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Air Conditioners and Humidity: Some Tips From Gladden Farms

Ever wonder why all of those air conditioners hanging out of people’s windows in Gladden Farms are constantly dripping water on hot summer days? All they’re actually doing is disposing of the moisture they’ve removed from the indoor air. That’s right – air conditioners are dehumidifiers too.

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. After all, you know how much more uncomfortable 90° is when the humidity’s up around 90% than when it’s closer to 60%. Of course, some air conditioners are better at removing moisture from the air than others, so you should definitely consider how well an air conditioner dehumidifies when evaluating your air conditioning options.

Why Humidity Matters

High humidity, even at lower temperatures is uncomfortable. But there are more reasons than simple comfort to want an air conditioner that reduces indoor humidity levels. For instance, high levels of humidity promote the growth and spread of several allergens like dust mites and mold spores. High indoor humidity can also cause problems for the wood fixtures and furnishings in your home.

The Importance of Proper Sizing

Most air conditioners do a decent job of controlling humidity indoors. But depending on the severity of your problem and the typical levels of humidity in your area during the summer months, you may want to pay special attention to each unit’s capabilities when evaluating your options.

An air conditioner’s ability to maintain proper humidity levels indoors has a lot to do with how well it’s matched to the size of your room as well. An air conditioner that’s too small likely won’t get the humidity or the temperature down to a comfortable level. On the other hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean that bigger is better.

In fact, an air conditioner that’s too large for the space you’re using it to cool will have a hard time bringing down the humidity level. Sure, you’ll wind up with a cold room, but that room will remain damp, making it no more comfortable than it was before the air conditioner was turned on.

For all of these reasons, it’s important to carefully evaluate your options when buying an air conditioner and make sure that the unit you buy is the right kind and size for the area you’re cooling. A little extra time spent researching your options will make your home infinitely more comfortable this summer.

What is the COP and Why Is It Important?

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If you’ve been researching air conditioners, you’ve probably seen all sorts of numbers associated with each model. One of these numbers is the Coefficient of Performance (COP). While it’s good to gather as much data as you can before you make a purchasing decision, you also need to know what that data means if it’s going to help you make the best selection possible.

Measuring COP

Calculating the COP for any air conditioning model is relatively simple. The number you see displayed on the box is the ratio of energy input to cooling output. For the most part, the air conditioners you’re probably been looking at have a COP of between 2.5 and 4.0, although newer models are beginning to appear with COPs of up to 5.0.

The higher the COP, of course, the more efficient the air conditioner, so it makes sense to take this number into account when you’re making your purchase. You should also keep in mind, though, that the COP is not a constant measurement. The warmer it is outside, the lower your unit’s COP will be. However, this is standard across all units, so a relative COP comparison is still a viable evaluation method.

If you’re not sure what COP you should look for or whether a lower number will be effective for your home (especially if you only need to cool a small space), you should talk to a professional who can help you match the right COP level to your particular living space.

Improving Efficiency

While it’s always a good idea to get an air conditioner with the best energy efficiency ratings possible, that’s not the only thing you can do to reduce your energy usage and keep your cooling costs down. For instance, there are plenty of ways to keep your home naturally cooler without even turning on the air conditioner.

Even when you do need to flip it on, anything else you can do to reduce the indoor temperature will make it easier for your air conditioner to keep your house comfortable. So put up some awnings, run the ceiling fan and close the blinds to block out that harsh afternoon sun. The more you can do to reduce your indoor temperature naturally, the less your air conditioner will have to do, and the lower your cooling costs will be.

What Features Should I Look for When Buying an Air Conditioner?

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There are so many different types and styles of air conditioners on the market these days, it can be difficult to figure out what features are worth paying attention to when it comes time to buy one for yourself.

Of course, the most important thing to do is make sure you get an air conditioner that’s appropriately sized for the space you’re trying to cool. But what should you look for beyond that? Here are a few features you might like to have on the unit you purchase:

  • Energy Efficiency – The more energy efficient your air conditioner is, the less your cooling costs will be. It’s as simple as that. So when you’re evaluating devices, remember that it’s worth paying a little bit more up front for a more energy efficient unit. It will save you money in the long run and you’ll be doing your part to help the environment.
  • Dehumidification – Just about every air conditioner controls humidity to a certain extent in addition to cooling. But some do this better than others. There are also air conditioners with separate dehumidification settings for those days that are more humid than hot. Even when you need both cooling and dehumidification, it’s nice to have control of each of these independently.
  • Timer – Being able to program your air conditioner to switch on and off at different times of day is more than just convenient; it will save you money. You don’t want to leave your air conditioner running all day when you’re not home, but it sure is nice to come home to the comfort of an air conditioned space. If your air conditioner has a timer, you can have both. Just set the unit to come on a half hour or so before you get home and you’ll enjoy cool, refreshing indoor comfort right when you get home without paying through the nose to keep your home cool when no one is there.
  • Easy-to-Use Controls – As simple as this one seems, you might be surprised at how inconvenient the controls on some air conditioners can be. So when you’re evaluating your options, make sure you research how easy each unit is to operate. This can definitely save you from plenty of frustration in the long run.

Air conditioners come in many different shapes and sizes. To make sure your decision works best in your home, do your research well in advance. When the summer heat kicks in, you’ll be glad you did.

Do I Need Surge Protection for My HVAC?

You probably know that to keep your HVAC system in good working order you need to keep up with regular maintenance. This includes things like changing air filters, cleaning out air ducts and clearing debris from both inside and outside the system. Surge protection for your system may not be something you think of immediately, but like those maintenance tasks, it’s an important part of keeping your equipment functioning properly over time.

How Surge Protection Works

Surge protection essentially shuts off your system in the event that power levels in the system rise suddenly and unacceptably. When a sudden increase in electricity occurs, any electronic device is at risk. But, unlike your stereo, your HVAC system costs thousands of dollars – no one wants to lose something so valuable to a surge that could have been prevented. That’s why a surge protector is so vital for your system.

The surge protector monitors the levels of electricity coming into your HVAC system. In the event that a surge occurs for any reason (faulty wiring, a lightning strike, etc.), the surge protector will immediately cut off power to the HVAC unit and shut all of the equipment down.

A Sizeable Investment

Your HVAC system was not an impulse buy. This is a collection of equipment that you probably spent a good deal of money on and that you rely on to keep your family comfortable throughout the year. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see why it’s worth doing anything you can to protect your investment. Installing a surge protector is a relatively minor expense compared to the money and inconvenience it could save you by preventing serious damage to your HVAC equipment.

Proper Restart

Once a surge protector shuts off your HVAC system, you’ll need to restart it properly. The best thing to do is talk to the contractor who installs your system. They can walk you through the restart process step by step to ensure you know exactly what to do. After going through all that trouble installing a surge protector, the last thing you want is to make a mistake when turning it back on.

If you don’t already have a surge protector in place, call an HVAC professional today and learn what your system needs to be fully protected. It’s a small expense and a quick installation, so there’s no reason to put it off any longer.

2011 AC Federal Tax Credits

You’ve probably heard many arguments for why you should purchase an energy efficient air conditioner. 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.

What Will an Energy Audit Do?

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With costs constantly on the rise, homeowners are looking for new ways to save money on their energy bills, such as conserving electricity, using less heat and exploring alternative energy sources. One great way to see how you and your family can use energy more efficiently is to get a home energy audit.

The goal of an energy audit is determine how energy is being used in the home in order to identify and correct any inefficiency. By finding ways to use energy more efficiently, you can reduce the energy used in your home without sacrificing comfort. Efficient use of energy reduces costs and environmental impact.

How It Works

To conduct an energy audit, a professional will use special instruments to inspect various aspects affecting energy use in your home, including construction, occupancy, appliance use, number of windows and doors, and so on. In this way, you can see how well your home is retaining heat and note any places where inside air may be escaping, making your home cooler or warmer than desired. For example, since a lot of heat can be lost through them, upgrading windows and skylights is an inexpensive way to gain a lot in terms of efficiency. Making sure windows are properly sealed, repairing worn weather stripping, and installing new windows with energy efficient certifications (such as LEED or Energy Star) are simple but effective first steps to making your home more affordable and eco-friendly.

Another aspect of energy audits includes prioritizing energy needs in order of importance, in order to reduce the use of energy on less critical functions. This may include collecting data on the local climate and past energy use. This data can be analyzed in order to identify and predict times when higher usage may be necessary, so that you and your family can prioritize according to your budget. For example, if the results of your energy audit show that July is historically the hottest month of the year and the month when you use the most electricity, you can make up for increased cooling costs by using other electrical appliances less. This way you can stay cool without going outside your utility budget.

Other solutions stemming from your energy audit may include installing insulated curtains, unplugging “vampire devices” like cell phone chargers, and avoiding the use of large appliances during warmer times of the day.

If you are one of the many interested in cutting energy costs, while helping the environment, a home energy audit is the first step.