• Stay Comfortable & Save Money All Year Long

  • Stay Comfortable & Save Money All Year Long

  • Stay Comfortable & Save Money All Year Long

Pet Hair – What Can Be Done?

No one is prouder than me of their pet family members. I adopt from shelters or rescues, I take in strays, and I work very hard to restore these animals to full health, both emotionally and physically. It’s time-consuming and costly, and worth every moment and penny of the effort. But when my grandson recently began to exhibit severe allergic reactions while staying with me, I realized that the perfect environment I had created for my pets was causing real distress to those I love. I knew I had to do something to get rid of the excess accumulation of pet hair and pet dander. I wondered what effect this had on my air conditioning system which draws all the air in through vents, cools it, and blows it back into the room through a series of ductwork. The effect is actually rather dramatic.

Obviously, regularly changing A/C filters is the first order of business for pet owners. Even when that chore is performed consistently, pet hair and pet dander can easily accumulate and clog that filter which will cause your system to work harder not smarter, and can result in system breakdowns. But those same pollutants that can result in allergies, or even worse health problems, can also gather and build up in your ductwork, blowing unclean air throughout your home. In addition to changing the filter, you should have a professional clean your ducts.

But is there more? There is another step you should take, particularly if health problems have been an issue; obtain an air purification system. Your A/C service provider can open a whole world of good health up to you by utilizing modern, technologically advanced, air purifiers in combination with your A/C system. Every bit of the air in your home can be purified, imagine that! What are you waiting for?

 

 

Replace Only the Outside Condenser Unit or Replace the Indoor Coil Also?

I don’t know why life is full of choices, but it is. If you have ever faced the dilemma of choosing to replace only the outside condenser unit of your air conditioning system, while a sales person pressures you to replace both the condenser and the indoor coil at the same time, you know what I’m talking about. I faced that decision and had to muddle my way through the many factors involved without the benefit of advice from a professional I could trust. It only complicates matters if you are in a position of having had no air conditioning for three days in the middle of summer. That situation might send you over the edge, but you have to think logically to work your way through this problem.

Obviously, one of the most important factors in this decision is money. Can you afford to do it right now? A condenser is substantially less expensive than a replacing both parts of the system. If you do not have the funds available, or the access to funding, your decision is a simple one. If you’re like me, you also have real first-world issues with replacing a perfectly good portion of a unit just because you have to replace a broken part of the unit. The cost involved is huge and the voice of my miserly father reverberates through my head. But is there more to it? Yes.

Is there a warranty involved? Most manufacturers won’t warrant the system if you only replace some parts.

The cost of installation to replace one major part now, and another major part later can be substantial, and you need to factor that into the overall cost. It could all be done at the same time which would save those extra installation charges.

You can never achieve the efficiency you hope for by replacing one old part, but not the other, which is another cost consideration you need to ponder because it may have a noticeable impact on your monthly cooling costs. It certainly can’t ever help.

Regulatory issues associated with coolant may have the largest impact on the costs. Old units use coolants that have been phased out or will be phased out and future costs may be substantially higher to install newer units, which must also be compatible.

It is always better to install a matched system, with the most energy efficient operation you can achieve. If you compare your A/C system to a vehicle you might better understand the logic if you imagine replacing your engine but nothing else. You have a new engine, but the rest of your old car is only going to last so long. And a new engine does not a new car make.

One last bit of advice, develop a relationship with your A/C service provider so that you have someone you know and trust advising you when you have to make these very complex decisions. They will have much more knowledge of the subject than you, and by developing that relationship you will foster trust and can have faith in their advice.

Heat Load – Heat Source. Why are those important to you?

Years ago, I had a roommate. He had a bedroom and bathroom dedicated completely for his private use in a separate area of my rather small home, but he constantly stayed in the front room and dining room with me. I couldn’t understand it. Was he just a friendly, social guy? A couple of years later I found a new roommate and had the exact same experience. Why? This guy seemed like a pretty private person, why wouldn’t he stay in his part of the home? By the time I found a third roommate, I found out what the problem was and realized a change was needed, and it wasn’t my roommate.

 

That small third bedroom in my home never cooled down. You could freeze to death in the rest of my home, but that little room never felt cool enough. I could feel the cool air blowing from the vent, the room was relatively small, but the air never felt cool. I splurged to make that roommate happy and bought a window air conditioner to help cool his room. But why was that necessary?

I contacted my A/C service company and had them come take a look. I found out about heat load and heat sources. In this case it was very simple; this relatively small room had a very large window. While the rest of the home is surrounding by large shade trees which significantly reduced the temperatures, this small bedroom was on the westerly exposed side of the house with no shade trees. Combined with the large low efficiency window, it was too much for this space. It doesn’t take much.

Your builder or A/C company should look at things such as this. Internal sources of heat can be just as troublesome. The number of people typically occupying a room, the direction the room faces and the exposure to the sun, the proximity to appliances such as washers and dryers and kitchen appliances, the height of the ceilings and other factors that contribute to the heat load need to be taken into account by a design professional to calculate how much air is required to cool or heat the space. They can calculate the CFM breakdown, or Cubic Foot of air per Minute. This information is used to properly design the duct system for the unit. It’s not something you should do yourself. If it’s properly done, you will think nothing of it. If it’s not, it will drive you crazy and you’ll never be able to find a comfortable solution. It’s that important.

I never really appreciated the difficulty my roommates were having all those years ago, but once I became informed I made the changes necessary. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and called a professional at the first sign of trouble. Do yourself a favor if you find yourself in a similar situation.

What Does SEER Mean?

What does SEER stand for? Is a higher SEER number better? Does it cost more? Why do I hear 18 SEER A/C systems cool better than 14 SEER systems? They must be better, right?

 

Let’s take a look at what all these things really mean for your comfort and your pocketbook.

 

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. You may hear it referred to as Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, but that is incorrect. It represents the ratio of the cooling output of an A/C over a typical cooling season divided by its’ energy consumption, which is measured in Watt-Hours. Stay with me…. It is the average calculated over an entire cooling season and is calculated by using a constant indoor temperature with various outdoor temperatures, which represents a typical cooling season. The SEER ratings vary depending upon regulations and the age of the systems, but it’s important to remember that SEER ratings are not constant and represent a maximum value for the system. Use of the system and the condition of the system will impact the SEER rating the same way the MPG of a car varies depending on the condition of the vehicle and the way you drive. It also depends on the way you cool your space, the outdoor temperature extremes, etc. In short, a higher the SEER value equals less electricity usage required to achieve a certain degree of comfort. It saves money on your electricity bill, but can it save in the long run when you upgrade to a more expensive, higher SEER unit (i.e. 18 SEER)?

The SEER value of a new system will always represent better efficiency than the SEER value of an old system, so even if both have a SEER value of 14, your older system doesn’t necessarily stay at that SEER value throughout its’ life. You could say that the SEER value of your system could be as high as the number assigned to it, but that doesn’t mean it is always that SEER value. But is an 18 SEER better than a 14 SEER unit? Is the much more expensive 18 SEER going to save you MORE money?                                                                   The answer is yes, and no. The higher SEER unit is typical twice as expensive as the base model, plus markup of the equipment costs. To come out ahead, you need to know what your energy costs over time will be. You can’t. It depends on too many unknown factors to truly compare the two dollar values to assess gains or losses. It could take 20 years to recoup the extra cost of a more expensive system, but since the SEER value is a constantly changing number, what can you honestly say you have saved in 20 years? Who knows, that’s the truth.

The bottom line is that if your main concern is comfort, at any cost, the higher SEER value will appeal to you. If your concern is cost of the system and recouping dollars based upon energy savings, higher SEER cannot necessarily achieve that for you.

Cleaning an A/C Drain Line

You can prevent clogs and unclog your air conditioner’s drain line easily enough, as part of a simple routine cleaning. Although this is one of the most common reasons to call for a/c repairs, it can be accomplished in 5 or 6 easy steps by the owner.

When condensate is created by your A/C unit, it is carried away by the drain line. Because it carries that condensate the drain line is subject to mold and algae formation which in turn can cause dirt and debris to get caught and clog the line. It’s a domino effect. But it can easily be cleaned by using distilled vinegar. Follow these simple steps to clear the line.

Firstly, turn off your air conditioner. Turn the thermostat to off and throw the breaker to shut the unit off, just to be safe.

Secondly, find your condensate drain line. It should be made of PVC and will be located close to your outside unit, as well as a PVC line exiting your blower unit in the attic. If you check in your attic you should find the PVC which will have a top access pipe with a cap over it.

Thirdly, remove the cap to reveal the access hole and using a funnel pour ¼ cup distilled vinegar into the hole. The distilled vinegar is very acidic which increases its cleaning properties.

Fourth, let the solution sit for a half hour or so. Give it time to remove any clogs.

Fifth, flush the solution out with water until the water flows freely.

Sixth, replace the cap.

Do this monthly to clear your line. You can prevent problems such as water stains on your ceiling from a clogged line, or your A/C unit running but not cooling.

Getting a Company to Maintain Your System – Is It Worth It In the Long Run?

From my own personal experience, I can whole-heartedly tell you that the best money I ever spent was having my A/C system regularly maintained. I’m a definite advocate. Why? Have you ever sat in your home in the middle of August for three days in 100º+ temps, waiting for someone you don’t know to come and repair your system? Someone you hope will care enough to rush to your home and find an inexpensive and quick cure for your problem, NOT! I have, twice in one summer. My pets were suffering, I was suffering, I was in a kind of sweaty limbo that I never want to revisit. I seriously considered throwing open the door and turning my pets loose with a final gasping “Save yourselves!”, hoping they would find a kind person to take them in, preferably one who had A/C. Fans don’t help and ice cold, wet towels do not relieve your misery. To add insult to injury, the cost of repairs sent me straight into shock! It was a mistake I never intend to make again. That was years ago, I learned the hard way.

Aside from that drama, what does regular maintenance do for your system, and why can’t you just do it yourself? Truthfully, you just can’t. Can not. Nope. Sure, I faithfully changed my air filter most months, and one time even hosed off the outside unit after my neighbor splashed new wet concrete on it while installing his walkway. But aside from that, what do I know to do for my system?

There is a lot more to it than that, folks. If I’d had my system serviced regularly I think the service technician would have noticed that weird thumping noise up in my attic long before the part broke internally, and weeks later would have been able to tell that the Freon was low before the unit outside quit working. There’s more, but I won’t bore you. I just did not know what regular maintenance would include back then. Do you?

All these years later, I know now that “maintenance” refers to a lot more than changing filters. It requires the work of a professional who knows the in’s and out’s of your system, someone who can anticipate issues before they occur. You need someone who can keep a record of the performance of your system, and performs tasks consistently, in a timely manner. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a hectic, busy life. I might fit some things into my schedule, but maintaining my A/C system isn’t one of them. The bottom line is that I have paid a lot more for costly repairs to my system than simple maintenance would have costed over a decade….. many, many times more.

Unless you know what the operating pressures should be, can identify the supply and return lines, know the appropriate levels of coolant and can stop any leaks that may be present, are prepared to clean the coils and fins, can check the operation of the motor and check the seals, check belts, check the accuracy of the thermostat, and more, you would be wise to leave it to a professional. It’s estimated that 50% of all A/C problems are preventable with regular maintenance. Your system will operate more efficiently, and save you in energy costs.

Do yourself a favor and save yourself a lot of money and misery, hire a professional!