Monday, May 23, 2016

The Big Chill....

As you can guess, I'm not talking about the movie.  Instead, I am talking about the experience of buying a new air conditioner, replacing one that has been in my bedroom for roughly 20 years - since the time my wife died.

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So I'll start off with some bullets I gleaned from Popular Mechanics regarding A/C in the home:

1914 Air conditioning comes home for the first time. The unit in the Minneapolis mansion of Charles Gates is approximately 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, 20 feet long and possibly never used because no one ever lived in the house.

1931 H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman invent an individual room air conditioner that sits on a window ledge—a design that's been ubiquitous in apartment buildings ever since. The units are available for purchase a year later and are only enjoyed by the people least likely to work up a sweat—the wealthy. (The large cooling systems cost between $10,000 and $50,000. That's equivalent to $120,000 to $600,000 today.)

1942 The United States builds its first "summer peaking" power plant made to handle the growing electrical load of air conditioning.

1947 British scholar S.F. Markham writes, "The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air-conditioning—and America leads the way." Yet somehow people still say a brilliant new idea is "the best thing since sliced bread."

1950s In the post-World War II economic boom, residential air conditioning becomes just another way to keep up with the Joneses. More than 1 million units are sold in 1953 alone.

1970s Window units lose cool points as central air comes along. The units consist of a condenser, coils, and a fan. Air gets drawn, passed over coils, and blasted through a home's ventilation system. R-12, commonly known as Freon-12, is used as the refrigerant.

1994 Freon is linked to ozone depletion and banned in several countries. Auto manufacturers are required to switch to the less harmful refrigerant R134a by 1996. Brands like Honeywell and Carrier develop coolants that are more environmentally friendly.

When I was young, my parents couldn't justify spending money on air conditioning.  As a result, I spend many a hot summer day being totally uncomfortable. I never realized how much I'd need air conditioning until I bought my own top floor apartment, and found out that there was no air conditioning unit in the bedroom wall sleeve. The day that I bought and installed the unit (all by myself), I fell to an extremely deep sleep afterward, and didn't hear the calls from work alerting me to a problem that a software change I made was responsible for causing.  (That was the first nail in my coffin of having a career with that firm - a lucky thing for me in retrospect.)



I had bought that air conditioner (a similar one appears above) shortly before I met my wife, and replaced it around the time she died.  (In fact, I replaced it with the same brand and updated model - and it was one of the last Freon-R12 models sold.)  Although the A/C has been relatively reliable, it has been expensive to run, and doesn't circulate enough cold air due to its design. Recently, I stated that the year that I find a new job, that I would buy a replacement unit.  So I started shopping for the replacement before the heat became totally unbearable.

Having done a bit of research before, I knew that Friedrich made air conditioners which fit Fedders sleeves.  Were the two companies ever directly associated with each other?  Who knows?  But the fellow I met at one big box store told me a story that could almost make sense - save that my research on the corporate histories of the firms do not indicate any connection to each other.  Instead, I see the possible use of a competitor's specs for use in making "plug compatible" units - where one could slide one manufacturer's unit in place of the other, and not notice any differences save a different brand on the front plate, and a different vent arrangement.

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On Saturday, GFJ and I went down to Yonkers to see how much a replacement unit would cost me.  The price after everything was in the range of what I expected, but I realized that I'd be dealing with a little bit of sticker shock, knowing that inflation (and technology) would have their impact on the price of the unit.

The next day, GFJ and I went on a walk with a low energy hiking group.  I realized that after the walk (and lunch afterward) that we had enough time to make it to the store to buy the unit.  Unfortunately, the salesman who helped us the day before wasn't around (he was paged twice), and another man (probably the supervisor) helped us - and earned the commission.  But they will lug the unit up the steps, install the new unit, AND take the old unit away.  What more can I want?

I still hope that we will have a comfortable Summer. But if we don't, I'll have a unit that should be able to crank out enough cold air to let me sleep - something I'll need, if I want to hold on to the new job.










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