Greg Fox interviewed by Woman’s World Magazine – Air Conditioning Efficiency, Mistakes & Recommendations

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Woman's World Interview

Woman's World Interview

I was recently interviewed by Woman’s World magazine. So, I thought I would share the answer to the questions they asked Fox family Heating & Air:

Greg, are there any surprising or unexpected ways readers can make their air conditioning system or their portable window air conditioner work more efficiently, so they work better without using more energy? By surprising, I mean other than, say, changing your filters, which many of us (hopefully most of us!) know to do.

Whole House Fans – Adding a whole house fan

Using a whole house fan in the mornings will give your attic a fighting chance against hot summer afternoons.  The hot attic radiates heat down into your living area. If we can make it so your attic doesn’t get hot as quickly, we can make it so your living area doesn’t either.

With a whole house fan, you open up a few windows in the morning and turn the whole house fan on. That brings the cooler air outside through your windows and sends it into the attic. That cools off your attic at the start of the day, giving your living area a head start on staying cooler for longer into the afternoon. Depending on where you live, that means not having to turn on your more expensive air conditioner until 1 or 2 in the afternoon instead of 10 or 11 am.

– Install window coverings

Installing window coverings – The sun’s radiant energy can warm up a room quickly.  Some rooms in your house will warm up quicker than other rooms because it has more sun hitting the outside walls or windows that allow radiant heat into those rooms.

For instance, south-facing walls here in Sacramento get really hot and let a lot of radiant heat into those rooms because the sun is focused on it for most of the day.  And if there aren’t any trees shading that side of the house, something will be needed to insulate those rooms better.

Installing window coverings will help keep this radiant heat at bay.  They come in the form of screens or tinting that can be attached to the outside of windows, or curtains and blinds affixed to the inside of the windows.  Either way you choose, you’ll enjoy having a more comfortable room if you can reduce the chance of that heat coming in this way.

– Check insulation levels

Insulation levels in the attic can play a big part in how quickly hot or cold air infiltrates through the sheetrock ceiling and into your room.  Service professionals often need to do work up there.  They may smash down some of your insulation in the process, making it less effective.  If there is not enough insulation over one room or the other, this will create hot or cold spots reducing your comfort level in those rooms.  An insulation company can bring your insulation levels back to today’s new-home standards in just a couple of hours. Your return on investment for new insulation in your attic will be significant over the next 20 years.

What are one or two mistakes that you’ve found many folks make when trying to cool their homes that you wish they knew — and how can they fix them?

Air Registers – Closing air registers

Some folks will start closing down their adjustable supply registers in rooms that are getting too much air.  They’re hoping to force the air somewhere else in the house that isn’t getting enough air—kind of like robbing one room to pay another.  The only thing I don’t like about this is that those registers that you start shutting down can do a couple of things.  One is really annoying, and the other can shorten the system’s lifespan.

Closing down “strategic” registers in the home or office can make those registers start making a loud whizzing sound.  That makes it louder in that room because you’re creating a restriction that increases the airflow velocity as it leaves the supply register.   You also don’t really know if you’re going to be directing that desired air where you want it.  The system may be designed differently than you think, resulting in an undesired outcome.  So, you shut down even more registers.

The other reason has to do with the static pressure of the system.  Much like blood flow in the body, we wouldn’t want to pinch a blood vessel in hopes of delivering more blood elsewhere, right? That could cause major problems with the body.  The same goes for aerodynamics in your ductwork.  Restricting airflow through closed vents will likely ruin your AC sooner than anticipated.

– Don’t ask for wild temperature swings from your AC.

Some people will let it get sweltering in their house while they are gone to work. Then when they come home, they want that nice cool air, but it seems to take a long time.  That is because the whole house needs to cool down before the person living in it will get comfortable. The walls are warm, the furniture is warm, the ceiling is warm, and the window frames are warm. All of this has to cool down before the occupant gets comfortable.

I like my house to be 73 degrees when we occupy it. When I’m gone, I’ll set the temperature back to 78.  Then when I get back home, it doesn’t take the air conditioner as long to get my house cool again. Asking for a big temperature swing is asking a lot from your air conditioner. So try to keep it to no more than 5 degrees from the time you’re away from home and when you are back home.  Every modern thermostat has a schedule on it. It just wants to know what time you wake up, go to work/school, what time you get back, and what time you go to sleep. This one-time set-up lets your thermostat understand your needs.

Do you have recommendations for ways to keep your air conditioning condenser unit working properly that are easy to do?

Trim Back Shrubs

– Clean your AC coil

You may not know this, but your outdoor coil also acts as a filter of sorts.  It breathes in through the fins on the side of the unit catching all kinds of pollen and dust.  The fan on top of it discharges the air to remove the heat from your house.  Taking a hose and rinsing these coils off before summer hits is an excellent way to prepare your AC.  And for all those Tim Allen “arr-arr-arr” DIY’ers, please don’t use a pressure washer to complete this task.  Those fins are pretty rigid and won’t bend unless you apply a lot of pressure to them.  You can bend them pretty easily by pushing with your finger, so use less force than that.  Remember, we’re just trying to knock off the dust.

-Cut your shrubs back

Part of letting your outdoor AC unit breathe means cutting your shrubs back at least 12 inches from the side of the unit.  If you could, do your service technician a big favor and remove them altogether.  Nobody wants to work with thorns from a rose bush poking into their shoulders, back, and face while working on your unit.  If you must have them, though, cutting your shrubs back allows the air to enter through the sides of your AC to be discharged through the top, which removes the heat from your house.

Do you have other recommendations for ways folks can save money while staying cool in summer?

– Ceiling fans

Another way to mix the air in your room is to turn on the ceiling fan in those rooms.  When it’s hot outside, have the fan blowing straight down towards the floor.  The warmer it is, the higher the fan speed should be.  Conversely, in the wintertime, turn the fan switch so it blows upwards.  Both ways will mix the air more effectively and make those rooms more evenly comforted.

Fox Family Heating & Air serves Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, and all of Northern California. If you’re looking to schedule HVAC service in these areas, give us a call!

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