indoor air quality Category
Fall allergies aren’t only an outdoor issue. Airborne allergens, such as ragweed pollen that is dominant during autumn, are microscopic and easily infiltrate the indoor environment on air currents. Also, other pre-existing allergens inside the home like dust mites and airborne mold spores become more prominent simply because the house tends to be more closed up as weather cools down. Fortunately, there are meaningful steps you can take to limit the effect of these and other irritants that cause fall allergies.
Change the air filter. Your HVAC system air filter cleans the entire volume of air inside the house. Filter effectiveness is directly related to its MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating as well as how frequently the filter is replaced. Purchase quality pleated cotton or polyester filters with a MERV rating between 8 and 11 for protection against common airborne allergens such as pollen. During fall and winter, check the filter monthly and change immediately if it appears dirty. Otherwise, install a new filter every other month.
Control humidity. About 20 million Americans experience asthma-like allergic responses to microscopic dust mites. Actually distantly related to spiders, dust mites easily remain airborne in household currents of air. Dust mites thrive as indoor humidity rises above 50%. Using exhaust fans to ventilate bathroom and kitchen water vapor as well as installing a whole-house dehumidifier to mitigate excess humidity helps eradicate dust mites and reduce allergic symptoms.
Neutralize microorganisms. Microscopic airborne mold spores are toxic to many people. Inside the enclosed environment of a house, the high concentration of mold spores may trigger allergic responses ranging from common respiratory symptoms to chronic illness. Consider installing disinfecting ultraviolet (UV) light arrays inside your HVAC ductwork to neutralize airborne spores in household air. The germicidal effect of UV light disrupts the ability of spores to replicate. Also, since mold spores are inert until activated by exposure to moisture, keep indoor humidity in the EPA-recommended range of 35% to 60%.
For more ways to improve indoor air quality and reduce fall allergies, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
It probably comes as no surprise that there is dust invading your home. The amount, however, is remarkable: Studies have shown that a typical six-room American residence accumulates over 40 pounds of dust every year. Most airborne dust originates inside the house versus from outdoor sources. The diverse list includes carpet fibers, human skin flakes, spores from indoor mold growth, powder from drywall construction materials, fragments of dead insects, lint from bedding and pet hair and dander.
Some of the dust invading your home is an inevitable result of human occupation. However, it’s still feasible to reduce that 40-pound annual figure to a more manageable amount.
Don’t Spread It Around
Dust on surfaces can be removed with electrostatic microfiber cloths that retain dust. However, vacuuming carpets often stirs up large volumes of dust into the air instead of capturing it. To avoid re-distributing dust throughout the house, use a vacuum that incorporates a HEPA-grade filter and bags rated to retain dust particles as small as 5 microns.
Choose Quality Air Filters
The entire volume of air inside your home—including the dust floating in it—passes through the HVAC air filter multiple times each day. Cheap fiberglass filters don’t extract dust particles efficiently. Replace with quality pleated cotton or polyester filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) around 8. Change the air filter monthly during cooling season and every other month during heating season.
Maintain Your Ductwork
Leaky, deteriorating ductwork actually sucks in air from dusty parts of the structure such as the attic and crawl space, then circulates that dust into living spaces of the house. Have your ducts inspected and tested for leakage by a qualified HVAC contractor. Options for repair and sealing of ductwork help reduce dust circulation.
Rotate Bedding Weekly
Beds are a repository of shed skin flakes that contribute airborne dust every time you fluff the sheets. Wash pillowcases and sheets every week. Items that don’t require regular washing like blankets and bedspreads should be taken outside and shaken vigorously.
Balanced home ventilation means exhausting stale indoor air and inducting fresh outdoor air in equal volume, without impacting indoor temperatures. Usually, that won’t happen simply by opening windows. Standard exhaust fans can remove too much indoor air, depressurizing the house and drawing in unfiltered hot outdoor air in summer and cold air in winter. Balanced home ventilation utilizes a technology called a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to ensure that incoming and outgoing ventilation are equalized and temperature-controlled.
Here’s how balanced ventilation keeps your indoor air quality comfortable and healthy in all seasons:
- An HRV system incorporates dedicated small-diameter ductwork to supply and remove air from living spaces. Both sides of the system connect to a central controller that includes twin fans and a heat exchanger.
- Exhaust ducts take stale air from areas such as the kitchen, bathrooms and utility rooms and channels it through the central controller before exhausting it to the exterior of the house. Meanwhile, the intake stream inducts an exactly equal volume of fresh outdoor through the controller and distributes to bedrooms, living rooms and other common areas of the house.
- Inside the controller, the heat exchanger transfers heat from the warmer air stream to the cooler stream. In summer, heat energy is extracted from hot incoming outdoor air and added to the cooler exhaust stream as it leaves the house, reducing the cooling load on your air conditioner and lowering costs. In winter, the reverse occurs: heat produced by your furnace is removed from the exhaust stream and transferred to pre-warm incoming cold, fresh air from the outdoors. As much as 90 percent of the heat energy can be recovered to minimize furnace cycles and keep heating costs low.
- A variant known as an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) transfers heat just like an HRV but also extracts water vapor from the more moist air stream, transferring it to the drier stream. This reduces infiltration of excess outdoor humidity in summer and makes the indoor environment less dry in winter.
For more about the benefits of balanced home ventilation, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electric 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 Home Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing about effective use of air cleaners to promote comfort and indoor air quality.
The most important DIY task you can do for your cooling and heating system is regular air filter replacement. Nothing decreases system airflow like a dirty filter and insufficient airflow is the primary cause of poor cooling and heating performance, high operating costs and even premature component failure. So there’s no doubt that regular air filter replacement is well worth the effort. The question then becomes: how often is “regularly?”
Most experts recommend you at least visually inspect your filter once a month. If a glance at the filter media reveals that it’s dusty, damaged or damp, or you see any evidence of mold or mildew growth, go ahead and change it now. It’s inexpensive insurance. Filters purchased in multi-packs are economical; the whole procedure only takes a minute, and the minimal effort pays off with enhanced comfort, efficiency and better indoor air quality, too. Other factors, however, also tip the balance toward making monthly filter changes a regular habit, including:
- Your central A/C and furnace normally operate a total of at least six months out of the average year.
- Keeping furniture and other household surfaces dust-free seems like a losing battle.
- The household includes pets. Pet dander and pet hair are commonly airborne and end up circulating through the HVAC system ductwork and are captured by the filter.
- The home has many occupants. More people means more activity and stirred up dust and dirt that clogs the filter more rapidly.
- Anyone in the family is susceptible to airborne allergy triggers like dust, pollen or other particulates.
- Someone in the house smokes indoors.
- Your local climate is windy and outdoor air is often dusty.
- The home incorporates a working fireplace that is occasionally put to use.
- You live near a major traffic artery like a freeway or in a central urban area.
Contact the HVAC professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electric for more advice on when and how to do air filter replacement yourself.
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 Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
To most folks, the science behind air conditioning is pure magic. The process cools your house and that’s all you care about… until it stops working. However, a basic understanding of the process behind air conditioning will provide you with a better ability to troubleshoot problems. Evaporator and condenser coils are at the heart of this process.
Why Refrigerant Is So Important
First, it’s important to understand how refrigerant plays a role in air conditioning. It easily transitions between liquid and gas, and when it does, it either extracts heat from the air or releases heat into the air. Pressure aids the process.
How an Air Conditioner Works
In a split-system central air conditioner, liquid refrigerant, also called coolant, is pumped into the home. It flows through an evaporator coil, which is either located in a dedicated air handling unit or attached to the furnace plenum.
Before the coolant flows into the evaporator coil, an expansion valve reduces pressure on the refrigerant, causing it to evaporate into a gas. As this happens, the refrigerant extracts heat energy from the surrounding air. The removal of heat from the air cools it off, and that cooled air is blown away from the coil and circulated throughout the home via a blower fan and air ducts.
At this point, the A/C pumps the gaseous refrigerant back outside to the condenser/compressor unit, usually located on a concrete pad next to the house. The compressor squeezes the gas, turning it back into a liquid. As the gas returns to a liquid state , heat is released into the outside air, blown away by an exhaust fan.
All air conditioning systems — central, portable and package units — operate on the same principle. Electric, air-source heat pumps cool homes in this manner as well, using a reversing valve to switches the process from indoor cooling to heating. When this happens, the indoor evaporator coil operates as a condensing coil during heating, and the outdoor condenser coil becomes an evaporator coil.
For more information on how evaporator and condenser coils cool your greater Cincinnati home, please contact us at Apollo Home 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:
Home ventilation may not be at the top of your concerns as you design your new home or an extensive renovation, but it should be. Adequate ventilation freshens the indoor air quality and increases comfort and health.With today’s better building practices and airtight designs, there’s very little exchange of fresh air from outside with stale indoor air.