Friday, August 2, 2013

Sun Valley assesses water-cooled air conditioners

Six-month moratorium placed on new installations

Express Staff Writer

    The Sun Valley Water and Sewer District is seeking to determine whether the installation of water-cooled air-conditioning units should continue to be permitted in the city due to their high water use.
    Unlike normal air-conditioning units, the water-cooled units are installed in a crawl space rather than outside and use water rather than a fan to cool the condenser. They’re much quieter than air-cooled units, but they dump the water into the sewer system once it’s been used to cool the air.
    Matt Thornton, owner of Thornton Heating and Sheet Metal in Ketchum, said the units use about three-quarters of a gallon of water per minute while they’re running. He said they cost about 30 percent more than an air-cooled unit and use about the same amount of energy.
    Thornton said he’s installed about a dozen of the units in condominium complexes in Ketchum where the noisier air-cooled units are prohibited by condominium association rules.
    Sun Valley Water and Sewer District General Manager Pat McMahon said a six-month moratorium on the units was enacted after an owner at The Villager condominium complex requested to have one installed there. McMahon said a committee to research the issue, consisting of himself and two members of the homeowners association board at the Fairway 9 Phase 2 condominium complex, where several of the water-cooled units have been installed, was formed during a board meeting there on June 17.
    “It’s creating a new demand on my system at the exact time that it’s taxed the most,” McMahon said. “If we say it’s OK to put these things in, if everybody started using them, I’d have to drill new wells. There’s better technology to cool your home than using water one time and then wasting it.”
    McMahon said a meter has been installed at one of the Fairway 9 condominium inhabited by a full-time resident to see how much water the air-conditioning unit there uses over time.
    Thornton said a quiet alternative to water-cooled air conditioners is high-efficiency air-cooled units, which cost about the same as the water-cooled air conditioners. However, he said they haven’t been approved by all the area’s condominium associations.

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