Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Said You Wanted Air Conditioning...

Molly and I were contacted recently about taking on a new line of scented air fresheners for her store, Heart's Desire. Although HD already carries a line of scented air fresheners, this was being touted for it's patented platinum wick which has a smaller carbon footprint, and no open flame - significantly more "green" than the brand she already carries. Molly really knows retail, and experience tells her that the container and the fragrance trumps the "green" qualities of the platinum wick. Unless you are a granola eating hippie who is into saving the whales, "green" doesn't stir you. It's the container for beauty, and the fragrance for your senses.

Apparently I have never learned these lessons. We understand the container and fragrance thing (Architects speak reverently about this being "form"), but it's what's under the hood that really excites us! (That same creative group respectfully calls this "function") Case in point... I was called in the other day on a remodel that requires almost no interior cosmetic work. That's really unusual! My client's new home is seventeen years old and needs all new heat and air conditioning equipment. It also needs replacement of all of the wood windows, as well as repair of the exterior wood rot around the windows. It seems that the original builder didn't flash around the cast stone which surrounds several of the windows, and moisture has leaked back behind the simulated stucco. WHAT A MESS! 

Evidently the builder was focused a whole lot more on "form" (or the pretty stuff), than on "function" (what's under the hood). But who can blame him? We all live amongst the pretty stuff, not in some air conditioning duct! I guess I didn't learn that well because it has always seemed to me that homes not only ought to be beautiful, but also really well built and durable... Perhaps I have been delusional!

The "dreaded" Flexduct!
Without getting too technical I learned years ago that air moves through an air conditioning duct in a circular manner. Just like the blood that is coarsing through our veins, it works better with a smooth, solid wall that is not kinked or obstructed. (Have I lost you yet?) It makes sense that rigid tube duct would carry air more efficiently than a kinked slinky, with corrugated inner walls, covered with insulation (a/k/a "flexduct"). Pass the granola, but that just may be why we need a whole new air conditioning system after just seventeen years! You guessed it, the air conditioning units were trying to force air through rough walled, badly kinked flexduct and it caused enough back pressure to wear the unit out! Boy oh boy, am I sounding "green"...

Here's my point: you can buy scented air fresheners with fantastic scents, in beautiful reservoir containers, without noticing the platinum wick that has the "smaller carbon footprint." But you better not buy a Mercedes without checking to make sure that it doesn't have a four cylinder, sewing machine engine under the hood! If you don't check, you may be surprised - an engine is not just an engine!

Similarly, you can buy a beautiful home, finely appointed, that is cool and comfortable at the very moment you fall in love with it. But what's going on in the attic? Does it have properly sized equipment that has been well maintained, and distributes cool air efficiently through galvanized tube duct? Or do you open the attic door and see something that looks like spaghetti attached to a crouton? After all, to some people air conditioning is air conditioning, and "you said you wanted air conditioning..." Ouch!

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