it sounds on paper. The Zenith window-mount A/C clearly said on the side of the box that it needed at least a 21″ wide window but no more than 35″. I measured my window’s width and found them to be just over 33″. Getting the unit hoisted up in the window, balanced, and ready to be installed I found out that the box was a big, fat liar. Despite the fact that I should have had 2″ of room to spare, I instead found that I was lacking 2″ of sealing the window. Trust me, I know how to read a measuring tape. I believe they failed to account for the overlap that occurs between the sliding gates and the unit itself. This actually wasn’t as problematic as one might find a 2″x12″ gap when trying to seal and cool a room. I quickly carved a piece of the styrofoam that came with the A/C unit as packaging material to fit the gap snuggly and it seemed to work quite well. I was comfortable with this literal stop-gap measure because the internals of the A/C unit are also lined with styrofoam for insulating purposes.
I tried this setup out for a little over a week. It worked out exactly as planned. The room was kept nice and cool, the unit wasn’t too loud, and the rest of the house didn’t need to be chilled down with this internal room being cooled and its usual heat byproduct being negated. Of course, this is when we encounter the bug of the project, or actually bugs. Despite being fitted into the window as best as it could and having no visible leaks, bugs were still able to enter through the window. Particularly at night when the lit up room was driving the bugs absolutely insane, many insects would make their way into the office. There were the really small gnats which would probably have made it in through a screened, open window anyways but there were also the lightning bugs that were finding their way in somehow. I sat and watched the A/C unit and watched a lightning bug crawl up an outside-indent of the accordion-style blockers that fill the rest of the window and down the inside-indent to invade my home. The worst yet were the June Bugs. These bugs were absolutely crazy inside the office. They would only be able to make it through every once in a while because they’re bigger than the rest but once inside, they would fly around in maddening circles centered around the light, buzzing all the way, and if they ran into you it felt a bit like a BB hitting you. If you turned off the light, heaven help you and your monitor because that was the next target.
After slaying dozens of these invaders, we finally called it quits and raised the drawbridge that was permitting their entry, by which, I mean that we removed the A/C unit in its failed embarrassment, restored the screen, and lowered the window. Now we just rely on the central air to keep the room relatively cool and use a fan to assist the air circulation of the hotter air stemming from the computers. Back to the drawing board on how to be green without being infested by insects.