Air Conditioning
July 4, 2004 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Air conditioner question in this burningly hot Nor'east US summer... more on the interior...

I live in a sort of townhouse complex, and some of the units have these openings in the walls, under the windows, that are designed to house air conditioners (wall units). They fit in this thing so one side, facing outdoors, takes the fresh air (as I understand it), makes it cold (magic, I assume), and then blows it out the other side, the side that is actually inside the apartment. However my room does not have one of these openings, and the windows can't hold an air conditioner either. It's extremely hot, and I was wondering: what would happen if I bought a wall-unit air conditioner and just put it on the floor of a closed (windows, doors closed) room and turned it on? Would I suffocate? Would coldness not come out of it? Are there other air conditioner-type thingies designed for indoor use (i.e., all windows closed, no contact to outside air)? Thanks! (hurry I'm melting)
posted by ac to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
Air conditioners move heat. They take heat from inside your room and put it outside. If both ends are inside, it will move heat from one side of your room to the other. So cold would come out one side, and heat would come out the other. It will all mix back up pretty quickly, though. And in addition to this, the AC is making new heat at the same time. So your room will get warmer overall.

If you want to make your room cooler, you have to move the heat that is in it somewhere else. It's really hard to do this without any contact with anything outside your room. Sorry.

One thing you can do is bring something that will absorb heat into your room. Like a massive block of ice. Or a superhero with the ability to make things cold.
posted by whatnotever at 7:51 PM on July 4, 2004

Goddamn laws of thermodynamics, they always get in my way! How do refrigerators work then? It has no access to outdoors... why can't my room be like my fridge, cold, and filled with ice cream. But seriously, would putting a bucket(s) of ice in the room make any noticeable change? Anyone have any uncommon tips for getting cool? Are there any air conditioners that might put heat out through a thin hose I could run outside or something instead of a huge freaking metal grille? Can I do something? What if I put the air con. sort of in the doorway of the room, could it make the room cold and the rest of the house hotter? What I mean is, how tight does the seal around the heat-making part have to be to make a noticeable difference?
Thanks for the quick response, destroyer of hope with your fancy rules of heat
posted by ac at 7:58 PM on July 4, 2004

Previously on Ask MetaFilter...
posted by Danelope at 7:58 PM on July 4, 2004

There are also units like this, but I can't vouch for how well they work.
posted by dual_action at 8:02 PM on July 4, 2004

ohh.. sorry... didn't see that other post. RE: the dry ice, I didn't understand from the thread... WOULD it be dangerous to have alot of it in the room? (I dont have any pets or babies)..
I am also checking out these hoséd portable air conditioners.. but they seem to be quite expensive
posted by ac at 8:03 PM on July 4, 2004

The last NY law firm I worked at had one of those "portable" air conditioning units with the giant hose. They got it so that they could ask the revenue generating units associates to come in and work on the weekends, without having to pay the landlord extra for central air.

It didn't work very well, and it made a lot of noise. That was five years ago. YMMV.
posted by ambrosia at 8:11 PM on July 4, 2004

A fridge works because it actually makes the outside room proportionally hotter, but by dispersing the heat over a wide area (the big grill in back), and into a much larger space, you just generally don't really notice it. There is no magic, though--the heat has to go somewhere. Bacause the seal on the door keeps the heat from getting back in, the inside is kept cooler than the outside room.

It's like bailing out a boat--your idea of just putting the AC unit on the floor would be like bailing water from the front of the boat to the back, without actually decreasing the amount of water in the boat. Actually, you'd be worse off, because the extra work of moving all the energy around would add to the heat in the room.

They sell those portable AC units, with the window hose, at places like Best Buy now--they're a bit more expensive than a regular window unit, but I don't think outrageously so. Can't vouch for their effectiveness or quietness, but you've got to have some way of driving the heat out of your apartment to get any real relief.
posted by LairBob at 8:55 PM on July 4, 2004

You could cut a hole in the door of the room you're concerned with, and put the A/C unit in there. It would make your hallway hotter, and your room cooler, which would probably be what you're looking for.

This is a bit of an extreme solution.
posted by smackfu at 9:04 PM on July 4, 2004

I might not understand.. Do you have any windows to the outside at all? If so, you could put the air conditioner on the floor (or a table or something) and build a tunnel out of cardboard and ducttape to the window. Also, you'll have to deal with all the water that the air conditioner condenses out of the air. I've never done this, but I've seen it in friend's rooms. I absolve myself of all responsibility if you burn down your abode by following any dumb ideas you read on some weird website.
posted by duckstab at 9:26 PM on July 4, 2004

But seriously, would putting a bucket(s) of ice in the room make any noticeable change?

Because I'm a great big geek, I ran through the thermodynamic calculations. The result: if you put a block of ice weighing 1 kg (roughly the size of a quart of milk) in a room with a volume of 60 m3 (approx 16'x12', w/ 10' ceilings), it'll reduce the temperature in that room by about 11°F by the time the water has come to room temperature. This is mainly because the ice takes an awful lot of heat energy to melt relative to the amount available to it in the air.

Of course, as any good physicist should, I've made a couple simplfying assumptions: no air circulation between it and the other rooms, no people in the room and in fact no other furniture in the room either. Oh, and the walls, floor, and ceiling have negligible heat capacity. Very few of these assumptions are likely to be satisfied in the real world, but I would expect my answer is still correct to within a factor of two or so. You want more accuracy than that, go ask an engineer — they love piddling small details like that.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:40 PM on July 4, 2004

Metafilter: Because I'm a great big geek.
posted by anastasiav at 10:05 PM on July 4, 2004

Why can't the window hold an air conditioner? I used to have one that you put on the sill, close the window on the top of it to hold it there and had wings on the side that expanded to fill the space. It was crap but at least I could sleep.

The screen name is just a coincidence, right?
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:04 AM on July 5, 2004

Yeah, the screen name is a coincidence. Har har.
As for the big geek... I still don't have an idea of what that will do.... how long would the ice take to melt? Assuming its, maybe 85 or 90 degrees in the room. Would I feel a difference?

duckstab... if that is your real name... I do have a window, but its one of those stupid ones that slides side to side, not up and down. All the wall units I've seen have those extendorama things only on the sides, and the window is at least twice as tall as the air conditioner.

Quick poll: wouldn't you all rather FREEZE than BURN? I mean, with cold you can put on clothes, your body generates heat naturally, etc. I can't stand this crap..
posted by ac at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2004

I'm a glutton for punishment (and the summer has been relatively mild here in St. Louis), but I've not yet turned on the a/c in my house. Nor have i bothered to run a new circuit to run the window unit in my bedroom. How? box fan. It's amazing how much cooler you can feel when the last thing you do at night is take a shower, then let 30 MPH winds blow over you. They make fans specifically for your side-sliding windows.
posted by notsnot at 1:07 PM on July 5, 2004

One might mention that in hot weather, running about the house naked is a lot more comfortable than wearing clothes.

Ceiling fans rock.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:10 PM on July 5, 2004

Well.. I can run about my fan naked maybe. But that's it. thanks for the help.
One more:
What happens if I cram a wallunit meant to go horizontally into my side-sliding, good-for-nothing windows? Does stuff drip out of it? Will the air conditioner's operating principles allow it to retain its cooling capabilities while stationed vertically (i.e. the long part is going up and down not sideways like its supposed to). Thanks
posted by ac at 1:20 PM on July 5, 2004

All the wall units I've seen have those extendorama things only on the sides, and the window is at least twice as tall as the air conditioner.

They make window AC units for slider and casement windows. We had good success with a Frigidaire in my last apartment that had crank out vertical windows. As they're a bit of a niche product you won't often find them at places like Best Buy, and they're a bit more expensive, but any deccent appliance store should have them.
posted by jalexei at 4:07 PM on July 5, 2004

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