Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Portable Air Conditioners Vs. Evaporative Coolers - Which One to Choose?

Many consumers often have trouble choosing a portable cooling system for their home, as the terms "portable air conditioner" and "evaporative cooler" can be mistakenly interchanged. However, there are a few significant differences between these two appliances, and choosing the right one will greatly depend on certain factors, such as the area in which you live.

Portable Air Conditioners:
Portable ACs are small, mobile air conditioners which do not need to be mounted through a wall (unlike a standard window AC). Permanent installation is not required, and these units are often compact and lightweight – ideal for apartments where window units cannot be installed. Because portable air conditioners lower temperatures by using a refrigeration cycle, this results in reduced humidity of the air processed by the system, and lowered relative humidity levels – something to consider if you live in a dry climate.

Pros:
- Versatile and can be moved from room to room
- Ideal for areas that are not covered by central air conditioning or those which cannot accommodate permanent AC installation
- Can be up to 50% more energy efficient than some central air conditioning systems, as only certain rooms are cooled, as opposed to an entire home

Cons:
- Need to be vented
- Can be slightly more expensive than a central air conditioning or mini-split system with similar cooling capacity

Evaporative Coolers (or "Swamp" Coolers)
Evaporative coolers are devices which use simple evaporation of water in the air. These units consist of a box-like frame containing a fan that is walled in by moistened pads. In order to cool the air, the fan takes in hot air from the room, sends it through the moist pads, and cools it up to 20 degrees. Evaporative coolers are generally only suited for dry climates where the air is hot and the humidity is low (such as the Western/Mountain states), as they add moisture to the air.

Pros:
- Compact and portable
- Estimated cost of operation is ¼ of refrigerated air
- Ideal for climates with a relatively humidity level below 50%

Cons:
- High temperature and high humidity outside conditions decrease the cooling capability of the unit
- Only suitable for dry climates; high humidity in the air accelerates corrosion and causes condensation

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Product Recall: Carrier Air Conditioners


The Carrier Corporation is one of the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and also a global leader in commercial refrigeration and food service equipment. Willis Carrier, the found of the company, invented the modern air conditioner in 1902, and he succeeded in marketing his home cooling products to consumers in the 1950s. This created a revolution in home cooling systems, as former sparsely populated areas such as the American Southwest now became actual suburbs. Today, Carrier is currently the largest producer of air conditioners in the world.

However, on November 7, 2007, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a voluntary recall on Carrier packaged terminal air conditioner and heat pumps manufactured between 2002 and 2005. These 185,000 air conditioners and heat pumps, manufactured in Mexico by Carrier Corp., were recalled because the electric heater in these units posed a fire hazard. At this time, although no injuries have been reported, Carrier has received five reports of electric heater failures which have resulted in fires contained to the unit.

The model numbers included in this recall involves the 53C and 52P models sold in HVAC dealers and factory direct sales, and the unbranded model 84 unit sold through the Bryant and FAST channels.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends consumers stop using the heating mode of the recalled units until they are inspected in accordance with Carrier’s inspection instructions, which can be found at the Carrier website. Consumers are also encouraged to contact Carrier directly to receive a free repair.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

DIY Air Purifier

The EPA has noted that indoor air can be almost ten times worse than the air outside. Thus, air purification has rapidly become a multi-billion dollar industry. While a small, no-frills air cleaner for your personal space can be had for less than $100, a state-of-the-art medical-grade air purifier aimed at microbiological abatement can cost over $1000. For those who wish to breathe in healthier air without spending a lot of money, read the directions below on how to create your own air purifier from inexpensive materials:

Materials:
1 PVC water pipe
1 Replacement window screen (a piece of cloth will also suffice, or for aromatherapy, use a scented dryer sheet)
1 cardboard box
1 HEPA filter
1 small fan

1. Drill a small hole in the wall to the outside
2. Place a section of the water pipe in the hole and extend it all the way through the wall
3. Place your filter material on the outside of the pipe to prevent insects, pollen, and other particulates from entering inside
4. Place your HEPA filter inside the cardboard box and mount the box on the pipe
5. Cut a hole in the box and mount the fan inside the box. This will help draw outside air through the HEPA filter and blow the clean air into the room.

Keep in mind that although this air purifier may not be able to completely remove pollutants from your air, it may help filter your air in a pinch.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why Do Some Outlets Look Different From Others?

Buying new appliances or performing home upgrades can be a headache for those who have little knowledge of concepts such as volts and amps. Some of you may have noticed that the outlet used to plug in your desk lamp may be different from the outlet located behind your refrigerator, and you may have been frustrated when you learned that the new space heater you just purchased can’t be plugged into the standard two-pronged outlet found in your living room.

Because our lives are becoming more complicated and high tech, we are becoming increasingly dependent on these holes in the walls but may not be aware of how they work. The purpose of an electrical outlet is obvious: to provide a point to plug in your various electrical appliances. A standard outlet in the United States is usually of the 125-volt, 15 amps, alternating current variety. These types of plugs are often used for small appliances and devices such as toasters, lamps, and computers. However, for larger appliances such as air conditioners, clothes dryers, electric ranges, and other major appliances, you will be dealing with 220-240 volt outlets.

It is very important to never exceed the above ratings in order to avoid damage to the outlet or a fire inside the wall. In other words, never power a 15A outlet from a circuit breaker larger than 15A, even if multiple outlets will be fed from the circuit breaker. With that in mind, when looking at a standard 125-volt outlet, a few common types can be noted: non-polarized, polarized, grounded, and ground fault circuit interrupter outlets.

Non-polarized Outlets:
These outlets have two vertical slots of the same size that are side by side. These types of outlets are no longer used, and modern polarized plugs will not fit in them.

Polarized Outlets: These outlets are different in that the slot for the neutral wire is wider than the slot for the hot wire, making it difficult to insert the plug the wrong way. This is often seen in appliances such as toasters and lamps, which have exposed parts that can have electrical current running through them.

Grounded Outlets: These outlets have a round hole for the grounding conductor, in addition to the vertical slots. Generally, electronic devices such as computers require these to provide a solid ground for the case so that the device to work properly. This type of outlet is also used for safety reasons in appliances such as vacuum cleaners, and grounded outlets are always polarized.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Outlets: These outlets always have two buttons on them and are always polarized and grounded. The purpose of these outlets is to detect ground faults and shut off the power if they occur (such as when a hair dryer has fallen into the bathtub). This type of outlet can be found in the bathroom and near the kitchen sink.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Candles Can Be Dangerous

Although candles can add warmth, atmosphere, and pleasing scents to a home, and especially with the holiday season just around the corner, candles in the form of votives and tapers are extremely popular. However, many people are unaware that candles can also contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing particulate matter in the form of soot into the air. Both scented and unscented candles emit a variety of byproducts upon burning and particle matter.

Apparently, studies have also shown that petroleum-based (paraffin) candles and scented candles are the worst offenders. Paraffin is a derivative of petroleum, and when burned, they release toxins such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and soot into the air. These paraffin and scented candles can also trigger allergic and asthma-like reactions such as sore throat, itchy and watery eyes, headaches, and skin irritation.

In addition to harmful particulate matter, candles may often be sources of lead. Although candles made in the United States are prohibited from using lead wicks, imported candles may still use lead wicks. When lead is heated, it produces fine particles of lead oxide which is easily inhaled and deposited into lung tissue. This can cause a variety of health problems such as cardiovascular and nervous system symptoms. The use of candles can also contribute to unsightly discoloration of walls, ceilings, and the contents of a home, as well as contaminating the ventilation system’s ductwork.

For safe candle use, try alternatives to paraffin-based candles such as those that are unscented and made from soy or beeswax. Watch for any shiny metal wires inside the wicks of candles, and keep wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch for complete combustion. If you insist on a fragrance, put a few drops of scented oil into a diffuser or in some boiling water. Also, avoid using candles in jars which deprive the wick of oxygen and create more soot. Refrain from using candles in jars when the wick is below the level of the top of the jar or when the candle leaves a soot ring on the jar’s lip, as this soot may be an indication of lead dust from a metal wick.

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