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7 Tips to Help You Stay Cool and Save Money on Air Conditioning

7 Tips to Help You Stay Cool and Save Money on Air Conditioning

When summer days get hotter, air conditioning can be so awesome! It feels so good to escape the heat and cool down in the comfort of your home. At least it feels good and cool until the first skyrocketing energy bill comes in. Then things really heat up! How can you keep your house cool but also save money on the cost to cool it? We’ve checked with the energy experts and HVAC technicians, and found seven tips to help you stay cool and save money on air conditioning.

1. Set your thermostat to a reasonably good temperature. Before setting your thermostat to 72 degrees because that’s room temperature, keep in mind that we tend to dress in lighter clothes during the summer. Try slowly raising the temperature in the range of 73 to 79 degrees to see what’s comfortable for your house. The U.S. Department of Energy specifies 78 degrees as the ideal compromise—cool enough and saving you money. Every degree you go up from 72 saves you three to five percent on your air conditioning energy costs.

2. Raise the temperature whenever you leave home. Whenever nobody will be home for two or more hours, you can save energy by raising the temperature by seven to ten degrees. The Department of Energy says doing this consistently will save you as much as 10 percent on cooling costs.

3. Save money at night. When you sleep, your core body temperature lowers. So you may be able to raise the temperature a bit at night, especially if you use lighter sleepwear and lighter bed coverings.

4. Switch to a smart thermostat. You can program a smart thermostat to raise the temperature ten degrees during the day when everyone is at work and then lower it 30 minutes before the first person returns home. Some smart thermostats have even more advanced features to help you truly optimize the temperature setting to save you the most money.

5. Seal up the leaks. The older your home, the more likely cold air is seeping outside. Install new weatherstripping and caulk around doors and windows. We recommend getting a home energy audit from your utility provider to find all these leaks and to find the best things you can do to make your home more energy efficient.

6. Replace older air conditioning units with energy-efficient models. Just like newer furnaces, today’s air conditioners really do work much more efficiently than older ones. If you fear you’re paying too much to keep your house cool, it would be worth asking an HVAC salesperson about your options.

7. Call an HVAC technician to tune-up your air conditioning unit. Regular inspection and maintenance is vital to keeping your air conditioner working at its best. If you suspect that it’s not cooling properly, a technician will be able to determine whether there’s a problem other than it’s a really hot summer.

Follow these tips and you’ll save money while keep your house reasonably cool this summer.

How to Unclog a Toilet without a Plunger

It’s a really good idea to have a plunger in the bathroom for the next time the toilet is clogged. It can easily be stored under the sink or in a storage closet. And it is the best and quickest way to clear most clogs from the toilet.

But what if you don’t have a plunger? Maybe you’re at the cottage without a plunger. Maybe your plunger broke and you haven’t hand a chance to get a new one. Is there any hope for clearing a clog?

Hot water

Put on the kettle and pour a full kettle of hot water into the toilet. This works surprisingly well most of the time. It works even better when used in conjunction with a plunger, but will often been effective even without it.

Baking soda and vinegar

You might have heard of the recommendation to use baking soda and vinegar to unclog a sink. This fizzing/dissolving solution can sometimes work for a clogged toilet too. You don’t want to recreate your volcano project from elementary school so be careful with the amount of baking soda and vinegar you combine in the toilet bowl. Start by scooping out a quarter-cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl as close to the drain as possible and then add an equal amount (quarter-cup) of vinegar. The bubbles and fizzing action should drop down to the clog. Depending on the result you see you may want to repeat or try a half-cup. Follow it up by pouring a kettle full of hot water into the bowl.

Even if this doesn’t full clear the clog, if you see improvement repeat the baking soda and vinegar. When it fully works you should hear a quick suction sound and then see the water drain naturally. Follow up with hot water and a couple of flushes to be sure it’s cleared.

What not to do

Many homeowners will run to the grocery store and purchase a bottle of chemicals that are supposedly “guaranteed” to clear the drain. We do not recommend these products as they are harsh chemicals. They are unsafe and may be corrosive to your plumbing or cause damage to older pipes. They may even cause serious injury if they splash on you or on a technician who comes in to clear the clog. Consumers often report that these drain-cleaning chemicals fail to clear stubborn clogs. In many cases you’re just pouring your money down the drain with these chemicals.

Don’t ever use baking soda and vinegar before or after using these drain-cleaning chemicals. Remember it’s impossible to completely clear out all these different components before trying something different because after all the drain is clogged.

The best solutions…

If the hot water and baking soda, vinegar and hot water methods fails to unclog your toilet, you could always go out and buy yourself a plunger. There are definitely times when a clog is so stubborn that only a professional plumber will be able to clear it completely and quickly. So don’t hesitate calling a plumber if these methods fail to clear the clog.

6 Sounds You Don’t Want To Hear From Your Air Conditioning or Furnace

When summer is coming on, it can be surprising how quickly we adjust the thermostat from giving us a little heat in the morning to take the chill off the house to switching on the air conditioning to combat the afternoon heat. Even if the furnace has been working well throughout the winter, if you start hearing one of these seven sounds, you may have a problem and need to contact an HVAC professional before it turns into an even larger repair bill.

Scraping Sound

A loud scraping noise, a grating metal-on-metal sound, coming from inside your furnace could be a serious problem with the blower wheel. Maybe the wheel is coming apart from the shaft and scraping the casing or in some other way the motor is causing the wheel to scrape the casing. Turn off the air conditioning and/or furnace immediately and call an HVAC service company.

Fast Clicking/Flicking Sound

Remember that sound when you were a kid and attached a playing card to the spokes of your bicycle wheel? If you hear that kind of fast thwapping sound from your furnace, something might be stuck on one of the blower wheel blades or one the housing around the wheel. While your air conditioning (or heat) may be working just fine, this stuck object is causing resistance and it will cause excessive wear on the motor. Get it cleaned up by a furnace technician.

Squealing Sound

A squealing noise from the blower motor could be caused by a belt wearing out. That’s normally not an expensive repair and best taken care of before the belt stretches further or breaks.

Grinding Or Metal Groaning Sound

A bearing problem in the blower motor will make a dull repetitive groan. Some blower motors have ports for adding lubricant, but some are sealed. Adding lubricant will often eliminate the groaning sound, but you have to use the correct oil, not WD-40. An HVAC company doing an annual maintenance inspection on your furnace would like do this kind of lubrication.

Rattling Sound

If you hear a rattling sound from your central air conditioning unit outside of the house when the air conditioning is coming on, the hardware around the compressor could be loose. An air conditioning service repair person should be contacted.

Popping Sound Or Banging Sound

If you turn on the furnace for heat and you hear popping sounds or a distinct banging sound (like from a cap gun), the furnace probably has dirty burners that need to be cleaned. The gas is not being ignited right away. Instead it’s building up and then igniting in a mini-explosion. You’ll want to get this serviced by a professional immediately.

Summary

When operating properly, your HVAC system should be fairly quiet, but if you’re hearing one of these seven sounds you really should contact an HVAC professional to come in and repair the problem before it turns into an even bigger problem.

Help! My Kitchen Sink Is Gurgling—What Do I Do?

It’s frustrating enough doing all the dishes that the family seems to leave in and all around the kitchen sink, but when you finish the dishes and drain the sink and it gurgles back at you, that’s maddening! Why is the kitchen drain gurgling like that? Let’s figure out what you can do to get your kitchen sink to stop gurgling.

Could it be a clogged drain pipe?

The kitchen sink drain probably gets used more than all the other sinks in your house combined. Even without a garbage disposal, there’s a lot of food that ends up being rinsed off of plates and going down the drain. Certainly food debris (and hardened grease for those who think rinsing frying pans in the sink is a good idea) can clog the drain over time. If the drain pipe gets to be partially obstructed, the water will still drain but air will get trapped at the obstruction and make that gurgling sound. If bubbles come up when the dishwater is draining, this is the likely cause.

Don’t run out and buy a liquid drain cleaner. These products are harsh chemicals that can be dangerous. And in many cases they do more damage than good, especially to older drain pipes. Unless you want to invest in a proper plumbing snake and other equipment, it’s best to call a plumbing professional to clear the drain pipe for you. Even if it’s just a little gurgling and not slowing the drain down much, it’s best to get it dealt with before it becomes a bigger obstruction.

How about a blocked vent pipe?

This is the classic cause of the gurgling sound you hear after the sink has drained, maybe even a few seconds after the water has drained. A vent pipe is attached to the drain pipe under your sink to allow sewer gas to escape. These vent pipes run to the roof of your house and vent outside, but they can become blocked by leaves, dirt or nesting material from birds. The vent pipe can sometimes be roughed in behind the cabinetry or in the wall so it can be hard to find. The best solution to this gurgling problem is to call a plumber who can quickly verify the problem and then clear that vent pipe properly.

Was your sink just recently installed (or reinstalled)?

If a new sink drain is gurgling, it’s probably because the drain pipe has not been properly installed. Non-professionals sometimes do not understand the importance of the P-trap, routing of pipes and the proper hook-up of a vent pipe. It would be best to get a professional plumber to correct the plumbing in this case.

Summary

If your kitchen sink is gurgling, it’s telling you there’s a problem with airflow in the drain pipe. There could be a clog or blockage or even an improper installation. A plumber can listen to the gurgle and quickly determine how best to get rid of it.

What Temperature Should the A/C Be Set At in the Summer?

Everyone seems to have an opinion on how low the indoor temperature should be in the summer when running the air conditioning.

Many people just think 72 degrees because that’s standard room temperature, but others think it should be higher when it’s hotter outside. Recently, while inspecting a rented house, I saw that the tenant had set their air conditioning to 55 degrees!

What temperature should the air conditioning be set at in your home for the summer? What factors should you consider when making this decision?

Why You Might Want To Set The Temperature A Bit Higher Than Your Refrigerator

Thirty-seven degrees is a good cold temperature for your refrigerator. When it’s really hot outside you might be tempted to cool off by climbing into your fridge, but 37 is actually too cold, especially given what you’re wearing in the summer! Somewhere in the range of 73 to 79 degrees is a good indoor temperature in the summer (according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers).

On the hottest days outside, you might want to move your thermostat toward the higher end of that range because the hotter it is outside the more money it will cost you to cool your house. Each degree lower is costing you dollars (hard to define exactly how much as electricity rates vary greatly). For this reason, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home in the summer—it’s cool enough and will save you money.

Raise The Temperature When You’re Not Home

The Department of Energy also recommends turning your thermostat up seven to ten degrees when no one is home. They estimate you can save as much as 10 percent on cooling costs by raising the temperature whenever you’re away from home for more than two hours. Some people mistakenly believe it’s better to leave the temperature where you want it so that the air conditioning doesn’t have to work so hard when you get home. It really is more energy efficient to raise the temperature when you’re not home and then cool it off when you get home.

Upgrade To A Smart Thermostat

Instead of always trying to remember to turn the thermostat down to 76 when you’re home and up to 84 before you leave, a programmable or smart thermostat is a great investment. You can easily program it start cooling the house down 30 minutes before you get home from work so it’s a comfortable temperature by the time you arrive. You can also program a temperature change for the night while you’re sleeping. And smart thermostats will let you control the temperature using your phone so that you can easily adjust the programming if your schedule changes.

Summary

Now, setting your thermostat at the right temperature for your house will work well as long as your air conditioning is working well. Be sure your air conditioning can keep your home comfortable by having it regularly serviced by a qualified HVAC technician. 

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