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5 Air Conditioning Myths That Still Exist

Summer is Myrtle Beach is hot, and air conditioning at home and at work is a necessity. The last thing you want is for your AC to go out in July or August in South Carolina. Despite the wealth of information on the web, there are still some common myths about AC that folks believe. Here are our top air conditioning myths and why you should ignore them.

Myth 1: Wait Until the AC Dies Before Replacing It

There's some logic behind this idea. It makes sense to use something fully before replacing it, which means that sometimes the cost of repairs makes more sense than the expense of a total replacement. But sometimes the "run it 'til the wheels fall off" mentality neglects the cost of inefficiency. 

Old units with occasional repairs may be costing you more than just the parts and labor. Old ACs work harder and cool less. You'll see the added expense on monthly utility bills, on top of the frustration and discomfort from an inefficient AC. 

For more information, check out our post on when it's better to replace and when it's better to repair your HVAC.

Myth 2: Turning Your Thermostat Down Lower Will Cool the Room Faster

Sorry, folks. It doesn't matter if you set your thermostat at 68 or 60 degrees. Setting your thermostat lower than the ideal temperature won't get you there any faster. Your AC unit has a limited capacity, and setting the temperature at a colder setting doesn't speed up the pace. The greater the gap between the actual temperature and the set temperature, the longer it will take to get there. Patience is a virtue.

Myth 3: It Doesn't Matter Where You Put the Thermostat

We're sure this isn't as commonly believed as the others, but we want to highlight the fact that thermostat placement is important to how effective your AC is in cooling your home or office.

Your thermostat is the device monitoring indoor temperature and deciding whether or not your AC needs to come on. If your thermostat is in direct sunlight or near a window, or if it is directly below a vent blowing cool air, it is not getting an accurate representation of the indoor temperature. Poor placement skews readings, which means you may be adjusting your thermostat to a setting lower than you normally would in order to feel cool in the rest of the space.

A central location on an interior wall away from vents is always the best place for a thermostat.

Myth 4: The Larger AC Unit, the Better

Despite popular opinion, bigger isn't always better, and it's definitely true with AC units. If your air conditioning unit is too big, the compressor will turn on and off in quick intervals, which isn't good for wear and tear. It may also not effectively remove moisture from the air.

If the unit is too small, it will be working too hard to cool your home and constantly running. This can wear out the mechanical components and lead to high utility bills.

All of the above is the reason why units are always rated for a specific square-footage range. Choose the unit that fits your home or office.

Myth 5: Regular Maintenance Isn't Worth It

We understand that cleaning and maintenance contracts can seem like a lot of money, especially if your unit has been fine on its own for a while. However, just like oil changes for your car, regular maintenance and cleaning is going to extend the life and hopefully save you money in the long-run when you avoid costly repairs.

Visit our blog to learn more about HVAC service contracts, and what to look for and what to avoid.

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HVAC Service Contracts: What to Look For and What to Avoid

HVAC Service Contract

Service Contracts Benefit Both Owners and HVAC Service Providers

Service contracts, clean and service agreements, or maintenance contracts. All these terms describe scheduled inspection, cleaning, and service of your HVAC system. HVAC service contracts may vary in terms of frequency of visit and scope of maintenance, but 1-2 visits a year is common. 

There are benefits of scheduled service for both HVAC companies and homeowners. HVAC companies benefit from the reliability service work, especially in spring and fall before the extreme heating and air-conditioning months arrive. Homeowners benefit from increased HVAC lifespan and efficiency, as well as being able to be proactive in addressing any issues before they snowball into major repairs. In an area like Myrtle Beach, scheduled maintenance can give you some peace of mind if you have a second property or vacation home.  

That said, signing an annual contract makes some wary for fear of being "locked in" and committed. Contracts can also contain fine print policies or leave curious about what service or products you are actually paying for. In this post we'll look at what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for an HVAC service plan.

Service Contracts to Avoid

There can be many red flags when looking over a service contract. And our first recommendation is that you look over the terms of the agreement before signing or providing payment. Here are some signs of a bad HVAC service contract:

1. Less than a page: A service contract isn't a 50-page document, but it should definitely be more than a page. The document should explain exactly what is covered (and perhaps what is not covered), pricing, and special terms of the agreement. The contract should explain the expectations of both the customer and the service provider. There needs to be enough in the document to protect you and the HVAC company, so make sure it is specific.

2. Insanely Cheap: You know that saying about a deal that's too good to be true? Compare service agreement rates amongst a handful of companies. There may be variations, but they should be in a similar ballpark. Avoid the ones that seem like they can offer the same product and service at a fraction of the price. Something is usually being left out.

3. Minuscule Type: You should be able to read the document. Be wary of the long paragraph on the last page in tiny type. If information is presented like this, it is intentionally being minimized for a reason. Additionally, any reputable service professional should be able to explain these terms to you. If they can't, go somewhere else.

4. Legalese and Jargon: An HVAC service contract should be able to simply state the terms and conditions as well as the scope of service, the expectations from both parties, and the cost. Question contracts that mask contract terms in confusing legalese.

Signs of a Good HVAC Service Contract

On the other hand, good service contracts will inform you of the following:

  • A clear list of covered equipment, if you have multiple units
  • A list of tasks and checks performed during each visit
  • Assurance of quality service
  • Indication of when service will be performed
  • Included and not included parts and labor
  • Details about how work not covered in the contract will be handled (repairs, if needed)
  • Details about payment (how much, when is it due, terms for late payment, etc)

You should feel comfortable with the HVAC company. Ask for a copy of the service contract and take your time to compare what you get (and don't get) with different companies. Some may have perks that others do not (discounted labor rates, priority service, etc). Look at reviews online and talk with neighbors. You can save yourself future headaches by doing a little research before signing a year's agreement.

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4 Signs of Low Refrigerant in HVAC Systems

Low Refrigerant in HVAC

Refrigerant (sometimes called coolant or freon) is a necessary component in every HVAC system. Older HVAC systems relied upon R-22, but new HVAC equipment has moved to R-410A, which is a chlorine-free refrigerant. Regardless of the refrigerant type, all function essentially the same way: to create a cooling effect through an expanding or vaporizing process. But how do you end up with low refrigerant in an HVAC system?

In theory, an HVAC is a closed system where the refrigerant is cycled through various states. In reality, this is nearly impossible. All HVAC systems will lose some refrigerant to leakage due to flaws in seams and fittings or through vibration and wear and tear. Tiny leaks won't be noticeable, but if they become larger over time, you will start to feel the effects. Here are the tell-tale signs of low refrigerant in HVAC systems.

4 Signs of Low Refrigerant in an HVAC

1. Indoor Temperature Isn't Cool

Maybe the first thing you'll notice if your HVAC is low on refrigerant is that you are having trouble cooling your home. Lowering the thermostat doesn't work, and your HVAC system is now constantly running as it tries to cool a home at a temperature it cannot easily maintain. In Myrtle Beach, this will be most notable during our hot and humid summer months when HVAC systems are put to the test. 

2. Increased Utility Bills

With less refrigerant, your HVAC will struggle to cool your home or office. This means it will be running more frequently. You'll notice the inefficiency when you get your power bill. Sure, power bills tend to go up in the summer when the AC is working overtime, but if you see a spike in your year to year, this could be a sign of a refrigerant leak. Chances are you'll notice the temperature first, but the higher bill will only confirm what you suspect.

3. Ice Buildup on Outdoor HVAC Unit

The evaporator coils on your HVAC unit on the side of your home or office might have ice buildup. Evaporator coils contain refrigerant, and if your refrigerant becomes too low, liquid refrigerant will backflow into the coils which become extremely cold to the point that ice forms. You will see this even in the heat of a South Carolina summer. 

4. Noticeable Hissing Noise

Since low refrigerant in your HVAC is the result of a leak, you may hear escaping gas from one of unit's lines. Some have described a hissing noise while others a slight bubbling. In either case, you are hearing refrigerant escaping from your unit, and chances are, if you can hear it, you might be able to visually inspect and spot it rather easily.

Refilling Refrigerant and Fixing Your Leak

If you think you have low refrigerant from a leak, the best thing is to call an HVAC professional sooner rather than later. Refilling refrigerant and fixing leaks is a troubleshooting problem that Cooper Mechanical Services has been solving since 1989. 

Running your AC with low refrigerant isn't just ineffective. Buildup and refrigerant backflow can damage an HVAC compressor, which is a more expensive problem to fix. Instead, shut your HVAC off, call Cooper, and let us measure your refrigerant and perform some tests to locate your leak

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Running a Humidifier in the Summer Makes Sense

Humidifier in the summer

An Air Humidifier in the Summer?

In South Carolina, we usually take out air humidifiers in the winter when the weather is dry and cold air can lead to irritated respiratory systems, cracked skin, and more. Humidifiers are tools that simply add moisture back into the air by converting a reservoir of water into vapor and distributing via a fan and a directional vent. 

It sounds counterintuitive, especially in hot and sticky Myrtle Beach when humidity is extreme during the summer months. But running a cool air humidifier this spring and summer can help you stay more comfortable and healthier when you're indoors.

Constant HVAC Cooling Causes Low Indoor Humidity

It's normal to have your HVAC unit running almost constantly during a Myrtle Beach summer where temperatures in the upper 90s and extreme humidity is commonplace. Your HVAC unit cools your home or business by drawing warm air through your system and over evaporator coils. Heat and moisture in that warm air is condensed and moved outside of your home. So as the the air recycling back into the room is cooler, it is also dryer. 

This loss of moisture usually isn't a problem. But running your HVAC around-the-clock, like we do in the hottest months of the summer, can lead to some very dry indoor air.

Benefits of Adding Humidity to Your Home in the Summer

Whether you choose to use free-standing electric humidifiers in multiple rooms, or choose to add a whole-home humidifier to your HVAC system, adding humidity in the summer has benefits.

Proper Humidity is Healthier and More Comfortable: The discomfort that results from dry air will be minimized. Alleviate problems associated with dry eyes, nosebleeds, dry skin, and more that develop from constant air-conditioning and low humidity.

Protect Your Home and Possessions: If indoor humidity is too low or too high, you may notice doorways, wood floors, and even things like furniture or wooden instruments warping, cracking, and more. 

Cooper Mechanical Services Can Solve Your Humidity Issues

If you are uncomfortable this summer from constant air conditioning, let us know. The Cooper Mechanical team members are experts in all things HVAC, including finding solutions to balance humidity and ventilation during the hottest and coldest months.

To learn more about humidity and some of the effects from having too much humidity in your home, check out this article from our blog about why humidity makes everything feel hotter and what you can do about it.

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My HVAC Unit is Rattling!

HVAC Rattling Sound

Rattling Sounds and Other Sensory Signs Your HVAC Needs TLC

When your HVAC system is operating as it should, you probably don't notice it much. There might be an initial click when it turns on and the starting hum of the fan, but then it likely fades into the background noise. You rely upon your senses to notice when your HVAC unit seems different: a strange sound, an unfamiliar smell, or even the feeling that it's warmer or cooler than normal. Oftentimes, new and unusual sounds are the early warning signs from your HVAC unit that all is not well. Investigate and address rattling, clunking, or grinding sounds before it's too late. 

In this post, we'll focus on rattling sounds coming from your HVAC and some probable causes.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Causes of HVAC Rattling Sounds

Loose Hardware: There's a good chance the rattling sound you hear coming from your unit is a loose screw. Screws securing your condenser or evaporator are subject to vibration. Over time, the vibration can loosen screws, creating a rattling sound. For this problem, the solution is very simple: just tighten.

Nearby Debris: Residential HVAC units are usually located outside a home where grass, dirt, and sticks can get in through the housing and become stuck. Commercial HVAC units in lots or on roofs can suck in pebbles and other tiny pieces of debris, too. The rattling sound could be debris knocking around in the HVAC components. For this problem, the simple solution is to remove the housing and clear all debris.

Fan Alignment: If the fan of your HVAC unit is misaligned, the vibration of the fan could cause it to knock and clank against the HVAC housing. This is not as common, but it could be the result of a poor installation or lodged debris affecting the balance of the fan. If it's debris and left unchecked, it could cause the fan to seize and create a bigger problem. If you address it early, it's an easy fix.

Motor Troubles: This is the most major of the causes. If parts of the motor are loose or coming apart, you may first notice it as a rattling sound. If you inspect the motor thoroughly, you may find it's just a loose screw or debris, but if left unchecked, there is the potential for more serious motor trouble.

Hearing Strange Sounds? Call Cooper!

We've got our fingers crossed that it's just a screw we need to tighten, but take comfort in knowing that if it is a more serious problem, that fixing it early is always easier and cheaper than waiting until the problem compounds.

If you hear a rattling sound coming from your HVAC, give us a call. We'll inspect your HVAC unit for the common causes above first. Cooper Mechanical Services provides honest and affordable heating and air-conditioning service you can trust.

To speak with a Cooper professional today, visit our website or Call Cooper at 843-626-3689.

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Commercial Lighting to Deter Crime

Deter crime and theft with commercial lighting and parking lot lighting

Commercial Lighting Solutions in Myrtle Beach

In addition to HVAC, Cooper Mechanical Services has built a reputation as a leader in electrical solutions for the Grand Strand. Commercial lighting design, lighting installation, and lighting repair is one way we help Myrtle Beach businesses. In this post we'll look at how effective lighting design can not only keep your business safe and accessible, but can also deter crime.

Commercial Lighting for Safety and Accessibility

Indoor and outdoor lighting design can serve a number of purposes, but the first is safety. Good lighting allows employees, customers, and whoever else is visiting your business to navigate your space safely. Whether you use pole lighting, ground lighting, or a combination of styles, the goal is to make spaces accessible and safe, whether by foot, automobile, or wheelchair.

Additionally, interior and exterior lighting can be used to call attention to certain elements, whether that's a main entrance, a product display, a sidewalk, or signage. In the end, lighting ensures safety and ease of use for all, regardless of your business or industry.

Commercial Lighting to Deter Crime

In Myrtle Beach, crime tends to rise during the summer. This is largely due to the influx of nearly 15 million tourists and visitors. For Myrtle Beach businesses and residents, this means and increase in robberies, burglaries, car thefts, and other targeted attacks. Because of this, the City of Myrtle Beach recently installed 800 security cameras around high-traffic and high-crime areas

Local police remind residents that the most effective way to prevent crime is to be proactive: lock car and building doors, set alarms, and keep areas well-lit.

According to the National Institute of Justice, improving lighting can reduce crime by up to 20 percent..

Cooper Mechanical Services can help you protect your business and employees with the following:

  • Energy-efficient, High-light Parking Lot Lighting
  • Exterior Lighting for Entrances, Walkways and Signage
  • Exterior and Interior Sensor Lighting
  • Electrical Design for Security Systems

As an unlimited-license electrical contractor in Myrtle Beach, Cooper Mechanical Services is well-equipped to design, install, or repair and upgrade a wide variety of lighting and electrical solutions for increased safety. 

Call Cooper to Learn More About Lighting for Safety

The Cooper electrical team is happy to visit your business or workplace. Together, we'll assess existing lighting and consider how additional lighting or upgrades may improve accessibility and safety.

Call Cooper and make sure your business is safe. 

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HVAC Repair or Replace?

Repair or Replace your HVAC unit? Photo of tools.

Repair or Replace? A Common Situation

It's a question you've likely considered with cars, computers, and other household appliances: is it better to repair or replace? And like others, it can be difficult to determine which option is best and most economical in the short-term and long-term. Many homeowners face this very dilemma when their aging HVAC unit requires a major repair. 

Cooper Mechanical Services is a Myrtle Beach area family-owned and operated HVACR company. Our philosophy is that a strong business relies upon trust and honesty, and that the hard-sell doesn't help us achieve this. In this post we'll give you our honest and reliable perspective on when it may be more advantageous to repair or replace. 

Consider HVAC Lifespans

New HVAC units experiencing issues tend to be repaired, especially since they are often under warranty. If your unit is relatively young, repairing is often those most cost-efficient in the short and long-term.

That said, it's important to recognize that an HVAC system's lifespan can vary, especially if it is in close proximity to the beach and ocean. Outdoor units that are oceanfront or near it average 6-8 years. If you are further inland in Myrtle Beach or the Conway area, the average lifespan increases to 10-15 years. 

Why do HVAC units near the beach have a short life? It's simply the environmental factors: increased salt water and air, wind and debris, and exposure to more severe weather. 

The best way to extend the life of your HVAC unit is with regular maintenance. Cooper Mechanical Services offers homeowners Clean & Service agreements that can help you put off the high cost of replacement for a little longer.

Old HVAC Units Are Inefficient

When considering repair or replacement cost, you should also consider that older HVAC systems will be less efficient and effective at heating and cooling. This can lead to higher electric bills over your units remaining years, and while this difference may seem small per month, it can easily add to hundreds of dollars over a couple years.

The Repair or Replace Formula

If your HVAC unit is in the middle or toward the end of its lifespan, there is an easy formula that may help you decide which avenue is best.

Repair your unit if:

Cost of Repair x Age of Unit in Years < Cost of New Unit

Replace your unit if: 

Cost of Repair x Age of Unit in Years > Cost of New Unit

Call Cooper for an Honest Opinion

In the end, if you are unsure whether to repair or replace, ask one of our knowledgeable technicians for advice. We will consider the age and health of your unit, the estimated life remaining, and the difference in cost between repair and replacement. Rather than simply push you toward the most expensive option, we want the solution that is best for your family and budget.

Give us a call or fill out the contact form on our website to speak with a Cooper representative today.

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Get Ready for the Summer with DIY HVAC Maintenance

Prep Your HVAC for Spring and Summer

Hot weather can start early in Myrtle Beach. As you perform spring cleaning around the house and yard, it's helpful to do some brief inspection of your HVAC system. Taking a close look at your heating and air conditioning unit and vents can help you get ready for summer where your AC will be put to the test with high use. 

Additionally, making an HVAC check in early spring can also alert you to problems earlier. This means you won't be sweltering if you do need to call a technician for a repair.

4-Step DIY HVAC Inspection

While Cooper Mechanical Services provides a comprehensive Clean & Service agreement for businesses and homeowners, we understand that some prefer the cost-saving, do-it-yourself method. Cooper Mechanical Services provides an extensive chemical cleaning and inspection, but for your safety, we present 4 simple inspection tips that do not require advanced knowledge.

1. Check & Replace Filters: This is the easy one. Inspect filters to make sure they fit properly (no gaps) and are not clogged with debris. For most, an inexpensive fiberglass is sufficient. However, some systems may require other types of filters. To learn more, check out our post on how to choose the correct HVAC air filter.

2. Check Exterior Unit: Your HVAC condenser unit is located outside your home or business. Some businesses may have them mounted on the roof. Trim weeds, grass, and other plants that are growing around your unit. Be sure to wash clippings and debris away with a hose (the water will not hurt your unit). Aim to have at least two feet of clear area around your unit. It's also a good idea to run your HVAC and listen to your unit. Make note of any unusual or unfamiliar sounds, and consider calling Cooper Mechanical Services if you are concerned.

3. Check Vents: Back inside, check all the vents or air returns. Make sure they are open and free of debris. If you have floor vents, ensure they are not blocked by furniture or rugs, and that air is free to distribute. This will make sure you have good ventilation, and will make your HVAC more effective and efficient.

4. Check the HVAC Drip Pan: Outside, check the drain pan below your HVAC unit. Make sure it's not backed up or clogged. Cooper Mechanical Services includes drain line and pan cleaning in our schedule service, but if you'd like to do it DIY, be sure to shut off power to your HVAC before wiping blockage away with a towel or wet/dry vacuum.

Call Cooper for Honest HVAC Service

Want a professional to service and inspect your HVAC before the hot summer weather arrives? Cooper's Clean & Service agreements provide comprehensive scheduled maintenance twice a year. We'll visit your home or business before the summer and winter to clean and inspect all major components and functions. 

A Clean & Service agreement is the best way to extend the life of your HVAC unit. To learn more, Call Cooper today.

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3 Reasons to Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat in Your Home or Office

Smart Thermostat made by Nest

Considering a Smart Thermostat?

The thermostat is your primary interface when it comes to controlling the temperature and comfort of your workplace or home. For most of us, it's a "set it and forget it" affair. We set our ideal temperature and rely upon the system to maintain that temperature. 

You might not see any need to upgrade your thermostat as long as it is doing this job. However, if you need to replace a broken thermostat, or if you are questioning upgrading, here are 3 reasons why you should consider a smart thermostat.

Advantages of Smart Thermostats

Smart Thermostats Are Easy to Program: Compared to older digital display thermostats, modern smart thermostats are built with user experience in mind. Borrowing from digital UX in other devices, smart thermostats are infinitely easier to program. Choose between a variety of pre-configured settings or create a custom schedule.

Advanced programming allows users to set thermostat adjustments for efficiency and cost savings. Why heat or cool a space when people are from home or work? Use a program to adjust your thermostat while spaces are unoccupied to be more energy efficient. 

Smart Thermostats Are WiFi Capable: One of the best features of a smart thermostat is the ability to control it remotely. Once you've connect your thermostat to your home or office network, you can easily make adjustments from a smartphone, tablet or other device. This can be helpful when you need to make adjustments from your programmed schedule.

Smart Thermostats Are More Accurate: Smart thermostats use digital displays, allowing users to set a temperature precisely. This is a big advantage over old thermostats that use a dial that can be a challenge to set accurately to a specific degree. A digital thermostat is also easy to read, which is an important feature for those with poorer vision. With a smart thermostat, there will be no question as to the thermostat settings.

How Do I Choose a Smart Thermostat

There are a variety of manufacturers of smart thermostats, and chances are the maker of your existing thermostat likely makes a smart model as well. For honest recommendations for smart thermostats are a variety of price points, give Cooper Mechanical Services a call.

The Cooper HVAC team has been helping Myrtle Beach area businesses and homeowners with heating and cooling since 1989. Whether it's a single-family home with a single HVAC unit or a large business with a more complex system, we're ready to help you with HVAC sales, installation, maintenance, and repair.

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Poor Kitchen Ventilation: Common Causes and Fixes

Kitchen ventilation with a hood

Kitchen Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality

A poorly ventilated kitchen is a nightmare. It gets steamy, greasy, and hot. All of the steam and oil is putting particulates in the air, but where are they going? If you're constantly feeling like there's a film over your stovetop and counters, then they are staying right where they are. Kitchen ventilation is an important component of having good indoor air quality (IAQ).

Poor indoor air quality in your kitchen means more than just a greasy backsplash and appliance. Indoor air quality is an important metric for your health and comfort. So what affects kitchen ventilation? Let's look at the two biggest causes.

Causes of Poor Kitchen Ventilation

There are two big causes of poor kitchen ventilation and air quality:

Infrequent Use of Kitchen Exhaust Fan: Believe it or not, most of us are not using the exhaust fan as much as we should be. In fact, according to a California IAQ study in 2016, only 13% of homeowners frequently use the exhaust fan when cooking. The study found that the majority of us don't turn on the fan because we either don't think it's necessary (48%), or we find it to be too noisy (21%).

In this case, the fix is easy. Turn on the exhaust fan above the stove range before you start cooking. It's important to turn it on early, and not after grease, steam, or smoke is billowing up. This fan works to circulate and/or move air to the outdoors. 

Which brings us to our second cause of poor kitchen ventilation:

Insufficient Kitchen Exhaust System: What good is a kitchen exhaust hood and fan if it doesn't work effectively? The most common issue with kitchen exhaust fans is that they don't vent to the outdoors. While this is a common home design feature, some kitchen exhaust fans simply recirculate air through a filter system in the hood above your oven, hopefully trapping particulates from the air. In this case, there may be an issue or blockage in the hood or filter leading to a poor capture efficiency.

Fix Kitchen Ventilation and Improve IAQ

The easiest way for most of us to improve kitchen ventilation is simply to use the exhaust fan more frequently. If your current exhaust fan is ineffective, use the rear burners to minimize particulates that escape the range of the hood.

Most importantly, if you are building or remodeling, consider a kitchen hood that vents to the outdoors.

Cooper Mechanical Services for Kitchen Ventilation

Cooper Mechanical Services is Myrtle Beach's ventilation expert for residential and commercial kitchens. The Cooper HVAC team offers expertise in kitchen HVAC, refrigeration, and ice machine systems. If you have a question about the ventilation in your home or workplace, call Cooper

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