Comparing window air conditioners at the hardware store

I live in a cozy little apartment and get by with my heating and cooling needs by just having a window air conditioner for warm days and a small space heater when it gets cold.  This setup, although rather cheap and limited, works just fine for my needs. My AC manages to get my studio apartment as cold as I want it to be and the space heater could steam up my windows if I turned it on max.  That’s why I was a little caught off guard yesterday when my air conditioner suddenly died while running. It started to make a shrill sound as if metal was scraping on metal and then the motor squealed as the thing died down and the fan came to a stop.  Because I tend to live below my means and in humble surroundings, considering the studio apartment and old school HVAC techniques, I’m lucky to have a considerable emergency fund for things like this. Plus, that air conditioner lived several years past its warranty and was perfect the moment I turned it on out of the box to the second it started to self-destruct–just gone in a flash.  I went to the hardware store to pickout a new air conditioner for my apartment but was taken back by the number of options. How many BTUs do I need for a studio apartment? Is the cheapest one sufficient for such a small space? Thankfully there were charts on the back of the boxes explaining the square feet that are covered by each successive model. To my amazement, the cheapest model appeared to be more than sufficient for my place so I decided to give it a shot; worst case scenario, I take it back.  Well, I won’t be returning this air conditioner, it puts my old one to shame. I’m floored with it’s performance.

air vents

Struggling to get an HVAC appointment at the peak of season

My air conditioner is running consistently throughout the day, regardless of the season.  It can get as hot as 90 degrees on a regular basis between March and October here so my air conditioner is essential.  Although, contrary to what most would assume, I’m not as consistent with service and maintenance as my AC fixation would suggest.  I change my filter out every two months, but I haven’t had a service call in nearly a year, and I have a 10 year old system at least.  And then suddenly, around the end of July, my AC just quit on me with no forewarning. I started to panic and quickly looked through listings online for local HVAC repair companies and made a list of six or seven that seemed reputable and trustworthy.  I called the first company–nope they said, can’t do it, all booked up until the end of summer. I called another–same response. Then I called another, and another, and I kept getting rejected. They all said that July and August are their busiest times of the year since that’s when everyone runs their air conditioners the most.  After calling at least fifteen HVAC repair companies, several of which were an hour away from my house, I finally found a company not too far away that said they could come out in a few days to take a look. It wasn’t perfect, but three days with no air conditioner sure beats several weeks. The technician came by and topped off my coolant and did a general service and maintenance on the air handler and condenser unit.  Now my air conditioner is up and running at full speed and I can survive the rest of mid summer without drowning in my own sweat.

heating and air

Time to buy a new air conditioner

Each and every year, the outdoor temperatures get warmer and warmer. I’ve calculated the temperatures from each month over the last five years, and our average summer temperatures have risen by 1.5 degrees over the last 5 years. That is a significant rise in temperature. These increasing temperatures cause a lot of problems. Global warming is one of the biggest issues, and our polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. The planet is getting warmer every day. Here at home, the rising temperatures mean buying a new air conditioner. I didn’t think we would get through last summer. The air conditioner stopped working around mid September, and we decided to wait until spring to buy a new one. Now that spring has arrived, it’s time to start shopping around for a new air conditioner. We have a window unit that is 24000 BTU, with an air purifier and dehumidifier. We have a sizable air conditioner, considering the square footage of our home is less than 1000 feet. The large window air conditioner is useful for removing excess humidity from the air. The air conditioner also purifies the air as it passes through a special ventilation system inside. I want to buy the air conditioner soon, but my wife and I are waiting for the annual Memorial Day sale. Our hardware store is having a huge sale on air conditioners, and we will be able to purchase the new unit at a 30% discount. Luckily, we can install the air conditioner on our own. That saves us an installation fee from the hardware store or HVAC company.

link provided

Movie of the week causes sales to rise

Last Sunday night, the science and discovery channel on television decided to air a special on mold and mildew. During the one hour television special, the host delved through a bunch of problems that could be lurking under the surface of your home. A lot of focus was on home ventilation systems, and how they breed a lot of different contaminants. Since I work for a local HVAC company, I was intrigued by the television special. I watched all 60 Minutes of the program, before settling into bed for the evening. In the morning, I got up and drove to work. When I arrived to the HVAC store, the phones were ringing off the hook. My boss called me into the office and explained our Strange predicament. We had already received 50 calls that morning, and most of our customers wanted the ventilation system to be cleaned and sanitized. The previous night’s television program had caused a great deal of concern in our town. Everyone seemed to be worried about the contaminants lurking inside of their ventilation system. For the past ten days, our HVAC company has been busy with ventilation system repairs and cleaning. I can’t believe our HVAC business has tripled, just because the science and Discovery Channel decided to air this particular program. The owner of the company is happy to clean and sanitize ventilation systems in the area. There is very little overhead, and the service can be performed by any certified HVAC technician. This is proof that tv can affect the population in large numbers. Even the school district decided to have the ventilation system cleaned and sanitized.

HVAC

HVAC AHU: Home unit w/ leaky air seal/hose (expired warranty)

 

  • Cast: Single parent (joint custody)
  • Plot/Narrative: Hard-working Dad notices air conditioning unit not putting out same air force (pressure) like usual, so makes time one weekend free (off from work)–when kids are with Mom–to have hvac unit checked.
  • Repair/Service: Hvac guy confirms Dad’s initial suspicion: indoor unit has a leaky air hose. Returns to shop to retrieve necessary part and returns to fix unit that same afternoon.

 

As a single parent, life can get pretty hectic at times. Although I don’t have my kids with me at all times–due to a recent joint custody settlement, I feel as though everyday life in my world is constantly on the go. One lazy weekend, when the kids were with their mom, I purposed to get some work done around the house. I had been keeping a list of things I’d been wanting to do for some time now, such as touch-up painting a couple rooms and putting together some woodwork, so I was grateful to finally have a weekend off to do so. Unfortunately, though, Murphy didn’t feel quite the same way because just before I got started on my “over-do list” of chores, I toggled on the air conditioning and realized that it wasn’t putting out air at its usual, moderately forceful rate. Flippantly frustrated but still composed and concerned, I called up my HVAC guy and asked if he could come over early that afternoon to take a look. He obliged, and within a few minutes of searching around, he found the culprit: a leaky air hose. He said the choice was up to me whether I wanted him to simply duct tape it up for the time being or to take a bit more time and go ahead and replace it. Frugal but not foolish, I requested that he replace the hose because Lord knows…it’d be just my luck that the taped hose would find some way to be punctured soon thereafter or else begin to leak, too, eventually. Grateful once the job was done, I treated my friend to lunch and some good old, classic episodes of The Brady Bunch!

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Central HVAC: Class/Instruction, basics of operation

 

  • Cast: Wife + husband
  • Plot/Narrative: Couple has had a heck of a time w/ handful of home-related challenges throughout the years, and especially as of late. Most recent issues have been HVAC-related–if it hasnt been one thing, its been another => decide to educate selves on owner-operator preventative maintenance and fundamentals of how their system functions.
  • Repair/Service: Choose to take a weeklong class sponsored by local community center (topics: compressor, condenser unit, AHU, air ducts…hot/cool/cold…outdoor/indoor).

My husband and I have been the benefactors of a crash course on “Murphy’s Law 101: Heating and cooling edition.” Ever since we got married, we’ve lived in the same home–more than 40 years altogether. We’ve experienced countless HVAC ups-and-downs during that span of time and, to be honest, a number of them have been down. Fed up with the most recent set of circumstances that life dealt us, my husband and I decided to enroll in a weeklong class on heating and cooling basics offered locally. In addition to a familiarization with some of the fundamental concepts, the class was also designed to empower consumers like us to perform proper preventative maintenance on any and all of the apparatuses discussed. What’s more, the class was free of charge; all we had to do was show our respective library cards… Once Day 1 arrived, my husband and I could tell we were in for a treat. The first major, prevailing topic–as in one we always seemed to come back to during the course of the week–was the central heating, cooling, and ventilation, or HVAC for short. The lead instructor explained that such systems typically consist of an outdoor unit, called the condenser, and an indoor unit, referred to as the air handler (unit), or AHU. Both items work in conjunction with each other, he said, in order to exchange ambient, indoor air for fresh, outdoor air, all the while heating and/or cooling the fresh outdoor air (i.e., inflow) during the process. The instructor also explained that the key subcomponents HVAC users should know about are the air filter, which is housed by the AHU, as well as the electric (indoor) and condenser (outdoor) coils, respectively. All in all, ‘twas truly time well spent!

heating and air

Neighbor leaves AC off in humid weather for months at a time

My next door neighbor only uses his house as a vacation home so he’s only there for a few weeks out of the year.  He’s retired and recently lost his wife to cancer so he hasn’t been himself lately and has been around even less than the year before.  I watch over his house for him and make sure his special salt water pool pump is working like it should. Typically he keeps his air conditioning running cyclically while he’s gone, but recently he mentioned to me that he was considering leaving it off to save money while he’s gone.  His other house is in Maryland and it is a lot dryer there throughout the year–which means he misses a lot of the heavy humidity that affects this area the times of the year he’s gone. I told him it wouldn’t be such a great idea but he decided to give it a shot anyway. Well, he came back after only five weeks away and found mold growth on a wall close to a window overlooking his pool–potentially the most humid part of the house.  He had to call a mold remediation company over and everything, it wasn’t a pretty cost by the end of it all. They recommended that he install a humidistat in front of his HVAC thermostat. A humidistat will prevent your air conditioner from turning on until the humidity in the house reaches the level you set your humidistat to. So for instance, you might have your thermostat set to 82 and it could be 84 degrees in your house, but if the humidity is low enough–let’s say you set it to 60% and it’s 40% outside–then the AC won’t turn on no matter how hot it is.  This way if your primary concern is to just keep the moisture down inside by using your AC as a dehumidifier, a humidistat will give you this kind of control. My neighbor installed one right away and no longer has to worry about running his air conditioning too much or getting mold inside.

HVAC filter

Air conditioner in my rental condo is too loud

I’m renting a condo for a few months while I’m staying in a different state on a special job assignment.  Fortunately for me, the area I’m staying in is a heavy tourist town and I’ll be there in the off season, which means that I’ll have the choice of any number of different vacation rentals, many of which are really nice condominiums overlooking the ocean.  Thankfully, I had a week to look at various places and had a chance to make a choice between several options before I settled on a rental that suited my needs. It was on the second floor and had a small patio outside overlooking the water; the place was an absolute dream.  Unfortunately, after a week in the condo, I’m running into one particularly paradoxical problem. It’s extremely hot here so it’s essential to have strong cold air conditioning. However, the air conditioner in this condo is so strong that I often have trouble sleeping from the sheer noise alone.  It sounds like a jet engine taking off everytime it starts up from the off position. I talked to the property manager and she said that unfortunately it was something I was going to have to deal with. They were hoping to update the HVAC systems in the rooms at some point in the future, but there wasn’t money budgeted for this for at least another five years.  I just got in the habit of falling asleep with the tv on; although I still hear the sound of the AC kicking on, the extra droning chatter from the tv makes it a little easier to stop fixating on the air conditioner enough to fall asleep.

a/c

Saving a quick buck on a/c

My wife was always one to save a buck. Even before we were married, she would insist we order water with our food instead of getting wine. To this day, when we go food shopping, she prefers to buy the store brand food rather than the name brand. Saving money was her goal and she is fantastic at it, far better than myself. Most times, going the cheap route usually pays off in the long run. We get equal service and save money in the process. So, when hiring a repair man from the online ads as opposed to an actual certified HVAC technician, I didn’t think anything about it. I was the one who actually suggested we go this route, because nothing had seemed to show otherwise. The man we hired to fix our temperature gauge that controls our A/C seemed good enough. He had good references and seemed like a nice guy. When he had arrived that day, my wife and I left him alone and went about our business doing errands around the house. I was in the garage waxing my car and my wife was completing her sewing project. It was the shriek of the repairman that made me run in the house to see what was wrong. The man’s arm was on fire and the wall was, too. My wife took to putting out the flames on his arm while I sprayed the wall down with the fire extinguisher. When it was all over, we were left with a wall that needed replacing, a broken temp gauge that still needed replacing, and a repairman than might sue us. Without telling my wife, I went and hired a certified HVAC tech to come next week and fix the control system.

A/C issues

I bought my first house last month, and I have experienced one problem after another. I knew it would be difficult to care for the house, but I never anticipated having this many problems. The first weekend after moving into the property, I had a pipe burst behind the shower wall. I didn’t realize there was a problem, until water started pouring out from behind the wall. I had a plumber in the house all weekend, and I easily spent two weeks salary on the repairs. I had a quiet week or two, and then the A/C unit broke down. When I made an offer on the house, I knew the A/C unit was 10 years old. It was working fine during the inspection process. I knew the A/C unit would need to be replaced sooner than later, but I was not anticipating a repair so quickly. I contacted a friend of mine, who works at a local A/C repair shop. He came over yesterday to look at the A/C unit. When I saw the awful look on Cameron’s face, I knew the outcome was bad news. The entire A/C unit needed to be replaced, and that included the heat pump. I just finished paying for an expensive plumbing repair, and now I have to come up with the money to buy a new HVAC system. I always wanted to buy a house of my own, but right now I wish I was living in an apartment. It’s easy to have these problems fixed, when there is someone else to call for help.

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