There are two halves to your ac system. Half is outside and half is inside sitting above your furnace. It works by absorbing heat at the indoor half which is carried outside thru the copper tubing and dumping it there. If you have ever held your hand over the outdoor unit and felt the heat blowing out the top, that is the heat that use to be inside your house. As the air is blowing out the top, it is also pulling air in around the sides. As this occurs, dust and debris is also sucked in and can begin to clog the outdoor coil. This can begin to decrease its ability to remove heat from your house.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Using a garden hose on the jet setting, you can spray the outdoor unit blasting the dirt out of the coil (DO NOT USE A PRESSURE CLEANER or POWER SPRAYER). If you want to do a little better job you can wet the outdoor coil, then spray it with “Simple Green“, an environmentally friendly cleanser. Wait 5 to 10 minutes and then spray with the garden hose. If there are delicate plants nearby, you may not want to use an environmentally unsafe cleanser.
One inch filters have their pro’s and con’s. For example, if a car is powerful, it generally gets bad gas mileage and if a car gets good gas mileage, it generally is not very powerful. One inch filters, similarly, either have good air flow or good filtration, but generally not both. Pleated white filters can restrict airflow which can be harmful to equipment. Some manufacturers even have had a disclaimer on the back stating their limited liability in case your system is damaged. If you are going to use white pleated filters it is often recommended by HVAC technicians that you consider replacing them no less than every 2 months. Smart phones are a great tool to help you remember to do this. Set your reminder with an alarm to go off every 2 months and DO NOT hit “dismiss” until you have actually replaced the filter.
Too many customers have hit “dismiss” figuring they will replace it when they get home from work and forget all about it. In the past decade we have gotten at least 1 call a year from customers who had poor heat due to a clogged filter that had not been replaced for many months. The better solution is having a filter cabinet installed that holds a 5 inch thick box filter. For cost efficiency this is best done at the time of replacing your system, but it can be done at any time. Professional filter brochures state that a basic one inch filter has a clean air delivery rate of 11. A MERV 10 filter has a clean air delivery rate around 500 and a MERV 16 filter around 1900. A MERV 11 filter is sufficient for most people, and costs about $35-45. It often lasts a full year, which is especially nice for those systems located in the attic and is more of a nuisance to change.
If you have ever seen pollen under a microscope, it is a wonder why EVERYONE is not bothered by it. Some of our more sensitive customers have found relief by having a better filtration system installed. If you have a good filtration system and your allergies are seasonal, try setting your fan to “ON” at the thermostat which will run your fan 24 hours a day. Many systems are designed so that the volume of air in your home will be moved thru the filter system twice an hour while the fan is running. Running the fan helps to remove pollen and other allergens. Allergies can also be caused by mold in the evaporator coil above the furnace. This area is dark and damp all summer long and is a prime environment for mold and mildew to grow.
An ultra violet light or a PCO (Photo Catalytic Oxidation) can be helpful to kill and clean up that environment. For more information on PCOs check out the YouTube videos on “Air Scrubber Plus” and “Induct 2000“. We learned a little about these products many years ago but never recommended them to customers because they sounded too good to be true. Then we had an in house demonstration that blew us away. One of our employees has an Air Scrubber in their home and they are VERY pleased with it.
Humidity can be helpful and it can be harmful. Comfort is partly due to temperature and partly due to humidity level. In the winter the air inside your home can get down below 20%. Raising the humidity level in winter can help in several ways. First, it can make it feel warmer in your home without raising the temperature. Second, it helps prevent woodwork from shrinking and cracking… Also helpful for musical instruments such as violins and pianos. Third, it can help keep you from getting sick as easily. Moist nasal passages prevent cold and flu viruses from getting to the blood vessels in the nose and leading to sickness.
Conversely, in the summer time we have more humidity than we want and this can lead to, discomfort, mold and mildew. The musty smell in basements can be off-gassing from mold or mildew. A dehumidifier can be helpful for several reasons. I have had customers who were uncomfortable even with the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Adding a whole house dehumidifier decreased humidity so much that they felt comfortable at 71 degrees. Other customers did not use there basements because of the dampness and musty smell. Adding an Aprilaire humidifier made there basements fresh smelling and comfortable.