We seem to be catching a break from the smoke that filled our service area over the past weeks. The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting that in mid-September, we’ll experience weather events that will begin to reduce fire activity in the region, but only briefly as California enters its fall fire season and smoke again fills our valleys.
Portable air cleaners
Portable air cleaners are one way to help manage your indoor air quality.
Properly sized for the space you’re intending to clean, these portable units can reduce indoor air pollution, and can run continuously for less cost than running the fan in your central air conditioning system, which can increase your electric bill $40 or more per month.
To size your cleaner, compare the square footage of the space you wish to clean with the square footage rating of the device. Visit www.ahamdir.com for more information on how to size your air cleaner.
Two types of air cleaners
Most air cleaners will be either mechanical or electronic. Less expensive units might not clean the air as well as more expensive units during smoke events like we’ve seen over the past couple of months, but could be fine the rest of the year.
Mechanical air cleaners
Mechanical air cleaners pull air through filters that trap particulates in the air. Reliable and safe, these air cleaners do not produce an air pollutant called ozone, which has been labeled a health hazard. Mechanical air filters offer various levels of air cleaning, all the way up to HEPA filters. I own a unit with both charcoal pre-filter and a HEPA filter.
I like my little HEPA unit with the charcoal pre-filter – it offers the best chance of getting the stuff I’m most worried about, even if it can’t always completely keep up with fire season.
As with your air conditioning system, mechanical air cleaner filters need to be regularly replaced to ensure efficiency. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, or check often during smoke events to make sure your filter is clean.
Electronic air cleaners
Electronic air cleaners may use an electrical charge to remove particles, and typically fall into one of three main categories:
Electrostatic precipitators (ESPs): ESPs remove suspended dust particles by applying a high-voltage electrostatic charge and collect the particles on collector plates that need cleaning when dirty.
Ionizers: Ionizers draw dust and particles from the air and deposit them on special surfaces within the unit. They typically use little electricity and are efficient – and quiet – to run. They may produce negative ions, and trace amounts of ozone, usually well below that of intentional ozone generators.
Intentional ozone generators
Intentional ozone generators are not typically recommended for homes or other occupied spaces due to the large amounts of ozone they produce, similar to other air cleaners like those using ultraviolet (UV) bulbs and those using surface coatings like titanium dioxide to remove particles in the air. Others, including hydroxyl generators, that are designed to remove chemicals can emit volatile organic chemicals in the air.
A few more thoughts
Confused? As always, do your research before committing to buy anything. Keep in mind operating costs, which include electricity (look for Energy Star models) and filter replacement. Some models have washable, reusable filters which may save money down the road. Some units may be noisier than others, or need to run on high for longer periods of time.
It’s hot. Darn hot.
It can be expensive to be cool, but you can lower your cooling costs with these simple tips.
Keep your filters clean
Dirty filters are one of the biggest causes of AC poor performance or system failure. Imagine breathing with a filthy cloth over your mouth and nose. It’s much harder, and you’re bound to start coughing.
Your AC needs regular filter changes to keep your system running smoothly. At the very least, change them twice a year during your summer and winter AC service. Better – change them quarterly. Best – change them monthly, especially during high-use times.
To keep your AC running right, annual service on your AC will keep it running at peak efficiency. Regularly scheduled maintenance will improve reliability, lower your energy bills, result in fewer costly repairs, help your equipment last longer and provide a safer, healthier indoor environment.
Calling for repair
If something isn’t working quite right, call your friendly local AC repair service. Your technician can run diagnostic tests to find and repair the problem. It’s really better than waiting for disaster to strike and facing expensive repairs down the road.
Make the recommended repairs
You called your trusty technician and he’s recommended repairs. Do it. For the life of your equipment, make the repairs.
Hiring a skilled, professional service company to fix your equipment will reduce the cost of a crisis later on. AC professionals are trained in the ways of AC equipment and will make repairs properly in less time than hiring a handyman or trying to figure it out yourself.
Making a mistake or ignoring the warning signs could lead to unpleasant consequences. Find a company whose technicians gain new techniques and knowledge to keep up with an evolving industry. Bonded, licensed and insured contractors remove the risk from you and take it on themselves.
Who doesn’t like those odds?
Ask Dirk: What Are My Options When Buying or Replacing My Air Conditioner?
Overwhelmed by your choices when purchasing a new air conditioning system? Central air conditioners fall into three categories based on your budget and what works with your existing system. Here is a look at each category.
High-end air conditioners
The ultimate in comfort and efficiency
There’s no doubt you are paying a premium for comfort with high-end systems. If you like to run your AC all day and all night to maintain a steady 72 to 73 degrees, these are the systems for you. As the name implies, high-end central air conditioners tend to be the most expensive. You’re paying for comfort and quiet with these systems and may not recover your costs in energy savings over the lifetime of the equipment.
Precise temperature control
When paired with the right furnace, an air conditioner with multiple cooling levels can reach your set temperature more efficiently and accurately. Instead of switching on and blasting cold air, these systems can use lower stages of cooling.
Lower capacity = steady temperature
Variable speed air conditioning operates at lower capacities during the day, depending on how hot it is outside. Single stage systems blast cold air until it reaches a certain temperature. Variable speed runs longer at lower capacities keeping a steady temperature throughout the day.
Clean is good
Additionally, variable speed AC can also act as an air purifier, filtering your air if you run the blower constantly at lower speed and capacity. This helps to improve indoor air quality, reduce contaminants, limit mold growth and prevent dust mites.
Quiet is better
Variable speed systems run more quietly than single- or double-stage units.
Mid-range air conditioners
Cost less to own
Mid-range air conditioners often have the lowest cost of ownership over the life-time of the equipment.
Mid-range air conditioners are typically two-stage systems. A two-stage system offers two operating speeds: high and low.
Two-stage systems will run at full capacity when necessary and at a lower level when it’s not. Less cycling equals lower energy bills and the system may pay for itself with energy savings over the years.
Budget friendly solutions
The basic AC system
Many cooling systems are single-stage systems with one level of cooling. Single stage systems may have the lowest upfront cost. They turn on when the indoor temperature exceeds the setting on the thermostat. Single-stage air conditioners are the least expensive to buy and generally cost less to install. They have tried and true technology are great for their simplicity and reliability, as well as their lower cost.
Not so efficient, but still reliable
Single-stage air conditioners are the least efficient. They draw more electricity because they run at 100 percent capacity, turning on and off throughout the day. If keeping upfront cost low is important to you, you’ll be happy with this system.
So, which do you choose?
The type of system you choose depends on the size and design of your home, your existing furnace, your needs and your budget. If comfort and quiet are important to you, you may consider going with a two-speed or variable speed. If lower upfront cost is more important to you, stick with a single stage system, again, only if it meets your needs.
Do your research, then talk to a reputable dealer. You’ll feel better making an informed decision, and you’ll find the right system for your situation.
About Roper’s Heating and Air Conditioning: For more than30 years Roper’s Heating and Air Conditioning has been providing essential indoor climate management services to the citizens of western Nevada. Roper’s is a family-owned, community-oriented business that specializes in the restoration and preservation of Total Home Comfort. Roper’s Heating and Air Conditioning is located at 2062 S. Edmonds Drive in Carson City. For more information, visit https://roperhvac.com/.