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The Giant Chardonnay Bottle Cooling Our Homes

By Nechama Polak

The following conversation may come across as amateurish to the mechanical engineers among us, or to those who are more inclined towards physics and science. For me, however, a recent home inspection with one of my clients opened my eyes to a novel way of comprehending one of summer’s most important basic needs. I am talking about air conditioning.

It was very hot on the day of the inspection, with temperatures rising to what would hopefully be the highs of this summer season. I found the inspector and my customer standing outside discussing the constant dripping of water on the side of the house from a small white pipe which is called the condensation line. The inspector recommended that this line be adjusted to drain further away from the home.

“Is it normal for there to be so much water dripping out of the pipe? Does this indicate that there is something wrong with the air conditioning unit,” the customer asked.

“On the contrary,” the inspector replied. “Water coming out of an air conditioning unit means it’s working properly. In fact one of an air conditioning unit’s primary functions is to pull water out of the air, lowering the humidity.”

I was then treated to a basic explanation of the mechanics of air conditioning. We have all heard that there is something called freon that lives somewhere in the compressor outside our homes. It’s a bit complicated, but as the freon goes through a transformation its temperature drops, at which point it runs through a series of metal coils making the coils quite cold. When water- saturated air, which is warm, comes into contact with the cold coil two things occur. The air becomes colder, making it denser. Step number two is that the colder, more dense air no longer has room for additional moisture. This forces any water in the air to literally drip out.

The inspector elaborated with a great example to help understand this concept. Picture taking a cold, crisp bottle of buttery Chardonnay out of the refrigerator. When you place that bottle on the dining room table, the air temperature in your dining room on a hot summer day is for sure higher than the close to freezing air inside your refrigerator. The warm air in the dining room hits the cold glass of the Chardonnay bottle and instantly cools off, making it lose its water content resulting in condensation. Thus small droplets begin to form on the bottle.

In this analogy, your air conditioning system is some kind of large bottle of cold, white wine that is simultaneously cooling your home and removing the humidity from the air as well.

One last point worth sharing. Much like drinking a bottle of wine, this cooling process should go gradually and slowly. If the cooling unit is too big, the air will cool off very quickly, resulting in the unit turning off prematurely. If you have ever walked into a room that is at once cold and damp it can very well be that the room is being cooled by a unit that is not running long enough to pull out the humidity from the space.

If you made it this far into the article I commend your curiosity on the inner workings and amazing scientific feats that are taking place every day inside the four walls we call home. As my father, the consummate teacher, loved to say upon learning something interesting and a bit complicated: “ Don’t worry, there will be no test on this subject.”


Nechama Polak is the broker of record and owner of V&N Group LLC, located at 1401 Palisade Avenue in Teaneck. Send your thoughts and comments to [email protected] or call 201 826 8809

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