Keep your AC primed for the summer months

With thermostats reading up to 90 degrees or more, you can be sure that summer is in full swing now. While the hot weather is a great reprieve from the long and cold winter, the heat can become obnoxious in its own right. No one likes sweating in their bed at night while trying to fall asleep. If your home doesn't have a central air conditioning system, consider one of the many electric fans or air conditioners we offer at Todays Concept. Our units are both cost-effective and energy efficient, assuring that you'll be comfortable in spite of the oncoming humidity while keeping your energy bills low this summer.

But to make sure your air conditioners are keeping you cool all summer long, you should regularly perform service checks on your units. Shannon Connelly, with Neffsville Plumbing and Heating, discusses the necessity of keeping your AC under inspection.

"I've been in houses that have been quite hot, you walk in and it's 110 degrees in there" because of improperly used air conditioning, remarked Connelly in an interview with WHPTV.

To make sure your AC is running efficiently, Connelly suggests checking your air filters and making sure that they're clean. 

"Systems we really recommend being checked once a year," Connelly advised. "Keeps it in proper running condition, by keeping coils clean, freon clean and in check."

The Houston Chronicle also suggests setting the right temperature on your thermostat, so that your AC knows how and when to perform, and isn't continuously running all day.

Consider buying a cooling unit like the Haier HPC07XC6 Portable Air Conditioner for your home. With three cooling and fan speeds, and a dehumidifier function, this machine will keep your home cool and humidity-free this summer. Contact one of our specialists at Todays Concept for more information.

It’s easy to install a manual thermostat

After a few months of discussion, my friend Kate decided to get a manual thermostat for her house. She and her husband Jim had initially purchased a programmable model that was meant to decrease their energy bills, but they missed having their house at comfortable temperatures.

It seemed that no matter what setting they tried, Kate and Jim were either too cold or uncomfortably hot in their house. Their fancy thermostat was supposed to pick the right climate for them, but these two found that they didn't agree with its suggestions at all.

After much deliberation, Kate and Jim decided that a manual thermostat was their best option. And since they are always diligent about changing the temperature in their house when they become uncomfortable, it wouldn't even cost them that much more on their heating bill.

I was at Kate's house for coffee when her new thermostat came in the mail, and she was so frustrated with her programmable version that she decided to install it immediately. I thought that she must be crazy, since I never attempt these DIY things myself, but Kate is very brave.

She got out the manual, and found that the instrument had to be placed in the location of the old one, making sure that everything matched up. I was surprised to see how easy it was to mount on the wall, but I was still a little skeptical that the device would be in working condition when we finished. Since she followed the directions carefully, Kate's thermostat worked perfectly!

Thanks to Kate's bravery, I now know that I can install my own thermostat if I ever need to.

Cleaning an electric fan is easy

A few weeks ago, my friend Kevin was having trouble getting fresh air into his high-rise apartment. For safety, the windows of the building don't open all the way, but kick out just a few inches. I helped him out by teaching him a trick to increase the flow of outside air into a window. Kevin loved the technique I taught him, and has been using his fan to keep cool every night.

We met for drinks on Friday, and Kevin thanked me for solving his fresh air problem. He said that he is much more comfortable in his downtown high rise, but now the fan he's been using has gotten dirty. Even though he has tried cleaning it, he found that it's impossible to reach inside of the fan and get at the blades, which have accumulated a considerable amount of dust.

I asked him if he had taken the cover off of the fan, and he looked at me like I had three heads. Kevin had no idea that this part comes off of most standard-issue electric fans!

Since I've done this before, I advised him that removing the front grille from the appliance would make cleaning a breeze. First, I reminded him to make sure the fan is off and unplugged, and then to remove the front cover by undoing the latches or using a screwdriver.

Once it's apart, I told Kevin that cleaning his fan will be much easier, since he will have access to the blades and all of the other nooks and crannies on this device. I told him that standard all-purpose cleaner should have it looking good as new in no time.

On Saturday, I got a picture message from Kevin showing his fan in great shape. He's so happy that he knows how to clean this appliance now.

Humidifiers can solve the problem of dry hotel air

My friend Dan's job has been sending him to Washington D.C. every week for nearly a year now. Rather than having him work out of their Boston office, he's on temporary assignment there, but his company pays to fly him to D.C. every week and puts him up in a hotel.

While the rest of our group of friends is struggling to make ends meet by working a few jobs or living in rundown apartments, we don't have a lot of sympathy for Dan when he talks about the difficult commute he has every week.

Last weekend, Dan came out with a group of our friends and rather than having a beer like the rest of us, he asked the bartender if he could have a cup of tea. Naturally this request earned him some ridicule from the other guys in the group. But, Dan countered, saying that he keeps waking up with a sore throat and has been feeling really sick because he has been spending so much time on airplanes and in hotels with a forced air heating system.

Since I know what it's like to get sick from dry air, I suggested that he bring a simple portable humidifier, which is the same, but smaller than a house humidifier, along with him on his next trip. I suggested that he keep it in the office during the weekends, but then use it at his hotel throughout the week.

Dan said that he'd had enough of the dry air, so he might as well try it. He brought a tabletop humidifier with him to work this week, and called me on Thursday to thank me for the great suggestion. He feels better, and isn't waking up with a sore throat anymore since he brought the humidifier with him.

Cleaning an electric heater is easy!

Since my new bedroom is drafty, I recently purchased an electric heater to fend off the forthcoming winter chills. I found out this weekend however, that my room isn't the only one in the house with this problem. It turns out that my roommate Laura has the same issue.

Before heading to bed on Friday, Laura asked me if she could borrow a blanket, because her bedroom was getting cold. I lent her one, and then told her about how I purchased a space heater to fight the chilly air. She loved this idea, and said that she would get one the next day.

Since her parents live nearby, Laura didn't have to buy her portable heater. She was able to borrow one from them. When she brought it back and plugged it in, Laura found that the electric heater was great for warming up her room, but she noticed a strange smell while it was running.

It didn't take long for us to realize that her room smelled strange because the heater that she borrowed from her parents was dirty from spending months in the attic, unused. I told Laura that cleaning it should make the problem go away, then I looked up the best way to clean a space heater.

First we turned it off and unplugged it, then we gave it plenty of time to cool off. Other than these necessary safety precautions though, cleaning her electric heater was fairly easy. I removed the fan's cover and dusted the inside, and then Laura went through and disinfected it, careful to remove nasty grease stains and other problem areas.

When we had finished our cleaning project, Laura turned her electric heater back on. Not only did the smell it was emitting go away, but it was also working more efficiently!

Keeping the noise down for your window air conditioner

My roommate Veronica recently acquired a window air conditioner for her bedroom. She loves it, but she's a light sleeper, and before she bought the device, she was worried that the noise would keep her awake at night. I told her that these appliances have gotten much quieter in recent years, but that I would check online to see if there is any way to reduce the noise that these machines make.

It turns out that there is a lot of information out there about this topic. Everything that I read said that the most common reason for excessive noise from an air conditioner has to do with improper installation. For example, most of the articles I read told me I should make sure that the side panels are fully extended, and that the AC fits snugly in the window. Not only will this help it run more efficiently, they indicated, but it will block out noise.

But occasionally, the rumbling noise that an air conditioner typically makes will change, and it will sound like it is dragging something along. If this happens to your model, check the fan blades. Sometimes a blade breaks, or something becomes caught in the fan, which will cause your AC to make a strange noise. Simply remove the front of the appliance and look inside to see if this is the problem.

But even when they're running great, every AC does make some noise. If you really can't stand the sounds your device is making, go to the hardware store for some soundproofing material. You can put extra insulation around the window, or pad the walls with cork tile. Anything you do can help to block out excess noise.

Veronica was extra careful in installing her air conditioner, making sure that it was properly screwed in to the window frame, and that the panels were fully extended. She happily reported to me that the noise hasn't bothered her at all so far!

Make your own nail dryer using an electric fan

Like many other young women, I love the luxurious look of a manicure. There's nothing better than heading into a nail salon, then walking out a half hour later with perfect, shiny nails that stay that way for a week or two. But, since I'm just starting out in the professional world, I don't have money to spend on regular manicures, and instead opt for the at-home version.

Since one bottle of good quality nail polish costs less than one manicure, painting my nails at home has saved me a lot of money without sacrificing the look of my fingernails. But for me, the hardest part of painting my own nails is letting them dry without ruining them.

After getting a manicure in a nail salon, I will walk over to a drying station where I keep my hands still while a fan blows air to expedite the drying process, but because I don't have one of these handy contraptions at home, I often end up smudging a still-wet nail and ruining my manicure. When this happened to me last night, I decided that I just had to have an at-home nail dryer.

I looked it up online, and found out that it is fairly easy to make your own nail drying station at home. All you need is a small electric fan.

I happened to have a table top fan that I wasn't using, and it worked perfectly. I set it up on my desk, and adjusted it so that it was pointing at my fingernails. Then I simply sat there for 10 minutes or so while the fan went to work drying my nails. Just a few minutes later, I had a fully dry manicure just like from the nail salon!

4 tips for avoiding dehumidifier accidents

When I think of life before I got a dehumidifier, a part of me shudders. There was low air quality and the unusual symptoms it brought on in myself and my roommates, and of course, the surprising new ceiling paint that appeared in the bathroom. (Hint, it was mold).

But while this tool is helps me with my apartment maintenance, occasionally it needs a helping hand in the form of regular upkeep. Recently this fact was highlighted in the news when manufacturer Kenmore recalled more than 700,000 dehumidifiers. It turns out, there had been about 100 reports of fires started by the devices because of their penchant for overheating. If you have one of the recalled machines, you should stop using and unplug it immediately, then return it to the store so you can obtain a refund.

But, while stories like this may turn you away from these helpful tools, you can mitigate most safety issues by ensuring that your dehumidifier is used correctly. To keep your machine operating safely:

1. Keep up with any safety variations listed in the manual of your individual model. That way, you can enjoy all of the benefits of your dehumidifier for years to come.

2. Make sure that your unit is turned off and unplugged before you empty or move it. In certain cases, relocating the machine while it's on could create a fire hazard.

3. Never place anything in front of the grill while your machine is running. Even putting a small item in the path of your unit could interrupt the airflow from the device.

4. Watch your dehumidifier placement. Bionaire, a dehumidifier manufacturer, says that the optimal location for these is four inches out from an interior wall. Be careful that your dehumidifier is plugged in away from stoves, radiators or other heating devices, as these too can create a fire hazard.

Avoid a fire by keeping your air conditioner healthy

t doesn't seem to make sense, but lately there have been a number of reports of air conditioners starting house fires. Earlier this week, the Sun Sentinel reported on house fires caused by leaky air conditioners. The article states that since January 2011, 215 fires in Florida have been caused by air conditioners.

In many of these cases, the AC unit had not been properly maintained, causing water to overflow. The leaking water caused electric wires under the unit to short-circuit and start a fire.

Palm Beach County fire captain Doug McGlynn told the news source that air conditioner drain lines often overflow. "With the summer, and people keeping their AC units running more often, it's very common," McGlynn said.

An Allentown, Pennsylvania, air conditioner also caused a home to go up in flames this week after it had been running for days. In this case, short-circuited on its own after being left on for so long. Local Allentown paper The Morning Call mentioned that the air conditioner was plugged in to a power strip, and advised readers that it is much safer to give such power-consuming piece of machinery it's own plug.

Luckily, accidents such as these are easily avoidable. Experts recommend having air conditioners checked out twice a year to avoid fires. Another good solution is to avoid installing air conditioners where excess water could drip on anything electrical. Make sure that window ACs are plugged in to their own outlet, and that they are turned off once in a while to avoid short circuiting

Following this advice will protect your house from a fire and keep your air conditioner running for a long time. 

How to clean the filter of a window air conditioner unit

I'm sure you know how important it is to make sure appliances like your air conditioners and electric fans are in good working order in the summer. After all, who likes to come to a home that is devoid of cool air? I know I don't.

Recently, I was speaking with my nextdoor neighbor, Nick, who is an electrician. We got started talking about what he's been up to and he told me that his company has been flooded with calls to come to people's homes to repair their window air conditioners.

I asked why so many of them seemed to be malfunctioning, and he said that many people fail to keep the filter of this appliance clean.

I had a skeptical look on my face, as if any AC maintenance tips were outside my realm of understanding. Nick assured me that cleaning the filter of these window appliances was a simple process.

First, he told me that once a month I should take off the front grille and get rid of any dust bunnies or debris stuck on the filter. Nick said that if this part of the window air conditioner is really dirty, then I should just replace it.

But, he also said that I could clean the filter using just soap and water. Then Nick advised that I rinse the piece well and let it dry completely before putting it back in the appliance.

I looked at him and asked, "Is that all?" Nick smiled at me and told me that was it. I chuckled to myself thinking how simple cleaning a filter was. The next day, I employed the help of my son so he could learn to, and before we knew it, the air conditioner's filter was clean and the window appliance was running like new again.