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Is the Aros Smart Window Air Conditioner Worth the Hype?

 
window air conditioner

When it comes to air conditioning, there are a lot of bad products and bad ideas out there. Here are a few: You can buy a cover for your condenser that could kill your compressor. Some people don't think the outdoor unit really needs to go outdoors. (They're wrong!) And then there's the strange notion that attaching a kraken to your air conditioner is a good way to distribute the air. Today, though, I'm going to look at a product that's not terrible.

How to Determine the Size of Your Central Air Conditioner

 
air conditioner size outdoor unit model number tons

Do you know what size your air conditioner is? In the world of building science, you'll hear a lot of talk about why oversized air conditioners are a bad idea. Why? Briefly, they don't dehumidify as well, short-cycling wears them out quicker, and your home will probably be less comfortable if the air conditioner is too big. But to know if your AC is oversized, first you have to know what size it is.

The #1 Reason Power Attic Ventilators Don't Help

 
power attic ventilator fan gable vent

Three years ago I wrote an article titled, Don’t Let Your Attic Suck - Power Attic Ventilators Are a Bad Idea. Nearly a hundred thousand page views and 93 comments later, it's still generating lots of heat. I don't know why so many people are so defensive about power attic ventilators, but here are a few of the things they've said to me in the comments:

Hobos in the House - Let the Data Logging Games Begin!

 
hobos walking on train track

This week we got a box full of hobos delivered to the world headquarters of Energy Vanguard. Well, OK, they weren't the kind of hobos you see at left but actually HOBOs, the data loggers made by Onset, as you see below. Now, the fun begins. Jeffrey, Andy, and I have just started a friendly competition. And I'm planning to crush them!

A Great Success: Classic 1970s Passive Solar Home Turned Net Zero

 
passive solar house richard levine kentucky 600

I've been in Lexington, Kentucky this week at the Midwest Residential Energy Conference. It was great! (And I played nice - I didn't mention in any of my talks that I'm a Florida Gator.) One of the many highlights for me was getting to visit Richard "Dick" Levine's 1970s passive solar house. It's not like any other house I've seen, and I've seen other passive solar houses.

These Ain't Yer Grandpappy's Heat Pumps

 
heat pump outdoor unit cold climate 500

Earlier this month I went to NESEA's Building Energy conference, and I think I heard three terms more than any others: heat pump, net zero, and passive house. (The second most popular trio was beer, wine, and whisky, but that may have something to do with the folks I was hanging out with.) So let's get right to the important question here: Why do these people in the cold climate of New England love heat pumps so much?

Why Are Heat Pumps So Dumb About Frost?

 
heat pump frost defrost cycle outdoor coil

Heat pumps can get frosty when they run in heating mode. It doesn't happen all that often, but it's a fact of life when you're trying to extract heat from cold, outdoor air. Sometimes the outdoor coil goes below the dew point, and frost results. There's nothing wrong with that. Every heat pump comes with a built-in defrost system so it will keep running smoothly. Unfortunately, the defrost system in most heat pumps is just plain dumb. And fortunately, I have a smart friend named Mike MacFarland who's come up with a way to overcome that liability.

Frost on Indoor Walls - A Dramatic Insulation Failure

 
frost indoor wall building enclosure insulation failure humidity

Not long ago, Erik Henson an energy auditor with HD Engineering and Design in the Kansas City area, posted the photo below on LinkedIn. As you can see, frost has formed on the walls and ceiling inside the house. It's not uncommon to see frost on windows in cold climates. But walls? That's a rarity. What's going on here?

Are We Off Track With Combustion Safety Testing?

 
water heater combustion safety flue pipe exhaust in house

Burning fuels inside a house can lead to serious health and safety problems. Energy auditors do a variety of combustion safety tests to find potential hazards and recommend fixes. A couple of weeks ago at the Dry Climate Forum, I heard Vi Rapp, PhD of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) make an argument for changing the way we do combustion safety testing. It turns out that one of the tests we do may not be as helpful as many people think it is.

Why Does My Heat Pump Frost Over?

 
heat pump hvac frozen outdoor unit winter kentucky

The outdoor unit of a heat pump (that metal noisemaker that disturbs the peace on so many otherwise nice summer afternoons) will occasionally grow frost around the outside of the unit when it's in heating mode. Is this OK? If so, how much is OK? What about the amount of frost on the unit in this photo?

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