A confession: When I first got the assignment to do a story about air conditioner efficiency, I didn’t exactly leap from my seat in excitement. (Which is why extra kudos go to those who’ve made it as far as this web page!) But, really, I should have known better.
AC seems mundane because it’s ubiquitous – but because it’s ubiquitous, its impact is astonishing. If you took air conditioning out of the picture, there might not be such thing as the California energy crisis. We could put dozens of power plants offline. In terms of global warming, it would be like taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road, permanently.
Why air conditioning and not, say clothes dryers or refrigerators? Well, partly because AC sucks lots of power (especially central AC systems though, bought new, even those may be more efficient than your old window unit), partly because of the way we use them: all at once. When heat waves hit, Californians turn on their ACs practically in unison, hitting up a beleaguered electricity grid that fires up every creaky last turbine to handle the load.
So, it comes as no surprise that a number of Californians are putting serious energy into making air conditioning work better. At the top of that list is California Energy Commission Commissioner Art Rosenfeld, the efficiency guru who, perhaps more than any other person, can be credited for California’s remarkable efficiency gains over the last 30 years. We also hear from AC inventor and entrepreneur John Proctor. And thanks also go to Jeff Scalier, of Antioch-based Blue Star Heating and Air Conditioning, who introduced me to his very satisfied customer, Al Mason, and whose mother I hope enjoys the CD we send her.
If you want to retrofit your central AC system to tailor it to California climate (and make it 20 percent more efficient) a number of Bay Area installers are ready to do it. Here are some of them, courtesy of Proctor Engineering:
— Vtech HVAC Services, Antioch, 925-752-6075
— Bland A/C & Heating, Inc., Bakersfield, 661-836-3880
— Herrera Heating & Air Conditioning, Bakersfield, 510-750-6972
— Action Air Conditioning, Clovis, Fresno, 559-292-8640
— California Indoor Comfort, Fresno Area, 559-276-7457
— Certified Heating and Air Conditioning, Fresno County, 559-273-8048
— ReNu, Marin County, 415-462-0245
— Queirolo’s Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., San Joaquin County, 209-464-9658
— Leo’s Heating & Air Conditioning, San Joaquin Valley, 209-271-7873
— Air Solutions Heating & Air, Stanislaus County, 209-380-3032
— Air Flo Pro, Stockton, 209-915-4730
— University Refrigeration, Stockton, 209-609-8400
— CPR Sheet Metal, Inc., Vacaville, 707-628-7495
— Right Now Air, Vacaville, 707-447-3063
Listen to the Air Conditioning Reinvented radio report online.