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.
New home owners and those renovating an existing home in Ohio are required to install carbon monoxide detectors if the house has an attached garage or any appliance that uses natural gas such as a stove or gas furnace. Deadly carbon monoxide gas (CO) is a colorless and odorless by-product of combustion of fuels like gasoline, natural gas or even wood in a fireplace. It kills about 500 Americans annually and over 10,000 people exposed to it require emergency room treatment. Many victims of CO gas are never aware of the threat as early symptoms of exposure can be mistaken for common illnesses such as the flu.
Today’s carbon monoxide detectors are sensitive, reliable units that detect increasing levels of CO gas in the home and alert occupants with a loud audible alarm. Most units are designed to warn people before CO levels become concentrated enough to cause noticeable symptoms. Here are some criteria for adding this critical safety factor to your home.
- Dual power source. For maximum safety, choose a plug-in detector that runs off of AC power and also incorporates a 9-volt backup battery to provide protection in the event of brief power outages.
- Sensor type. CO detectors that utilize an electrochemical sensor are considered state of the art today. They are more reliable and accurate than the metal oxide semiconductor sensor included in older, less expensive units.
- UL certified accuracy. Most CO detectors come with a specification that expresses the unit’s accuracy in parts-per-million of detected carbon monoxide. If the carbon monoxide detector is certified by Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), the unit’s accuracy has also been tested and verified by UL.
- End of life alert. Carbon monoxide detectors have a finite service life of 5 to 7 years. After that point, the unit is no longer reliable and must be replaced. Look for a detector that emits an audio alert when the time to replace the unit is approaching.
Don’t take chances with your family’s health and safety. Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing for more advice about installing carbon monoxide detectors.
Ceiling fans help your air conditioner do what it’s designed to do: make the house more comfortable in summer. However, they do it at less cost than an A/C. Air in motion is one of the secrets to indoor comfort. The slowly rotating blades of a ceiling fan move a large volume of air with very low electrical consumption. Compared to a typical 2.5 ton residential central air conditioner that consumes about 3,500 watts, a 48-inch ceiling fan running on “High” uses less than 75 watts. Here’s how a ceiling fan helps your A/C do its job better and saves money on monthly bills.
The sensation of moving air makes people feel cooler, even when the actual room temperature stays the same. It’s a small-scale version of the familiar wind chill effect that makes a blustery winter day feel colder than a calm day. The gentle flow of air from a ceiling fan allows you to raise the air conditioner thermostat a few degrees without sacrificing cool comfort. For every degree you can bump the A/C thermostat up in summer, you can save about 3% on cooling costs. In most cases, used in conjunction with the air conditioner the cooling effect created by a ceiling fan adequately compensates for a four-degree increase in thermostat setting. Here’s how to make sure you get the comfort and savings of a ceiling fan.
- For summer operation, the ceiling fan’s directional switch should be set in the counter-clockwise direction. When standing directly beneath the fan, you should be able to feel a gentle downward breeze.
- A ceiling fan only helps enhance the perception of coolness for people and pets in a room. Therefore, leaving a ceiling fan running in a room that isn’t occupied is a waste of energy and money. Turn ceiling fans off when everyone leaves the room.
For more about the comfort and economy of utilizing ceiling fans in your home this summer, contact Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
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 Home 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 Home 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 Home 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 Home 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 Home Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing.