Central Air Conditioning Review

The dog days of summer are over and things are starting to cool down. Days are getting shorter and there’s a noticeable nip in the air (at least in the morning – let’s not get ridiculous). I found this a perfect time to review Central Air Conditioning. I live in a home that is just over 17 years old and we are still on the original HVAC system. This explains several things. It explains why my level-pay monthly power bill is $199.00 for a 1500 sq ft. home (well that and the fact we have original windows and insulation as well). It explains why the fan on the box unit outside the house sounds like a cement mixer. It also explains why 2 summers ago, it just didn’t seem to keep up with our cooling demands and how last summer it was just downright miserable in our home. It also explains why we barely survived this summer with our lives, if not, our sanity.

First of all, just a reminder, I’m a big fat-fatty which means the temperature has to be around 68 degrees at all times. Easy in the winter time and our Gas bill is next to nothing. But that kind of demand is near impossible most summers and a complete failure this summer. Not to mention we just survived the hottest summer in my state’s entire recorded history. 70 days of 90+ degree weather. Ain’t that fun.

So as soon as it went above 70 degrees last April, the problems started. No matter what the temp was outside it was 10 more degrees hotter inside. Couple this with there being holes in most
of our screens so there was always the stray moth or mosquito in the house. 4 or 5 box fans were purchased. I’m still 30% deaf from the experience. And it did little good anyway. By May it was hitting the 80s and there we were cooking in our own juices at 90 degrees in our house. This lead to the inevitable sleep deprivation. At first I felt guilt over going to work and enjoying the 70 degree joy that I felt in every room and corridor of my work. About the time July came and with it the 100 degree temps, I suddenly found myself working longer and longer hours. They could get jobs at air conditioned places.

But it came to a breaking point. Misery and exhaustion lead to fighting. I’ve been married 22 years and there have been fights but we always obeyed certain rules. The first being never say anything you will regret later. Well when you’re this hot and tired all rules are off. My wife dredged up things she’s been pissed about since 1992 and I was right there with my anger over events that happened during the Clinton administration. It soon devolved into medieval darkness at our sweltering abode.

This lead to the crazy-desperate-ideas-phase. This is where it seemed like a good idea to put wet clothes on before going to bed with 2 box fans on you. This just added to the misery. Just added humidity and mildew to everything else. I then started looking at the joys of swamp coolers, which work but are loud and white-trashy and are expensive themselves just not as expensive as central air. Which lead to the only viable option: the costly repair of what I had.

They had told me about a year before that it was my coils that were all clogged up and needed to be cleaned or replaced. They said both tasks would be about $1000. They recommended replacement because they would replace my old under-the-unit coils which were impossible to get to with the newer A-frame-above-the-unit coils which would be easier to clean going forward. So I a scrounged up $1000 in a way I’m not proud of (and I still don’t walk right – heat makes you do the damndest things). I called them and said, “Hey I’m ready to have my coils replaced.” They said, “We need to come do a diagnostic first and that will cost $80.” I said, “You already did that.” They said, “Was it in the last 3 months?” “Well no.” “Then we have to re-diagnose”. I’m definitely in the wrong business. My wife said they came out, looked around and proclaimed, “It’s your coils. They’re clogged. It will cost $1500 to get them replaced but we recommend a complete new unit because this thing is antique and inefficient. That will be $80. Have a nice day.”

This was the lowest point this summer. I didn’t have $1500 and my ass couldn’t take what it would take to get another $500. I felt like they had just stolen $80 from me. And as I’m sitting on my soggy couch contemplating robbing a bank my 12 year old son comes in and says, “Dad, they said it was the coils that were all clogged up right?” I said, “Ya”. “Well they looked easy enough to clean.” The longest pause ever as his words sink into my heat-addled brain. “What do you mean they looked? Did you see them?” “Ya, he had them all pulled out and was looking at them.” See up till this time they had fed me this story of how the whole unit had to be mostly dismantled in order to get to the coils. I had even took some of the unit apart and was not able to even figure out how to get to them. My 12 year old and I went out and took a look. He said, “They took that panel off.” So I took it off. “Then he moved this pipe like this.” And my son reaches over and just pulled a pipe away from the whole thing (which I thought was welded to the unit but was not) “and then they slid this whole thing out” and all of sudden I could see what had to be done. I was able to pull the coils out two-thirds of the way, then using a razor blade was able to scrape out an inch of gunk from between the coils. By the time I was done, two-thirds of them were completely clear so that air could flow across them. We put the whole thing together and peace and tranquility returned. By midnight that night it was 70 degrees in our home. Pure bliss.

I must give central air only 4 stars though. It saves lives and marriages but it’s so
expensive to maintain and replace. I would have voted for Obama if he was giving free central air to everyone. Call it a green Earth initiative or something, I don’t care. I would have done it. All I know is that in the last few days we were using it this summer, the fan on the unit to the side of the house that sounded like a cement mixer finally seized up on us. It’s shot. So already the stresses for next summer have begun. I tell you its times like this I wish for the apocalypse to finally come so I don’t have to deal with things like this.


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