Time Again to Move the Window Air Conditioners
By Anthony Buccino
The new window units are more efficient and lighter than those we started with long ago, they seem heavier each year. I like to be cool, but I'm not a big fan of air conditioning.
Every year here in New Jersey when we change our clocks to save time, there's another chore around our house.
About the last week of April when we spring ahead, it's time to break out the window air conditioners from their closet hibernations.
In October, it's time to rip off the sealing tape and bring in the units without dropping them on an innocent foot or to the pavement below.
The two bedroom air conditioners need only cross from the closet to the window. It's the monster dining room air conditioner that has been stored in the basement that elicits the most grunts and groans as it travels up a flight of stairs, through the kitchen to rest and catch its breath in front of the window.
It wasn't always like this. When I grew up in the second floor cold water flat upstairs from grandma, we didn't even have screens outside our windows. We had these sliding screens that adjusted to the width of the window and let in a hot summer breeze through about ten inches of metal panels.
When I was nine, Dad surprised us all with a Lasko electric oscillating window fan. On sweltering summer days I'd sway to the left and right to stay in the modest breeze. When we moved to our house across town, Dad brought home fans that filled the windows. His concern was whether to face the fan to draw the inside air to the outside, or to face it in so that it stirred the room with a fresh breeze of outside hot air.
My wife spent her first few years in a second floor-attic apartment where an air conditioner was a necessity in the summer. When her family moved into a house, they had one air conditioner that cooled the second floor bedrooms and another unit that worked the first floor. She's a big fan of air conditioning.
By the time we started dating, they had added a den to their home with its own unit. I swear it must have come from the frozen food department of the A&P. Any summer night I visited I felt like a side of beef in that room. It was so cold, they actually set aside a blanket "just for Anthony."
Dad worked outside as a carpenter all year. He'd spent a few years in the Fijis, so he was just fine most of the time without air conditioning. After I got married and moved out, my folks put an air conditioner in the living room. By that time my new family was living in a second floor attic apartment. My new wife picked out a cooling unit that served our three rooms well.
For practice, I had helped my father-in-law put in his three window units. He was a master at slipping the unit in the window, lining up the storm windows and sealing outside out and inside in with his miracle duct tape. When everything was sealed, he scooted up the ladder and double taped the seal shut. We'd never see a mosquito or bird family get in through one of Harry's sealed windows.
When we left our attic apartment for our new old house, we paid the sellers an extra $25 for the big old window unit in the dining room. It was an old work horse and we were sure that our sellers had gotten it from the original owners and had never moved it in or out. It worked well. It cooled off the entire first floor.
That old 10,000 BTU unit was working great. For $25 bucks, it was a bargain. Then, one Sunday afternoon we had our family house-warming. The hard rain outside tapped and banged into the metal frame. We were cool and dry inside. After a few minutes all the chatter stopped and everyone was staring at water pouring out of the air conditioner and onto the dining room floor.
First, we had to figure out how to get the unit to slide out of the window. All the strong uncles tried, to no avail. Then we realized the cooling unit slid in and out of a metal frame. One uncle slid it forward and handed out clumps of leaves and years' worth of debris. Another uncle took a hammer and nail and punched out a few holes so it would drain. Someone said, "You get what you pay for."
Growing up, we never had this problem with a window fan. Well, there were a few times we left the fan on and it rained. Sure, the fan spurted water across the room but how many times did that happen?
Now, after 35 years of installing and removing our window air conditioners, I can't say I can seal them as well as Harry. My hands are big and clumsy. Half the duct tape I tear off still sticks to itself. And even though the new units are more efficient and lighter than those we started with so long ago, they seem heavier each year.
A few years ago I stopped raising the ladder to seal the second floor air conditioners. For a few weeks in the spring, the birds arise before us and their babies are hungry, singing to us through the dull hum our window unit. A few sharp raps to the side of the air conditioner and they quiet down, well, at least until sunrise. This is why we save daylight?
When these three house units go, we're thinking of getting those new-fangled ones that are on rollers and you just roll the unit in front of the window, run the vent, plug it in and you're in business. No lugging, no taping, no birds' nests to clean in the fall.
Another option we heard from our furnace guy is to air condition the whole house with an outside unit. He said he could run the lines through what looks like a downspout up to our attic. He'd run piping across our attic to the second floor rooms. What he didn't know is that he couldn't run a garter snake through 35 years of mementos stored up there.
For most of my life, we turned the clocks one hour ahead in April, the week of my mother's birthday. And then we would fall back one hour in October the week of my parents' anniversary. Nowadays, the change dates are earlier in spring and later in fall. My 'honey, do list' reminds, 'Honey, do the air conditioners before we switch daylight savings time.' I like cool, but I'm not a big fan of air conditioning.
Copyright © 2013 By Anthony Buccino
First published NJ.com Oct. 24, 2013.
Portable does not mean lightweight.
Thanks to Home Depot and UPS.
PS: These portable units sucked!
We took our heating guy's suggestion and went central. It has made all the difference!
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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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