Indoor Air Quality Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
Duct maintenance is critical to maintaining healthy indoor air quality. When the need for it is established, professional duct cleaning may be required, also. In most homes, the HVAC ductwork conveys over 1,000 cubic feet of air per minute to all parts of the house. Whatever’s in your ductwork gets in your breathing air—and vice versa. Because the majority of residential ductwork is routed through areas inaccessible to the average homeowner, in most cases, only an HVAC professional can properly inspect, evaluate and clean your ductwork.
Here’s what you can do yourself to care for your ductwork:
- Purchase quality pleated HVAC system air filters and change the filter monthly.
- Vacuum air vents in individual rooms. Remove the grille and vacuum out dust accumulation as far as you can reach inside the duct.
- Don’t close supply or return vents in individual rooms. This doesn’t save energy, it disrupts system air balance and may cause duct leakage.
- Get roof leaks repaired promptly. Water infiltrating ductwork commonly installed in the attic causes deterioration and mold growth.
Under the following circumstances, consider an evaluation and duct cleaning by a qualified professional:
- If toxic mold growth inside the ducts is verified by sampling and testing.
- If the ducts have been infiltrated by water or exposed to chronically high indoor humidity.
- If your home has recently been renovated, remodeled or undergone abatement procedures such as lead paint or asbestos removal.
- If there is evidence of infestation by rodents, insects, birds or other creatures inside the ducts.
- If you see dust or dirt emitted from air vents when the system blower turns on.
- If occupants of the home are reporting allergy-like physical symptoms or illness. These should first be examined and diagnosed by a physician, then steps taken to rule out other possible causes.
To avoid scams, choose a duct cleaning service offered by an HVAC contractor with an established track record in your community and certified by NADCA, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
Contact the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more information about an evaluation and duct cleaning procedure for your home.
If cooling costs are straining your budget, have ceiling fans installed in your home. Not only will you see savings, you will experience greater comfort no matter how hot things get outside. Follow these ceiling fan tips for the most success.
How Ceiling Fans Save Money
Using ceiling fans improves air conditioning efficiency in your home by allowing you to turn up the thermostat, thus reducing the workload on your A/C. You feel cooler when fans are on because the breeze helps sweat evaporate, removing heat from your skin surface.
Ceiling fans use less electricity than an air conditioner, which saves energy. Just remember that ceiling fans only cool you when you are present in the room. Turn them off when you leave to avoid wasting energy.
Ceiling Fan Blades
Blades should be set to spin either clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on the fan model, to provide the wind chill effect in hot weather. During our ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati homes, our technicians can show you how to set blade direction and how to reverse it when cold weather arrives. In winter, reversing the blade direction and keeping the fan on the lowest setting pushes heated air downward, keeping you warmer.
Ceiling fans create a breeze throughout the room because of the slight angle of the blades, which stir the air by pushing it. Make sure you choose fans with blades that are at a 14-degree angle or more.
Fan size also makes a difference and large living areas call for either a large-sized fan, about 54 inches, or two smaller ones to create a sufficient breeze. If you purchase an undersized fan, what can happen is you’ll need to run it on the highest speed most of the time to notice any benefit, which uses more energy than necessary.
Expert installation ensures that the ceiling fan is securely mounted, safely wired, the blades are balanced and that the fan runs at optimal efficiency. For professional ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati, contact us at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Modern homes are much more airtight than they used to be. This is a result of the increased attention given to energy efficiency in home-building. Ideally, a tighter home envelope should be accompanied by effective ventilation that exchanges inside and outside air several times a day. Unfortunately, many homes lack proper ventilation, and they may even harbor many sources of indoor pollution.
If your home’s air feels stuffy, carries unpleasant odors, or allergic reactions seem to increase when family and guests spend significant time indoors, you should consider taking more aggressive steps to improve indoor air quality. These can include improved ventilation, better pollution source control, effective HVAC air filtration, and mechanical air-cleaning or purification. Listed below are a few more ways to improve indoor air quality.
Make sure areas of the house with high humidity, such as bathrooms and the kitchen, have exhaust fans that remove dirty air from the house (rather than rerouting it back inside). Consider mechanical ventilation, such as Energy or Heat Recovery Ventilators (ERV/HRVs).
When possible, reduce the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) within the home. Close windows during allergy season, and use house plants to naturally filter indoor air. Make sure all combustion appliances are properly vented to the outside.
Effective HVAC Filtration
Choose furnace and A/C filters that are rated to remove the greatest variety of particulates from indoor air, including pollen, mold spores, dust mites, clothing and carpet fibers, pet dander, etc. However, take care not to use filters that are so good at filtration that they impeded airflow.
Air Cleaning or Purification
A variety of products that purport to clean indoor air are available on the market, though some work much better than others, and those that produce ozone may actually worsen indoor air quality. Some air-cleaning systems attach directly to central HVAC equipment, while others are stand-alone systems. The best of these air cleaners use a variety of strategies to clean indoor air, including high-efficiency (HEPA) filtration, ionizing purification and ultraviolet light radiation.
For more advice on improving indoor air quality in your Cincinnati area home, please contact us at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Many homeowners think of allergies as an outdoor issue and forget to consider the common allergy triggers that can exist indoors. There are a number of allergens that are common in Cincinnati area homes, affecting indoor air quality and causing unpleasant symptoms for family members who suffer from allergies.
Believe it or not, the simple air filter in your forced-air heating or cooling system can play a major role in how well your equipment operates. Changing the air filter on a regular basis is essential since it ensures smooth airflow and energy-efficient operation, and may extend your HVAC equipment’s service life and improve indoor air quality. Let’s look at each inter-related benefit of changing the air filter: