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Old 07-23-2011, 09:09 AM  
Bugeater Bugeater is offline
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Simple AC tips to help keep your cool this summer

Hey CP peeps, I'm willing to bet some of you have noticed it's freaking hot outside. And since I've spent the last year going to school for HVAC, I thought I'd share some things I've learned about air conditioning systems. If you don't think yours is operating properly, here are some simple things you can check out on your own.

First off, check your outside unit. On it you will find two copper tubes coming from the house and into the unit. Touch them both.

The larger one (low side), should be insulated and cold to the touch, similar to a can of beer coming out of the fridge. If it's warm, or frosted, it likely means that your refrigerant level is off. Call a professional.

The smaller one (high side) should be warm, but not uncomfortable to the touch. If it's hot enough that you can't leave your fingers on it, it very likely means that your condensing coil is dirty, and it can't properly release the heat that the system is trying to remove from your home, and it's not going to run efficiently ($$$$). It can also make the compressor run hotter than normal, thereby shortening its life (more $$$$).

If your coil is as dirty as the one pictured here



you can make a significant improvement in performance simply by shutting the system down and thoroughly hosing it off, but the most effective way to clean one is from the inside with a high-pressure spray tip since dirt, cotton from cottonwood trees and even lawn clippings can get embedded into the coil. This is also something that can be done yourself, but if you're not comfortable opening up the unit, call a pro to have it cleaned. Again, let me emphasize that the system needs to be SHUT OFF while doing this. The condenser should be cleaned at least once a year, and maybe more depending on the conditions.

Lastly, a few things on airflow, which is key to keeping your home cool.

Check the furnace filter. Does it look more like a throw rug than the filter you stuck in there six months ago? Time to change it out. In the summertime, I recommend the cheap, flimsy ones. While that super duper pleated hypo-allergenic $25 one that Paul Harvey recommended may do a better job of cleaning your air, it's only because it's letting less air through it. There are better ways to clean your air other than choking off your airflow.

Is your humidifier bypass (if equipped with one) closed? Check for a 6" round duct going into your humidifier. There should be a handle somewhere on it, or on the humidifier itself, and it should be marked "summer/winter" or "high/low". Turn it to the summer/low position, or if it's not marked, the handle should be perpendicular to the airflow. Having this open when the AC is running can kill your efficiency by as much as 25% on its own.

You also want to keep all your supply/return vents clear, and open. Your system is designed to move a certain amount of air, and closing off a bunch of vents isn't necessarily going to help keep the other rooms any cooler. If you notice significant differences in temperatures from room to room, try turning the thermostat to "Fan On". On that setting, the AC will still cycle normally as needed to maintain the desired temperature, but the fan will run continuously which may help keep all rooms a more consistent temperature.

Hopefully these suggestions help some of you, I know they've made a difference in my house.
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Old 06-13-2013, 05:04 PM   #241
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Cant you get a smaller unit that only works for the upstairs? I mean I realize you would have to get a whole new entire system.
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Old 06-13-2013, 05:20 PM   #242
Bugeater Bugeater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinChief View Post
I get what your saying but it still just isn't making sense to me.

In my head(dangerous, I know) I am thinking that "balancing" a system by adjusting the airflow in the ducts is basically the same as balancing it at the registers. Yet everything I see online seems to say don't mess with the registers. It makes me think its all a scam to get those people to invest in the expensive inline control system.
Again, I haven't researched it but I'm guessing it only makes minor adjustments to the airflow, where it may only be closing the damper part of the way instead of completely cutting a room off. And believe me, I have had trouble wrapping my brain around this as well, I've admitted that much earlier in this thread. I guess the main point is that if you're shutting off a room thinking it's going to save you money by not cooling it, or that it's going to make rest of the house cooler, it's not going to do either of those things.

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Originally Posted by AustinChief View Post
oh. btw thanks to everyone for the input on my parents house. They ended up just replacing the a-coil for now and waiting to upgrade the system down the road.

On a semi-related note... the only issue they have now is in a separate section of the house. One back bedroom is always "off" when it comes to heating or cooling. The unit for that area works perfectly for everywhere but that room. The theory is that the ducting to that room is undersized and since it also is the furthest from the blower it is never going to be "right."

Any suggestions? I was thinking they could go with an inline booster fan but I have no clue if the smaller duct work will be a major issue. Or would they be just as well off going with something like this...

http://www.appliancesconnection.com/...icegrabbermain



My apartment in Europe had these in each major room and they absolutely kicked ass.
The former owner of our house added a room to the end of the house, and we have the same issue, it's too far away from the blower and doesn't get good airflow. I tried an inline fan and it was useless, I swear it moves even less air than the blower because it sounds like it speeds up every time the system kicks on.
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Old 06-13-2013, 05:45 PM   #243
DaneMcCloud DaneMcCloud is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinChief View Post
http://www.appliancesconnection.com/...icegrabbermain



My apartment in Europe had these in each major room and they absolutely kicked ass.
I purchased an LG one ton unit last year for a special room in my home. The unit is absolutely amazing but the installation was a major pain in the ass, at least in Cali.

Costco and a few other places offered a $2800 dollar installation, which included a California state rebate, so the price was actually $3500. I thought that was fairly exorbitant because I found my unit on sale online for $1275 shipped (which included all of the necessary parts).

Since we had ongoing renovations happening at that time, I had my contractor install it. Little did I know that the unit needed to be purged and charged before cooling properly, something my contractor didn't know, either. So, I called about a dozen A/C contractors and NONE of them would service my unit because they didn't personally install it. It was the most frustrating issue I've ever had to deal with (and I've dealt with an enormous amount over the years).

Finally, my contractor's A/C guy offered to do it for $800.00. So in the end, I spent about $2,700, which is better than $3,500.00 but for all the hassle I had to deal with the time involved (there was about a 3 week wait after the unit was installed), I'd have just as soon paid $3,400 and be done with it.

Good luck!
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Old 06-13-2013, 05:50 PM   #244
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FWIW, this is the unit I purchased. It also required a drain hose, a 25 foot 1/4 LL 3/8 SL Lineset w/ Flare Fitting for Ductless Mini Split and 25 Ft 14 AWG 4 Conductor Ductless Mini Split Shielded Stranded Wire Control Wire. Those items were an additional $150.00 dollars.

https://www.acwholesalers.com/LG/LA1...ioner/29894.ac
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Old 06-13-2013, 06:58 PM   #245
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinChief View Post
Yeah, it basically is just a bunch of dampers in the ducts that open and close based on each room's temp. Which to me seems like it's the same as someone manually opening/closing registers. I just don't see why one is an accepted practice and the other is not. I have no clue if zoning is actually is a good idea... but I can't see any way that it could be ok and the other less technical method is not.
I haven't read everything you all have been posting about.
Zoning and closing dampers with a system is a lot different than closing a register off.
You can close off up to 10% of your airflow before causing problems with the extra static pressure.
Zone systems are designed to open and close dampers based on demand. But there will be a "dump" zone, where the excess air will go when it is not needed. A lot of zone systems also are on two-stage equipment where the system can check the demand and maybe only bring on the first stage of the compressor and fans, then ramp up as needed if the demand increases.
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Old 06-13-2013, 06:59 PM   #246
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Ductless Mini Splits are a very very good way to go if you can.
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Old 06-13-2013, 07:14 PM   #247
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Thanks for the tips (two years later)... that's pretty much my issue. I closed a vent in the basement, and as it's been discussed in this thread, it didn't make a difference upstairs. Last night it took about 3 hours to knock off 5 degrees upstairs, all while it was 20 degrees cooler in the basement.

Stupid n00b question... I've thought about running the attic fan (or 'whole house fan' as apparently non-Midwesterners call it) early in the morning when it's in the 60s to cool off the house a few degrees, but it looks like that might not help much overall due to moisture/humidity levels.

Is there any value in running it at any time during the summer, possibly to help pull up the cool air from the basement? I've seen a lot of conflicting information online... I tried it last night and there was a noticeable difference in airflow coming up from the basement, but I've only had the AC on a couple of days, so I haven't had much time to experiment. I've read in some places that it's not a good idea, you'll be sucking conditioned air out of the house, etc... and I've read in other places that running it for 20 minutes before turning on the AC can be beneficial... and another site said you can run it with the AC on, dependent on a few factors like air returns, etc.

The seller paid for a home warranty, which at first glance covers seasonal maintenance, so I'll probably just go that route sometime soon, since I don't believe anyone lived there for a while and it could probably use it... but, I'll check out the info in the OP this afternoon, too.
I signed up for the wattsaver deal at Westar and it includes a very nice touchscreen thermostat. It has a "circulate" setting where in addition to the blower coming on when the compressor cycles, it will periodically turn on the blower to circulate air for 30 minutes. Very cool option, and helps keep my upstairs/downstairs temps a little more even. I also installed some Gila window film on my old-ass west facing windows and that has definitely improved my upstairs temps in the afternoon and evening.
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Old 06-13-2013, 07:44 PM   #248
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Roundup View Post
I haven't read everything you all have been posting about.
Zoning and closing dampers with a system is a lot different than closing a register off.
You can close off up to 10% of your airflow before causing problems with the extra static pressure.
Zone systems are designed to open and close dampers based on demand. But there will be a "dump" zone, where the excess air will go when it is not needed. A lot of zone systems also are on two-stage equipment where the system can check the demand and maybe only bring on the first stage of the compressor and fans, then ramp up as needed if the demand increases.
I get that with zoned systems that were designed that way...but I see a ton of stuff for retrofitting a system to be zoned. In those cases you are basically just doing the same thing as shutting off a register... or am I off base here? So basically you are saying shutting off registers or half-ass retrofitting won;t do you a lick of good?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Roundup View Post
Ductless Mini Splits are a very very good way to go if you can.
Cool. I think I'll tell them to go that route. At that point should they just cap off the duct running to that room or should they leave it as is and use the ductless unit to supplement it?
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Old 06-13-2013, 07:46 PM   #249
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Originally Posted by Bugeater View Post
The former owner of our house added a room to the end of the house, and we have the same issue, it's too far away from the blower and doesn't get good airflow. I tried an inline fan and it was useless, I swear it moves even less air than the blower because it sounds like it speeds up every time the system kicks on.
That's what I am afraid of. I think I'll try to convince them to go with a ductless unit back there.
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Old 06-13-2013, 07:56 PM   #250
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how is bug STILLin the RED?

this guy is a golden god (no homo)!!!

saved my ass with his tips twice in previous years.

we should put him on a pedestal. STAT!
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Old 06-13-2013, 08:17 PM   #251
Bugeater Bugeater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Roundup View Post
I haven't read everything you all have been posting about.
Zoning and closing dampers with a system is a lot different than closing a register off.
You can close off up to 10% of your airflow before causing problems with the extra static pressure.
Zone systems are designed to open and close dampers based on demand. But there will be a "dump" zone, where the excess air will go when it is not needed. A lot of zone systems also are on two-stage equipment where the system can check the demand and maybe only bring on the first stage of the compressor and fans, then ramp up as needed if the demand increases.
Holy shit. That sounds really expensive.
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Old 06-25-2013, 07:35 AM   #252
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post
I purchased an LG one ton unit last year for a special room in my home. The unit is absolutely amazing but the installation was a major pain in the ass, at least in Cali.

Costco and a few other places offered a $2800 dollar installation, which included a California state rebate, so the price was actually $3500. I thought that was fairly exorbitant because I found my unit on sale online for $1275 shipped (which included all of the necessary parts).

Since we had ongoing renovations happening at that time, I had my contractor install it. Little did I know that the unit needed to be purged and charged before cooling properly, something my contractor didn't know, either. So, I called about a dozen A/C contractors and NONE of them would service my unit because they didn't personally install it. It was the most frustrating issue I've ever had to deal with (and I've dealt with an enormous amount over the years).

Finally, my contractor's A/C guy offered to do it for $800.00. So in the end, I spent about $2,700, which is better than $3,500.00 but for all the hassle I had to deal with the time involved (there was about a 3 week wait after the unit was installed), I'd have just as soon paid $3,400 and be done with it.

Good luck!
I think I'm going this route for an upstairs, attic master bedroom. It's around 550 sq ft and the HVAC contractor is quoting me $2,700 for a 12,000 BTU mini split plus the install. Seems to be in the same $$$ range as your unit.
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