Great Spaces: Conditioner love

Yes, you can have a cold house without the big bills — and that’s not hot air

By David Taffet

Perhaps the one thing we loathe the most besides triple digit temps in summer is that dreaded electric bill. The air conditioner is a must for summer in Texas, but the wallet sure takes a beating. One local expert recommends these simple tips to help you keep your cool and some green.

Todd Ylen of TNS Mechanical in Arlington said that only half the air conditioning complaints his company receives could be traced to the main unit. The first thing he checks is the overall cleanliness of what he calls “the guts.” He recommends a professional cleaning with caustic chemicals.

“It should be done professionally,” he says, “The chemicals won’t hurt the plants but it can melt the rubber off your sneakers.”

During the season, he said, don’t be afraid to wash the unit with a hose, but not a pressure washer. A garden hose will not damage an outdoor air conditioning system. They’re made to withstand gale-force winds.

Keep grass and weeds off outdoor condensers. They clog the system and decrease efficiency.

Next, Ylen said he checks the house.

“How efficient is the ductwork?” he says. “How efficient is your house?”

The outer lining of much of the ductwork installed in the 1980s has deteriorated. Squirrels, raccoons and other animals that get into the attic can cause a tremendous amount of damage to the ducts as well.

Cold air will blow in the attic but never reach the living areas of the house if the ducts are torn or worn. He recommends modern, high-insulated ductwork.

Next, he suggests an energy audit company to check for leaks around doors and windows.

“Seal the house,” he says. It pays off in lower energy bills quickly.

And ventilate, he said. Ylen called the old whirlybirds on most roofs worthless.

He recommends solar-powered, fan-driven ventilators. A year ago, he said, they were $1,800. Today they sell for $400, an amount that will pay for itself in one season. He calls it an upfront investment that continues to pay off by lowering electric bills on air conditioning and never costing a cent to operate.

Filters should be changed monthly. Dirty filters prevent the system from drawing air easily, making it work harder and use more energy.
Programmable thermostats are also useful in keeping the system from cooling the house when not needed.

Ylen calls radiant barriers ineffective with a 50-year payback, but insulation very useful.

“A preventive maintenance program is crucial,” he says. He sums up his energy-saving tips to all homeowners — insulate, ventilate and stop air leaks.

TNS Mechanical services homes throughout Texas and has other tips at AirConditioningRepairArlington.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 15, 2011.

—  John Wright

Is The Battle For Marriage Costing Us The War For Full Equality?

Queerty contributor Daniel Villarreal spent most of the Creating Change conference in the hotel bar meeting committed queer activists. This week we'll be sharing his audio interviews with LGBT folks working in marriage equality, political activism, new media, sexual freedom, and transgender representation.

WHO: Michael Crawford, a Texas-native, long-time LGBT activist, and new media director at Freedom To Marry, an organization dedicated to overturning DOMA, winning marriage in more states, and educating the public about why same-sex marriage matters to everyone. He helped get marriage equality passed in DC and can throw quite a bit of shade when he wants.

WHAT: We discussed whether the DADT repeal will lead to marriage equality nationwide, the likelihood that we'll ever see gay marriage legalized in the deep south, and how he responds to those who call marriage equality is an attack on religion and say it shouldn't be at the top of the LGBT political agenda.

QUOTE: "LGBT people place importance on different issues at different times. For some people that's gonna be freedom to marry, for other folks that's gonna be focusing on around safer-schools and anti-bullying legislation. For other people it's gonna be focused around HIV and AIDS. And I think it's not so much about which issues are quote-unquote 'at the top of the LGBT agenda,' it's about how we can leverage the work that we're doing around all of those issues to help move forward the entire range of LGBT equality issues."


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—  David Taffet