The age of information has brought with it an age of myths and partial truths. Knowing the myths from the facts, and understanding the way some so–called tips conceal the whole truth, is a valuable lesson in learning more about the way your cooling system actually works. For customers who are eager to make their air conditioning systems more energy–efficient and cost–effective, some of these may come as a surprise. Remember to consult a professional about any cooling concerns during the spring and summer months.
- The higher the SEER rating of my AC unit, the higher my total energy–efficiency. The SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) measures how efficiently the system can cool the living spaces. While it is true that units with a high SEER rating often significantly cut air conditioning costs, there are other factors to consider. For example, if your ductwork contains leaks or is clogged with dust and other debris, your cooling system will still suffer energy loss due to lack of airflow, no matter how efficient your air conditioner is.
- Blasting my AC at the hottest parts of the day is the best way to keep my home cool. While this is at least partially true, the best way to ensure that your home stays cool throughout the day is a more moderate thermostat schedule. Ensuring that your home is properly insulated, including the duct system and the areas of the house through which it runs, means keeping that cool air inside, and reducing energy costs. What’s more, blasting your AC is not an efficient use of the system: it costs more money and energy than relying on gradual shifts in temperature.
- Fans cool the air. Fans do not necessarily cool air, but they do help by moving air around in a given space. Ceiling fans can be useful to help with ventilation but aren’t as affective as central AC.
- Duct tape seals ducts. Your central air system relies on extensive ductwork to circulate cool air throughout your home. Sealed ducts are therefore important to keeping your home cool and your system efficient. Despite its name, duct tape does not actually seal ducts very well. It was created as a temporary fix. Contact a professional to have him use a proper sealing material.
- Turning up my thermostat when I leave the home helps to reduce air conditioning costs. Well, sort of. While it’s better to raise the temperature of your cooling system during the day when you’re not there, rather than turning it off completely, but the crucial considerations are for how long and exactly how much of a temperature differential. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you’ll benefit the most from this technique only if it is done for at least 8 hours and for no more than 5 degrees. Otherwise, it does not make a substantial difference. Keep in mind that multi–stage heat pumps are also designed to save energy in this way, so raising the thermostat would actually make your heat pump less efficient.
Static electricity is an electric charge caught on the surface of an object. In contrast to current electricity, which is conductive and transmits energy, static remains in place until it shifts to an electrically weaker surface or becomes grounded. Static electricity can build up in cold and dry weather conditions, or if your home has lots of carpeted surfaces. The implications for your home are important. Excessive static electricity can not only be uncomfortable, it can also cause damage to electronic equipment.
All matter is composed of atoms, which are themselves made up of arranged patterns of charged particles. All of the objects and surfaces in your home, therefore, contain charges: opposite charges attract each other and like charges repel. Most common objects are fairly balance in terms of their charges. Static is precisely the imbalance between negative and positive charges on an object. The static shock you feel when touching a surface is actually the balancing of the electrical charges.
Here are some tips to reducing static electricity in your home:
- Increase the humidity of your indoor air. Static electricity is produced more often in dry air conditions. During the dry season, use a humidifier to increase the moisture content in your home, thereby making the air more conductive. Devices that ionize the air perform a similar function.
- Wear natural fibers. Synthetic materials like nylon produce more static than natural fibers like cotton.
- Use anti–static gloves or lotion. If you’re handling sensitive electronic equipment, there are many products available that reduce the risk of static discharge.
- Ground yourself. Grounding static electricity on a piece of metal allows the static to discharge before handling more sensitive materials.
There is a common misconception that friction produces static. Sliding across a carpet may allow you to zap someone else to make their hair stand on end, but friction is not the cause. Any two different insulating surfaces that touch can produce static, depending upon the way in which the surfaces create opposite charges. Walking works just as well. As we enter the cooling season, remember that air conditioned buildings are often dry spaces. Raising the humidity levels makes shoes and rugs, not to mention other surfaces, less conductive. Typically, most, if not all, static will disappear if the relative humidity is above 60%.