Ask the Experts: Summer Shopping Tips from Local Retailers

June 27, 2018

Although we are spoiled with having the best of all four seasons, summers in Massachusetts can get humid and hot! Looking for ways to help you prepare for the inevitable heat and humidity, the sponsors of Mass Save® – Cape Light Compact, Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil – reached out to local experts at independent retailers here in Massachusetts for their advice on two appliances that can bring greater comfort to our homes this summer: dehumidifiers and room air conditioners.

When it comes to these summer appliances, Dana Gonsalves of Crane Appliance and Richard Marashio of Stan & Paul’s Major Appliance Center might not admit that they’re experts, but their years of experience and success at small independent retailers suggest otherwise. Whether you’re looking to update your units or want to just properly maintain the ones you have now, check out the helpful information they shared on dehumidifiers and window ACs.

Sizing Up Your Dehumidifier
It seems that the closer you get to the coast, the more imperative it is that you own a dehumidifier.  Gonsalves knows this to be true, with many of his customers residing on Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard during the summer. These appliances are key for reducing moisture that leads to the buildup of mildew and mold, which in turn can create unpleasant musty smells and cause structural damage in your home.

When consulting with a customer who is looking to buy a new dehumidifier, Gonsalves begins by asking the customer the size of the space that needs to be dehumidified. Next, they discuss how damp or wet the space typically gets.

“Dehumidifiers are set up by how much moisture they take out of the air over 24 hours. So, if we have a 70-pint dehumidifier, that means that unit takes 70 pints of moisture out of the air over 24 hours, which means, in larger homes, one dehumidifier may not be enough based on the square footage of their basement and how damp it gets.”

Once you know the room size and the conditions that exist before you add the dehumidifier into the mix, you can estimate the unit’s ideal capacity, indicated by pint-size. For an easy-to-follow guide on finding the correctly-sized unit for your home, take a look at this chart from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. In addition, before you make your purchase, be sure to check out these great rebates from the sponsors of Mass Save: there is a $30 rebate for recycling an old, inefficient unit at a local turn-in event, plus an additional $30 rebate for purchasing a new ENERGY STAR® certified model! Plus, you’ll get the chance to save even more after your purchase since certified models use over 25% less energy than non-certified units.

Once you buy a new unit – or if you already have a unit you like – you’ll want to keep your dehumidifier running in its best condition. To do so, Marashio encourages customers to clean the filters regularly, and to not run the unit year-round, if possible. “A dehumidifier basically is a late spring through fall unit,” says Marashio. “If it’s dry outside, if it’s not humid, it’s hard for them to work.” You can simply unplug and store your unit during the colder, dryer winter months.

Keeping Your Chill with Room ACs
It can be difficult to get through some of the summer weeks in Massachusetts without some type of air conditioning. For those of us without central air, we often turn to window units. Shopping for window ACs requires a similar level of detail as shopping for dehumidifiers.

Gonsalves explains, “One of the things we strive to collect from the customer is exact measurements of their room. A lot of people come in and say – ‘I just want a small air conditioner’ or ‘Maybe I should get a big air conditioner so it cools quickly.’” However, to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of a unit, Gonsalves points out that it’s critical to account for room size: “Based on the measurements, we can recommend a unit with a certain BTU, which indicates how much heat the unit can remove.”

He goes on to explain that units that are too small will run all the time and use more electricity than would be needed by a unit that’s the appropriate size. Meanwhile, units that are too large are also not effective: since air conditioners remove both heat and humidity, one that is oversized is likely to cool faster than it will dehumidify, leaving a room cold and still damp – which is uncomfortable and unideal.

In addition to being mindful of unit size, it’s important to choose an ENERGY STAR certified model, since a certified unit uses 10% less energy than a non-certified model, plus is eligible for a $40 rebate thanks to the sponsors of Mass Save. Fortunately, ENERGY STAR certified units are not difficult to find. As Marashio explains, “I don’t know of many models today that aren’t ENERGY STAR. It’s really mandated that appliances step up to the plate regarding energy efficiency.”

Finally, when it comes down to maintenance of a new or existing window AC, Marashio adds that it shouldn’t be too demanding. He provides three simple tips: 1) when not in use, store the unit in a dry location so the unit doesn’t accumulate mold, 2) clean the filters regularly, and 3) if there are problems with the unit, don’t forget about the manufacturer warranty.

How Do Dehumidifiers and Room ACs Differ?
Despite being closely related, there’s a definite difference between an air conditioner and a dehumidifier. Although air conditioners can both cool and dehumidify rooms, you should use an air conditioner only when cooling is the primary goal. A dehumidifier, on the other hand, is best suited where moisture is an issue or causes discomfort, but where cooling is unnecessary. Based on his experiences, Marashio explains, “Most customers use dehumidifiers in their basements, whereas air conditioners can take care of the upper rooms.”

Shopping Local
If you are now convinced you’ll need a new dehumidifier or room AC to get through the summer months, but are still unsure of what size, style, or model is best for your home, don’t hesitate to explore your local retailers, like Crane Appliance or Stan & Paul’s Major Appliance Center. Gonsalves and Marashio both emphasize the personalized service, knowledge, and customer support the staff at their stores can provide. Crane Appliance – with locations in East Falmouth, Orleans, and Vineyard Haven – has been around for 35 years, and Stan & Paul’s – of Dartmouth – has been in business for 62 years and counting! But, if both of these retailers are too far, you can also use our Store Finder to locate a retailer closer to you. Happy shopping and happy summer!

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