by Sue Hakala, Master Gardener for 20 years, a grower of cactus and succulents for 45 years and a freelancer writer 1. Know your micro environments in your yard: where is it coldest/hottest so you can plant appropriately. 2. Know where your plant has evolved. Different deserts of the world get their rain at different … Read More…


Hearty, beautiful and eco-friendly, these desert beauties thrive in Arizona gardens by Robin Layton So, you’ve decided to plant a cacti garden in that bare patch in your yard. With thousands of varieties of cacti, where do you start? According to Joyce at Casa Grande’s Distinctive Earthscapes at the Avocado Nursery, a cacti gardener must first … Read More…


by Katie Mayer

It’s heating up outside, but that doesn’t mean we need to heat up too much inside. Hiring a licensed HVAC contractor to conduct yearly or twice-yearly inspections and service on your air conditioning equipment is important.

Here are the top-5 reasons:

  1. You could save money. Units that are running low on refrigerant can quickly hike up your utility bills. Signs your unit needs to be recharged include taking a long time to cool your home, blowing warm air from your supply vents, higher than usual electric bills and a noise that sounds like bubbling.
  2. You could avoid being uncomfortable. Summer is the busy season for HVAC contractors. As a result, you could face delays if your unit goes down in the summer, especially on very hot days where everyone’s units are working overtime. By proactively getting your unit serviced, a technician may identify and repair potential problems before they leave you sweating for days.
  3. You can prevent problems from accumulating. Just like with your car, unaddressed problems with your HVAC unit can cause a domino effect where other components of your unit become stressed and damaged. By proactively addressing problems, you can extend the life of your unit and its components.
  4. You can breathe easier. Dirty coils, vents, ducting and air filters are not only bad for your system, they are bad for you and your family, as well. Have your system inspected and cleaned at least once per year.
  5. You’ ll help the environment. By maintaining your unit, you can ensure it is running as efficiently as it is capable of running, which means saving energy and helping our environment. For even greater savings, experts say to keep your thermostat set between 78 and 80 degrees when you are home and up to 85 degrees when you are away. According to local utility Salt River Project (SRP), for every degree you set your thermostat above 80 degrees, you can save 2-3 percent on cooling costs.

AC Energy-Saving Tips, according to SRP

  • Leave most of your air vents open to avoid a pressure imbalance and reduce the effectiveness of your system.
  • Do chores that produce moisture, such as washing clothes and dishes or mopping floors, when it is cooler out.
  • Prevent heat from entering your home by shading windows with coverings that have lower shade coefficient, paint exterior walls a lighter color, maintain minimum insulation levels, avoid activities that can create additional heat in your home, weatherize your home and make sure your attic is properly vented and exhaust vents are not blocked.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Schedule maintenance service.
  • Buy a higher SEER unit and ensure it is the correct size.
  • Set ceiling fans to blow downward.
  • Replace air filters.

For Evaporative Coolers:

  • Change the pads before each summer.
  • Do not run your evaporative cooler and air conditioning at the same time.
  • Install the baffle plate (cookie sheet damper) in the unit before you switch over to air conditioning.

Q&A with Jim Suor

What is the hottest new feature today? Master baths with a huge walk-in shower with no door and not having a tub in the master bath. What feature would you have built several years ago that is now totally passe? Laminate flooring and formica/solid surface countertops. Any macro trends in new-home design/Southwest living? The white … Read More…