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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!