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Confessions from an air conditioning repairman
Heat and humidity can make for some cranky customers. Take it from longtime air conditioning repairman Ken Nielsen, president of North Reading’s AccuAire.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
If [customers] call in the middle of winter, they ask you to come out and fix their heat, and they say thank you for coming out to fix their heat. In the summertime, they scream at you to come and fix the air conditioning and wonder why you can’t be there now.
Air conditioning is probably 75 percent of the business. A lot of people are putting in new systems, but just as many people are repairing old ones. Most of the stuff we do is central air. We don’t do window units. I personally do a lot of chiller work; that’s all big commercial stuff. I go all over New England doing startups and service. We’re at one of the utilities right now, putting in air conditioning for their server room, in Somerville.
We’ve had a few people try to fix ’em themselves before they call, but usually the office — Alice, my wife — will walk them through it, make sure they have changed their filters and checked their circuit breaker, and, believe it or not, make sure it’s actually on “cool.”
There’s all kinds of dumb stuff people can do. They put furniture over the grills, so the air can’t get out. They don’t change the filters. They don’t know they’re supposed to change the filters. I ask if they have changed the filter, and they go “Where’s the filter?” “How long have you lived there?” “Oh, five years.” “You’re supposed to change the filter every three months.”
Do the maintenance. Make sure everything is clear. I’ve walked up on a house and had bushes growing out of the unit, so I’ve had to do landscaping. But if it’s clean, it will run more efficiently, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to run.
THICK OF THINGS The average high temperature for Boston in August is 80 degrees.
(Interview has been edited and condensed.)
In addition to your air conditioning, turn on a fan. By turning on a fan in the room that you are in, you can have your thermostat set one or two degrees higher and not even notice the difference.
Keep your windows, blinds and curtains closed on hot, sunny days to keep your house from heating up. Your air conditioner will have to work a lot harder to lower the temperature if you allow the sun to heat up your house.
If you have an older central air conditioner, consider replacing the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. Make sure that it is properly matched to the indoor unit.
Don’t place lamps or TVs near your air conditioning thermostat. The heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer.
Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Close curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day.
Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity.
Caulking and weather stripping will go a long way to helping you keep your air conditioning to yourself. Why waste it!
Well, the Boston area sure has had it’s share of 90+ degree days so far this summer and we’re only partway through it!
The folks at AccuaAire are out there working on days like this just like everybody else, so we thought we’d share a couple of tips to keep yourself cool on days like these. Ideally you can go indoors and relax in the air conditioning, but if not:
Stay Hydrated. Keep drinking to keep healthy. Hot tea (skip the beer) will go a long toward keeping you hydrated AND cooler. A hot drink will help you to sweat and that is the body’s natural way of cooling itself. That beer may seen cool and refreshing, but alcohol can cause dehydration.
Eat something spicy! Like a hot drink, spice food will heat you up on the inside to start cooling you off!
Wear loose clothes and get wet once in a while if you can. Damp skin and cool breeze work wonders.
We did a job on Newbury Street in Boston and the Frog Pond was just down the street in the Boston Common. The children playing there had the right idea running in and out of the fountains and splashing around!
And remember, if you are lucky enough to have air conditioning, make sure the filter gets a regular cleaning. A dirty filter will decrease the efficiency of your system.
Did you know:
Before refrigeration air conditioning was invented,
cooling was done by saving big blocks of ice. When cooling machines
started to get used, they rated their capacity by the equivalent amount
of ice melted in a day, which is where the term “ton” came from sizing
A ton of cooling is now defined as delivering
12,000 BTU/hour of cooling. BTU is short for British Thermal Unit (and
is a unit that the British do not use) The BTU is a unit of heating – or
in this case, cooling – energy. It’s more important, however, to keep
in perspective that a window air conditioner is usually less than one
ton. A small home central air conditioner would be about two tons and
a large one about five tons
Things here are so busy I am sorry I did not send a message to you, my summer is going well and I hope you are enjoying yours as well. I would like to say that I am very happy with my new air conditioning system and have never enjoyed the benefits of having central air like I do now. Having a new system installed by your firm was the best decision I have made in a while.
Thank you, Maureen