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Is Cleaning Your House Harming Your Health?

Most homeowners spend a considerable amount of time and money keeping their homes clean and fresh. While cleaning is a necessary part of maintaining a healthy home, the products you use could be doing more harm than good.

Many cleaning products contain harmful ingredients. These harmful ingredients can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can be even more dangerous, causing kidney and liver problems and even cancer.

Part of the problem with indoor air is how efficiently modern homes are built. Designed to reduce heating and cooling costs and increase energy efficiency, modern homes are usually well-insulated. Due to modern construction methods, most houses are air-tight, locking in indoor pollutants and giving them no way to escape. In some cases, the indoor air quality can actually be worse than air pollution levels outside the home.

What are VOCs?

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are emitted as gases from a number of household cleaning products. When inhaled, they can many short-term and long-term adverse effects on the body. Concentrations of VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. Sometimes as much as ten times higher.

VOCs, Cleaners and Air Quality

These common household products can increase VOC levels in your home.

Candles and Air Fresheners

Many homeowners use air fresheners and scented candles to help their home smell fresh, clean, and more inviting. Americans spend billions of dollars annually on these scented products.

While these products can make your home smell clean, they can do real damage to your home’s air quality. Most scented products contain VOCs and other chemicals that can have serious effects on your family’s health.

Instead of air fresheners or scented candles, choose all-natural products. Consider diffusing essential oils as a replacement of harsh air freshener sprays. There are also non-toxic candles made from natural soy or beeswax that won’t contribute to poor indoor air quality.

All-Purpose Cleaners and Detergent

Many standard household cleaners contain harsh chemicals like ammonia and potassium hydroxide. These chemicals can have nasty effects on your health, contributing to eye and skin irritation and breathing problems.

Detergents can also have high levels of VOCs, especially if they contain added fragrance. Always look for VOC-free alternatives when possible.

Bleach

Although a tough cleaner and disinfectant, bleach is a harsh chemical. Not only does bleach contain harmful VOCs, it also contains sodium hypochlorite. This chemical can cause serious respiratory and circulatory problems.

If you use bleach as a disinfectant, consider a more natural solution like white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

Aerosol Products

Any cleaner that comes in an aerosol can contribute to indoor air pollution. All aerosol products contain VOCs and other chemicals that help speed up the drying process and increase coverage area.

Paint

While a new coat of paint can make your home more attractive, paint, paint thinner, and oil-based stains all contain VOCs. The problem doesn’t end when the paint dries, either. Paint can continue to off gas VOCs for weeks or even months after application.

To reduce VOCs, always read labels. Choose a non-toxic option or a paint labeled as “low VOC.” When applying any paint or stain, be sure the area is properly ventilated.

Consult the Professionals

If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air, you can contact a local HVAC professional. These professionals offer a variety of products and services that can help improve  your home’s indoor air quality and keep your family breathing easy.

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Is A Heat Pump Right For You?

When it comes to heating your home, a forced air furnace isn’t your only option. A heat pump may actually be a better option, especially if you live in a moderate climate. First introduced in the 1940s, heat pumps are growing in popularity, and for good reason.

The Benefits of Using a Heat Pump

Quiet, safe, and efficient, heat pumps are an excellent choice for homes located in states with a more moderate climate. Here are just a few reasons to consider a heat pump to keep you cozy and comfortable all winter long.

  • Energy Efficiency. Running on good old fashioned electricity, the average heat pump is significantly more energy efficient than the average gas powered furnace.
  • Save Money on Your Annual Heating Bill. Electric rates tend to be less expensive than natural gas, at least in most areas of the United States. This means that operating a heat pump system will cost less on average than a gas fired furnace.
  • Cheaper Installation Costs. Because a forced air furnace requires an extensive ventilation system, installation can be expensive, especially in a home that isn’t already equipped with one. Installation of a heat pump system will usually cost less than the installation of a furnace in most situations.
  • Quiet Operation. In general, heat pumps do not make as much noise as a furnace. This will cause less disturbance in your daily home life, allowing you to easily enjoy activities like watching television and sleeping without being interfered by a loud heating system.
  • Safer Operation. Since heat pump systems don’t burn fuel to generate heat, there is no risk of dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, since there is no burning fuel, operating a heat pump reduces the risk of fire.
  • Heating and Cooling in One Option. A heat pump can also cool your home in the summer. By simply working in reverse, a heat pump pulls hot air from inside the house and transports in outside. This allows you to heat and cool your home using a single unit

How Heat Pumps Work

Heat pumps don’t actually generate heat. Instead, they work as a sort of heat transporter, constantly moving warm air from one place to another. Heat energy is present in all air, even air that feels cold. When the temperatures outside are frigid, a heat pump extracts even small amounts of heat and transfers it to the interior spaces of your home. When The outdoor temperatures rise, your heat pump reverses direction. Acting like an air conditioner, the heat pump transports the heat in the inside air and transports it outside.

Where Heat Pumps Work Best

There are several factors to consider when choosing between a forced air furnace and a heat pump. However, the most important factor is climate. In areas that typically experience mild winters, a heat pump will be significantly more energy efficient than a furnace.  

In areas that experience harsher winters, a heat pump could struggle to keep up. Many systems include an auxiliary heat source that kicks in when outdoor temperatures plummet. However, if temperatures remain low for extended periods, a heat pump will be far less efficient and effective than a traditional forced air furnace. Basically, the farther north you live, the more likely it is a furnace will do a better job of keeping your home warm and comfortable.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps can be more effective in colder climates. A geothermal heat pump draws heat from the relatively stable below-ground temperatures using a circuit of buried pipes. The major drawback to geothermal heating is the installation cost. The initial investment is expensive enough to deter most homeowners. Also, there are some locations where installation is impossible due to ground composition.

Discuss Your Options With a Professional

If you’re not sure which system is right for you, contact a qualified HVAC technician to discuss your options. An experienced professional can offer important insight into which system will work best in your climate and for your home. He or she can also help you better understand up-front investment and long-term operating costs.

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Everything You Need to Know About Carbon Monoxide

CO detectorCarbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Often called the “silent killer,” if inhaled, especially in large quantities, carbon monoxide can cause serious illness and even death.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2010 and 2015 more carbon monoxide poisoning caused more than 2200 deaths in the United States. The largest percentage of these tragic deaths occurred during the cold winter months of December, January, and February.

Common Carbon Monoxide Sources

Carbon monoxide is natural byproduct of any burning material. If you use fuel-burning appliances or have an attached garage, your home is more susceptible to increase levels of CO. Common sources of carbon monoxide in your home include:

Wood stoves and fireplaces

  • Water heaters
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Space heaters
  • Power tools
  • Lawn equipment
  • Generators
  • Grills
  • Automobiles

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble flu symptoms. Prolonged exposure can cause the initial symptoms to worsen, leading to confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.

  • Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

    Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting
  • Sleepiness

People who are sleeping or intoxicated are often at a higher risk of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning because they may be unaware of developing symptoms. Irreversible brain damage and death can easily occur before rising CO levels are discovered.

Seek Medical Help

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning can be subtle and often easy to miss. Since carbon monoxide poisoning is a potentially life-threatening situation, if you suspect you are someone else may be at risk, get fresh air immediately and contact emergency medical personnel.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Fortunately, death from carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. A few simple steps like regular inspections of heating equipment and chimneys, as well as using a carbon monoxide detector will help lower the risks of CO exposure for you and your family.

Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors.

Carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in many states. However, even if they are not mandatory in your state, having them installed could save your life. Place one within 10 feet of rooms used for sleeping. Special CO detectors are also available for boats and motor homes.

Be sure to check the batteries in CO detectors regularly. Most manufacturers recommend replacing batteries twice each year to ensure your detectors are always working properly.

If the alarm on your CO detector goes off, leave the house immediately and call your local fire department. Put one in the hallway near each sleeping area in your house.

Never Start Your Car with the Garage Door Closed

It is dangerous to leave your vehicle running in a closed garage. CO is a natural byproduct of burning gasoline and is emitted through your car’s exhaust system. CO levels can rise rapidly in an unventilated area like a closed garage. Always open the garage door before starting your car.

Follow Safety Guidelines When Using Fuel-Powered Appliances

To ensure your family’s safety, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using any fuel-powered appliances. Keep all fuel-burning appliances well vented for safety.

Some other safety precautions to follow include:

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your living spaces.
  • Always use portable gas camp stoves outside.
  • Never use fuel-burning space heaters when sleeping.
  • Never use a generator in an enclosed space like a basement or garage.

Schedule Regular Maintenance for Your Heating System

Whether you use a fireplace, woodstove, or modern HVAC system to heat your home, regular maintenance is important for efficiency and safety.

If you use a fireplace or stove to heat your home, be sure to clean your fireplace chimney and flue before the first use of the season.

Your local HVAC professional can provide annual inspections of your HVAC system. Regularly scheduled inspection and maintenance are essential for proper and safe function. Also, a qualified technician can answer any questions you may have about the safety of your heating system or appliances.

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Understanding Space Heater Safety

space heaterAs the days become shorter the outdoor temperatures begin to drop. With the cooler weather, many homeowners will be pulling out their space heaters for extra warmth and added comfort.

Using space heaters, whether electric or fuel-burning has some increased risk. However, if you follow a few simple safety rules, space heaters can safely and effectively compliment your whole home heating system.

Are Space Heaters Safe?

All space heaters are required to meet minimum consumer safety standards. When used properly, space heaters are safe to use.

However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), based on 2011-2015 annual averages, space heaters “accounted for just over two of every five (43%) of home heating fires and four out of five (85%) of home heating fire deaths.”

While space heaters are technically safe to use, safety issues arise when they are not used properly. The primary causes of space heater fires are:

Operating a space heater near flammable items.
Leaving space heaters running unattended.
Operating a fuel-burning space heater with an unclean chimney.

Electric Space Heater Safety

The most common types of space heaters use electricity to warm the surrounding area. Here are some basic safety rules for operating an electric space heater.

Always read the owner’s manual thoroughly before operating an electric space heater.

Follow all operating instructions in the owner’s manual.

Leave at least three feet in all directions. Keep this space free of all flammable material, including toys, blankets, curtains, clothing, paper, etc.

Never leave your space heater on while unattended. A responsible and aware adult should always be present when your space heater is in use.

Use your electric space heater only on a level surface.

Keep children away from your space heater when it is in use. To prevent burns as well as fires, keep children a safe distance away. Consider child safety gates or other equipment to ensure small children do not accidentally touch or knock over your space heater.

Consider purchasing a space heater with added safety features. Many models feature an automatic shut-off system which employs when the unit tips over.

Fuel-Burning Space Heater Safety

A fuel-burning space heater is one that uses burnable fuel like wood pellets, kerosene, propane, or natural gas to heat the surrounding area. Fuel-burning space heaters are very efficient, but can present their own set of risks. With a few simple safety tips and
Precautions, however, a fuel-burning space heater can be a safe and comfortable way to complement your whole-house heating system.

Always use the appropriate fuel in your space heater. Check with the manufacturer or the unit’s user manual if you are uncertain.

Always remember to turn your space heater off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

Maintain a three-foot perimeter around your fuel-burning space heater. Keep all flammable materials outside of this area.

To prevent burns and accidental fires, keep children at least three feet away from your space heater.

Make sure the area has sufficient ventilation. Fuel-burning space heaters emit dangerous carbon monoxide, which can have hazardous effects on your family and pets. Use the space heater with an open window or running ventilation fan.

Refuel your fuel-burning space heater outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Make sure your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Change batteries at least once each year.

If your space heater features a pilot light, use caution when lighting it. If the pilot light goes out, do not try to relight it for at least five minutes. This will give enough time for any lingering gas or fumes to safely dissipate before you attempt to relight it.

Consider purchasing a fuel-burning space heater that offers enhanced safety features. Many newer models feature special shutoff mechanisms which engage when ambient oxygen levels are low.

If your unit requires a chimney, have your chimney cleaned before use.

Consider Upgrading your Whole-House Heating System

Many homeowners turn to space heaters to correct bigger comfort issues. If your central heating system is not adequately heating your home, it may be time to upgrade your system. Contact your local HVAC professionals to help you determine the proper size and model to meet your needs. A qualified technician can perform load calculations to determine proper sizing for heating systems and help you decide if upgrading the central heating system is the proper solution.

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HVAC Maintenance Tips for Fall

Fall is in full swing and that means cold weather is right around the corner. On cold winter nights, there are few things you’ll appreciate more than your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system. However, if it isn’t running properly, your HVAC system can be a source of misery rather than comfort. Heating your home is the typically the largest energy expense for homeowners. That is why it is so important to keep your HVAC system running properly.

Fall is the Best Time for Regular HVAC Maintenance

Now is the perfect time to prepare for frigid weather ahead. Complete these fall maintenance tips to keep your HVAC system operating efficiently this winter. Not only will these tips save you money, they will also ensure you spend this winter in warm, cozy comfort.

Change Your Air Filters

Changing your air filters is the most important thing you can do to keep your HVAC system running properly. Thankfully, it is also the easiest thing you can do.

However, don’t wait until fall to change your filters. Some experts recommend replacing your filters monthly, while others suggest every three months. There are several factors that affect how often your filters need to be changed, such as whether you have pets.

Filters should be checked every month and replaced if they are dirty. To help you remember this important chore, you should choose and schedule a regular day each month to inspect your filters. One recommendation is to check your filters on the same day you pay your mortgage or rent.

Clean Your Vents

It is also a good idea to keep your vents clean. This will allow your HVAC system to circulate air properly and help keep your house clean as well.

In most cases, you can simply use your vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust that accumulates in your vents. However, if you vents are particularly dirty or clogged, you may need to call in the professionals.

Schedule Maintenance with a Professional Technician

Your HVAC system should be serviced annually to keep it working effectively and efficiently. Scheduling regular preventive maintenance for your HVAC system can improve its lifetime up to 48 percent.

Fall is the perfect time to schedule a regular maintenance visit with a service technician. He or she will inspect your system and prepare it to meet the demands of winter heating.

Here are some of the things you can expect a technician to do during a regular maintenance visit:

  1. Check and replace your furnace filter
  2. Inspect the exterior of your system for signs of wear
  3. Inspect and clean your system’s interior components
  4. Measure the power consumed by the system’s electrical components to check for unnecessary power usage
  5. Calibrate your home’s thermostat
  6. test for carbon monoxide leaks
  7. If you have a boiler, the controls, safeties, pump, and low water cutoff will be checked.

Is It Time to Replace Your HVAC?

A new HVAC system is an expensive investment. However, if your system is more than 10 years old, replacing it may actually save you money, at least in the long run.

If your system has some age, it may be running inefficiently, and an inefficient system wastes energy and money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing an old HVAC system with a newer model could reduce your home’s annual energy bill by as much as 40 percent. If you think it might be time to consider replacing your old system, call your local HVAC experts for advice and a price analysis.

Following these fall maintenance tips has numerous benefits for your HVAC system. Regular maintenance will keep you comfortable, improve your system’s efficiency, and save you money on your heating bills this winter.

If you have any questions or need to schedule a maintenance appointment, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

 

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Back-to-School Savings on Heating and Cooling

back to schoolThe start of the school year brings extra expenses for most households. The cost of school supplies, new shoes, and school uniforms quickly adds up, adding strain to the family budget. It is no wonder the back-to-school season leaves many parents looking for new ways to save money.

Thankfully, there is one easy way you can save money on school-year heating and cooling costs, and it won’t even make you uncomfortable. What is this simple money-saving tip? Simply adjust the setting of your thermostat.

How to Adjust Your Thermostat to Save Money on Your Utility Bill

With the kids heading back to school, your home is probably empty for long periods during the day. If you do not adjust your thermostat, you are paying to heat and cool an empty home. However, adjusting your thermostat up or down depending on the season, will bring significant savings. In fact, this small adjustment saves the average American family up to $180 dollars per year.

When Using Your Air Conditioner

When school first starts, the outdoor temperatures are still relatively warm. Because of these high temperatures, most families are still running their air conditioner. However, there is no need to maintain an indoor temperature of 72 degrees when there is no one home to enjoy the comfort. Keeping your thermostat set at a peak comfort temperature is like flushing money down the toilet.

Instead, raise your thermostat setting a few degrees before you leave for the school drop-off line. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests increasing your setting by seven degrees. According to the Energy.gov website, “the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.”

By making this small adjustment, your AC system will run less, saving energy and money. You won’t even feel uncomfortable. Just remember to adjust your thermostat when you get home in the evening.

When You Need to Heat Your Home.

With Fall almost here, we won’t be needing our air conditioners much longer. For the majority of the school year, our homes need to be heated to maintain a comfortable temperature.

You can still save money on your heating bills with this same trick. However, when heating your home, the EPA suggests LOWERING the thermostat setting. An adjustment of 8 degrees should be enough to see significant energy savings.

Adjustable Thermostats Offer Convenience and Savings

Having to manually adjust our thermostat every day before you leave for work/school is difficult to remember. This is especially true on hectic mornings. There is already so much to remember, packing lunches,checking homework, signing permission slips.

Thankfully, there is an easier way.

With a programmable thermostat, you don’t have to remember to make daily adjustments. Programmable thermostats automatically adjust to your desired home temperature, and you can program them based on your family’s unique daily schedule. So, every morning there is one less thing to remember. Your programmable thermostat will remember for you.

A programmable thermostat will also increase the comfort level of your home. Instead of waiting to adjust the thermostat back to a comfortable setting once you get home, your programmable thermostat will make sure you home is comfortable when you arrive. By programming your thermostat to begin heating or cooling a half hour before you expect to arrive, your home will already be at your favorite temperature when you walk through the door.

Other Money-Saving Ideas

Adjusting the setting of your thermostat isn’t the only way to save money on heating and cooling bills this school year. Here are some other simple ways you can cut your utility costs while the kids are in school.

Open Your Windows

As fall temperatures become more mild, consider opening your windows, especially at night. This will help you take advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures and give your air conditioner a much needed break.

If nighttime temperatures are still too warm, or having windows open makes you or your family feel less secure, simply raise the temperature setting a few degrees. You’ll be asleep, after all, and probably won’t even feel the difference.

Close Blinds and Curtains

Covering your windows with quality blinds or curtains offers an extra layer of insulation between your home’s interior and extreme outdoor temperatures. This means your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard to maintain indoor temperatures.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

If you want to save money, you need to make sure your heating and cooling system is running efficiently. Make sure you change your filters regularly. Also, be sure to schedule annual maintenance with your local HVAC professional. During an annual tune-up, a qualified technician will make sure all system components are clean and functioning properly.

If you have questions about programmable thermostats or need to schedule an appointment for regular system maintenance, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

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How to Interpret Energy Efficiency Ratings

AFUEKeeping your home at a comfortable temperature can be expensive. For the average homeowner, heating and cooling costs can total well more than half their monthly utility bills. Finding a system that keeps you and your family comfortable, yet operates efficiently is important for keeping expensive utility bills manageable.

If you are considering upgrading your current heating and cooling system, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the acronyms and numbers. These jumble of letters and numbers represent a system’s energy efficiency ratings.

A little understanding goes a long way in helping you make the most informed decision possible. Purchasing a new HVAC system, air conditioner, or furnace is a huge investment, and it will have a huge impact on your family’s day-to-day comfort.

Understanding the Different Energy Efficiency Ratings

Shopping for a new air conditioner or heat pump can be confusing. Every brand claims to be better than the competition. It is important to understand the different ratings so you can effectively compare your options and choose the best system to meet your needs.

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration, is the measure of energy efficiency of cooling equipment. This figure is determined by dividing the cooling output of the system (measured in BTU or British Thermal Units) by the system’s electricity usage (measured in kilowatt-hours). Basically. SEER specifies how much electricity is needed to run the air conditioner compared to the cooling capacity.

A higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency. When comparing systems, even a small increase in SEER can greatly reduce your energy consumption, saving a significant amount on your annual utility bills.

The US Department of Energy sets SEER requirements. For northern states with cooler climates, air conditioners must have a  minimum SEER of 13. If you live in a state that has a typically hot summer, you will need a system with a SEER of at least 14.

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio

Similar to SEER, EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is measured over higher temperatures and over an extended period. Usually, both SEER and EER ratings will be displayed on a cooling system. These numbers will help you understand exactly what to expect when it comes to performance and energy consumption.

HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

Like SEER measures cooling efficiency, HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures heating efficiency. This number is calculated in a similar manner to SEER, by dividing the total heating needed by the total electricity used by the system. A higher HSPF indicates better heating efficiency.

AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This number indicates the percentage of heat created for every energy dollar consumed. When fuel is converted to heat, a percentage of energy is always lost in the conversion. This number basically measures the efficiency fuel is transformed into heat.

For example, an AFUE of 80 means 80 percent of the fuel consumed is emitted as heat into the home. The remaining 20 percent to heat the home, while 20% is misplaced through venting or consumed in some other way. A higher AFUE signifies greater energy efficiency.

Energy Star

Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star is the government-supported symbol for energy efficiency. Products with the Energy Star label have met strict standards of energy efficiency. These products have been tested in a controlled laboratory environment by a neutral third party.

If you have questions about the energy efficiency ratings of your current heating and cooling system, contact your local HVAC professionals for help. If you are considering upgrading your current system, they can also help you determine which products are best suited for your home and your family’s specific needs.

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Choosing Between a Window or Whole House Air Conditioner

licensed havac technicianHaving a some system to keep your home cool feels like an absolute necessity, especially during the hottest time of the year. An air conditioner is the logical solution for keeping your family comfortable and creating a cool refuge from the blistering outdoor temperatures.

Air conditioning didn’t become common until the 1970s. Many older homes were designed for passive cooling, integrating construction features to help keep temperatures bearable naturally. Because central air conditioning is a more recent advancement, many older homes do not have one.

If you want to add air conditioning to an older home, you have two options.

Window Unit Air Conditioner

The easiest, cheapest, and fastest option for cooling your home is a basic window unit. Purchase and installation usually costs at most a few hundred dollars.

A window air conditioner is usually a temporary solution. Since they are not installed permanently, the initial upfront cost is relatively low. However, this is not a whole-home cooling solution. Window units cool only small indoor areas effectively, usually just one or two rooms. For this reason, if you want to keep your entire home cool, you will need several window units to do the job.

Drawbacks to Window Air Conditioners

  1. Window units tend to make excessive operating noise. Because the operating components rest in a window, the equipment’s running noise is more likely to interfere with normal activities like watching television, listening to music, or having conversations.
  2. Window units are temporary and relatively easy to remove from your home’s windows. This also makes your home more susceptible to break ins. A burglar can simply remove the unit from the outside of your home and gain entry through the empty window.
  3. Window units are unattractive. Many people consider the external equipment an eyesore. Many homeowners associations restrict use of AC window units for this reason.
  4. Since window ACs cool only small areas, you may need to run several to maintain a comfortable temperature in all areas of your home. For this reason cooling your home could generate higher utility bills than running a whole house air conditioner.

When to Use a Window Unit

Even though a window AC is often inefficient, noisy, and unsightly, there are still certain situations where they are the best choice.

Window units are best suited for apartments and rental units. If you are renting your home, investing in a central cooling unit is probably not something you are willing to do. However, if you want to stay cool, a window unit is a fast and affordable way to do it. And if you need to move, you can easily take your portable window unit with you.

Many older homes may not have existing ductwork to support home cooling. There may also be design or space constraints that prohibit ductwork from being properly installed. FOr those older homes, window units are a more practical cooling solution.

A window unit is also more practical if you live in a climate with mild or short summers, where cooling is only necessary for short periods during the year.

Whole Home Air Conditioner

A whole home air conditioner is the permanent solution for home cooling. A whole home system provides cooling for every living area, where a window unit only cools a small area.

Installing a whole home air conditioner requires an investment of several thousand dollars. It may also require additional work to facilitate the unit. For example, ductwork installation may be necessary for your unit to properly function. This will add additional cost to your project.  

Installing a whole home cooling system is not a do-it-yourself weekend project. You will need the help of a qualified technician for your safety, to meet local codes, and ensure your unit functions properly.

However, a whole home air conditioner is generally the best cooling solution for most homes. In the long run, a whole home system will use less energy and more effectively and efficiently cool your entire house. They maintain even temperatures throughout your living spaces for optimum comfort.

A whole home air conditioner also offers better air filtration than a standard window AC, as well as help optimize indoor humidity. The result is increased comfort, a reduction in allergens many health issues.

To learn more about window and whole home air conditioner installation, contact your local HVAC experts.

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Keep an Open Door Policy for Energy Efficiency

open doorKeeping your home comfortably cool during the hot summer months can be expensive, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Opening your late summer utility bills can feel about as scary as stepping into a horror movie. Because summer cooling bills can be so frightening, homeowners often share their own theories about how to minimize the financial damage.

Unfortunately, not all accepted theories for cutting costs actually work. One common strategy for saving money on air conditioning, is to shut the doors to the rooms you aren’t using. The idea is that you won’t have to pay to cool unused spaces.

This prevalent strategy, although well-intentioned, will actually end up costing you more money. And it could also contribute to other indoor air problems.

Why You Need to Keep the Doors Open

Modern air conditioning systems are designed to function as a carefully balanced whole. When you close interior doors, you are essentially shutting off part of the system. This doesn’t strengthen the other parts of the system. Instead, it causes the whole system to work harder to keep your home cool.

Shutting doors to unused rooms forces your air conditioner to compensate for the air imbalances. Because closed doors cause your system to run less efficiently, you could actually be causing unnecessary wear-and-tear on your unit.

The Effects of Closed Doors on Your AC

Shutting the doors to unused rooms could actually be one of the worst things you can do. Closing the door to a room does not stop your air conditioner from blowing air into that room. As the air blows from your open vents, it can build up inside the room and affect the air pressure.

Most air conditioning systems incorporate supply vents in every interior room. However, many homes are designed with a single central intake. Closing interior doors blocks the intended air flow, creating an imbalance, reducing the air volume returning to the air conditioner.

As your system continues to intake air to cool the entire house, the pressurized air behind your closed doors is naturally looking for a way out. Often, the easiest escape route is through cracks in walls and gaps around windows. The result is often a negative pressure in the part of the home left open, causing outdoor air to push in through any small space or crack it can find.

Maintaining Air Flow and Personal Privacy

Reducing utility bills isn’t the only motive behind closing doors. For some family members, shutting doors is a matter of privacy. This can be especially true for households with teenagers and extended family members.

If there are rooms that must be closed regularly for issues of privacy, there are measures that can be taken to ensure cooling efficiency. One option is to have airflow grates installed in each interior door. This allows air to flow freely even when the doors are closed.

 

Contact your local HVAC professionals if you have questions or concerns about maintaining proper air circulations while preserving privacy.

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6 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

air qualityWhen we think about air pollution, we usually think about being outside, maybe in some large city. However, According to the Consumer Product Safety Commision, there is a growing body of scientific data indicating that the air inside our homes may be more seriously polluted than the air outdoors, even in the largest and most industrialized cities. Other studies also show the average person spends about 90 percent of their time inside.

Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Exposure to indoor air pollutants can have many adverse health effects. Some of these health effects can be caused by a single exposure to a pollutant. Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are a few immediate effects of pollutant exposure.

These immediate effects are generally only short-term and are easily treatable.  However, long-term exposure could lead to several serious conditions, including some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer. These conditions could be debilitating or even fatal. That is why it is important to take measures to improve indoor air quality even if you and your family do not show any immediate adverse reactions.

6 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Here are few easy steps you can take to immediately improve the quality of the air inside your home. Implement some or all these and you’ll be well on your way to breathing ea

Add Houseplants to Your Living Space

Plants are nature’s natural air purifiers. They help remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with fresh oxygen, improving the quality of the air for the people who live inside your home. They also help  remove many toxins and other pollutant from the air, working like a filter to clean your air. As a bonus, plants are also an attractive, visually appealing addition to your living spaces.

Consider adding some of the following plants to your home for cleaner air:

  • Aloe
  • English ivy
  • Peace lilies
  • Snake Plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
  • Red-edged Dracaena
  • Cornstalk Dracaena
  • Barberton Daisy
  • Janet Craig
  • Aloe Vera
  • Weeping Fig
  • Broadleaf Lady Palm
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Boston Fern

Keep the Floor Clean

Dirt and particles that collect on your floors and carpets will eventually end up in the air. Regular sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming will help reduce the amount of dirt on your floor and prevent them from becoming airborne.

Another way to help keep your floors, and therefore your air, clean is to remove your shoes. By immediately taking your shoes off when you enter your home, you will limit the amount of outside dirt and debris that enters your living spaces.

Let In Outside Air

When the outdoor temperatures are mild, open your windows, even if only a crack. This is particularly important if your home is relatively new. Newer homes are constructed to be more air tight and most do not breathe well. When your HVAC system is running, it is just recirculating the same air over and over.

New homes may still have construction materials that are off gassing. Fresh paint, new carpet, laminate flooring, and chemically treated wood all emit toxic particles into the air you are breathing. By opening a window, you can help ventilate your home and reduce the amount of chemicals that become airborne inside your home.

Change Your Air Filters

Air filters are your home’s first line of defense against potentially harmful airborne particles. A typical HVAC system circulates about 1,000 cubic feet of air every minute. As the air circulates through your system, it must pass through your air filters. Those air filters work to remove dust and other potentially dangerous particles from the air inside your home.

During the months your HVAC system is working hardest, you need to change your filters at least once a month. This will help keep dirt and debris from clogging up the filtration  material.

When air filters are clogged, the system handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of airflow. A clogged filter not only drives up your utility bills, it can also contribute to chronic allergies and negatively impact your overall health.

Use a Dehumidifier to Control Humidity Levels

Humidity levels can rise dramatically due to simple everyday activities like cooking, showering, and even simply breathing. High indoor humidity levels create a breeding ground for many forms of dangerous mold and mildew.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests a humidity level between 30 and 60 percent for indoor living areas. If the humidity in your home is consistently above the recommended level it can cause mold to proliferate, releasing millions of spores into the air. These spores can trigger respiratory problems in many individuals.

You can have a whole house dehumidifier installed inside your duct work to help maintain optimal levels. These dehumidifiers are controlled by wall mounted humidistats. These humidistats work to control the humidity level in your home much the same way a thermostat works to control temperature. As your HVAC system circulates the air in your home, it passes through your duct work and the installed dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air before it is circulated back into your living space.

Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

You should have your HVAC system checked regularly by a qualified HVAC technician. He or she will make sure your system is working properly. During this regular tune up, he or she will clean your system components.

If you have concerns about your indoor air quality, these trained professionals can help you identify problem areas and suggest potential solutions.

I you have questions about indoor air quality or need to schedule regular system maintenance, contact your local HVAC professional.

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