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

Why You Should Hire a Licensed HVAC Technician

licensed havac technicianReplacing an old HVAC unit with a newer, more energy efficient model can result in huge savings on your monthly energy bill. Recent advancement in HVAC technology has made newer units more effective and efficient. However, installing a new unit is not a weekend DIY project. If you are considering any type of upgrade to your system, make sure to use a professional licensed contractor.

State and local building codes impose many regulations regarding HVAC installation. These codes are in place to ensure standards of safety. Using a reputable licensed contractor or technician is necessary to ensure all codes are met. Otherwise, you could be liable code violations, safety failings, or flaws in the installation of your new unit.

Hefty fines accompany code violations, so you’ll want to be careful.


Licensed HVAC Technicians Understand Building Codes


To the uninitiated, state and local building codes look like a huge collection of complex and arbitrary rules. Building codes deal with everything from size and ventilation requirements to electrical wiring. In some localities, the municipal building code can be thousands of pages of detailed rules and procedures.

State and local governments don’t put together these complex codes just to give homeowners a headache. Safety is actually the motivation behind the large number of rules in the code book. Therefore, compliance is important, especially when it comes to HVAC installation. Because you are dealing with combustible chemicals and toxic coolants in your HVAC unit, it is particularly important to find a contractor who follows code to the letter.


Licensed HVAC Technicians Avoid Shortcuts


Installing a new HVAC unit is expensive, and it can be tempting to cut corners to save some money. Be wary of any contractor who takes shortcuts or ignores code. Also, make sure that your contractor pulls together all the necessary permits and paperwork and also schedules a final official inspection.

Even though an unlicensed contractor may be cheaper, it could cost you more in the long run. A shoddy, sub-par installation will result in a system that runs inefficiently or is even a potential safety hazard. Plus, there is the possibility of incurring a fine when your HVAC unit doesn’t meet code.


Ultimately, You Are Responsible for Code Violations


Even when a contractor does a substandard job on your HVAC installation, the homeowner is ultimately responsible for any violations to the building code. As the homeowner, you will have to correct anything not installed properly. Usually, this means finding another qualified contractor to finish the job properly or fix any mistakes.

Not only will you be responsible for fixing any code violations, you can also be held legally responsible for injuries a sub-par HVAC installation might cause to occupants or guests.

To avoid paying fines or footing the bill for inefficient HVAC installation, you should always hire a professional. However, don’t just shop around for the best price. Never settle for anything less than a licensed HVAC technician. A licensed professional is more likely to follow code and perform a thorough job. Otherwise, they risk losing their license. By hiring a licensed technician, you also have more options available to you in the event the work is not performed to standard since you can file a complaint with the local municipal authorities or professional organizations.

Once you have hired a licensed HVAC technician to install your new unit, be sure to request copies of all required permits and other paperwork. You will want to keep these on file for future reference.


Have It Done Right the First Time by a Licensed HVAC Technician


Hiring a licensed HVAC technician at the very beginning of the installation process helps safeguard you against having to fix improperly done work later. Even though it may cost more money to hire a fully licensed professional, it will potentially save you the cost of repairing improper equipment or installation. With a licensed professional you can have peace of mind the job will be done right the first time.

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

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

5 Myths About Heating and Cooling in PA

Often, friends and family give valuable advice that we pass on to others. Then sometimes, well-meaning advice is misinformed, and if not confirmed for validity, can perpetuate myths for years to come. It happens in every industry – nutrition, finance, education…. even HVAC.

Let’s take a look at some well-circulated heating and cooling myths and see if we can save you some time and money and maybe just stop these misunderstandings in their tracks.

Myth #1 Energy Efficient Homes Are Out of My Price Range

If you in the market for a new place, don’t assume you can’t afford an energy efficient property.

The truth is, research has demonstrated very little, if any, relationship between purchase price and whether or not a home is energy efficient. Some cases have even suggested the addition of smaller energy efficient systems can reduce a home’s principle cost. When it comes to our bitter cold winters, that energy efficient home might just save you so serious cash. 

Myth #2 Closing Vents of Unoccupied Rooms Will Save Me $$$

Logically, it seems like closing off part of a system would decrease its usage, and subsequently, its cost. Unfortunately, this widely spread myth is untrue. Closing vents in unused areas does not save money. Long term, just the opposite is true. The attempt will damage the system’s balance and can result in additional problems like leakage.

Myth #3 Air Filters Need To Be Changed About Once a Year

If you want to inhale dust and dirt then this one is no myth. However, if you prefer you respiratory system intruder free, then you need to change your air filter every few months. On the financial end, unclean filters require your system to work harder, landing you with an expensive energy bill.

Myth #4 The Location of My Thermostat is Irrelevant to its Effectiveness

Make sure your thermostat isn’t located in direct sunlight or any location that is frequently extremely hot or cold. The thermostat reads your home’s temperature. Incorrect data because of a beaming sun or low-temp room can send your HVAC system into a mode of unnecessary compensation. This will inevitably spike your energy costs and could get fairly problematic when it comes to reaching the right inside temperature.

Myth #5 Setting My Thermostat to the Lowest or Highest it Can Go Will Help Cool/Heat My Home Faster

Don’t harm your cooling system by enacting extreme modes and temperatures in an attempt to make a difference. If your home isn’t cooling/heating, it means there’s something wrong with the system. Setting it at its most intense work speed won’t do anything but put your system in danger and cost you a fortune next billing cycle. This may be tempting during a harsh winter or humid summer day, but it’s not worth it. Damaging your system during prime seasons could leave you without a working one for several days before many repair companies might be able to send someone out.

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