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Can you maintain proper indoor humidity levels without the use of a dehumidifier? The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping household humidity levels below 60% for a healthy, comfortable indoor environment. It’s often a challenge to stay in that recommended range, however, particularly in climates like ours here in southern Ohio, where outdoor humidity often exceeds that limit. In these cases, you’ll probably want to consider a home dehumidifier.
Here are three things to think about when comparing dehumidifiers to keep your home humidity in the optimal range:
Individual room dehumidifiers are sized according to the amount of water vapor, expressed in pints, that the unit extracts from the air in a 24-hour period. For typical households with humidity in the range of 60% to 70%, a 30-pint unit is sufficient for a 300 square foot room while large spaces of 1,000-square feet need a 60-pint unit. In very damp houses with 80% humidity, the above size figures increase to 40 pints and 70 pints, respectively.
To reduce the number of times you’ll have to empty the dehumidifier’s water tank daily, the general rule is: the bigger, the better. For example, a 30-pint unit with a 10-pint water tank will require emptying three times a day. However, a 60-pint unit with a 15-pint tank will need to be emptied four times per 24 hours.
Whole-House Vs. Room Unit
Portable room dehumidifiers reduce humidity in a limited space only, plus require manual emptying of the tank. A whole-house dehumidifier, on the other hand, removes humidity from the entire air volume of your home as it passes through your heating and cooling ductwork. The unit condenses water vapor out of the air and conveys it down a drain line connected to your household plumbing. The humidistat that controls operation can be set like a thermostat, then automatically maintains the desired indoor humidity according to your setting.
For more advice on comparing dehumidifiers in order to choose the right dehumidifier for your needs, contact the indoor air quality professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling Electrical and Plumbing.
Is a ductless HVAC system a viable alternative for heating and cooling individual rooms in your home? Every day, ductless heating and cooling units are gaining market share in this country as more people decide that the answer is “Yes.”
The system consists of a compact, low-profile indoor air handler incorporating a coil and blower fan mounted on the wall or ceiling of the room. This unit connects via a narrow refrigerant conduit to a downsized outdoor heat pump behind or next to the house, about the size of a large suitcase. In winter, like any heat pump, the system extracts latent heat from outside air, concentrates it with a compressor, then conveys it indoors to the air handler where the coil and blower disperse heat into the room. In summer, the system reverses and cools the room by extracting indoor heat and conveying it outside to be released in outdoor air. A single outdoor heat pump unit can link to up to five ductless air handlers in separate rooms.
Ductless HVAC provides three advantages.
- In homes without ductwork for central heating and cooling—or where extending existing ductwork to additional rooms isn’t financially feasible—a ductless system permits low-cost, highly effective heating and cooling of individual rooms without relying on outmoded space heaters and clunky window air conditioners.
- Leaky, inefficient ductwork loses at least 25% of heating or cooling in most homes. Because a ductless system delivers heating and cooling without ducts, operation is more energy-efficient at lower cost. Ductless comfort control is also more accurate as each room has its own dedicated thermostat to individualize temperature to that space.
- Installation of ductless HVAC is far less intensive and disruptive than installing ducts and vents that require major construction. All that’s required are a three-inch hole in an exterior wall to route the refrigerant conduit outdoors, plus mounting the indoor air handler on a wall or ceiling. A two-person team can easily install a ductless system in a single room in one day.
Learn about still more advantages of a ductless HVAC system by contacting the pros at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Fall maintenance is an important part of the annual furnace start-up procedure. The best alternative is to schedule seasonal preventive maintenance with a qualified HVAC contractor. This ensures your heating system receives a standard set of checks and maintenance for safety, efficiency and performance. (In many cases, annual preventive maintenance is also required by the manufacturer’s warranty.) The trained eye of an HVAC technician can also spot any minor problems that might become major malfunctions later in the season, when the system’s under heaviest heating load.
In addition to professional maintenance, here are three critical maintenance functions to do yourself before you start the furnace for winter.
- Change the filter. The air filter in the system is probably left over from summer and likely clogged with dirt. A dirty filter restricts airflow through the system, which affects everything from energy efficiency to optimum heating performance and even safety—insufficient airflow can overheat and crack the furnace heat exchanger.
- Inspect the vent pipe. Verify that the furnace vent is intact from the unit all the way to roof. Look for any disconnected or loose segments everywhere the vent is routed, including through the attic. Also make sure the vent pipe hasn’t become obstructed—bird’s nests or falling leaves can block proper venting. An obstructed vent pipe can cause dangerous fumes including deadly carbon monoxide gas to flow into the living spaces of your home. If you find any loose segments or obstructions, don’t start the furnace. Call a qualified HVAC service provider.
- Make sure all heating vents are open and unobstructed. The duct system is balanced to provide optimum air volume to every room. Closing individual vents in certain rooms unbalances airflow throughout the entire ductwork. Rooms further away from the furnace may be excessively chilly while rooms closer to the furnace may become overly warm. Tweaking the thermostat to compensate only results in more energy consumption and wear and tear on the furnace.
For qualified fall maintenance to prepare your furnace for another winter, contact the HVAC professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Knowing how to set your programmable thermostat means making seasonal adjustments at the appropriate times every year. Cold weather, shorter days and longer nights, as well as the different patterns of household occupation during winter, call for changes to programmed temperatures. System energy efficiency and monthly operating costs—as well as indoor comfort and convenience—all improve when you know how to set your programmable thermostat to suit the season.
As winter arrives, here are some guidelines for programming seasonal-appropriate temperatures:
How to Set Your Programmable Thermostat for Waking Hours
Most occupants of a home will feel comfortable on a winter morning with an indoor temperature between 68 to 70 degrees. This is also the most energy efficient range to warm the house up after a night of lower temperatures. Program the temperature 30 minutes before wake-up time and leave it at this level as long as people are in the house.
For Leaving Home
Program a temperature setting 15 degrees below the Waking Hours temperature beginning a half-hour before the time the last person normally leaves the house for the day. That temperature should be maintained for the entire span of time the house is unoccupied during the day for optimum efficiency and lowest costs.
For Coming Home
Thirty minutes before the time the first person usually returns home for the day, program the temperature to return to the Waking Hours temperature.
For Bedtime And Sleeping Hours
One hour before the time the last person normally turns in for the night, set the programmable temperature to 60 to 62 degrees. Maintaining that temperature throughout the overnight period saves energy as the furnace operates most efficiently when a single setting is sustained over an extended time.
Most people’s waking/sleeping hours and household occupancy habits change over the weekend. Take advantage of your programmable thermostat’s separate Weekend settings to input temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.
Most programmable thermostats are battery-powered. Install a fresh battery once a year, ideally at the same time you make the seasonal adjustments for winter.
More questions about how to set your programmable thermostat? Ask the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling , Electrical and Plumbing.
CO poisoning, caused by exposure to carbon monoxide gas, can be chronically debilitating at low levels and quickly fatal at higher levels. Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of combustion in gas-fired furnaces, stoves, motor vehicles and even wood-burning fireplaces, is odorless and colorless and may accumulate inside a home without occupants being aware of it. This is why it is so important to know the early signs of CO Poisoning.
At up to 70 parts per million (ppm) of CO concentration in indoor air, most people will experience no symptoms. Between 70 ppm and 150 ppm, symptoms may be vague and easily dismissed as indications of any number of other illnesses. Above 150 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness and death from CO poisoning can occur in rapid succession.
Know the Early Signs of CO Poisoning
Because the effects of CO poisoning vary according to the concentration in the air and individual factors like age and general health, it’s important to be aware of early symptoms like these:
- Shortness of breath or labored breathing.
- Nausea and loss of appetite.
Specific Signs of CO Poisoning
Since these symptoms mimic early stages of other common illnesses, especially the flu, also be aware of these additional factors that are specific to CO poisoning:
- Symptoms disappear or greatly diminish when you leave the house for any length of time.
- Everyone living in the house reports symptoms instead of only one or a few individuals, as with common flu.
- Those who spend the most time at home have the most severe symptoms.
- The symptoms are not accompanied by other classic flu-like signs such as fever or swollen glands.
- Household pets may also become lethargic, lose appetite and show other unexplained symptoms.
The best protection from carbon monoxide is the proper number of CO detectors installed at the right places in the home. That means one per each level of the house plus one inside or directly outside every bedroom. Test detectors monthly and replace batteries twice a year in battery-powered units.
For more advice about recognizing the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and technology to protect your family from the consequences, contact the professionals Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing today.
Using ceiling fans can give your air conditioner a helping hand this summer, in addition to lowering your cooling costs. For the average American home, the ideal perceived indoor temperature should be somewhere around 75 degrees. There are two ways to reach that desired comfort level: You can keep turning your thermostat down until the actual air temperature matches that reading, meanwhile raising your cooling costs as your A/C runs longer cycles. Or you can utilize ceiling fans to create the perception of coolness in that temperature range while actually setting your thermostat slightly higher and saving money.
We all know a windy winter day feels colder than a calm day. That’s a result of the wind-chill factor that increases the perception of coolness, even when the actual temperature isn’t any lower. In summer, a ceiling fan blows air downward on occupants of the room, creating a small-scale version of wind chill. A room with an actual temperature of 80 degrees feels closer to 75 degrees when a ceiling fan’s running.
A ceiling fan allows you to raise the air conditioner thermostat a few degrees to save money without paying any penalty in cool comfort. For each degree you bump the thermostat setting up, you can reduce cooling costs by about one percent. Today’s efficient ceiling fans sip electricity — a four-foot diameter model running on the high setting consumes only about 75 watts per hour, compared to 3,500 watts per hour for a typical 2.5-ton central air conditioner.
Set It Right
Ceiling fan rotation is reversible and season-specific. To get the comfort benefits and lower cooling costs, make sure yours is set correctly. In hot weather, the directional switch on the fan should be set to the “Summer” or “Reverse” setting. Viewed from beneath looking up into the fan, the blades should be rotating in a counter-clockwise direction and you should be able to feel the breeze blowing directly down on you.
Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling Electric and Plumbing about installing a ceiling fan to lower cooling costs and enhance indoor comfort this summer.
HVAC air filter replacement is important no matter what the season. There’s no more vital upkeep you can perform on your heating or cooling system than regular filter maintenance. It’s an easy DIY procedure that only takes a few moments. If your heating or cooling system is running on a daily basis, the filter should be checked and changed according to a regular schedule. Generally speaking, the filter may need to be replaced more often in summer than in winter. Here are some good reasons why:
- In most households, an air conditioner runs more daily hours during summer than the furnace runs in winter. The longer the system circulates air through the filter and ductwork, the faster the filter accumulates trapped particulates and filtration efficiency declines.
- Airflow, a critical system parameter that impacts performance as well as energy efficiency and operating costs, declines rapidly as the filter becomes dirty and dusty. No matter what the time of year, a dirty filter strains the system blower. However, when the system’s in A/C cooling mode during summer, low airflow resulting from a dirty filter can also cause evaporator coil icing that may lead to expensive compressor damage and system shutdown.
- Indoor air quality is more often an issue in summer than in winter as airborne allergens are more plentiful during the growing season. A dirty or clogged air filter may serve as a receptacle for allergens, continuously recirculating pollen and mold spores throughout the house.
The Seasonal Approach
During summer, make air filter replacement a monthly habit. Buy quality pleated fabric filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) around 8 for best filtration efficiency and optimum airflow. During winter, a monthly visual evaluation should be conducted. If the filter media appears dirty or dusty, air filter replacement should be made immediately. If the filter doesn’t look dirty, you may defer filter replacement to an every-other-month basis. However, never’t go longer than two months without changing the filter in winter.
For more information about air filter replacement, contact the HVAC professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
AFUE is an acronym that expresses the energy-efficiency of natural gas and oil-fired furnaces. Short for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, it’s the primary metric used to help consumers compare the efficiency of new furnaces in order to determine which provide the most savings in combination with the best heating performance. When shopping for a new furnace, you’ll find its AFUE rating prominently displayed on the Department Of Energy’s yellow EnergyGuide sticker affixed to every new unit.
Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is simply a percentage that tells you how much of the fuel consumed by a furnace produces usable heat vs. the amount of heat lost in the combustion process. All gas and oil furnaces lose some heat — mainly in the form of hot gasses exhausted up the furnace vent pipe.
Standard vs. High Efficiency
The federal minimum Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency for a standard-efficiency gas furnace is 80. That means 80% of the heat generated actually warms your house while the balance — 20% — is lost in the combustion process. High-efficiency units known as “condensing furnaces” incorporate additional technology like a secondary heat exchanger to recover lost heat and offer ratings as high as 95 percent.
Is High Efficiency Always Better?
High-efficiency furnaces come with an initial purchase price substantially higher than a standard AFUE-80 model. While these units produce more heat with less fuel consumption, savings from lower operating costs may still take some years to compensate for the higher upfront price. Whether the extended payback period makes good financial sense or not depends largely on the length of your local heating season and how long you plan to live in the home.
What About Electric Furnaces?
Since electric furnaces have no combustion losses, all are rated with an AFUE of 99%. However, this nearly perfect efficiency doesn’t mean electric heating is more economical. Because of the substantially higher cost of electricity vs. natural gas in most regions of the country, electric heating is always more expensive.
For more about using AFUE to shop for your next heating system, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Home air cleaners can help tip the balance in your favor when it comes to ensuring healthy indoor air quality and a more comfortable household environment. Today’s tightly sealed, energy-efficient homes often don’t receive adequate fresh air ventilation to dilute indoor pollutants. Instead, occupants in the enclosed surroundings are subjected to a concentrated dose of airborne contaminants with every breath they take. Whole-house air cleaners installed inside your HVAC ductwork treat the entire volume of air circulating through your home, while portable models can be moved from room to room to treat individual spaces.
Here are three health and comfort benefits of home air cleaners:
Airborne particulates include dust, dirt, pet dander, synthetic fibers and other tiny particles that may cause allergic responses or irritation in susceptible individuals. These particles are stirred up into the air and circulated from room to room. The enhanced filtration of an air cleaner removes particles down to a smaller size than the typical passive air filter installed in your ductwork. This ensures a healthier, hypo-allergenic environment.
The contents of indoor air frequently includes living microscopic organisms including mold spores, pollen and bacteria. Passive filters may capture these pathogens, but filtration alone doesn’t kill them. In fact, a dirty air filter is actually an effective breeding ground for mold and bacteria, spreading contamination even wider throughout the home. Whole-house cleaners frequently include a UV (ultraviolet) light array that exposes air flow to the germicidal effects of UV wavelengths, actually neutralizing mold, bacteria and viruses instead of merely capturing them.
High levels of airborne particulates inside a tightly sealed home also make housekeeping more problematic as these particles compose common household dust. Dusting can be a losing battle as particulates continuously settle out of the air onto surfaces. Effective filtration removes dust more efficiently while it’s still airborne, preserves indoor decor and makes dusting and other housekeeping tasks more effective.
Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing about effective use of air cleaners to promote comfort and indoor air quality.
Given the prevalence of seasonal allergy triggers in the great outdoors, it’s important you take steps to allergy-proof your home. According to a published study, Ohio ranked among the top ten worst states for seasonal allergies in the U.S. in the period from May 2014 to May 2015. Your home should be a haven for relief from these airborne irritants and pollutants. However, the opposite is often the case: Tightly-sealed, energy-efficient homes may create an enclosed environment that allows allergens to concentrate to levels even higher than outdoors.
As another summer allergy season arrives, here are three things you can do to allergy-proof your home:
Mold spores and dust mites — both major allergy triggers — thrive in warm, humid environments. Keeping the temperature below 80 degrees and indoor humidity below 50 percent suppresses mold and dust mites. Schedule annual preventive maintenance to make sure your air conditioner is operating at optimal specs. Also consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier to keep indoor levels in the healthy, allergy-free range, even during our humid summers.
Change the Filter
The entire air volume inside your home is filtered by the HVAC air filter multiple times daily. A filter that’s not rated to remove microscopic particulates like mold spores and pollen will not protect against airborne allergens. In addition, a dirty, neglected filter may actually serve as a breeding ground to spread these contaminants throughout your living spaces. Buy quality, pleated air filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of at least 8 to capture microorganisms that trigger allergies. All summer long, change the filter every month.
Exhaust Kitchen and Bathrooms
Cooking with natural gas produces fumes that can exacerbate allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Meanwhile, water vapor produced by bathing fosters mold and mildew growth. Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms to reduce the allergen potential. Make sure fans vent all the way to the exterior of the house—not simply into the attic.
For more about ways to allergy-proof your home and improve indoor air quality, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing.