Archives for Air Quality Management

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Using Your HVAC Unit to Fight Colds and Flu

flu seasonCold and flu season begins as the days begin to shorten and the temperatures begin to drop. While cold and flu activity peak in the coldest months between December and March, seasonal flu activity starts as early as mid October.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, it isn’t a sure fire way to prevent getting sick this flu season. Luckily, you have another ally during cold and flu season: your central air system.

By making just a few adjustments, you can protect yourself from viruses and other germs, and create an environment that is warmer, more comfortable, and less likely to make you sick.

Change Your Air Filter

Every homeowner knows how air filters help keep dust and other particles out of the air. Air filters also work to protect the home’s HVAC unit and keep it running smoothly and efficiently.  

Air filters protect both your HVAC equipment and your indoor air from dust, dirt, pollen, pet hair and dander, and even bits of decomposed insect. Also, trapped inside the filtration medium are cold and flu contaminants that could pose a threat to your family’s health.

Be sure to change your air filter regularly. Do some research to determine the best filter for your system. If you don’t already use one, consider switching to a  HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) rated filter. A HEPA filter traps microscopic particles, including the germs that cause the flu and common cold.

Check Your Air Ducts

Dirty air ducts can add to poor indoor air quality. Dust and debris in your air ducts will blow through your vents and cause potential health problems. Fall is a good time to schedule a maintenance check with a trained technician. He or she can check to see if your ducts need cleaning.

Consider Ultraviolet Lights

Ultraviolet or UV light is a natural component of sunlight. UV light can eliminate bacteria, virus, odors and allergens by disrupting their DNA, rendering them harmless. By having a UV light incorporated into your HVAC system, you can reduce the amount of cold and flu germs that get recirculated into your home.

Other Ways Your HVAC System Can Help

A clean air filter can’t completely protect you from the flu. When everyone around you at work, school, and even the grocery store, starts to cough, sneeze, and sniffle, you’ll be unable to completely escape exposure.

If you do find yourself feeling under the weather, there are several ways you heating and cooling system can help you feel better faster.

Zone Heating

One of the symptoms of the flu is a feeling of chills. While everyone else in the home feels comfortable, a person suffering from the flu will feel like they are freezing.

If your home has zoned heating, adjusting localized temperature for the sick person is easy.

However, if you do not have the convenience of zoned heating, you can still create a special warm environment for the sick person. By adjusting the registers in a room, you can adjust how much heat enters the room. Adjusting the fins of each register in a room gives you a little more control over the intensity of heat in each room.

Whole House Humidifier

Cold and flu symptoms include coughing and congestion. These symptoms can feel much worse when indoor humidity levels are low. One solution is a whole house humidifier. A whole house humidifier uses a built-in fan to disperse moisture through your homes HVAC system.

Prevent HVAC System Failures

Staying healthy during cold and flu season is easier when your HVAC system is in good running order. Staying warm and comfortable will help keep your body healthy. You don’t want your HVAC system to unexpectedly stop working when the outdoor temperatures are bitter cold.

Before cold and flu season, it is a smart idea to have your local HVAC technician perform a winter safety check. This can help prevent unexpected problems from coming up when they are least convenient. No one wants to lose the ability to heat their home when they are uncomfortable sick.

Read more

Improving Indoor Air Quality with Your HVAC Filter

Pleated Air FIlter

Pleated Air Filter

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American will spend 93 percent of their time indoors. With so much of our lives spent inside, the quality of our indoor air is important, especially when the EPA claims the average indoor environment is five times more toxic than the air outside.

How Regular HVAC Maintenance Can Improve Indoor Air Quality

Most homeowners don’t realize they can improve the quality of the air inside their homes by performing regular HVAC maintenance. Residential HVAC systems are usually forced-air units that blow cooled or heated air through ductwork.  HVAC systems have air filters to trap dust and keep it out of the mechanical elements of the system. These filters essentially protect your HVAC unit from potential damage caused by the dirt and debris that floats around inside of your home.

However, there is an added benefit to keeping your system’s filters clean that extends beyond the protection of the internal mechanisms of your HVAC unit.

Improve Air Quality By Upgrading Your Filter

You can use your HVAC unit to help improve indoor air quality by upgrading the filter. All filters have a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. This rating indicates the size particle the filter medium will capture. Particles that are too small to pass through end up trapped in the filter and therefore are not released back into the indoor air.

Filters for residential purposes generally have a MERV rating that falls between 1 and 16. A filter with a higher MERV rating is able to trap smaller particles which results in cleaner air.

Types of Air Filters

Most fiberglass filters have a MERV rating that falls in the 1 to 4 range. While these filters will capture most dust particles, they are incapable of trapping more irritating particles. Mold spores, pollen, pet dander, and dust mite waste will pass right through them.

Pleated filters usually have MERV ratings between 5 and 8. These filters will trap most irritating particles.

Some filters may have a rating of 13 or higher. Before installing a filter with a high MERV rating above 8, it is important to contact your HVAC technician or consult your HVAC system’s manual. A filter too dense for your unit will hinder airflow and cause the system to run inefficiently.

Keeping Your Filters Clean

Most air filters are disposable and need to be replaced periodically. How frequently you should replace your filters depends on several factors. If you have a home with pets, smokers, or people with allergies, your filter should be replaced more often.

Thicker filters and filters with higher MERV ratings will also need to be replaced more frequently. Although, pleated filters will last longer than fiberglass ones.

If you are concerned about how often you should replace your filter, contact your local HVAC technician for help.

Clean Filters Help Keep Ducts Clean

A clean filter will also help keep you ductwork cleaner. However, even with frequent filter changes, dust and debris can build up in your ducts over time. Look for dust deposits around your registers. This could be a sign of dirty ductwork.

By removing your register covers and using a flashlight, you can check to see if dust and debris has collected in your ducts. Ducts that are overly dirty require professional duct cleaning to keep your system running smoothly and the air inside your home clean and easy to breathe.

The best way to prevent dirt from building up in your system ducts is to check your filter at least once a month and replace it when it is dirty.

 

By upgrading your HVAC filters and keeping them clean, not only will your system run more efficiently, but everyone in your home will breathe easier.

Read more

Using Your HVAC to Combat Household Dust

A better way to dust

Does dust manage to settle on every surface of your home no matter how often you clean? Not only is the dust that accumulates on household surfaces unsightly, but it can also lead to respiratory problems. If you find yourself constantly battling an indoor dust problem, it may be because of ineffective cleaning practices. Thankfully, there is a better way to clean that will help reduce the amount of dust that floats through your house and settles on your furniture, floors, and electronics.

Common Dusting Mistakes

Most people tackle household chores with the best of intentions. However, a few common cleaning practices do nothing to get rid of household dust. In fact, if you clean using these methods, you aren’t accomplishing anything. Instead, you’re just stirring up dust.

Don’t Use a Traditional Feather Duster

While feather dusters seem fancy and fun to use, they do nothing to get rid of dust. All a feather duster does is stir dust around, sweeping it off surfaces and into the air where it will float until it settles back onto your floors and furniture. Instead, use a damp cloth, microfiber cloth, or electrostatic duster to capture and hold the dust as you wipe.

The Problem with Vacuuming After Dusting

It is standard cleaning practice for most homeowners to dust their furniture, walls, and surfaces first, and then follow up with a vacuum cleaner.  The idea is to suck up any remaining dust that may have fallen to the floor.

However, vacuum cleaners use an agitator, a cylindrical rotating brush, to sweep carpets and rugs and kick up dust to trap it in a canister or vacuum bag. The problem with the method is that most vacuum cleaners are not very efficient at sucking in all the agitated dust particles. The remaining dust gets sent into the air where it floats around the room until it eventually settles back on the surfaces you just cleaned. By vacuuming after you’ve dusted, you undo all of the dusting you just completed.

A Better Way to Dust

There is a better way to dust that does more than just stir it up so it can resettle on the surfaces of your home.

First, turn your HVAC unit’s fan on. You can do this by simply going to your thermostat and switching the fan setting to “On”.

Then begin to dust, starting with the highest surfaces first. This includes ceiling fans, high light fixtures, and the tops of door jambs.

Next, instead of proceeding to dust the lower surfaces in your home, start vacuuming. Since your system fan is running, the dust your vacuum kicks up will be pulled through the vents, getting trapped in the filters instead of resettling on your furniture.

After you have vacuumed, dust the remaining lower surfaces in your home. After you have finished, allow the fan to run for at least another fifteen minutes to pull in any dust you stirred up into the air.

Then, turn your thermostat setting back to “Auto”. While it is okay to run your furnace fan for a brief time while you are cleaning, constant running will only drive up your utility bill if you leave it on.

Excessive Dust Could Be a Symptom of Something More Serious

If you still find yourself battling a never-ending dust problem after adjusting your cleaning habits, you may have a problem with your air ducts. A leak in the air ducts in your home’s attic or crawl space will suck in dust and then release it into your home’s interior through your system’s supply vents. This will cause extra dust to enter your home every time your HVAC unit turns on.

If you find yourself constantly dusting and think you may have a leaky duct, call your local HVAC technician for a full check-up.

Read more

Improving Indoor Air Quality With House Plants

House PlantsThe survival rule of threes, intended to help people prioritize during a survival situation, states that you can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. This rule of threes helps illustrate just how important the air we breathe is to life.

While many people focus on the importance of hydration and nutrition for health, we shouldn’t overlook air quality. We consume more air proportionately than any other substance. Clean air isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.The quality of the air we breathe is important to our health and our comfort.

The average American spends as much as ninety percent of his or her time indoors, where the air can actually be several times more polluted than the air outside. HVAC professionals can help you keep the air inside your home clean and contaminant-free by installing products like electrostatic filters or providing services like duct cleaning techniques approved by the National Air Duct Cleaning Association.

However, there is one easy and attractive way you can take action to improve your home’s air quality. All you have to do is add some house plants.

How Plants Improve Indoor Air Quality

The NASA Clean Air Study was the first published research that proved common house plants can effectively eliminate specific toxins from indoor air. The research began in the late 1980s, and was intended to help NASA discover ways to keep the air inside of space stations safe and clean for astronauts.

During research, scientists discovered that certain plants did more than just absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Many houseplants also effectively removed significant amounts of toxins including:

  • Benzene – A chemical commonly found in household detergents, paint, gasoline, and plastics, benzene can cause headaches, dizziness, and eye irritation. Benzene exposure is also known to cause certain types of cancer.
  • Formaldehyde – A colorless, flammable chemical commonly found in building materials, permanent press fabrics, adhesives, and industrial disinfectants, formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, burning of the nose and throat, nausea, and skin irritation. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services listed formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
  • Ammonia – This chemical is a common ingredient in many household cleaners. Exposure to ammonia can cause coughing as well as nose and throat irritation.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) – A solvent used most commonly as a grease remover, trichloroethylene is also used to make refrigerants, adhesives, and paint removers. Exposure to TCE can cause skin rashes, nerve damage, and liver and kidney damage. Long-term exposure can lead to lowered levels of reproductive hormones, low sperm quality, and a decrease in sex drive.
  • Xylene – Xylenes are important petrochemicals often found in cleaning products, paint thinner, and gasoline. Exposure to Xylene can cause dizziness,confusion, headaches, lack of muscle coordination, and possible changes to the lungs and kidneys.

Plants aren’t just helpful in space, however. Having a few potted plants is more than just a simple and natural way to clean air inside of space stations. They can also be used to clean the air inside of your home or office.

Other research shows that having plants in your home or office can also significantly help overcome the effects of sick building syndrome, a mysterious medical condition where inhabitants of a building feel unwell for no apparent reason.

More recent research suggests that it is more than just the houseplants themselves that clean indoor air. A study released in 2004 shows that tiny beneficial microorganisms living in the soil of many potted plants aid in removing toxins from indoor air.

The Best Potted Plants for Clean Air.

Most of the plants that made NASA’s list of the best air-filtering plants originated in tropical and subtropical environments. Because or their ability to thrive in often  thick forested environments, thriving on sunlight filtered through lush forest canopies, these plants are capable of growing well in filtered household light.

NASA’s top plant performers are the peace lily and florist chrysanthemum. Both of these plants are effective at filtering all five toxic compounds in the original research study (benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, trichlorethylene, and xylene) from indoor air.

  • Peace Lilies – When it comes to house plants, peace lilies are some of the easiest to grow and care for. Since they prefer medium to low light areas, they grow well in homes and office spaces.. Peace lilies are great plants for beginners as they are very forgiving and can even “tell” when they need to be watered. Just be careful not to over water. The soil should be almost dry. Water only when the leaves begin to droop.

    Not only are these hardy plants efficient air cleaners, they also brighten up any living space with their wide green leaves and lovely white “flowers.”

  • Florist Chrysanthemum – With their big, bright flowers and dark green foliage, florist mums will bring a splash of color and sunshine to any indoor space. They require a cool, bright spot for optimum blooming. Once the flowers are spent, it is difficult to get the plant to re-bloom. Because of this, florist mums are often treated as annuals, needing to be replaced every year. While chrysanthemums help keep indoor air healthy, the leaves are toxic. Make sure to find a place safe from small children and curious pets.

  • Other Plants – While peace lilies and florists chrysanthemums were NASA’s top clean air performers, there are many other plants that you can include in your home or office to help improve indoor air quality. Here are some other varieties that will brighten your indoor spaces and clean the air you breathe:

    English Ivy
    Flamingo Lily
    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
    Lilyturf


House plants are one proactive step you can take to improve the quality of the air you breathe, However, a few potted plants are not cure-all solution. There are many  other steps you can take. If you want to further improve the air purifying properties of your HVAC system, reach out to your local HVAC experts to explore other options for optimum indoor air quality.

Read more

Protecting Home Air Quality from Your Pets

A staggering 90% of our lives are spent indoors, and while pets bring a remarkable amount of joy into the family home, they also bring in a lot of allergens that can seriously detriment indoor air quality. The Environmental Protection agency has warned of health risks associated with poor indoor air quality; with 37-47% of US homes now including a dog and 30-37% including a cat, those warnings should not be taken lightly.

Lets take a look at how to keep the air at home safe without ousting everyone’s favorite family member.

Where Do Pet Allergens Come From?

So, what exactly is it that pets bring in that harms air quality? As every dog or cat owner knows, pets can shed a lot of fur and while this can be annoying and clog your air filters (more on that in a bit) it generally doesn’t irritate the respiratory system.

The big problem is pet dander. Dander is a small, sometimes microscopic, skin flake that is regularly shed off of mammals with fur, hair, or feathers. Dander travels through the air on house dust and then into the lungs of the occupants where it can cause irritation or allergic reactions.

Other sources of pet irritants come from their dried saliva that can build up in their fur and get shaken off into the air, or from dust released from their dried feces.

Change Air Filters and Use HEPA filters

Filters are your first and best tool to keep your home’s air fresh and allergen free. However, as your pets shed their fur and dander, air filters become clogged and make your system less efficient. A less efficient system means higher heating bills and lower life expectancy for your system. Regularly replacing air filters can go a long way to improving your home’s air quality and your family’s health and comfort, while also saving you a couple bucks.

Traditional air filters, however, might not be up to the challenge of filtering out pet dander. If you really want to filter out nearly all (99.97%) air pollutants, consider integrating a HEPA filter into your system. Contact your local HVAC experts for more information.

Clean Air Ducts

Having pristine air filters doesn’t do much if your air ducts don’t also receive regular attention. Over time, air ducts can collect dust, bacteria and viruses (it is an ideal breeding ground for them), mold, and other nasties. If your ducts aren’t regularly cleaned, every time your air kicks on, pieces of whatever is stuck up there get blasted back into your home. Make sure to have your ducts serviced regularly!

Regular Maintenance

Lastly, having a regular bath schedule for your pet goes a long way in reducing what they would otherwise release into your air. Vacuuming, dusting, and keeping pets off of furniture, carpets, and bed helps prevent dander from building up in fabrics where it will slowly find its way into the air.

This week in Allentown, temperatures will make it to the high 50s. Spring is right around the corner! Unfortunately, so is allergy season. These tips for helping to keep your air clean while co-existing with your furry companion will also help in the fight against spring allergies. Change your filters and contact MBI for your regular maintenance and duct cleaning at: 610.821.9555

Read more

Protect Your HVAC System and Your Health from Uninvited Pests

While some tolerate unwanted visitors better than others, 99.8 percent of residents are not eager to see rodents, ants, bed bugs, mosquitoes, termites,, cockroaches, or even snakes, all common Pennsylvania state intruders, inside their home.

But what do any of these creatures have to do with your HVAC system? Unfortunately, plenty.

Although the cleanliness of a home can be influential, it is far from the only trait that attracts pests. Put simply, in order for your HVAC system to work properly, there needs to be some connection of outdoor and indoor air inside your home. While most of us cannot live without the effects of our heating and cooling system, we must recognize that uninvited guests only need gaps sometimes easily missed by the naked eye in order to make their way inside.

Not only can insects and rodents affect the quality of our foods and plants, invisible dander or other products they leave can serve as a major catalyst for allergy and asthma problems. Other larger creatures may even take out wires or create homes in essential parts of your HVAC systems.

Recent research found that Philadelphia was one of the top cities in the nation for rat infestation. With rats, as with insects, finding  one may seem gross but like little to be concerned over. However, most of these types of creatures live and travel in groups. Where there’s one in plain sight, you may find hundreds of others hidden nearby.

So what do you do? Shut off all ventilation to your home? No! That’s far more dangerous than any creatures who might make their way inside. But there are some extra precautions you Cana take to protect both your hvac system and your home.

Naturally, keeping clean spaces and having regular pests sprayings and inspections are two of the best ways to protect your residence. Granted, sometimes they simply are not enough. Here are a few other steps you can try.

Keep Trash Away from your Home

Trash can be an insects or critters best friend. Attempting to keep nasty smells out of your kitchen or elsewhere is understandable, However, when you place trash outside, take it all the way out to the trash can and make sure the lid is tightly closed. Otherwise, you might just be waving a welcome sign to invaders.

Control Moisture

Like humans, insects and rodents require water to survive. Considering this it’s important to control the water near your residence, especially the AC condenser. In areas with leakage or that tend to be moist, invest in a dehumidifier. It might save you from some serious pest control and resulting allergies later on.

Seal of Entry Points

They may not be brilliant, but mice can enter your home using a gap as small as a dime. It’s beneficial to make sure all cracks and ducts are sealed off, including those in doors or windows.

Going a step further and covering flues and vents improves the effects of seals.

Weeds and Vegetation

Weeds, vegetation and holes near your home all attract certain types of critters. Maintaining weeds helps make your landscaping look nice and it keeps insect and snakes  away from your home.

A Word on Snakes

While experts note that only about two types of area snakes are venomous, snakes are very common in Pennsylvania and you probably still are not looking to invite them in for dinner.

Since snakes are cold-blooded, any decrease in temperature may encourage snakes to look for warm shelter. But their entrance into your home or HVAC system isn’t your only problem. Snakes also like to breed in these areas, creating a slippery, slithering problem for you that just might take you by surprise one day.

You own your home and your HVAC system is for you. Don’t let rodents, snakes or insects gain control of what’s rightfully yours. If you have a concern about your system’s vulnerability, have us come out for an inspection.

Read more

How to Use Your AC to Reduce Allergy Season Flare Ups

With spring comes wildflowers, sunshine, new life…..and you guessed it — allergies.

Springtime activities such as hiking, swimming or tending a garden are treats some people look forward to all year. Reality is, sometimes allergens can put a major kink in some of our favorite seasonal pursuits. As it is, most of the state of Pennsylvania is already facing medium to medium-high pollen threats, and we’ve only now turned the official corner into spring.

Understandably so, when the allergens in the air make the season feel more like a nightmare for the respiratory system than another day in paradise, many retreat to the “safe” indoors.

While seeking haven inside your air-conditioned home may help you avoid allergens landing on your skin and clothing, if you don’t have the right air filters or you aren’t changing your filters regularly, the benefit of staying indoors might not be worth the Vitamin D sacrifice.

Contrary to popular belief, typical air filters do not prevent allergens from traveling indoors. Average filters are intended to cut down on dust build up in AC equipment in order to keep the system running flawlessly. Unfortunately, most of them do just that and only that, leaving allergen haunted residents feeling just as miserable while indoors.

Changing the Air Filters

Experts recommend changing your air filters once every three months, at the very least. For allergies, this means the air coming into your home will be cleaner. If you leave your normal air filters in for lengthy periods, such as a year or more, you’re probably punishing your lungs. Dust builds up in the filter over time, as it should, and eventually, the filter contains so much dust and that’s what anyone indoors will inhale. Among the worst cases, you might actually be safer outdoors than inside with things like pet dander adding even more to your issues.

In addition to helping prevent allergy symptoms, properly kept up filters can increase the efficiency of your AC system, saving you some serious cash.

Allergy-Preventing Filters

Typical filters may serve as a gatekeeper for dust and minimal allergens, but they won’t be saving the day by any means. Irritants such as pollen and bacteria still find their way into the air you’re breathing in while indoors.

If you want to battle the major allergens, look into more specialized filters, frequently referred to as HEPA filters. Even the smallest particles have a difficult time getting through these, with some HEPA filters blocking up to 99 percent of air contaminants. If even one of these filters isn’t helping, call a professional for a cleaning. It’ll be worth not missing any additional work or school.
Do your research and make sure to get this taken care of early on before the summer humidity brings the potential for  additional challenges, like mold.

Read more