Q: My central air conditioner can not always keep my house cool enough and my summer electric bills are too high. Will
shading the air conditioner help and what can I do to make it more efficient?
A: A simple, annual do-it-yourself tune-up of your central air conditioner can cut your cooling costs by at least 10 percent. In addition, the cooling output will be greater for those sweltering summer days and your air conditioner will need fewer service calls and expensive repairs.
Shading the outdoor unit and house wall (especially a brick or stucco wall) near it also helps. By keeping the air surrounding the air conditioner cooler, it produces more cooling output with less electricity.
You can use landscaping or build a cover to shade your outdoor compressor unit and wall. Check with your cooling contractor for the proper clearance. Adequate air flow is essential for high efficiency.
One effective air conditioner cover design also provides storage for your garden tools, fertilizers, hoses, etc. The larger you make it, the more shade and cooling it provides.
This design is basically a plywood storage bin built several feet back from the outdoor unit. Build it with a sloped roof (for shade) that extends up over the compressor unit and attaches to your house. The sloped roof gives added height for adequate clearance.
Make the frame for the storage bin/cover with any common lumber. Cover it with plywood siding. Install a piano hinge and a top so you can secure it with a padlock.
Before building the storage bin/cover, do a tune-up of the outdoor unit. Remove the screws and sheet metal housing. Clean out any debris (leaves, sticks, toys, etc.). Always turn off the main circuit breaker to it first.
Spray the dirt off the condenser coils with a garden hose. Water will not hurt them, but try to avoid spraying the electric controls directly.
Carefully straighten any bent condenser coil fins with the tip of a sharp knife. You can buy an inexpensive plastic fin comb designed specifically for this purpose. Replace the sheet metal cover.
Make sure the screws on the small access panels are tight and that the panels are not bent leaving gaps. Air is drawn in these gaps instead of over the coils resulting in higher electric bills and less cooling. Go indoors, remove the blower access panel, and dTC vacuum those coils.
Write for Utility Bills Update No. 666 showing do-it-yourself instructions and diagrams for tuning up a central and room air conditioner and for making a storage bin/cover. Send a $2
handling fee -- cash or check -- to James Dulley, The Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244
Q: I just installed a low-flow shower head with a push button "soap-up" valve. When I push it in to turn off the water, it still drips a little. What causes the dripping?
A: There is nothing wrong with the soap-up button. The purpose of the push button valve on the shower head is to allow you to turn off the water while your lather up. When you are ready to rinse, you will not have to readjust the water temperature again.
The valve is designed to drip just a little to maintain the proper water temperature when you switch it back on. If it did not drip, you get either an initial shot of very cold or hot water, usually hot.