Question: Our house doesn't have central air conditioning and the recent heat wave has made us painfully aware of it, especially for a person that is confined to a wheelchair. It would be too costly to install central air conditioning and I don't like the look of through-the-window units. Do you have any suggestions
Answer: Contractor Manuel Delgado, 1125 S. Masselin Ave. in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles is doing more and more through-the-wall air conditioner installations. He cuts an opening in the wall about eight inches above the floor, between the floor and the window sill; all that shows inside is the grill and top-mounted controls. The cost is about $500-$600 for labor and materials for a 150-square-foot room, the size of many bedrooms and dens. A typical living room could cost about $1,000, but this is still well below the $6,000-$7,000 that central air might cost in a home that lacks forced-air ducts.
Today's room air conditioners, like other major electrical appliances, are far more energy efficient than ones only a few years old, Delgado said, so air conditioning a room or two might be the most economical approach for many people who never thought they would need air conditioning. He has done as many as three rooms in one house: a bedroom, a living room and a den, for instance. The low mounting position makes the controls readily accessible for a person in a wheelchair, he added.
I personally think the summers are getting warmer hereabouts, so many Southlanders are going to be in the market for air conditioning. The best approach is central air for homes that already have forced-air heating. The cost is well below that of installing ducts in a house that lacks them. Next best is installing a unit permanently through the wall.
As in all dealings with home improvement contractors, make sure that he or she is licensed and insured. Don't take his or her word for it; get the license number and check it out with the Contractors' State License Board office nearest you, listed in the government section in the front of the white pages.
Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.