Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Air Conditioner and Custom Made Cover

Last weekend, with four days of record breaking heat here in Colorado and temperatures over a hundred degrees, I finally broke down and bought a new air conditioner for the condo.

Originally I had an AC unit in the condo that was here when I moved in. It had probably been here since the building had been built and it just didn't work right anymore. I later found out that it was a 30watt AC unit wired into a 25 watt breaker. So, with it being so old, when you'd turn it on, it would get to about 27 watts of power and blow the circuit breaker. It would last for about five minutes before this happened.

One electrician I talked to said he could only find one AC unit that was the right wattage and size for the existing hole in the side of my wall. The problem was that the new AC unit would cost around a thousand dollars. I figured, screw that, I'll just be hot for the one or two weeks that we really get awful heat here in Colorado.

But, then this last few weeks happened and we were hitting temperatures that were shattering records and it was only June. I figured July and August weren't going to get any better so Monika and I went to Home Depot and got a little window unit (for much much less than a thousand bucks) that fit pretty well in the existing hole. We tore out the old unit, lugged it down to the dumpster, and threw it away.

The new unit fit well from top to bottom in the old hole. The problem was that there was about three inches on each side of open space. Being a window unit AC it had those little accordion folding sleeves on either side but I didn't think, in the long run, that that was good insulation for the summer. And I didn't think it would be much help in the winter when we got down to zero and the only thing between me and the outside cold air were a few pieces of plastic.

So I thought about it for a little while and came up with an idea. I put a little three inch wide piece of foam board on either side of the new unit, back towards the outer wall. I edged these pieces with some sticky foam insulation so they wouldn't move around too much and then filled the gaps with some pink insulation. I then put another piece of foam board on top and closed up the sleeves. It was pretty tightly insulated but, as you can see by the above left side pictures, it didn't look all that pretty.

I sat on the couch and stared at it for a while, thinking I would make some kind of wood frame for it or maybe get some dry wall and make a box around it. But then, one morning when I was waking up and was in between that dream and awake world, it hit me. Why was I going through all this trouble to make something that I really didn't have to?

I took a page out of my good friend Jeff Lafferty's playbook and figured out a better way to make it look good without doing a ton of construction work. Jeff has been constructing puppets and sets for his own animated feature for a while now and I was amazed what he did with simple foam board, masking tape, and paint.

So, I built the wall you can see in the above picture on the right hand side. And, yes, for as real a wall as it looks, it's made from foam board, masking tape, spray texture, and paint.

Yes, there were a lot of people who said I should have done it differently and that this is the way they would have done it or that was the way they would have done it. But, in the end, I was also worried about what I would do if I ever had to rip the new AC out and replace it with a better model. And I figured ripping through some foam board and tape would be a lot easier that ripping through wood, screws, and dry wall.

Plus, it looks good and I'm happy with the way it turned out.

And, yes, it is much cooler and easier to work in here now. I should have done this years ago!

Have a good one!


Jeff Lafferty said...

LOL, That looks pretty damn good! If the art thing doesn't work out, you can come to work for us patching drywall.


Sean Tiffany said...

Thanks, Jeff. If I can patch drywall with foam board and masking tape I just may have a future in the painting industry!

Jamaal Milner said...

You’ve made a good point, Sean. It’s better that you cover it with a foam board rather than wood because foam would serve as a better insulation panel by providing thermal resistance, especially during the hot season. In the long run, the foam board and your AC unit can give you good quality air circulation for your condo.

Darryl Iorio said...

Good decision there, Sean! Old ACs should be replaced, especially if it is slowly becoming inefficient. Asides from the fact that it will create untimely hassles, sooner or later, it also consumes lot energy – an ugly double whammy. New ACs nowadays are energy efficient, meaning, less energy consumption which translates to a decrease in your utility bills. Congrats!

-Darryl Iorio

Lila Farris said...

I agree with Darryl here. If the AC has been used for almost 20 years, it's better to replace it with a new unit. Basically, 20 years is the average lifespan of an AC unit. However, those 20 years include maintenance and replacement of parts to keep it running in a good condition.