Heat Wave

When you’re an early riser, nature often misleads you when making weather observations. At 5 am in mid-summer the sun has yet to rise and except on the most tropically humid days, the air seems fresh and invigorating. Once the sun peeks over the horizon, however, things change rapidly. The air becomes hot and sticky.

According to the National Weather Service, we’ve had four consecutive days of high temperatures in the 90s – 92 degrees on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 91 yesterday – and today should be no different. That puts us in the midst of a heat wave which, in this part of the country at least, is described as three consecutive days of temperatures above 90 degrees.

I’ve never been bothered too much by the heat. Living in New England you can play mind games and recall being painfully cold just months earlier which helps one remember that nothing, especially weather conditions either nice or extreme, lasts forever. Plus, fans are kind of nostalgic. The hum and intermittent breeze of an oscillating fan always reminds me of the summers of my childhood, falling asleep to Red Sox radio broadcasts on a bedside AM clock radio.

But last summer, my sincere belief in climate change plus increasingly severe weather conditions around the country persuaded me that it was time to take the plunge and get a modern air conditioning system. Our house has an odd layout, however, and neither window units nor traditional AC with its yards of duct work seemed to make sense. Instead, we purchased what is called a mini-split air conditioner. One piece, resembling a short but stocky baseboard heater, is attached high and unobtrusively on the interior wall of the room to be cooled and a small flexible hose is inserted through the wall, running from the wall unit (the condenser) to the suitcase sized compressor that sits outside the house. We placed a couple of these units strategically around the house and they do a great job of keeping us cool.

Our setup would undoubtedly be inadequate for a house in Plano, Texas, but it works fine in Lowell, Massachusetts where AC is really needed for only a couple of weeks of the year. So if your tolerance for the heat is waning and you’re about to take the AC plunge, investigate a mini-split as a third option. It might be right for you and your home.