Boost your air conditioner’s cooling power by blocking “heat leaks”

A basic “5,000 BTU” air conditioner can pump about 1,500 Watts of heat out of a room every hour.  To get more bang for your A/C buck, find the big ‘heat leaks’ in your room — and block them.

Your air conditioner is a pump, and what it pumps is an invisible liquid called ‘heat’.  (OK, not really, but this is a useful way to think about it.)  Your A/C unit scoops up the ‘heat liquid’ from inside the room, pumps it out through the window, and dumps it outside.  As the ‘heat liquid’ is slowly drained out of your room, the room gets cooler, you get happier, and civilized indoor life can continue.

To boost the cooling power of your A/C unit, find out what’s letting heat leak into your room, and you block the leaks.  If your room is constantly filling up with ‘heat liquid’, the pump (A/C) spends a lot more energy just keeping up with the leaks, and less energy dropping the temperature for you.  Luckily, there are (at least!) three easy things you can do:

  1. Block the daytime sunlight.  Sun flooding in through the windows also brings a flood of heat into the room.  Close the blinds, pull the drapes.  Congratulations, you’ve just closed a big, gaping hole that was pouring heat in to the room.
  2. Turn off every light you can — and replace others with LED or CFL bulbs.  If you’re running three 60-Watt lightbulbs in the same room as a basic 5,000 BTU window A/C unit, you’re using 12% of your A/C’s cooling power just to pump out the heat that the lightbulbs are bringing in! Turn off the ones you don’t need, and replace the others with modern high-efficiency LED or CFL bulbs.  Good job: you’ve just blocked another source of heat sneaking in.
  3. Unplug those electronic gizmos — or at least move the chargers to another room. Nearly everything plugged into a wall socket is leaking heat into your room.  Put your hand on each ‘wall wart’ transformer, and if any of them feel warm, you’ve found another leak through which heat is sneaking into your room!  When you unplug the gizmo, you plug another heat leak.

It’s common to find 20% or more of an A/C unit’s cooling power being used up needlessly, pumping out heat that you can easily block before it gets in.  Block that heat before it gets in, and presto: 20% boost in A/C cooling power.



“Five Elements” light sculpture

After months of work, “Five Elements”, my first full light sculpture debuted this weekend at a private event.  This quick video shows a short clip of each ‘element’; the actual five-element cycle is 12 minutes long, repeating each of the five elements five times each hour.  As with any “version 1.0”, I have a dozen ways I’d like to polish and keep improving it, but I’m happy with it as is, too.

It’s illuminated by 150 RGB LEDs and controlled by an Arduino Uno using the FastSPI_LED library and my own custom code.
The installation at the debut event used a very different diffuser which made the LEDs more visible.  While both were good, I think I prefer this diffuser overall.