How to Tame Your Cooling Costs

Air conditioning is expensive, but essential for most of the world except perhaps the arctic circle. It improves employee productivity and attracts customers on the hottest of days. Unfortunately,  it also makes an electric meter look more like a helicopter, buzzing along as we suck down ever more watts in search of comfort.   The Little Things Use light-colored windows blinds and curtains. Every place that light gets into your building is some place it’s going to raise the temperature. Light ultimately creates heat, the sun is giant, nuclear, laser ball. If we can make sure its light falls on reflective things, like lighter colors, curtains and blinds, we can reduce the amount of heat generated inside the room. It would be impractical to close off grand entry ways with curtains, but everywhere else is probably fair game. Even some window blinds in the office can reduce the heat coming in by half, while still keeping the room fairly bright for your staff. Dial back the temperature The greater the temperature difference, the harder the air conditioner has to work to maintain that difference. Remember that you need to only create apparent comfort. If it’s 100 degrees out, your employees and customers will probably be grateful for anything less than 85 degrees. You don’t need to make the office 60 degrees. Close the doors Ensure you’re not venting cool air wastefully. Keep the doors closed or install a closing mechanism […]

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Destructive Dirt and Debris

Your air conditioner has an enemy, a nemesis to rival dirty air filters. Dirt, Debris, and overgrown plants are the outdoor equivalent of dirty filters. It is essential that your condenser gets as much undisturbed airflow as possible. That means no dirt on the coils, no bushes blocking off its sides, and no leaves piling up around it.   Why Is This a Big Deal? Your air conditioner essentially collects heat from inside your building and then radiates it into the air outside the building. This has a few prerequisites: lots of air, lots of thermal-contact with the air, and ideally lots of airflow to replace the heated air with fresher, cooler air. The condenser was designed to provide all of these things. There is a fan to suck in more air. There are thousands of tiny metal plates weaved back and forth inside the coils. These coils are made extremely conductive metals that will help radiate heat into the atmosphere. Things go downhill fast when you start interfering with these features. Dirt is especially a vicious enemy here. The metal of the condenser coil is an amazing thermal conductor, readily blasting heat into the atmosphere. Dirt however, is not a good thermal conductor. Most dirt is going to act more like an insulator and reduce the amount of heat that flows from the condenser coil into the air around it. Less heat-flow means less capacity. Your 39,000 BTU system […]

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It’s 50 Degrees Out, Why Do I Need AC?

Every now and then we get asked a question and realize, “the truth is not as straight forward as it seems.” Or “there is a lot more at play here.” Today, that question focuses on why we need to flip on the AC, despite it being perfectly cool outside our homes. The Environment It’s late Spring in Pennsylvania, quickly approaching Summer. Our daytime highs range anywhere from 68 degrees clear to 92 degrees right now and this is considered the ‘cool’ part of the season before things heat up. At night, the lows can range anywhere from 48 to 62 or so for now. This is just pleasant weather. We don’t necessarily think about the air conditioner much yet. Take off your sweaters and you’re going to be pretty comfy outside. The same however, is not necessarily true for inside the house. Despite it being merely 65 degrees outside, and the heater having sat quietly off all night long, my house was already 80 degrees this morning. We had windows open and fans running to suck in the outside air, but the house was still roasting inside. Trapped Heat The first culprit for all this heat is a key part of any efficient building: insulation. My house, like most others will do its best to resist losing heat. There’s thick insulation in the walls and as we’ve covered before, it works well. Whatever thermal energy is in the house, is […]

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What’s the BIG Problem with my AC?

Every season there will be a fair number of people with small problems in their air conditioners. They’ll experience leaks, failed belts, and maybe a few minor electrical issues. These are all little wear and tear things that your contractor can fix for a few hundred dollars. When an air conditioner gets older however, things start getting a little more expensive. There can be some big things starting to fail.   Dead Compressor The compressor is that big, typically black, cylinder or spherical object in your air conditioner. In many ways it is the heart of the system. The compressor will receive refrigerant and through one of many ways, squeeze it down. This compression is what lets us remove heat from the air elsewhere in the system. When the compressor fails or begins to fail, you might experience warm air blowing from the air conditioner instead of cold air, regardless of temperature setting. The system may have difficulties starting up, draw excessive power, burn through fuses, or trip its breaker. When the compressor fails, there’s really only two areas things can go wrong: the motor or the compressor assembly. If the motor starts to go, it’ll perform poorly and draw more power to start and run. Eventually the motor will just get hot and stop cranking the compressor assembly altogether. At that point, it’ll probably blow a fuse and start melting internal components. On the other hand, there’s also a […]

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Why Isn’t my AC Working!?

It’s spring, mother nature is keeping you in the eighties or nighties already. Your office is unbearable. The intern has somehow duct taped ice bags to his back and ruined his office chair in the pursuit of not melting. It’s time to turn on the AC and nothing happens. Kronk throws the lever and the air blasting in is hotter than the pavement Dave the Intern cooked his lunch on. What happened?   The Little Problems There can be a million things wrong with your AC. Some issues are catastrophic and very expensive to repair as our lead sales guy Scott learned the hard way just a few weeks ago. Other issues are smaller, cheaper, and merely annoying. Did you Turn on the Power? Most central cooling systems have a dedicated circuit breaker to turn them on and shut them off for maintenance and long-term deactivation such as through the winter. Turning off this breaker in the fall ensures your air conditioner physically cannot be engaged in the winter and accidentally damage itself. Depending on your situation, you may not have known this switch exists or your building maintenance team just hasn’t turned it on yet. If you enable your air conditioner in your thermostat, crank down the temperature, and nothing happens, this is the first thing to check. If you know where the breaker for your AC is, check on it. If you don’t, contact your building maintenance team […]

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When CAN we turn on the AC?

As the weather warms up, we’re caught in a bit of a pickle. Some days it’s 60 or 70 degrees outside, but other nights we can still see lows dipping to 26. Some days we look to our AC systems and desperately want to run them, but is it time? Is it good to run AC for just a few hours a day? Is it good to run them in the bitter colds nights? Are we going to regret running these?   Physics Hate Us We’re going to run into a few issues running our air conditioning in less than roasting weather. We’ve built modern AC, from window units up to multi-ton rooftop monsters, to take a brutal 100 degree summer down to a cool 70 degree oasis. These machines can create temperature drops from twenty to forty or more degrees. This involves creating some intense coolness inside the air conditioner. If the ambient air is 60 degrees and we drop that by 40 degrees inside the air conditioner, we’re going to make it 20 degrees inside. This extreme cold will create ice, the great nemesis of all things mechanical. We don’t start to get to ideal temperatures until it’s about 70 degrees outside. Around that point, we can actually run the AC without having to worry so much about the ice build up. Why is ice a problem? It’s mother nature’s wedge. As water freezes it expands. As water […]

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Multizone HVAC: The Ductless System

Multizone systems can be big, complicated, and a challenge to cram into small spaces. If you’re using hot and cold water for your heating and cooling, you need to install valves and actuators everywhere, possibly install a whole second set of pipes for a “dual pipe” system that meets any need, and make sure you can pump enough water to satisfy the beast. In forced air applications, you would have to tear apart your ducts to add the controls and fans, then spend ages locating and sealing every leaking part. This nets you a working system, but it could be better and easier.   The Central Problem We tend to centralize our HVAC hardware as much as possible. You do all your heating and cooling in one place, then send the air or water around the building. It makes a lot of sense. You only need one or two boilers for most places, even industrial settings. Put it all in one place and save on energy costs and complexity, except when you want granular control. With a central heat or cooling source, you need to add tons of controls to manage the flow hot and cold air. You’ll lose a lot of energy by sending air and water around too. Leaks in air ducts and pipes radiating heat into the open air pose annoying losses in efficiency. There’s only so much you can do to fight nature’s hell-bent desire to […]

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When to Replace Your AC System

No one wants to replace an entire system, whether it’s your entire HVAC set up, just a furnace, or your AC. It’s expensive, time consuming, inconvenient, and an all around headache. Our whole industry is setup around maintaining these systems as they age and break down. There is however, a point where you can’t keep a dead horse limping along anymore.   Signs of an Impending Upgrade There are two big considerations to determine when you’re better off replacing an entire HVAC system, over trying to salvage the hardware you have on hand. We use the Rust and Wear of the existing system, against the gains in Efficiency, Performance, and Features of a newer system. If your central air was installed two years ago, you have little wear to consider and little incentive to upgrade. Even a twenty year old system might be worth keeping if it runs without incident. There are however, cases for systems that are perhaps five to ten years old, in particularly rough environments, that have become worn, failure prone, and a real pan to use. Those tired old systems are ready to retire. Procure Inc’s own head salesman himself, Scott, just used our two-factor thought process to look at his 16 year old central air system and decide it’s time to upgrade. He put in a preventative $400 in small repairs, but there’s easily $4000 of parts and labor needed to keep everything running in […]

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