Q. Is it better to keep the A/C running all day at, say, 75 degrees? Or should I turn it off all day and then when I come home from work, turn it on? Is one more expensive than the other?
Sandy M., Battlement Mesa, Colo.
Air conditioners are designed to maintain a constant temperature in the home, so it’s better to let it run and maintain those even temperatures, than to try to catch up. The cooler you can keep the house, the less the unit has to work.
The ideal way to run your air conditioner is to have a programmable digital thermostat. You can set to a desired temperature based on the time of day and even the day of the week. With this “setback” method, you want to keep your setback temperature and comfort temperature within five degrees of each other. So, for example, you can have the thermostat programmed to run automatically at 80 degrees during the day while you’re at work and then have it set to drop to 75 degrees just before you return home. That will maintain a comfortable indoor air temperature and save money on your energy bills.
Another relatively new product to help control your indoor air temperature is a Wi-Fi thermostat, which you can control online from any Internet-connected device, like a computer or Smartphone, and can adjust anytime you choose.
You should avoid a setback variance of more than 5 degrees, or turning the air conditioner off before you leave and on again when you return. The problem with that is the system will have a hard time catching up to reach that desired temperature, especially if it’s an extra-hot day. The unit will work much harder to satisfy the thermostat setting, which will require more energy and ultimately defeat the savings goal. By letting the unit run, it will cost less overall to operate and your home will almost certainly be more comfortable.
Whether you turn the unit off and on, or run it all day, it likely won’t damage your A/C, provided it’s in good shape and maintained regularly. Most reputable heating and cooling specialists offer low-cost preventive maintenance programs to keep your system in good working order. A good heating and cooling contractor can also offer advice on the best way to keep your home comfortable and energy efficient.
One simple but important way to keep your system working well is to inspect and change your air filters regularly.Q. I hired a general contractor to retile my bathroom shower stall. There are two guys working on it. Am I supposed to tip the workers? If so, how much is customary? It's a $2,000 job.
Debbie B., San Diego
Tipping isn't the standard in the home services trades, as it is in the restaurant and personal grooming trades. Still, it's a question many homeowners wrestle with. To help answer it, Angie's List recently polled nearly 5,000 home service professionals across the nation to find out if they expect a tip and if so, what they tend to collect.
I'll spell out the survey findings below, but if you are considering giving the crew a tip, I would first talk to the owner of the company to determine if tips are allowed. You don't want to put the workers in a difficult situation. If tips are not allowed, but you still feel strongly about the work, you could write a letter to the company owner praising their work, and/or you could write a positive online review that spells out that great experience. This written proof will likely be appreciated just as much as a tip and may have a much longer lasting effect.
The Angie's List survey showed movers and house cleaners are tipped more frequently than other service providers and that contractors like plumbers, roofers and electricians are tipped the least.
Only 7 percent of handymen and painters say they routinely are tipped, though 28 percent say they receive tips for service that goes above and beyond. Remodeling companies expect a tip 6 percent of the time, with 18 percent tipped for top-notch service. Half of remodeling firms say their gratuities come in the form of food and drink, gift cards or personalized gifts.
According to the survey, when tradespeople do get a tip, cash is the most-common gratuity offered, and most often the tip is less than 20 percent of the total job cost.
Most contractors in the survey say they charge their clients what they feel is fair price for the work being done and don't expect a tip.
No consumers should ever feel obligated to tip their contractor, but I hope this offers some guidelines, should you decide to tip.