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

Pow! Bam! Methadone Man, Buprenorphine Babe take on HIV/AIDS misinformation, stigma

The XVII International AIDS Conference recently wrapped up in Vienna, after six days of seminars, workshops, speeches and more, all chock full of the latest statistics, scientific advances and more. You can go to the official International AIDS Conference Vienna website here for transcripts of speeches and reports that were presented.

But there was more than just science available at the conference, and blogger Mark S. King was there to report on those other aspects on his blog, “My Fabulous Disease,” where you can read his “AIDS 2010 for Dummies: An Entertaining Review.”

When you’re checking out King’s take on the conference, be sure to click the link to watch a webisode of “Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe,” an HIV-fighting duo in the vein of Batman and Robin who are fighting misinformation and stigma (in the form of Mr. Thought Control and Evil Mr. Stigma and others) to spread the word that methadone and buprenorphone maintenance program can help stop the spread of HIV by helping injection drug users kick their habits.

Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe were created by The Open Society Institute’s International Harm Reduction Development Program to “help raise awareness about the glaring lack of access to these life-saving drugs.” And they might make you smile in the process.

Here’s Episode One:

—  admin