Because of the short summer seasons in my local area, I’ve always gotten by with open windows, box fans, and a single portable air conditioner for my bedroom window. I had the same portable air conditioner for over fifteen years. The unit was rather bulky, heavy and difficult to transport. I stored the air conditioner in the attic for the winter, and needed to carry it up and down a very steep and narrow set of stairs. I was forced to place the heavy cooling unit on a blanket and drag it across the floor. When I hefted the bulky air conditioner into the window, I usually hurt my back. About two years ago, I was too forceful in my installation process, and I pushed the air conditioner right out the window. It fell two stories and smashed onto the concrete driveway below. Although I felt bad about the destroyed air conditioner, I was relieved that it hadn’t landed on my car. When I drove to the local hardware store to purchase a new cooling unit, I was surprised by the improvements in design and engineering. The newer models were far smaller, wonderfully lightweight, and reasonably priced. I was able to install the new air conditioner in less than twenty minutes. Once I started it up, I was amazed by the whisper-quiet operation and amount of cool air it provided. This compact air conditioner is able to completely cool the entire bedroom down in under fifteen minutes. It is far more energy efficient than the previous model and offers all sorts of convenient features. I now have a cordless remote which allows me to make changes to settings without getting out of bed. I can program the air conditioner to start up a few minutes before I typically head to bed, and I can tinker with humidity levels, fan speed, and indoor temperature.
About five years ago, my husband and I built a home from the ground up. We were extremely careful during the planning stages, hoping to get everything perfect. We took the time to research floor tile, plumbing fixtures, roofing materials, and even different models of toilets. We were determined to build an energy efficient, low maintenance home which would provide perfect comfort and convenience without costing us fortune in utility bills. After a ton of debate, we decided to invest in an electric heat pump to handle temperature control. While a heat pump is rather costly to purchase and install, the system is wonderfully energy efficient. During the summer months, the heat pump operates very similarly to a conventional cooling system. It finds ambient heat in the indoor air and pumps it outside. The process is quiet, clean, and exceptional at combating excess humidity. In the winter, the heat pump reverses operation, using ambient heat extracted from the outdoor air and transferring it indoors. This eliminates the combustion process, greenhouse gases, and the fear of fire or carbon monoxide. However, the heat pump is only effective until the outside temperature drops below freezing. My husband and I were unaware of this, and our HVAC contractor assured us the heat pump would handle our year round comfort requirements. In the area where we live the temperature often drops below freezing. Although the heat pump struggles to keep up, the house becomes terribly chilly, and we’re forced to run a bunch of space heaters to keep warm. We are very unhappy and aggravated about this, but there isn’t much we can do about it.
When my wife and I first bought our house about six year ago, we needed to make some updates to the heating and cooling system. The furnace and air conditioner were both incredibly old and in terrible condition. The equipment had never been properly maintained and was obviously corroded and clogged with dust and debris. We worried about fire hazard, carbon monoxide poisoning, and health issues due to mold, mildew and bacteria. Unfortunately, the ductwork also needed to be entirely replaced. There were so many leaks and holes that sealing wasn’t an option. Replacing the whole heating and cooling system was a lengthy, messy and expensive project. We ended up tearing down walls to access the ductwork, which allowed us to improve the level of insulation and make some necessary updates to electrical wiring and plumbing as well. Although we lived in the house during the renovation and heating/cooling upgrades, it certainly wasn’t pleasant. There was dust everywhere, no access to temperature control, and constant upheaval. However, once the job was completed, it was well worth it. My wife and I had taken out a loan to invest in a top quality heating and cooling system. The furnace achieves a 98% AFUE and the air conditioner provides 26% SEER, which is super energy efficient. The system features something called adaptable speed technology, which automatically adjusts capacity to match the home’s current demands. The heating/cooling equipment can run anywhere between 40 and 100% capacity, and typically operates at much lower speed. The lower speeds optimize energy efficiency while maintaining a more uniform temperature throughout the house.
Christmas time is supposed to be a time of joy. This past Christmas was the opposite. My family was preparing for a lovely holiday. The grandparents had come to town. Decorations were put up all around the house. The lights were all done outside. The season looked like it would be our best yet. Then the worst happened. The furnace quit one night during the holiday week. The entire house woke up to a lingering chill. I knew right away that the HVAC was out. Stumbling to the basement, my worst fears were confirmed. The flame could not be seen in the peephole while the furnace itself was cool to touch. I attempted to restart it. But that didn’t work at all. Upstairs, my wife was passing out blankets. She tried to assure our guests that the heat would return quickly. I had to tell her that was not the case. I called several HVAC providers to schedule a repair. It was so close to Christmas that none of them had anyone available to come and fix the furnace. It looked as though Christmas was going to be very cold. Our household attempted to put on a brave face. However, I knew that it would be too cold to stay in the house. I began to call for hotel reservations. Just when I thought Christmas would be ruined, the phone rang. The HVAC company from the next town was coming to save the day. The technician arrived and within an hour had the furnace running. He stated that if the furnace had gotten a seasonal check up, this wouldn’t have happened. A very expensive lesson was learned.
I made the mistake of calling a HVAC technician in for heating service. I had never gotten heating service in my entire life. I had just moved into a new home and cleaned it top to bottom though. I also knew next to nothing about furnace equipment. So I called the HVAC contractor to come on over and do his thing. I did not realize that HVAC professionals and like used car salesmen. The HVAC man spent the entire time either hitting on me or trying to get me to buy more for my furnace. I did not appreciate the flirtation. He was over 300 pounds, hairy and had terrible teeth. I also did not like the idea that he was trying to sell me something. He basically said my furnace was obsolete and going to burst into flames. He wanted to rip out my heater and replace it with a new furnace. Since the heater worked just fine the whole time I have lived there, I declined. The HVAC serviceman then tried to get me to replace the heat exchanger with the furnace. He said the heat exchanger was rusty and filled with dust. If the exchanger overheated, carbon monoxide could escape and basically kill me. Since the cost of the heat exchanger was about the cost of a new furnace, I declined that as well. He finally tired for a bunch of heater repairs that I said no to. I just wanted the furnace cleaned. After that whole experience and my furnace working fine, I will never call that HVAC business again.
I get chronic migraines, so outside of one of my attacks, I tend to ignore or simply not notice symptoms of other medical problems. A lot of cold and flu early signs are also the first stages of a migraine attack, such as dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and loss of appetite. If I’m having a migraine attack, I’ll also simply be in so much pain that I cannot feel any other medical problems; my brain can’t process it until the migraine finally subsides. This ended up being the case last winter. My roommates remarked that I had been coughing a lot, but I was also getting two to three migraines a week, so I wasn’t paying attention to it. I made sure to take more vitamins, eat even healthier, and get plenty of sleep, but it wouldn’t quit. It was until I went to get my cell phone out from under the bed that I spotted the culprit–mold! So much mold that it made a small colony on my wooden bed frame. Mold spores can spread if your space is damp and if you have poor air quality. The only way to get rid of it for good is to kill the mold, dry out the space, and get an air purifier. I immediately purchased a single-room dehumidifier as well as the best air purification system I could afford. It only took a week for my cough to clear up. This is why indoor air quality is so important–the air you breathe can seriously affect your health, for better or worse. HEPA air filters for the purifier can get a little pricey, but I’m willing to pay it to keep myself healthy.
Growing up, I always thought my mom was way too much of a clean freak. She could walk into a seemingly clean room, call it a pig stye, and walk back out again–an untold command to tidy the space to her standards immediately. Everything also had to be absolutely spotless–my friends would come over and ask if my mom was a nurse (she’s not). One thing I did understand as I got older though, was her incessant need to dust and clean the baseboards. As a kid, it felt ridiculous. The dust never bothered me, and who looks at baseboards anyway? I would always my mom as a kid if we were having some kind of business meeting at our home, it was so clean. As it turned, my mom both had allergies to dust mites and was concerned about our central heating system. We bought our house in New England brand new–they built it as we moved in–but even still, my parents had nightmares about our aging HVAC system in our last home in the south. She didn’t want to make the same mistakes she had back then. All it takes is a little bit of dust to get into the inner workings of ductwork to destroy a whole system. Even though we didn’t have a full HVAC system anymore, just oil heating, my mom was determined to make sure the system was working perfectly. By cleaning the baseboards and the oil heater radiators, my mom insured that there was never anything block the flow of hot air out of the system, so the oil furnace wasn’t working any harder than it had to.
- When I moved into a rental home from 1950, I was really worried about oil heating. My parents always warned me that it was very expensive and should be approached with caution. I was a little nervous, but I had walked the home carefully before signing the lease, and all of the windows looked new and up to date; I couldn’t feel a draft anywhere. The only rooms I didn’t check too closely were the various storage and utility rooms in the basement… I wished I had. When I went down to see where we were at on oil–when we should think about putting our order in before the winter months rolled in–I found not one but two oil tanks! I couldn’t believe it. I was fairly certain most homes only had one, but it had been so long I thought I might be mistaken. I called my dad, who quickly confirmed that yes, most homes only have one tank for the oil furnace. Once I told him the year and type of house though, my dad quickly explained how common this could be. Our new home had a lot of windows. So much so that we had to get creative on our furniture arrangements. He quickly explained that when the home was built in the 50’s, the oil furnace would have to compensate for all of those windows, which were not nearly as nice as they are now. Two oil tanks would have been necessary to keep the home warm during the winter, when deliveries were difficult and expensive to come by. We called our local HVAC service provider to inspect the system just to be one safe side, but fortunately the oil heater was in great shape.
I am convinced that my brother Danny has won the lottery. Him and I work the same job and make the same amount of money. In the last year he has bought tons of things for thousands of dollars. He bought him and his wife new cars. They also got an inground swimming pool set up. He has now moved onto the house. His family is completely redoing the house from top to bottom. They are ripping everything out and starting fresh. Danny has told me that he is already working with a HVAC company to install hydronic heating in his home. The hydronic heater is a boiler combined with heated floors. The boiler goes in the basement and piping links to the boiler. The pipes then go under the floors. The hot water from the boiler goes into the piping and creates heated floors. This type of heater is not cheap. It actually is one of the more expensive heating options out there. You need to buy an expensive boiler, piping and the heating installation. How can Danny afford this? That is only the heating option too. Danny will need to hire the HVAC company again to install his AC equipment. The only way Danny can throw around money for radiant flooring and separate AC is if money’s no object. He must have stuck it big and is not telling me for some odd known reason. Maybe he is worried I will ask him for money now that he has it. Maybe he knows I will want heated floors too.
My brother Marcus and I were totally wild kids. Him and I got into all sorts of trouble. We rode dirt bikes into our swimming pool. We played with paintballs until one of us shot the other in the face. We wrestled, boxed and played soccer to the point of damaging one another and the house. Our favorite was to shoot BBs as a team. We had little green army men that we would attempt to shoot with our guns. Unfortunately the best place to put them was with the HVAC outdoor air compressor. The unit had a nice grate in it for the army men to stand on. It was almost like fate. The HVAC grates were the perfect width and height for them to fit on. If you hit the guy, he would fall right out of the HVAC. If you missed, the BB would make a dinging noise. It was really an effective device to hold them. Marcus and I every Summer would shoot hundreds of BBs and the heater and ac device. The key was making sure nobody was home or running when mom came outside. We managed to hide what we did for a few years. Marcus blew us in though. One Summer he hit the army man just right that he fell into the air compressor. The HVAC in the house stopped working as a result of it. Our mom had to get a HVAC contractor in to look at the HVAC equipment. While opening it up, he found our army guy in it. Mom figured it out then.