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5 Money-Saving Tips for Your AC : An Interview with Len Gaspary of Total Comfort

By Len Gaspary

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Total Comfort began as an air conditioning and heating company serving Volusia and Flagler Counties in 1976. Since then we have expanded and now offer electrical, plumbing and LP gas. The company is still family owned and operated. Within each one of the main divisions, we offer all of the subsidiary services normally associated with each specialty.

What is something that most homeowners don't know about their air conditioning system and energy use that they should know?

Most consumers are very knowledgeable today and there probably aren't many things that they don't know. One of the things that is sometimes difficult for some to understand though is that bigger is not necessarily better. To maintain the highest level of comfort in Florida's humid climate, dehumidification is as important as lowering the temperature. If an air conditioning system is over sized it can get the temperature in a building down quickly but it doesn't run long enough to remove enough moisture to make you feel comfortable and can result in a person feeling clammy and cold.

When a system is properly sized it will lower the temperature and lower the relative humidity to between 50% and 55% which is the ideal condition for most people. In addition to being uncomfortable, excessive moisture can accelerate the growth of mold and mildew.

Can you briefly explain what some of the most common AC mistakes are?

In addition to the mistake mentioned about over-sizing, many people don't give enough attention to their ductwork.

If ductwork isn't properly insulated and sealed it can allow excessive temperature, moisture and dirt into your home's environment which can cause high utility bills, uncomfortable conditions, unhealthy conditions, conditions that can aggravate allergies, and moisture and dirt problems that can affect the physical condition of your home.

If ductwork is not adequately sized it can cause damage your air conditioning system by putting pressure stresses on the equipment and cause premature failure or excessive maintenance.

What are some of the basic steps to properly sizing and installing air conditioning?

Have your air conditioning contractor do what's called a Manual-J based load calculation. This takes into account all the physical features of your home as well as its directional orientation and the local climate conditions. If they do this calculation on a room by room basis, they can also size ductwork better.

Ideally, how often should an AC system be maintained and what does that involve?

At a minimum, an air conditioning system should be maintained at least once a year. We recommend twice a year and depending on your lifestyle and local conditions you may need that done more often. For instance, if you have pets you may want to do things more often. If you're living in close proximity to the ocean you may also need to do additional maintenance.

What advice would you give to people in Florida who want to make their AC unit more energy efficient?

To make your AC unit more efficient you should size the system correctly, make sure the ductwork is sealed correctly and properly sized, get a system that will allow you to regulate humidity as well as temperature, maintain it on a regular basis, select a contractor that is properly licensed for your locality, and get a system with as high a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) as possible that will fit your budget. I'd also make sure that a permit is issued for any new installation so you have a second set of knowledgeable and independent eyes to catch an possible installation problems.

Many local power companies offer energy audits through which they will come out and recommend items like duct repair, insulation addition and window replacement. In a lot of cases they will even help with the cost of energy improvements.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Our main phone number is 888-282-8186. Direct numbers for individual departments are as follows:

AC Service 386-530-6607
AC Residential Maintenance 386-530-6608
AC Commercial Maintenance 386-530-6609
AC Residential Sales 386-530-6610
AC Commercial Sales 386-530-6611
Duct Cleaning 386-530-6612
Propane 386-530-6613
Plumbing 877-369-3577
Electrical 855-968-6289

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