There are still a few weeks left in the summer, which means your air conditioning unit will be on high for the next little while. How can you beat the summer heat without spending too much $$$? We spoke to Air Plus about how to save money, Home Saving about what type of air conditioner works best, and Canco ClimateCare about how to hire a cooling contractor.
In the summertime, most people have their A/C units on. Do you have any advice on how to save money on this summer necessity?
Air Plus: When you turn on your air conditioner, do you ever visualize what your next energy bill is going to look like? Bill Watson of Air Plus has some suggestions for how to save money and keep cool at the same time.
“When the sun is shining on your home, if you can, close the blinds and pull the drapes,” he says. “While it’s not aesthetically pleasing, it helps to keep the heat from coming into the home.”
Watson also suggests keeping doors and windows closed as much as possible simply because air leaks are a common occurrence in many homes.
Finally, it’s important to adjust the flow of air. Watson explains:
“Basements are the coolest room in the house that people use the least. Shut off vents in the basement – as many as you can.” This will force air being blown by the furnace up to the top level of your home and distribute it evenly, he says.
Home Saving: Tracy He of Home Saving says to keep the fan on instead of leaving it on auto. “Keeping it in the on position will continue even when the A/C is off,” explains He. “The benefit for that is it will give off more cool air once the A/C stops.” That’s because the evaporator coil is still cold and it’s a waste of energy not to take advantage of.
agrees with the advice. He says when a homeowner keeps the A/C fan on, it will continue to blow cool air into the home long after the unit is turned off. Since the evaporator coil is still cold, it’s a waste of energy not to take advantage.
“If the blower keeps running, it’ll blow cool air in each room,” says He. The air will be evenly distributed to the main and second floors, she says. These are rooms that are commonly lacking in cool air.
Canco ClimateCare: Most homeowners will change the furnace filters in the winter time, but often forget that the furnace also operates in the summertime since it cools cool air in the home. “Make sure the furnace filters are clean because that will impede air flow,” says Nancy McKeraghan of Canco ClimateCare. Proper air flow can not only save you money on air conditioning, but increase your comfort, she says.
McKeraghan advises homeowners close windows and doors to prevent humidity from entering hot spaces. “It’s really nice having windows open at night, but you just defeated the purpose of having the air conditioner on,” she says.
Finally, McKeraghan does this trick in her home: “We set our thermostat fairly high in the spring when air conditioning season starts and don’t touch it until the fall,” she explains. “It doesn’t run when it doesn’t need to run, but can keep up with dehumidification.”
When units are turned on and off, they have to work twice as hard to reach the desired temperature, which takes up more time and energy, costing you more money.
What should a homeowner do to prevent their air conditioner from breaking down?
Air Plus: The last thing a homeowner wants is for the air conditioning unit to break down in the middle of the summer heat. That’s why it’s important to to keep the system free of dirt and debris, says Watson. “A dirty air filter will restrict inbound air flow and impede ability to get that cool air going,” he says.
The evaporator coil also needs to be cleaned on a regular basis by a qualified technician because they have the availability to clear out debris build-up.
Not only that, but water tends to build up near the coil thanks to condensation. Here’s what happens:
- Water vapour that sits cools and converts into water.
- Water builds up in the condensation pan and around the coil.
If the water sits, then during the winter months, ice can develop, which therefore makes the unit less effective and efficient.
Consider yourself a handy person? Then take a look at this video and learn how to clean an evaporator coil:
Home Saving: The first way to prevent your air conditioning unit from breaking down is to ensure the outdoor condenser is cleaned at least once a year to keep the unit working efficiently.
“The coil that’s surrounding the outer condenser unit gets dirty and clogged,” says He. “When that happens, you have exhaust heat that needs to be ridden of. When that gets blocked, it drags efficiency down.” Not only that, but it takes longer to cool your home.
He recommends homeowners call an HVAC specialist to inspect the unit, for routine maintenance preserves the longevity of the unit.
Canco ClimateCare: McKeraghan advises homeowners don’t wait until a problem arises with the air conditioning unit, which is why it’s important to have the unit maintained and inspected regularly for the following reasons:
- It will have less breakdowns;
- It will perform more efficiently;
- It’ll extend the life of the unit;
- You will catch small problems before they become bigger problems, says McKeraghan.
Routine maintenance will prevent the unit from breaking down when you need it most.
Are there any technological advances in air conditioning that homeowners should know about?
Air Plus: Watson says all air conditioners today are much more energy efficient. They have a high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) – a number that measures the efficiency of the unit. “SEER ratings now on central air systems can go as high as 20 and that’s really efficient,” he says. “But I think at the very least, I recommend [clients] look at a 16-SEER.”
Not only are these units very efficient, but they’re also eligible for a $400 rebate through the Ontario Power Authority, says Watson.
Humidity is a common issue in many homes. Thanks to technology, homeowners can actually use their A/C units as dehumidifiers provided they’re properly sized, correctly installed, and the vents are set up for it. “It can be a very effective mechanism,” says Watson.
“If a return air grill is established in the high humidity sections, then you will work to draw the humid air out of those high humid parts of the home, and then you’ll dehumidify that air as it goes through the A/C process.”
The experts at Air Plus can ensure your A/C unit is set up to cool and dehumidify your home at the same time, providing optimal comfort
Take a look at this chart to learn more about SEER ratings and how it affects your energy bills:
Home Saving: He says the latest in air conditioner technology has to do with the refrigerant found in every unit. The refrigerant is the cooling agent that cools and dehumidifies indoor air. He says older units that are more than 13 years old likely use Freon, a coolant that depletes the ozone layer and is harmful to the environment. It’s also not efficient, which costs homeowners more money when running the A/C unit.
“Units have changed to a new type of refrigerant – the R410a – and it’s high efficiency,” says He, adding the refrigerant in new A/C units can save homeowners up to 50 per cent on their electricity. That’s because when the units are efficient, they don’t have to work as hard to cool your home.
This video explains the problem with Freon and why it’s being phased out of new A/C units:
Canco ClimateCare: Newer air conditioning models on the market have better efficiency and are much quieter, says McKeraghan, adding they’re better at dehumidifying because they have a larger evaporator coil that draws out more humidity.
Homes that are heated electrically typically have window units. “They tend to be quite noisy, not particularly efficient at all and can become a safety hazard in that somebody could break into the home through that opening in the window.”
McKeraghan says there are ductless units available that can help cool a baseboard-heated home, which makes the space more comfortable and improves the dehumidification process.
“They’re quieter and more efficient than window units,” she says. “[Homeowners] don’t have to worry about taking them in and out, which is a hassle in the spring and fall.”
Ductless A/Cs don’t take up too much space on the wall, either.
What brand of air conditioner do you prefer working with?
Air Plus: “We’ve moved the entire company now to Trane,” says Watson. “It has the highest customer satisfaction ratings on the continent.”
Watson says the Trane line of air conditioners are both energy efficient and the highest quality of units available on the market today.
Home Saving: He’s company also uses Trane. “This brand has been around for over 100 years and it’s well-known for high quality,” she says.
Trane also has the #1 least repair rate according to a consumer report done by a third-party research company that conducts appliance research. “It’s a good brand we would recommend most.”
Canco ClimateCare: McKeraghan doesn’t recommend one brand of air conditioner to clients. There are minimal differences between the brands, but the difference is the contractor you choose to install it, she says.
She stresses the importance of having a heat-gain assessment to determine the correct air conditioning capacity. “It could be the best unit in the world, but if it’s the wrong size, it’s going to be uncomfortable,” she says.
Not enough cool air, the unit could shut off before the room is dehumidified, and lost efficiency ratings are issues that can arise when your A/C unit isn’t the right size for your home.
“A relatively inexpensive unit installed well by a company that does good work, it will operate much better and more comfortably than a different unit poorly installed,” says McKeraghan.
Customer service is so important. What do you offer your clients upon purchasing a new air conditioner with your company?
Air Plus: “We offer a satisfaction guarantee on the installation of new equipment purchase,” says Watson. “The most important component really is the quality of the installation.”
Air Plus offers a ‘no questions asked’ policy for clients to ensure they are satisfied with the work they do.
The company also offers extended warranty programs as long as 10 years. In fact, most purchases include extended warranties as part of the installation package, he says.
Home Saving: “There are companies that offer the lowest price, but we find customers calling us for repairs when install was done by a different company,” says He, adding the client couldn’t find the original company that did the install, or they’re not answering their calls.
“One thing we promise is we never leave a customer behind,” she says. “We make sure we do the same customer service even after the installation.”
Home Saving prides itself on doing the job right the first time to prevent issues from occurring in the future.
Canco ClimateCare: “We have a 100 per cent satisfaction guarantee. If for any reason [a client is] unhappy with the unit installation, we’ll replace it or give your money back,” says McKeraghan.
Canco ClimateCare clients get priority service. “We have only licensed mechanics to go out and perform maintenance service on units,” she says. “We have a series of vehicles that are fully stocked and can satisfy homeowners’ needs [at an appointment].”
The company also provides extended warranties beyond that of the manufacturer, she says.
Why should clients hire your company when they need a new air conditioning unit?
Air Plus: Air Plus has been in business for 23 years and is in business for the long haul, says Watson. “Our objective is to have a long-term relationship with our clients through the entire life of that piece of equipment,” he says, adding the Air Plus staff is dedicated to customer service.
“We have a large team of technicians available for emergency support,” he says.
Home Saving: “We do quality work at a reasonable price,” says He. “We don’t charge sky high prices, but we’re not the lowest.” It’s Home Saving’s job to deliver a quality installation at a reasonable rate, says He.
Canco ClimateCare: Canco ClimateCare understands that clients’ time is precious. That’s why they aim to provide a good window of time for an appointment. Plus, there is 24/7, 365 days a year service, and the office is open on Saturdays to accommodate people’s schedules.
“We carry the necessary insurances for someone doing their due diligence [in hiring a contractor],” she says.
When it comes to training and being familiar with industry-related advances, Canco employees will attend seminars to educate themselves on where the industry is going. McKeraghan says Canco doesn’t use subcontractors, but has a team of licensed heating and air conditioning specialists. Canco invests in them by making sure they are up to date with industry advances, which benefits clients.
What advice can you offer homeowners who are purchasing a new air conditioner?
Air Plus: There’s a lot of information on the internet, which is why Watson suggests doing research on solving problems rather than satisfying problems. “You have to choose a contractor interested in satisfying your need and solving your problems,” he says. “Engage with a company that looks to understand what your needs are.”
Watson says if air quality is a concern, if comfort is a concern, look for a contractor that looks to understand that and will provide a series of solutions.
Home Saving: When it comes to hiring a contractor, He recommends not to look at price. “They need to know their credibility and their reputation,” she says. “Customers should do research on the company they’re choosing from and hear what other homeowners have to say about this company, and about the quality or credentials.”
Once that’s done, He says the contractor should visit the house to provide a full assessment before making any decisions.
Canco ClimateCare: Sometimes it’s not about purchasing a new air conditioner, but finding the right cooling contractor. “Have they been respectful of your home, answered your questions?” McKeraghan asks. “Have they provided you with a proper quote in writing?”
McKeraghan says it’s important to be mindful of how large a deposit the company is asking for, because a large one could be an indication the company is not fiscally viable, she says.
A heat loss assessment should also be conducted in the process. “That’s a really key thing in making sure equipment is properly sized to perform the way you want it to perform and to provide the desired energy savings,” says McKeraghan.
Have a cooling contractor visit your home to inspect your air conditioning unit and make sure its in working order. Our experts can assist you with your needs.