Clean Off That Air Conditioning Unit

We had a really hot spell a couple of weeks back and the air conditioning was working overtime at our house.

I happened to walk by the compressor and noticed that it was time for a quick clean.

Keeping your compressor clean is very important to the operation and efficiency of your air conditioning system.  I really don’t know the specifics of how it all works, but I know that a main part of the system is a massive flow of air within the compressor unit.  I know enough to understand that keeping the flow of air is critical to the effective operation.

There are two areas where this is key: The top and the sides.

Sounds pretty simple.

The top is easier to keep clean.  With every unit I’ve seen it’s basically a big fan blade protected by a safety grate.  You want to make sure that these aren’t covered with leaves or anything bigger.  Also, give it a check just to make sure nothing is cracked or appears loose.

The sides are the part where you’ll want to do some work.  The sides of our unit appear solid, but they’re really not.  Air is drawn in through the sides and the openings are tiny, making it much easier for them to get clogged.  We have quite a few mature cottonwood trees in our neighborhood, so it doesn’t take too long before the ‘snow’ creates a film and enough of a buildup will make it so your air conditioning isn’t working like it should.  This can lead to higher energy bills as it has to work harder to keep up, a warmer house if it can’t keep up, and a shorter life span on your A/C unit as all that extra work will take its toll.

I clean mine with the tried and true method of hosing it down.  I turn off the A/C to the house, and aim the hose jet at it until the cottonwood and other little debris gets washed down on the ground.  After I’m done, I turn the A/C back on and enjoy the cool.

Anything beyond that probably requires a professional, but keeping your A/C unit clear of debris is something you can (and should) easily do.

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The Case For CFL Bulbs

Lately, I’ve seen some buzz building about the government ‘forcing’ American citizens to convert to CFL bulbs by phasing out the sale of traditional (incandescent)  bulbs over the next few years.

Many of the opponents feel that this is some sort of violation of rights, taking away choice or forcing a lesser product down their throats.

I guess I see it as that the positives outweigh the negatives.  Yes, there are drawbacks to CFLs (see below), but in terms of what we gain, I think converting to CFL bulb (or LED bulbs, which I haven’t tried yet) is a net positive.

As we build more homes, as they get bigger, the energy demands continue to grow.  If we can save the need for additional power capacity or further dependency on oil, which is outside of our control in terms of both pricing and availability, I think it’s worth the sacrifice.

Not to mention the impact all the power consumption has on our environment.

People are forever going to complain about the negatives that are associated with CFLs.

  • That they don’t like the color of the light (which has been improved dramatically over the years),
  • Tthat they don’t like how it takes time for the lights to reach full brightness (this isn’t perfect but has also been improved by leaps and bounds)
  • That they cost too much.  Between sales, coupons, and promotions, I’ve not paid more than $1 for a normal CFL bulb in the past two years.  If you’re still thinking they cost $3 to $4, then you’re not looking hard enough because deals are out there.  At $1 per bulb, they pay for themselves in months with the reduced usage, plus they last so much longer (I’ve not had one burn out inside our house yet, and I’ve been phasing them in since 2007).
  • Or that they can’t just throw them in the trash.  I guess I don’t see this as a huge problem.  They burn out so infrequently that it’s not a big deal to set them aside and then take them on a trip to Home Depot, Lowes, or IKEA, one of just several places that I know accepts them for proper disposal.

The fact is that many other countries across the globe have already taken these steps, and guess what?  No great shakes!  They’ve survived!

If it’s really important, go ahead and buy all the energy wasting incandascents you want.  The light bulb police won’t be coming to arrest people that use them.  Traditional bulbs will still be for sale for awhile, and they can sit on your basement or garage shelf for years if you think that’s the best way to go.

And who knows, you might just end up with a collector’s item some day?

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Shop Around For Your Utilities To Save Cash

This is a guest post from
Many people pay their energy bills without giving a second thought to where that money is going. It may come as a big surprise to many that everyone can save money on their energy bills, simply by taking a bit more time to think about who supplies America’s energy – and who gives the best deals on energy prices.

Shopping for an energy supplier is wonderfully easy in the digital age. Whereas once upon a time you might have felt there was no choice as to who supplied your electricity and natural gas, you can now view all the suppliers for your area and at the click of a button.

Before you start shopping around for a new energy deal to save you cash, think about your specific energy needs. How much energy does your household consume in a year? What are the peak times of year for your energy consumption? What sources of energy do you depend upon most heavily? You can consult your current energy provider to help gleam much of this information, while there are also gadgets available that monitor your electricity usage and provide you with a constant stream of information about your household energy consumption.

Once you start weighing your various energy supplier options, you’ll notice that you will be restricted to a certain number of suppliers for your area. Certain suppliers might not offer the particular kind of energy you require, with resources like fuel oil not being offered across the board by all suppliers.

You can also save money by generating your own energy, using photovoltaic solar panels or outdoor wind turbines. Many companies are now offering to arrange for green power to be channelled into your home, or for green energy sources to be installed in your home for personal use and to feed back into the system.

Keep an eye out for the savings you can make by purchasing your energy deal online. Many energy suppliers are moving their operations online to save on overheads and the benefits of these cost-cutting measures are passed on to you, the consumer, in the form of reduced prices.

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Good News From The Gas Company

I was really nervous about our gas bill.  The period for the last bill (early/mid-December to early/mid January) was cold.  We had a lot of days where it didn’t get above 20 and the nighttime temperatures were in single digits.  The furnace clicked on and off at a pretty rapid rate.

Still, I was hopeful that the bill wouldn’t be too high because, prior to the heating season, I discovered and repaired a leak around the fan in our master bedroom that had been whisking air into the attic at what had to be a pretty alarming rate, since the leak was occurring at the highest point in our home.  I know that the fix worked because our bedroom, which had been noticeably colder in the winter in years past, was now a more comfortable temperature.

Years past had given me the following bills for the same month:
2008: $185
2009: $219
2010: $246

I think gas rates went up a lot between 2008 and 2009, and the increase last year was explained largely by the fact that it was the first year that we kept the temperature higher all day rather than dropping it down during the year, since my wife was now staying at home with our child.

Still, this year’s cold temperature made me think it could be higher yet again.

So, I was happily surprised when the bill turned out to be $227.

We actually decreased our usage by about 5% from last year.  This with what I know was one of the colder months we’ve had since we moved in.

I would love to see that go down again next year.  I’m hoping that new glass block windows in the basement and re-caulking around some of the windows (things I have on my 2011 to-do list) will continue to improve our energy efficiency.

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