ACI Northwest Blog : Archive for August, 2011

How to Use AC Most Efficiently: A Tip From Sagle

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Air conditioning is definitely something most of us wouldn’t want to try and get through the summer in Sagle without. And for a lot of people, because of medical or other conditions, it’s an absolute necessity. But just because you need to run your AC unit all summer doesn’t mean you need to suffer under the weight of high cooling costs.

So if you’re interested in ways to save on cooling without sacrificing comfort, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Get a Programmable Thermostat – When you come home at the end of a long day, you want your home to be cool and comfortable. But if you only have a basic thermostat, you would have to leave your air conditioning on all day in order to make this possible. Paying to cool an empty house is probably the last thing you want to do. But what is the alternative?

    Programmable thermostats offer the best solution in a case like this. These devices can be easily integrated into just about any home air conditioning system and they allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day. That means you can have your air conditioning off while you’re not home and set it to come on a half hour or so before you get there. This way, you get the pleasure of walking into a cool, comfortable house without paying extra to keep it that way when you’re not home.

  • Incorporate Passive Cooling – The design of your home and how you use it can also have an effect on how hard your air conditioning system needs to work. Taking steps as simple as closing the blinds to block out the afternoon sun, putting up awnings and making sure that the exterior of your home is painted a lighter color to reflect sunlight rather than a darker one that will absorb it are all excellent ways to reduce the load on your air conditioner.
  • Supplement Your System – You can also take a good chunk out of your cooling bills by using things like ceiling fans in conjunction with your air conditioner. A ceiling fan can effectively lower the indoor temperature several degrees on its own, allowing you to set your thermostat a little higher.

Air conditioning is a major expense that most of us are paying, but there’s no reason to pay more than necessary with so many strategies available to save money.

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When to Upgrade Your Circuit Box: A Recommendation From Chattaroy

Monday, August 29th, 2011

How many people remember what it was like to go on a “fuse search” when a major appliance stopped working? If you lived in or owned an older Chattaroy home, you know what that meant – a blown fuse was a nuisance.

The first types of electricity control were fuses, installed in a main fuse box (or secondary box) which connected the incoming electrical current to separate circuits. Most major appliances like refrigerators and stoves had their own separate current and fuse.

Eventually these fuse boxes were replaced with panels containing circuit breaker panels, which contained circuit breakers instead of fuses. So instead of replacing a fuse when a major appliance or circuit goes down, all that is needed is a flip of the breaker switch back to the “on” position.

Circuit breakers are considered safer and have greater capacity to control current to many of the newer, electricity-consuming appliances such as microwaves and wireless routers, to name a couple. And flipping a switch is much more cost-effective than having to buy replacement fuses, too.

While it is not mandatory for homeowners to replace fuse boxes with circuit breaker panels, it is often a good idea to make the change, especially during a home remodeling project. Doing it “all at once” is a good idea since walls are usually torn up and appliances are being replaced. Before the dust settles on the project, it is logical to install a breaker panel. Better to disrupt everything at once than to go back later and disrupt everything again.

Another reason to install la new circuit breaker panel is because of necessity. Circuit boxes are rated by amperage (amps) – a measure of electrical capacity. For example, older boxes may be rated for 60 amps and newer homes could have boxes rated 200 amps or higher. This bigger demand for power can overload older circuits. And appliances can constantly be popping a circuit or blowing a fuse. In that case, it might be a good time to consider changing to a new circuit breakers panel.

According to www.acmediy.com, there is a checklist of things to consider when installing a circuit breaker panel, including:

  • Determine your load requirements,
  • There may be a need to add new wiring or circuits,
  • Wires coming into your home may have to be upgraded,
  • Old wiring may need to be replaced.

Should you do it yourself? If you have the experience and skill to do so, installing a circuit breaker panel is doable. If not, a qualified, skilled electrician is the person to call. It will cost extra but consider it “peace of mind.”

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How to Reduce Indoor Allergens: A Tip From Cocolalla

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Indoor allergens range from the obnoxious like pet dander, pollen and dust to the downright dangerous like mold, smoke and dust mites. Typically, you won’t even realize you have allergens in your Cocolalla home until one or more members of your family develop symptoms of discomfort or illness with no clear reason. Long term respiratory or allergic issues when inside the house are usually a clear sign of an indoor allergen problem – usually something you can fix.

Identify the Allergen

Step one is to identify the source of the discomfort. Most allergens are related to something you have in or around your home. For example, if you have a cat or dog, you very likely have high levels of pet dander. A flower garden outside or lots of plants inside can result in high pollen levels. Excess moisture in your basement or attic can result in dust mite and mold growth.

If you are unsure of what allergens are causing your discomfort, there are companies that can test the air in your home for specific allergens. These tests look for all allergens as well as potentially dangerous contaminants like radon and MVOC toxins from mold and mildew. Whether you need such testing depends on the severity of your health concerns and the initial inspection performed by your contractor.

Getting Rid of Allergens

Once you know for sure what your problem is, it’s time to cut back on the allergens. Mechanical fixes are available in the form of air filters and advanced ventilation systems. You can supplement those solutions by implementing a series of simple upgrades to your insulation to keep out the pollutants that are outside.

The key is to make sure the air flows freely through your home and filters remove and ventilate the air properly to keep it from growing too stale and making you sick. You can also cut back on the use of certain chemicals and materials that cause allergens to build up. For example, aerosols, paints and glues produce a number of irritating gases that tend to stick around inside.

Additionally, make sure your pets are cleaned often and that your upholstery and carpet is vacuumed daily by a HEPA quality vacuum cleaner. This will severely reduce the presence of dust, dust mites and dander.

By focusing heavily on the reduction of pollutants and allergens like dander, pollen and dust, most of your indoor air quality problems will be solved. It just takes awareness and action.

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Variety of Ways to Cool Your Home Naturally

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

It is normal these days to simply switch on the air conditioning when the temperature begins to rise outside in Spokane. But this can get expensive quickly, so it is a good idea to look into some alternative cooling methods as well. Fortunately, there are actually some great ways to help keep your home cool without touching that air conditioning at all. You will probably still want to have it around for extreme circumstances, but the less you need to use it, the more you will save in the long run.

Using fans, ceiling fans in particular, can certainly help to keep you cool on many moderate summer days. But they are far from the only options available. In fact, the design and composition of your house itself will have a lot to do with how easy it is to keep it cool all summer long.

One of the main reasons that your house gets so hot inside during the summer is that sunlight heats the air inside when it hits the walls, roof and windows. Closing your blinds will help to keep some of this out, but there will still be plenty of heat from the sun working to increase the indoor temperature.

What you really want to do to keep your house from heating up because of sunlight is to actively reflect the sun’s rays away from your home. You can do this by having light colored roofing and exterior paint or siding put on. While the dark colors typically used for this type of work absorb the vast majority of the sunlight that hits them, lighter colors will reflect it away.

This works well for the walls, but on your roof it can be a bit more difficult to stop the absorption of heat from the sun because of the nature of typical roofing materials. What you can do, however, is add a reflective coating like white latex on the roof. This will dramatically reduce the amount of heat that is able to come into your home in this way.

Also, natural shade can do a lot to keep sunlight from getting to your home to begin with. Planting trees close enough to your home that they will block out the sun but far enough away that they have room to grow will eventually help to keep your home much cooler without any extra work whatsoever. For more energy saving tips, contact your local AC contractor.

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Ice in Central Air Conditioning: Why Is This a Problem? A Question From Worley

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

If the air conditioner in your Worley home does not seem to be working as well as it should, your natural first reaction is to go out and take a look at the compressor to see if there is anything you can do quickly to correct the problem. Of course, you cannot assess the situation unless you know what you are looking for. For instance, if you see ice forming on the condenser coil or anywhere else on the air conditioning system, you will know you found the likely source of the problem.

Ice can form in your air conditioner for a number of reasons. The most common one is that your refrigerant levels are low. Since this refrigerant is contained in a closed system, a deficiency in refrigerant means that there must be a leak somewhere in that system. Only a certified professional can refill your refrigerant and determine where the leaks are in the system to make the necessary repairs.

Another reason that ice can develop in your air conditioner is because the air is not flowing fast enough through the system and across the coils. This can happen because of a problem with the fan or because there is an actual physical impediment to the air flow. Regardless of the reason, the ice will form because without adequate air flow the condenser coils will get too cold.

These coils are typically kept just above freezing by the constant flow of air across them. When the air passes by them at this temperature, the moisture from the air condenses on the surface of the coil. But because the coil is not quite freezing, the water then runs down into a collection pan. When the coil is too cold, however, the moisture from the air will freeze on the coil before it can run off.

This ice actually manages to insulate the coil and keeps it from properly cooling the air or removing any additional moisture. If left unattended, the ice in your central air conditioning system can cause real damage to the unit. Plus, it is not allowing the air conditioner to do its job and cool your house down. So if you notice any amount of ice at all beginning to form on any part of your air conditioner, be sure to call for professional service right away.

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What Are Limit Switches and How Do They Work? A Pointer From Latah

Friday, August 19th, 2011

When you set the thermostat on your air conditioning system, you pretty take for granted that the system will maintain that temperature throughout your Latah home. But did you ever stop to think about how it’s actually accomplished? The truth is that there are many moving parts that all play a role in keeping your home cool and comfortable, and one of these is the limit switch.

What Is a Limit Switch?

Although you’re probably not aware of it, you’ve encountered plenty of limit switches over the years. A limit switch is anything that stops an electric appliance under certain circumstances. The little switch that turns the light on in the refrigerator when you open the door and then off again when you close it is the perfect example of a limit switch. Another common one is the switch that stops your washer or dryer from running when you open the door. Limit switches are used for a variety of appliances and gadgets to not only save electricity but to keep you and your device safe.

Limit Switches and Air Conditioning

The limit switch on your air conditioning system is the link between the blower on your air handler and the thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the desired indoor temperature has been reached, it stops the air conditioner from producing any more cold air. At that point, it’s important for the blower to stop functioning as well.

If it doesn’t, the blower will continue to move and warm air rather than cold will begin circulating throughout your home. However, if the blower shuts off too soon, the cold air that’s still being generated by the air conditioner won’t be able to circulate. So it’s essential that the blower be switched off at the same time the cold air stops arriving. That’s exactly what the limit switch does.

While it’s only one very small part of a large machine, the limit switch in your air conditioner plays a vital role in keeping your home comfortable and in allowing your air conditioning system to function as efficiently as possible.

If you notice that your air conditioner is shutting off too soon or not soon enough, it may be because of a broken limit switch. Sometimes, the system simply needs to be reset, something you can do with the help of your owner’s manual. However, if your limit switch is broken, you should contact a professional to take a look and determine if it needs to be replaced.

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2011 AC Federal Tax Credits: A Tip From Priest River

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

You’ve probably heard many arguments for why you should purchase an energy efficient air conditioner in Priest River. They may cost a bit more up front, but they’ll save you money in the long run by cutting down on your monthly energy bills. They’re also better for the environment because their lower energy usage means less fossil fuels are burned to keep them running.

But there’s another reason energy efficient AC units are better buys than your standard alternative. There are Federal tax credits available to consumers who purchase them. This tax credit can more than make up for the higher purchase price of the units, allowing you to enjoy your monthly savings much sooner and know you’re doing your part to protect the environment.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for 2011 air conditioning Federal tax credit, you need to purchase an appropriate energy efficient AC system. Your HVAC contractor or salesperson can tell you which models and units qualify for this program. Just make sure you save all documentation and proof of purchase in case you need them to validate your claim.

The AC units that qualify you for this tax credit include those with a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of 16 or greater and an EER (energy efficiency ratio) of at least 13. These two numbers are the best and clearest indicators of the overall energy efficiency of the product and can easily be found on the packaging for any air conditioning unit. While a 16 SEER is very good, it is not the highest rating currently available, either, so you won’t be forced to buy the most expensive model available to get your credit.

Credit Details

The tax credit is good for up to 10% of the purchase price of the unit up to $300. Keep in mind, though, that you can only claim up to $500 lifetime towards this program. So if you’ve previously claimed $250, you can only claim an additional $250 for 2011. That’s still a significant savings, though, and well worth looking into if you’re in the market for a new AC unit or system.

So if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your AC system, but haven’t quiet gotten around to, now may be the time to take advantage of this great tax credit opportunity before it’s too late.

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Energy Efficient Home Cooling Tips From Otis Orchards

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Having an energy efficient air conditioning system in place is a great way to keep cool in the summer for less in Otis Orchards. But that is far from the only thing you can do to help reduce your energy bills throughout the hottest months of the year. In fact, there are several simple steps you can take to start cutting down on your cooling costs right now and lighten the cooling load that your air conditioning system has to bear.

One of the main things to remember when you are trying to keep your house cool is that every door and window is potentially letting in warmer air from outside and letting the cooler indoor air escape. You can cut down on this considerably if you simply take the time to seal up these access points and any others you are able to find.

Putting up plastic over unused doors and windows and checking all areas of the house for drafts and adequate insulation will dramatically reduce the cost of keeping your house cool in the summer. Also, you can keep the sun from warming up your indoor air by drawing the blinds, particularly on those windows that let in the hot afternoon sun.

Putting up light colored siding and reflective roofing will also do a great deal to keep your overall cooling costs down. That is because these materials are able to direct the heat of the sun away from your house rather than letting it be absorbed so that it can heat up the inside. The vast majority of the heat that your air conditioning system has to remove from your house comes in through your roof and walls, so blocking this access point is extremely helpful in keeping your overall cooling costs down.

All of these are steps you can take to reduce the total cooling load that your air conditioning system has to deal with. But if you want your system to continue to function at peak energy efficiency, you will have to take care of it as well.

This typically means having someone come in once a year to perform a thorough maintenance on your air conditioning system and to clean out any debris that may have accumulated over time. Having this done will make it possible for your air conditioner to continue to function at the highest possible levels of energy efficiency for years to come.

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How Do I Find the Right Size Unit for My Room?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

When buying an air conditioner in Hayden, there are a lot of things you need to take into account. One of the most important is the size and power of the unit you choose. Air conditioners come in many different sizes, so if you really want to get the most out of your purchase, you need to do your research and pick one that fits your home like a glove.

Square Feet and BTUs

The best way to determine how large of an air conditioner you need is to match the number of BTUs the unit has to the square footage of the room you want to use it in. That means you need to know what room you’re buying it for before you make your purchase.

The number of BTUs needed goes up proportionately with the room size, so even if you don’t have exact measurements or if your room is oddly shaped, you can get a good idea of how large an air conditioner you need. For instance, a 400 to 550 square foot room is best served by an air conditioner with between 8,000 and 11,000 BTUs, while a room that’s only 250 square feet would probably be fine with a 6,000 BTU unit.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

One of the most common mistakes people make when buying an air conditioner is to assume that the bigger the unit the better it will work. The truth is that buying an air conditioner that’s too big for your room is just as much of a waste as buying one that’s too small.

A larger air conditioner will cost more, and it will probably make the room too cold. It will also cycle on and off more frequently than a properly sized unit and it won’t be able to properly control the humidity level, leaving you with a cold, damp environment. That’s not very comfortable.

Other Factors

The square footage is definitely the most important piece of data you’ll need before buying a new air conditioner for any room in your house. But don’t forget to take some other factors into account as well. For instance, if the room has particularly high ceilings or receives a lot of direct sunlight, you’ll probably need a slightly more powerful unit than the straight square footage would indicate.

If you’re not sure how certain features of your home will impact your buying decision, call a professional who can help you get a more exact idea of what it will take to stay cool.

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Air Conditioners and Energy Use by Percentage: A Tip From ACI Northwest

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

It’s no secret that air conditioners use up a lot of electricity and can add substantially to your energy bills during those warm summer months in Rathdrum. But did you know that they actually account for an estimated 11% of the total energy used in all buildings in the US each year? This is a staggering figure and makes it easy to see why it’s best to invest in the most energy efficient system possible.

Keeping Your Consumption Down

There are plenty of reasons to try and keep your energy consumption down. You want to save on your energy bills, and the less energy you use, the better it is for the environment. The best and most straightforward way to go about this is to purchase only highly energy efficient appliances and equipment, and that includes air conditioners.

Because air conditioner usage accounts for such a substantial part of the total energy used in this country, putting more energy efficiency models into use is the best way to cut that usage down.

Supplementary Cooling

However, there are other ways to reduce the workload of your air conditioner. For instance, you can use a ceiling fan to maintain good air circulation and keep your home cool. Using a ceiling fan with an air conditioner, even on the hottest days of the year, allows you to turn up your thermostat a bit to conserve energy while still enjoying a comfortable indoor environment. And because ceiling fans use so little energy to operate, you’ll come out ahead on your energy bill.

Passive Cooling

There are also several passive cooling methods you can employ to keep the temperature in your home down. Blocking out sunlight is the most important of these, so keep your blinds closed on any windows that receive direct sunlight, particularly in the early afternoon. Alternately, you can have awnings put up, which allow you to block the direct sun while still keeping the blinds open.

Shade is another effective passive cooling device. Planting trees around your home to block out the sun at the hottest times of day is a totally energy-free way of keeping your home cool and reducing the workload on your air conditioning system. The less your air conditioner has to work, the less energy it consumes and the lower your energy bills will be.

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