Save money on your air-conditioning

Don't wait till summer to pay attention to the Air Conditioner. Follow these 10 tips all year round to save energy and money.

If you've suffered long enough and decided next summer is the summer you will have AC, consider installing it in fall or winter, when there may be deals out there and shorter wait times for installation. 

Whether central, window or portable, here are 10 tips to help keep you cool as a cucumber while saving like a smarty-pants. 

1. Regardless of how much or how little you use the AC, it's going to be more efficient -- and save you money -- if you pay attention to good maintenance. Like most machines, if it's clean it runs better and more efficiently and uses less power to do its job. 

Just like with a furnace, air is drawn into the air conditioner, and along with that air, dust and debris. This is the first thing that can cause your unit to overwork and thus use more electricity. Keep the filters clean. Check for leaks in the ductwork, too.

2. Don't already have central air-conditioning? Look into the newest in high-efficiency units. The same Energy Star symbol we look for when shopping for fridges and stoves also applies to AC units -- and choosing an Energy Star-approved unit over one that isn't can save you up to 30 per cent on your cooling bill. 

Here's a lesser-known rating system specific to air conditioners: EER, or energy efficiency rating; the higher the number, the more efficient the machine. Find an Energy Star unit with a high EER rating and you'll keep cool while keeping more of your cold, hard cash.

3. Your house is not a walk-in cooler -- keep the thermostat set at 26°C. A dip of even a couple of degrees -- say, to 22°C -- can increase your bill by up to 47 per cent. 

4. Ceiling fans don't use too much juice to run, but they do make a house feel cooler, whether the AC is running or not; ditto for floor or table fans. Look for a ceiling fan with two rotating directions: one way pushes hot air down (great for winter and the heating bill) and the other pulls cool air up and circulates it. 


Molds are our friends because they play a fundamental role on earth as they scavenge and renew. Molds can sometimes become enemies when they trigger adverse heath effects. Reported potential health effects range from troublesome allergies, to infections, to frightful sounding toxicity. Allergic reactions from mold are well documented. Infectious mold is clearly documented but seldom found. However, documentation of toxicity problems falls short of proof.

It is unavoidable that residential air contains some moisture, and moist air is essential for health and comfort. However, there are several problems associated with excess moisture, and one is mold. Mold can grow when there is excess moisture; if moisture is controlled, mold is controlled.

The four practical steps to avoidance and control of residential mold are:

  1.  Design and build the house properly – as a system. Design and build to keep water out, to avoid condensation, and for easy maintenance. Don’t oversize the air conditioner. Moisture control must dominate design.

  2. Operate the house properly. Operate the heating and air-conditioning system for best dehumidification. Check the refrigerator, washer, dishwasher and other sources.

  3. Design ventilation for good indoor air quality for health, comfort, and moisture control. Choose dependable ventilation equipment and install it with quality ducting and fittings. Vent-free equipment does not ventilate properly. Provide interior circulation paths and appropriate controls.

  4. Operate residential ventilation properly for good indoor air quality and moisture control. Operate the continuous ventilation with weather sensitivity. Use kitchen ventilation while cooking and bathroom ventilation 30 minutes after a shower.



Ventilation Design and Installation

Ventilation can control excess moisture. Good residential ventilation has two interdependent and essential components. First, strong sources of moisture, especially the bathroom and kitchen, must be intermittently ventilated. Second, fresh air for breathing must be provided continuously by mechanical ventilation. The two are interdependent – for the continuous ventilation to be effective at a low, energy conserving, mold preventing rate, intermittent strong sources must be mitigated at the source by higher ventilation rates before they spread throughout the entire house.

Quality installation of ventilation requires that ducting be carefully designed, selected, and installed – lower duct velocity and high quality fittings helps performance and minimizes noise. Terminations (i.e., wall and roof caps) must be of good quality if ventilation equipment is to realize its potential. Duct leakage is almost always a problem, so it is imperative ducting be installed properly.

Fresh air should be provided mechanically to be sure it is in sufficient quantity to provide good indoor air quality. Depending on infiltration or open window to provide ‘accidental’ fresh air will hardly ever provide the right quantity; one day too much, the next too little.

There is a variety of ventilation strategies to choose from – each one is more effective and less costly than natural ventilation because extremes caused by temperatures and wind are avoided. The mechanical ventilation strategies are all based on supplying just the right amount of air and avoiding the accidental high moisture loads inevitable with natural ventilation in humid areas. Excess and “accidental” ventilation can increase the risk of mold.

When the mechanical fresh air system is operating at the proper rate, it optimizes the quality of the indoor air and it requires that intermittent strong sources be controlled locally.

Bathroom ventilation must intermittently mitigate shower moisture, the single largest strong source of contaminating moisture in the home. The bathroom exhaust must be located so that air from the source (e.g., diffuser or undercut door) sweeps across and over the shower and into the exhaust fan. Exhaust capacity must be adequate for the application; the Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) recommends eight air changes per hour. An easy approximation is to provide one cubic foot per minute (cfm) per square foot of bathroom. Extra large bathrooms and split bathrooms may be adequately served with slightly less if properly located. Although ventilation in a separated toilet room can effectively control odor, control of moisture is the important function in the bathroom.

Controls are important for bathroom ventilation. Timers and off-delay switches make a bathroom exhaust much more effective; if the bathroom door is opened immediately after a shower the huge moisture load is simply dumped into the rest of the house. Fans with sensors that detect a rapid rise in humidity can sense operation of a shower, and run the fan until the moisture has been expelled. Controls that sense a rapid rise in humidity are available and can even prevent shower stall mildew.

Kitchen ventilation must control the strong sources of excess moisture associated with cooking. Whether boiling, frying or baking, kitchen ventilation mitigates the moisture load that otherwise would disturb the home’s environment, enabling the full-time ventilation system to maintain air quality and optimize its effectiveness against mold. Range hoods capture and exhaust most efficiently; other types of kitchen ventilation are also effective.

Correct Operation of Residential Ventilation

The full-time low-level ventilation for breathing should be operated continuously, especially when the dwelling is occupied. In the very humid coastal south, where there may be a concern that ventilation is bringing in excess moisture, the continuous ventilation can be shut down during periods when the dew point of incoming air is above a certain point, say 65º F, or lower. The dew point follows a more or less regular pattern from day to day during a season. The dew point can easily be obtained from television and the internet; once the local pattern is understood a daily operating procedure can be followed.

Operation of the bathroom exhaust fan must start at the beginning of every shower and continue afterwards for 20 minutes.

Kitchen ventilation must be used whenever cooking, to control heat and moisture. Although boiling water obviously sends moisture to the air, it is also released when we fry meat and sauté vegetables.

Kitchen ventilation also plays a role in mold prevention by limiting the amount of bio-nutrients contaminating the surfaces of the house.


Operating Tips for Your Residential Furnaces                                                           

Follow these best practices for even more energy savings.

Turn down the heat.
Lowering the temperature in your home by a degree or two saves energy and money. Plan to do so overnight or when no one is at home. For every one degree Celsius you drop the temperature of your home, you save as much as two percent in annual heating costs.

Use dampers.
Dampers installed in your ductwork can help divert warm air to the rooms that need it most and take warm air away from rooms that are largely unoccupied.

Add cold-air returns.
High-efficiency furnaces require ample airflow to run effectively. Many older homes may need additional cold-air returns to help ensure a new furnace runs at peak capacity.

Change the air filter.
Replace your furnace air filter at least every three months to keep the furnace running efficiently.

Check the ducts.
Leaky or blocked ducts can be a significant source of wasted heat energy. Check all ductwork in your home and seal any leaks. If you suspect a blockage, hire a contractor to perform an assessment.

Check the fan.
If your furnace has a direct-drive fan, vacuum it occasionally to remove dust that can slow fan speeds and reduce efficiency. If your furnace fan is belt-driven, have the unit serviced often to maintain peak performance.

Keep grills and vents clear.
Locate furniture and drapes away from vents and cold-air returns to ensure optimal airflow.



7 Ways to Improve Bathroom Air Quality for Better Health

Clear the air for good — the right bathroom ventilation can purify what you breathe and prevent those nasty smells

Air pollution, mold and moisture are all things you don't want in your home — especially in your bathroom. The quality of the air inside a home is often worse than the quality outside, and much of this is due to poor home ventilation.

If you suffer from red, itchy eyes when you're at home, you could have poor ventilation. If your bathroom window is always covered in condensation, you could have poor ventilation. Mold and mildew on bathroom ceilings and strong lingering odors are other common signs. A musty-smelling shower is often a sign that the shower was not built and waterproofed properly.

Try these professional tips to help improve the quality of air in your bathroom.


1.       Get a great fan. A top-quality fan is a must in the quest for better Indoor Air Quality. If you have a noisy fan, no one will want to use it.


2.       Have multiple ways to dry out your bathroom. This shower has two things that can improve its air quality: a small window for fresh air and a fan. You can also take shorter showers to help reduce mold and mildew, since less moisture will need to be removed.


5 Ways to Hide That Big Air Conditioner in Your Yard

Don’t sweat that boxy A/C unit. Here’s how to put it out of sight and out of mind

In the summer heat, your air conditioner is probably your favorite major appliance. However, it can quickly become a major party crasher in the middle of your backyard summer barbecue. That same hulking, boxy piece of machinery that cools your house can be an eyesore in your garden. But don’t sweat it. There are plenty of ways you can hide, mask, conceal and block your air conditioning unit so you won’t even know it’s there. Here’s how to keep your cool.

First keep in mind how your air conditioner works and what keeps it happy and efficient. An A/C unit needs space to breathe. Because it works so hard to make the inside of your house cool, it needs to vent a bunch of generated heat. The reason that the metal casings of air conditioning units are perforated is to do just that. Keep this in mind when adding any sort of cover or obstruction near your machine. To be safe, check the manufacturer’s recommended distances for any sort of enclosure.

When designing your new house or retrofitting for a new system, remember that a happy air conditioner is one that doesn’t have to work so hard. One way to ensure this is to use energy-efficient methods of home design that can reduce your reliance on air conditioning and keep as much cool air inside your home as possible.

Another way to design an efficient system is to make sure that your unit has a cool, shady spot in which to work. Place it on the side of the house with the most protection from the sun, so that it doesn’t heat up too much. This will keep it running more efficiently (which is great for the wallet) and can help avoid noises and malfunctioning associated with overheating.