November 18, 2017

Archives for August 2011

Save Money on New Appliances and Help the World Too

We can all use a little help these days. If your budget cuts have you rethinking how to replace an aging appliance, GE offers a solution that lets you buy a new appliance while helping others. At the online GE outlet store, with any purchase of one of their discontinued, closeout or overstock appliances (which includes standard GE warranty and free delivery) they will donate 2% of the price to the United Way.

They have just about every appliance you could need – from refrigerators, and washers to trash compactors and range hoods. The supply and variety varies, with more choices in the larger kitchen appliances than others. The savings also vary. At last look, you could save $200 -$500 on a refrigerator, but just around $20 on a ventilation hood.

It would also be a good resource if you are trying to match older GE Appliances already in your kitchen.

How an Evaporative Cooler Works

If you have ever enjoyed a breeze on a too hot day as it cools your skin, you felt as Ben Franklin did back in 1750, when he changed out of damp clothes and into dry ones on a 100+ day. He noted that he was cooler in the damp clothes and realized that the warm breeze in the room was not cooling him, but rather, his sweaty clothes. Not an attractive thought, but one that led him to experiment by wetting the bulb of a thermometer with spirits that evaporated quicker than water, and then blowing air across it. He managed to bring the temperature down so far that ice froze on the bulb.

An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler works on this principle. It is essentially a large fan with water-moistened pads in front of it. The fan draws warm outside air through the pads and blows the now-cooled air throughout the house. The pads can be made of wood shavings – wood from aspen trees is a traditional choice – or other materials that absorb and hold moisture while resisting mildew.

Small distribution lines supply water to the top of the pads. Water soaks the pads and, thanks to gravity, trickles through them to collect in a sump at the bottom of the cooler. A small recirculating water pump sends the collected water back to the top of the pads.

Since water is continually lost through evaporation, a float valve – much like the one that controls the water in a toilet tank – adds water to the sump when the level gets low. Under normal conditions, a swamp cooler can use between 3 to 15 gallons of water a day.

A large fan draws air through the pads, where evaporation drops the temperature approximately 20 degrees. The fan then blows this cooled air into the house.

Here’s a little lesson to help determine if a swamp cooler will cool your house enough:

Wet and Dry Bulb Temperature

To predict how much a swamp cooler will cool the air, you need to know the wet and dry bulb temperature. The dry bulb is easy — it’s just the regular temperature of the air. The wet bulb temperature tells you what the air temperature would be at 100 percent humidity, and it’s measured with a thermometer covered with a wet cloth sock and exposed to airflow.

The wet bulb temperature is always lower than the dry bulb temperature, and the difference between the two is the wet bulb depression. Depending how efficient your swamp cooler is, it can bring the temperature down as much as 95 percent of the wet bulb depression. Imagine you and your evaporative cooler are in Las Vegas, and it’s 108 degrees outside with a wet bulb temperature of 66 degrees. A swamp cooler operating at 85 percent efficiency can bring the temperature down to a nice, cool 72.3 degrees, right in the human comfort zone.

Unfortunately, evaporative air coolers don’t work everywhere. Swamps, for instance, are lousy places for swamp coolers. It’s not entirely clear where they got the nickname, but it probably refers to the humidity they add to the air or the swampy smell that can develop when they aren’t cleaned often enough. In order to work, they need a hot, dry climate. In the U.S., swamp coolers work well in the arid southwest.

Portable Air Conditioners and Evaporative Coolers

Now that August is here and we have all had a chance to experience the heat of summer, I have a question – have any readers used a portable air conditioner? Not the fixed models that mount in the window, but the free-standing style that sit in the middle of a room with a tube that allows it to vent outdoors. How about a Swamp, or Evaporative cooler?

The efficacy of the air conditioners seems doubtful to me. Do they have the power to cool a room when at the same time they are producing so much energy (that’s heat!) to run the motor?

Many years ago, my in-laws had what we called a swamp cooler. It was also free-standing and worked by blowing air over water soaked pads. The air that came into the room was cooled as it passed through the pads. It did a great job of cooling one room in hot Southern California where, although the room did seem damp, it was pleasant.

These appliances are the same size and relative cost to buy, but the cooler uses up to 75% less energy to run.

Black & Decker Agrees to $960,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Defective Grasshog XP Weed Trimmer/Edgers

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Black & Decker Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $960,000. The penalty agreement has been provisionally accepted by the Commission (5-0).

The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s allegations that Black & Decker knowingly failed to report several safety defects and hazards with the Grasshog XP immediately to CPSC, as required by federal law. CPSC staff also alleges the firm withheld information requested by CPSC staff during the course of the investigation.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard or ban enforced by CPSC.

CPSC staff alleges Black & Decker knew, on or before May 2006, that the high-powered, electric Grasshog XP GH1000 was defective and could cause harm, but failed to report this to CPSC.

CPSC staff also alleges that Black & Decker failed to provide full information about defects with the Grasshog XP as requested in May 2006. Based on the incomplete information provided at that time, CPSC closed the case. The firm did not give CPSC staff full information about the extent of Grasshog XP defects or the mounting number of incidents and injuries until October 2006.

In July 2007, Black & Decker and CPSC announced the recall of about 200,000 Grasshog XP model GH1000 trimmer/edgers. By that time, there were more than 700 reports of incidents, including 58 injuries with the Grasshog XP. The trimmer/edgers’s spool, spool cap and pieces of trimmer string can come loose during use and become projectiles. This poses a serious laceration hazard to the user and to bystanders. The trimmer/edgers also can overheat and burn consumers. Black & Decker sold the Grasshog XP weed trimmers from November 2005 through spring 2007 for about $70.

The recall was reannounced in August 2009 with an additional 100 injuries reported. CPSC urges consumers with recalled Grasshog XP trimmer/edgers to contact Black & Decker for a free repair kit.

In agreeing to the settlement, Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. denies CPSC staff allegations that it knowingly violated the law.