Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Air Conditioner is low on freon.

Summer time is almost here. It is getting warmer outside and you will soon be using your a/c. The most common question by homeowners is "does my a/c need freon?". First thing is "Freon" is a trademark name by Dupont. Freon is actually regrigerant of many types. Most common residential a/c systems use R-22. Saying freon is like saying Xerox instead of copy machine. I am going to call it Freon for now. People think because the air coming from there registers feels to warm, or there house isn't cooling off fast enough it must need freon.

Freon should not leak from your a/c. Air conditioning systems are sealed and should never leak. This isn't like putting gas in your car. If freon has leaked there is a problem. You need to have a qualified HVAC technician repair the leak or else this will keep happening. When an A/C gets low on freon it is very normal for the indoor coil to freeze to a block of ice. Then when that ice melts you will get water leaking in the furnace and on the floor. Water will damage the furnace and just make your problems worse. Majority of service calls for "my a/c is low on freon" turns out to be just a plugged air filter. It is important that you change your furnace filter every month if you use a standard 1" thick filter.

Signs A/C is low on Refrigerant
  • You feel low airflow coming from registers
  • Air starts to feel warmer from registers
  • Water on floor by your furnace
  • Ice building up on copper lines from a/c to indoor coil
  • High electrical usage
  • House takes longer than normal to cool off
Now above are typical signs, but remember the majority of problems are something else beside low on refrigerant. Having your a/c cleaned and tested annually by a HVAC company can save you a lot of money over the years.

One new fact to keep in mind is R22 refrigerant is in the process of being discontinued. 2010 all manufactures have to stop using R22 in there new equipment. As this happens the cost of R22 will keep going up. So if you have an a/c leaking this is just another reason you want to get it fixed so it doesn't happen again. If your a/c is over 10 years old you may want to think about replaceing it. New a/c units will typically cost 30% less to run and will use the new enviromentally friendly refrigerant called R410a.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to clean a Trane Air Conditioner


It's very important to clean your a/c system every year in both residential & commercial buildings. Annual cleaning will add 5-7 years to there life typically. Which just that savings will cover the cost of having it done. Plus the likely hood of the unit breaking down on the hottest day of the summer is much less if you annually have it inspected.

Trane is unique in there outdoor coil design. The use a technology called Spine Fin which is an all aluminum coil. Carrier did this many years ago but have now switched back to the standard copper coil and aluminum plate fins. Spine fin is a proven technology that has a lot of advantages over copper/aluminum plate fin coils. Spine fin has less fittings having less chance of leaks, retains efficiency longer, and allows your compressor to run cooler saving you money each year of it's life.

But some people complain and think spine fin coils are impossible to clean. It is actually easier to clean spine fin coils. The part that needs to be clean is the leading edge because that is where heat is extracted from the coil. What people think is hard is when you have a lot of cotton wood that gets into the coil. Below is a method to clean cottonwood quickly, but you must take care while doing it. My companies technicians have used this method for years and it is great. Trane does approve to using this method also.

  1. Remove power to compressor terminals
  2. Go to thermostat and give call for cooling
  3. The outdoor fan motor should be running now but not the compressor.
  4. Take a torch. Must be lazy orange flame, don't use hot brazing flame. You can also use propane or map gas turbo torch.
  5. Run the flame along the coil allowing the fan to pull the flame through the coil. This will burn the cottonwood. Note: smoke will come out of top of a/c, and yes it will smell a little depending how dirty it is as the cottonwood burns.
  6. Last shut power off to outdoor unit and hose it off with garden hose. For best results I strongly recommend using a condenser coil cleaner to spray on first like Calgon Nu-brite. This will help pull the dirt from the inside of the coil. Don't ever use a pressure washer as you will damage the coil. Wash the coil from the top and work your way down.
When doing this you can leave the outside hail guards on the Trane unit. If the unit is really bad you may have to remove the panels. I have seen units that look like a wool jacket is wrapped around them they are so dirty. For more information you can go to

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Consumers can sabotage energy-saving efforts

Consumers can sabotage energy-saving efforts

By Traci Watson, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — As President Obama and Congress pump billions into energy conservation, experts warn that the promised energy savings could be undermined by consumer behavior.
There is even a name for it: the Snackwell Effect.

Just as dieters might binge on Snackwell's low-calorie cookies, people who buy energy-efficient items for their homes sabotage their efforts to save power — often by using the appliances more heavily, studies have shown.
A marketing survey to be released today showed that one-third of respondents who made energy-efficiency efforts at home saw no decrease in their energy bills, and a 2008 study by University of Michigan economist Lucas Davis found that people given energy-efficient washing machines washed more clothes.

"It could be that by doing something virtuous, it gives you license to do something indulgent somewhere else," says Portland State University's Loren Lutzenhiser, who studies energy consumption.

People who install efficient lights lose 5%-12% of the expected energy savings by leaving them on longer, said Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez of the non-profit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. People who buy an efficient furnace lose 10%-30% of their savings, probably from raising the thermostat, she said.

"It doesn't mean energy efficiency is a waste of time," says Sussex University's Steve Sorrell, who wrote a 2007 report for the federally funded UK Energy Research Centre on the phenomenon, which economists call the takeback effect. It does mean that "standards on efficiency will not be sufficient by themselves."

The takeback effect could cut the energy savings from measures being championed in Washington. The $787 billion stimulus package signed by Obama last month includes $5 billion for weatherization programs and $300 million in rebates for energy-efficient products.

In a new survey of 500 Americans by the Shelton Group, one-third of respondents reported that they hadn't seen the expected cuts in their energy bill after investing in energy-efficiency measures such as weatherstripping. Alan King of Morgantown, W.Va., for example, says he and his wife purchased energy-efficient appliances but their electric bill has changed little.

King confesses that sometimes his wife will wash just one piece of clothing in their high-efficiency washer, which she would not have done before.

One solution: Devices that tell people how much electricity they use hour-by-hour, so they know the power consumed by a particular appliance.

"People don't really know what they're using," says Lynda Ziegler of Southern California Edison. "At least on a cookie label there's the number of calories."

Find this article at:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Do 3M Furnace Filters Really Work?

  • Are you electric bills too high?
  • Is your 2nd level too hot in the summer?
  • Does your furnace sound really loud?

You can't go to Home Depot, Target, or any other store without seeing 3M filters for sale. Millions of these filters are sold every year. If customers only knew how much money they are really wasting. 3M isn't the only one; ArmHammer, Bluedot, Honeywell, and many others included.

Yes the 3M will catch more dirt than your $3 filter. But they do not let air through either. A furnace duct system efficiency is measured in Static Pressure (SP). Average duct system should create .5" SP across a furnace. The higher the number the harder the furnace blower must work. Out of the .5" allowed, the filter should be about .1". 3M filters commonly have a .25 to .4" SP drop. Basically SP is like your blood pressure. As you know high blood pressure is bad, same with SP.
I have seen furnaces needing to be replaced after only being 6-7 years old commonly. And a huge part will be poor duct design and 3M filters. There are multiple grades of 3M filters also. As the price is higher they are even worse. I think it is purple package can be up to $12-15 each filter and these must be changed even more than the red box.

Think of it this way. The object of 3M filter is catch a lot of dirt and pollen. So it needs really small holes. The problem is the filters are to small to hold all the dirt. When you have a larger media filter they are 4 or 5" thick and can hold more dirt and let the air through.

When you use a 3M filter it is like your furnace running a marathon with a rope around its neck. The furnace can't breath... Which causes over heating in the summer and over cooling in the summer.
Over cooling the a/c in summer will cause the indoor coil to freeze like a block of ice. Next thing you know water is leaking from your furnace and your house gets hot. Plugged air filter is a very common service call Cooling Contractors have in the summer. Once the coil start to freeze up you can also ruin the compressor in the a/c which will commonly cost $1,200 to 1,800 to fix.

In the winter that 3M filter will cause low air flow across the furnace heat exchanger. When that happens the metal in the heat exchanger heats up and cools down more than normal. Then the metal can crack just like if you flex a paper clip to many times. A cracked heat exchanger in a furnace can allow carbon monoxide to leak into the home causing major health effects or even death.

There are many better filter options available. If you are worried about allergies or indoor air quality contact a local HVAC company. If you just want to keep your furnace running for a long time you are better off using the $3 filter instead of the overpriced 3M filter that will just cause you high electric bills and isssues with your heating and cooling equipment. DO NOT follow the 3M instructions either that say change upto 90 days. If you don't want to keep using 3M atleast make sure you change it every 30 days. (some homes even more often)

I like Poly fiber filters for a low cost option. They will cost you about $3 each, you replace them every month and you will be much better off. You can get a low cost filter at just about any hardware store. The best thing to do is talk to your local heating professional about filter while he is at your home doing an annual furnace and A/C cleaning.

In Short
  • Change standard 1" thick filters every 30 days
  • High resistance filters (3M) will drastically increase electrical use
  • If you ever see water leaking by your furnace in the summer, good odds your filter is plugged or just not letting enough air through
  • Use whole house media filters like Trane 5" Perfect fit media
  • Not changing air filters enough will cut the life of your furnace in half

Friday, April 3, 2009

5 Ways to Save Water While on the Can

Ok, do I have your attention. Everyone spends time on the can. Yes I mean toilet. 25% of the water in a home goes down the toilet every day. 1.6 Billion gallons per day are flushed. That is equal to 2,400 Olympic size pools per day.

So next time you are maybe sitting at the cabin bathroom in Shawanoo, WI or maybe a hotel room while visiting Minneapolis, MN for the weekend remember these following facts from ChelseaGreen.

But consider this: clean water requires huge amounts of energy to be chemically treated and pumped into our homes; it uses up groundwater, which puts stress on woodlands and causes damage to wildlife habitats in wetlands and rivers; and although it may seem abundant, many regions will need to keep a substantial supply on hand to stave off water shortages and summer water rationing.

This precious resource is literally going down the crapper.

Here are some facts about water usage, from Water: Use Less—Save More by Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert:

  • Over a quarter of all the clean, drinkable water you use in your home is used to flush the toilets.
  • Older toilets can use 3 gallons of clean water with every flush, while new toilets use as little as 1 gallon.
  • Many people in the world exist on 3 gallons of water day or less. We can use that amount in one flush of the toilet.

Here are 5 steps you can take to reduce your water usage (also excerpted from Water):

1. Remember the rhyme: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” You will save a lot of water!
2. If you have an old toilet, you can reduce the amount of water it uses by putting a “displacement device” in the tank. Use small plastic bottles filled with water or a displacement bag designed for toilet tanks. Displacement bags may be available free from your local water department or can be purchased from a hardware store.
3. Avoid flushing anything down the toilet that has not previously passed though your digestive system, apart from toilet paper – it’s a waste of water and might block the sewer. Bag it and bin it.
4. Choose a slimline toilet rather than a full-size toilet; they use a lot less water per flush.
5. When you are buying a new toilet, look for a dual-flush toilet, or a low-flush toilet, which uses only 1.6 gallons per flush.

Clean water is just another part of the world. Energy conservation from heating and cooling our homes is another huge part. Geothermal heating/cooling systems can save your home another 30-70%. So start with flushing a little less down the toilet, then move on to a larger item like heating and cooling your home.