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My Big Fat Oversized Air Conditioner

 
hvac oversized air conditioning system massive enormous condenser

Back in 2009, I had a new air conditioner installed our condo. The previous one was an ancient 25 years old and barely limping along. It wasn't cooling much, and the summer electric bills had risen. So, I did a Manual J load calculation on our condo to find out what size we should replace it with. I wanted to install one that wouldn't be too big so it would have long runtimes and keep our place cool and dry. Well, I put one of my new data loggers to use this summer to find out if I succeeded. The (doctored) photo below, which is not our condo, might give you a hint how well I did.

Why Is Clark Howard Giving Bad Energy-Saving Advice?

 
clark howard diy ways save energy bill

Clark Howard is the penny pincher's guru. My wife loves his radio show and website for all the money-saving tips he provides. Naturally, anyone trying to help people save money at home has to address energy use, and Howard does, too. Unlike some others, though, he's generally well educated on the topic because he's hung around the Southface Energy Institute enough to know the basics. (I don't know if he ever used the clip, but he filmed me teaching how to do a blower door test there a few years ago.)

FBI Investigates R-22 Substitute Air Conditioner Refrigerants

 
R-22 air conditioner refrigerant

And the battle over air conditioner refrigerants continues. The US EPA just issued another warning, "cautioning homeowners, manufacturers of propane-based refrigerants, home improvement contractors and air conditioning technicians of the safety hazards related to the use of propane in existing motor vehicle and home air conditioning systems." Now the FBI has entered the battle, too.

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.

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