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Breath of fresh air?

Breath of fresh air?
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First Published: Tue, May 05 2009. 07 59 PM IST

Updated: Tue, May 05 2009. 07 59 PM IST
Everyone knows that with the blazing Indian sun, days are definitely much hotter than the nights. Yet, almost all air conditioners, or ACs, promote the luxurious comfort they bring at night. Strange, no one is tossing and turning on the global warming effects caused by the carbon footprint of each AC gently cooling down your room with each degree.
Stars in the day
Obviously, power consumption of the unit is the most important criterion in choosing a model from at least 200 available in India. Form factor is the second.
Depending on your needs, you may choose to install an AC either as a window unit, a split AC, a floor-standing unit or a cassette on the ceiling.
We’ve limited ourselves to split ACs here but whatever form factor you choose, look for units displaying a prominent “Energy Star” rating. Shortlist only a five-star rated unit because most Indians tend to replace their ACs not before five-seven years of use. A five-star unit may more than pay for the difference over this time, compared to a four-star or lower-rated unit, not to mention the relief of reduced electricity bills. However, be careful: Not all five-star ratings are the same, so base your comparisons on the actual power consumption and the specific rating value.
Also See Some 1.5 Tonne Split ACs (PDF)
Browse your brand’s website or Web-search for an online energy calculator to estimate your power savings and bills. For instance, I’ve calculated that my eight hours of sleep with my 1.5 tonne split AC on costs me approximately Rs50-60 per night. Compared to other shortlisted models, the electricity saved can power one ceiling fan and two compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL, bulbs in my room. The reduced load also saves me from potential problems caused in other fixtures, devices and even the wiring and fuses on the circuit. Look also for units that do not break down in extreme temperatures. Samsung claims that selected units can continue functioning for a longer time even when it’s as high as 54 degrees Celsius.
Green without envy
Each brand and model offers some smart and innovative technology to shave a few more rupees off your bill. For instance, Daikin has infrared sensors to monitor the room and effectively reduce the power consumption by a claimed 30% by controlling energy wastage. Almost all brands adjust their total running time at night while maintaining a comfortable range of temperatures.
A few brands use more exotic and insulated material to minimize energy wastage, as well as to save components from wear and tear. What impresses me the most are the models that use a gas or refrigerants less harmful to the ozone layer, even though such AC models cost a bit more. That’s what I’d pay for, first.
The biology of cool
The biggest distinctive factor between ACs is the quality of air these offer you with their freshness, vitality and relaxation benefits. Toshiba is strongly positioning itself in the premium category with a major focus on health. Its Plasma Air Purifier boasts of up to 10 times faster cleaning than conventional filters. Other leading brands have their own unique mix of exotic technologies to make the air more hygienic.
Shortlist those that help prevent creepy-crawlies from breeding and keep harmful bacteria, fungus and all types of moulds from forming. Add a second criterion for those that freshen the air, as well as actively prevent respiratory illnesses from occurring due to unhealthy air. An added bonus is a built-in ionizer. Toshiba claims its air ionizer generates at least a million negative ions for every square cm of air. In the middle of a typical room, up to 35,000 negative ions may be registered, more than you would find in the invigorating air around a waterfall.
More exotica
Hitachi’s AC unit has an infrared eye that follows you around the room and directs its air flow towards you. All AC manufacturers have come to realize that human comfort can’t be measured just in temperatures. Hence, the emphasis on automated or intelligent dehumidifiers that control the percentage of humidity. The effect of this is most startling during the monsoon when the temperature, though 10-15 degrees cooler than in the dry summer season, is almost unbearable. Most ACs, without proper humidity control, become ineffective, or worse, if poorly installed, start dripping or trickling water inside your room. Also, shortlist models that safely auto-start after a power failure and which retain your preferences and settings.
Not so remote
The remote controls have got snazzier. Some glow softly at night, so it’s easy to locate them. Most sport information -filled LCD screens, and handy timer functions and cooling modes. However, I still prefer units that manually let me override the remote control for those awkward moments when I can’t locate the remote. Given that most of us tend to install indoor units high on the wall, convenient access to the filters is essential for regular cleaning.
Art on the walls
The most dramatic looking models are from LG. The indoor units have front panels that can be in shades or textures that match the colour and decor of your room. The premium models double up as elegant photo frames or adorn your wall with prints of tasteful paintings. Your guests may not realize that the painting conceals an air conditioner unit.
Maintain your cool
Once you’ve finalized your model, study the warranty and service support carefully. Almost all manufacturers offer a five-year warranty on the compressor unit and a one-year warranty on the rest of the unit. The cost of the installation and the stabilizer is usually extra, and you may get some cash back for an old AC. The more aggressive brands offer up to three-four free on-site services to sweeten the deal.
What next? I can only dream of air conditioners that auto-switch to some magic source of clean and uninterrupted alternative energy during those inevitable power cuts. But then, money still can’t buy you everything.
Tagged at Rs12,195, the Sony Ericsson C510 Cyber-shot phone is a good budget camera phone. The first mobile to feature Sony’s “smile detection” technology, its sharp and vibrant output for a 3.2-megapixel (in good light, with a steady hand) is surprisingly outstanding. What is not surprising is the pronounced shutter lag and average dual LED flash performance—the bane of most camera phones. A solid, protective lens cover, easy interface, fault-free calls and a decent 1GB card are definite plus points. The non-standard headphone jack is not.
Ashish Bhatia
If you’re looking for a zippy way to preview, explore and compare fonts installed in your system, point your browser to Flippingtypical.com. The more commonly used ones show up in a trice, resplendent in all their curvy glory, with the font names on the top. You know you have more fonts but can’t see them? Click on the A-Z in the upper left corner of the site. And if you can’t see a font that you know is out there, key in its name and it will appear. Display text is customizable and it works well with IE7, Firefox 3, Safari 3 and OS/X.
Ashish Bhatia
Want to turn off Facebook chat? It is easy, but not obvious. Go to the lower right corner of the Windows XP-like bar of icons Facebook places at the bottom of your browser window. You’ll see an icon that represents the number of people online. Ignore that. Go to the next part of the bar that has an icon of a person’s head with a green dot next to it. Mouse over it and up pops the word “Chat”. This is the control you’re looking for. Click the head-and-dot icon, and up pops a dialog box that includes a link to “Go Offline”. When you click, the green dot changes to red. Also, the “Online Friends” counter goes away. You’re now logged out of Facebook chat forever. Facebook will remember your off setting, even if you log out and back in again. If you want to chat, go to the same place and click “Go Online” to turn the dot back to green.
Concerned about your security at home? Try these no-cost DIY solutions. Motion Detection (is.gd/wPUN) is a bantam programme (130KB) that converts your little webcam into a motion-sensing security camera. You can set it to capture time-stamped stills or videos each time it detects any motion. Sensitivity levels are configurable and the software easy to use. Willing to tinker around some more? Get Yawcam (Yawcam.com). This even uploads the visuals automatically via FTP, or e-mail them or simply save them to a hard disk.
Ashish Bhatia
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, May 05 2009. 07 59 PM IST