If we could sell our houses under ideal conditions, our lives and those of our real estate agents would be much easier.
But that’s not always possible. If the house looks its best when the azaleas are blooming but you have to sell in the winter, it is probably wise to have such photographs of the house available for buyers to look at.
If you don’t have central air conditioning, showing the house in the heat of summer with window units projecting from the sides of the house and some rooms hotter than others can be a turnoff to a sweaty buyer.
To take some of the edge off a hot house, consider installing ceiling fans.
After electricity was introduced into the home, ceiling fans became a fixture of many houses. In the 1880s, Philip Diehl, an engineer for Singer Sewing Co., was supposed to have been building an electric motor for a sewing machine.
Instead, he got the bright idea of attaching blades to the motor, and the fan was born. From there, it was a short hop to the ceiling.
The fan became the primary source of heat relief from the late Victorian period through World War II. But by 1950, ceiling fans were passe, replaced by portable fans, moved from room to room as we did. It wasn't until the late 1970s that the ceiling fan was back in fashion.
Modern ceiling fans are often used in concert with air-conditioning, bringing cooler air into areas of a room or house far from the source.
Fans use less electricity than either central air-conditioning or window units. An 8,000-BTU window air-conditioning unit uses about nine cents' worth of electricity per hour, or $2.16 a day, U.S. Department of Energy data show.
If used daily for three summer months, the cost of running it would be $194.40.
A ceiling fan uses about 28 cents' worth of electricity each day, or $25.20 over the course of the summer. The savings are substantial.
In warmer weather, fans make a person feel about seven degrees cooler than the air temperature. Setting the air-conditioning thermostat at 78 degrees with a ceiling fan in operation will make the room feel like 71 degrees and reduce electrical consumption, compared with an air-conditioning thermostat set at 71.
Ceiling fans cost less than window air-conditioning units. Top-of-the-line fans run around $300, but most cost under $100. An air conditioner sells for $200 to $800.
There are other ways to reduce home cooling costs. In many commercial buildings with large windows, a sheet of film — also available for home use -- is applied to the glass to reduce infrared solar heat and ultraviolet radiation but let in light.
If you need a window unit, room air conditioners come in three basic sizes: bedroom, multi-room and large capacity. Bedroom units typically generate 5,000 or 6,000 BTUs an hour; multi-rooms, 8,000 to 15,000 BTUs; and large ones, 18,000 to 29,000 BTUs.
To figure out what size you need, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests multiplying the square footage of the space to be cooled by 20. For example, a 15-by-20-foot bedroom is 300 square feet; multiplying that by 20 would result in 6,000 BTUs.
The size of the area you wish to cool is not the only consideration. The number of windows and whether the room is in full sun or partial shade should also be considered.
How does an air conditioner work? The unit has coils with fins similar to those in an automobile radiator. A compressor sends refrigerant through the coils, and the air is cooled as it is forced over the coils.
Many people buy air conditioners that are too large, in the false belief that an oversized unit will cool better. Actually, the unit will be less effective, and will waste energy at the same time.
Air conditioners remove both heat and moisture from the air. Moisture is removed when the warm air passes over the coils. If the unit is too large, it will cool the room quickly, but remove less of the moisture. This leaves the room with a damp, clammy feeling.
Window units don’t fit every window properly, so before you buy and install, make sure what you are buying will go well with your house. If possible, try being discreet in placing the room units, avoiding the front windows if possible, since this is the first thing a buyer sees.
However, don’t put the unit in a window into which the sun shines all day. That will make the unit work harder and raise your electric bill. The buyer will definitely be asking about summer energy costs when he sees those window units running. Make sure you keep a copy of your summer bills if you are asked.