• Stay Comfortable & Save Money All Year Long

  • Stay Comfortable & Save Money All Year Long

  • Stay Comfortable & Save Money All Year Long

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!

 

Importance of Air Quality

We’ve all seen the local news warn us about air pollution, often assign a system of numbers or colors to indicate the level of pollution accompanied by warnings to people suffering from certain illnesses to avoid exposure to the outside air. But did you realize that the indoor air quality is often times more serious polluted than the outside. If you don’t live in a large urban area and feel you don’t have to worry about the pollution within your home, think again. Your home could easily house air as polluted as the air in a big city.

Why? Obviously, the air inside your home is not as well ventilated as the air outside. Many pollutants become “trapped” inside your home. In addition, every thing in your home is a possible source of pollution within your home. Although an entire industry exists in order to address the building products used in building a new home, it is often so costly to make healthier choices in building materials, paint, carpets, furniture, and window treatments that it simply unattainable for the average person to achieve a healthier home environment by building it to be “healthier”. Most often people must address the problem after the fact.

Why is this important? If you take into account that many people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, the impact on their health can be substantial. Additionally, the people most likely to spend the most time indoors are the elderly, the very young, and those suffering from illnesses so their exposure to indoor air pollutants is more substantial. The effects of the exposure can be more critical, as well.

What are the effects of indoor air pollution? Although science is still working to determine the full, short term and long term effects of indoor air pollution, certain things can be assumed. A person with respiratory diseases such asthma, or pulmonary disease will likely suffer more from the disease if exposed to such indoor pollutants as particles released into the air by most homes. Others may develop reactions to certain off gases from building and decorating materials used in the home. Climate such as extreme heat and humidity can also increase the pollutants. These health effects can continue for years.

What can be done? You must start by identifying the source of problems and increasing the amount of ventilation in your home. New mechanical systems can increase the flow of fresh air into the home, but typical A/C and heating systems do not. For this reason, air cleaners are most effective and can be incorporated into your HVAC system. There is a wide variety of air cleaners on the market, have a conversation with your service specialist to determine which system would best serve your needs. Duct cleaning can be very helpful as well. Breath well, live well!

Small Family Business vs Large Structured Company, Which Serves You Better?

You may not give it much thought unless you are trying to choose a company to serve your needs in some way. So, what are the benefits of choosing a small family business? Chances are a small family business will deliver in ways a large company is just not capable of doing.

Generally, if you work for a family business you become part of the family. An involved employee is a preferred provider of services. If the family knows your needs, chances are their employees are included. Test this theory. If you tell one member of your family something you haven’t widely shared, what happens? It takes no time at all before your information is widely known within the family. Why? These people share a concern for you, family businesses operate much the same way. Chances are when you contact a small family business, the person answering that phone will know your name, and what you need. It’s a personal experience, to the business and you.

Small family businesses, by nature, require that employees perform multiple jobs, become involved in more than one aspect of the company. Large companies tend to compartmentalize tasks, with more employees it’s easier to cover multiple bases. But do those employees of large companies become exposed to and gain the experience of an employee who wears many hats by necessity? No, not usually. Additionally, hiring employees is a much more personal thing to a small family business, after all it’s usually one or two people making that decision. Large companies may have 5 or 10 interviewers who have specific criteria that interests them in a potential new hire. Smaller staff also means that the same person or persons are going to respond to your calls for service. Relationships develop and continue sometimes for many years. Family businesses spend years developing their expertise and devote themselves to their customers for the long term. They depend on maintaining those relationships.

Small family businesses have a lot of flexibility in dealing with their customers. What will work for one customer won’t satisfy another’s needs. They can make those decisions without having to negotiate the red tape of following all the rules and protocols of large companies which have template responses from the outset. Does bureaucracy make for better customer service? Hardly. It generally hinders it.

In the future, when weighing the benefits of hiring a small family business, don’t forget that every customer is valued partner, and the very livelihood of these small family businesses depends on meeting customer needs. Make a choice to support those local small family businesses, you both benefit.