Posts Tagged ‘Indoor Air Quality’

Sarasota HVAC Tip: Improving Indoor Air Quality with UV Germicidal Lights

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Ultraviolet germicidal lights improve indoor air quality in your Sarasota home by killing the harmful bacteria, viruses, and toxic mold that can cause respiratory problems and other health concerns. These microorganisms spread by releasing airborne spores containing the genetic material used to create a new organism. UV lights use a wavelength of ultraviolet light to destroy the organism’s DNA, which takes away their reproductive capabilities and also kills them.

UV germicidal lights are fairly inexpensive and can be installed to work with your existing Sarasota forced air HVAC system. They are typically used in tandem with either an electronic or mechanical air cleaner. While air cleaners can filter pollen and other irritants, UV germicidal lights destroy the viruses and mold spores once these pollutants have been trapped by the air cleaner. After the air has been filtered through your Sarasota HVAC system, it will circulate more easily through system and increase the efficiency of the unit. In addition, UV lights are useful in killing hidden mold growth, which can only be detected by special thermal imaging equipment.

Homeowners with particularly chronic allergy problems or extremely poor indoor air quality choose to install both types of air cleaners, in addition to a UV light, for the ultimate protection from indoor air pollutants—from bacteria to pet dander.  If your home lacks adequate ventilation, or if you are unable to control the source of common pollutants, you might benefit greatly by installing UV germicidal lights. Poor indoor air circulation can exacerbate the spread of harmful microorganisms, so make sure you have proper ventilation if you don’t have UV lights in your home.

UV germicidal lights have also been used to filter tap water because they are more reliable and easier to install than other water treatment systems. However, they are typically used to provide cleaner indoor air.

Call Baker & Sons if you have questions or concerns about the quality of the air inside your Sarasota home.

Sarasota Springs HVAC Guide: Why Routine Maintenance Improves IAQ

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Furnaces and air conditioners in Sarasota Springs are by far the most common way to circulate air throughout homes, offices and institutions, heating in the winter months and cooling in the summer.  Adjust the thermostat and controlled air is delivered almost immediately.

If a system is not regularly and properly maintained, however, that air can be dirty, dusty and full of odor, having passed through the heat exchanger, filters and ductwork that have accumulated a build-up of residue over time.  IAQ or interior air quality quickly deteriorates.

The Basics

HVAC systems heat or cool air at a central point. The air passes through filters to sift out dust and unwanted particles, then travels through a system of ductwork to be delivered to the space.  Return air ducts bring it back to the central point.

Along the way, the air accumulates the dust, germs and debris of the places it inhabits.  Over time, the filters become clogged and eventually contribute more contamination to the processed air than they can clean.  The enclosed and hard to reach ducts are also deposits of dust and decorated with spider webs that are quickly another form of filter that gives back more than it receives.

The Costs

Without routine maintenance, the system runs poorly and distributes more dirt into the living space than it is able to filter and clean, reducing the quality of life for the inhabitants, homeowners.  Poor air quality can lead to serious health issues.

Not only does the quality of the air decrease, the strain on the system lowers efficiency.  Having to work harder consumes more energy, creating an immediate and noticeable rise in utility bills.  The stress also reduces the lifetime of your Sarasota Springs HVAC system and requires more rapid replacements of parts or the entire furnace, a huge financial cost.

Regular Maintenance is the Easy Solution

To maintain high levels of quality air, it is essential to schedule regular replacements of filters and a clean-out of the ducts.  The filters are accessible as part of the furnace and air conditioners and easily swapped out by the home owner once or (better) twice a year.

Ductwork, however, is enclosed and often out of site, just as easily out of mind and certainly harder to reach.  Scheduling duct cleaning along with an inspection and routine maintenance of the entire system with a licensed company such as Baker & Sons Air Conditioning, Inc. ensures longevity and efficiency along with peace of mind.

Lido Key Indoor Air Quality Question: How Tightly Should You Seal Your Home?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

More and more products and solutions are available to us these days to help seal our Lido Key homes off from the outside world. The idea is that by keeping outside air out, our homes are more energy efficient and healthier, because all pollutants and pathogens are barred from entry.

This is a good idea in theory, but it can have its drawbacks. Most notably, sealing your home up too much can be bad for your family’s health. If your home is sealed too tightly such that there is not enough air flow from within the home to the outside and vice versa, then the indoor air just…stays indoors.

That means that all the sneezes, coughs, dust, dander, smoke and carbon dioxide stay inside with it. All that stuff can make you sick, completely flying in the face of your efforts to stay healthy by sealing your home.

Now, that’s not to say that sealing your home is a bad thing. Using LEED glass in your windows does keep heat in and increase heating efficiency. Air filters do help eliminate pollutants and pathogens from the outside than can make you sick. Good insulation and intact ductwork do help keep your home comfortable and efficient in both the cold and hot months.

So, sealing your home is not a bad idea. The trick is to not go overboard and seal it up so tightly that you are crossing the threshold from having a healthy home to having a giant Petri dish. You want to have a home that is insulated, but not vacuum sealed. You want a home with filtered air, but still plenty of air exchange with the outside world.  Thankfully, mechanical ventilation is a way to both keep your home energy efficient and keep your indoor air from getting stale.

To help you with this endeavor, there are guides available online, such as at the ENERGY STAR website. In addition, it is a good idea to consult with Baker & Sons Air Conditioning and ask plenty of questions when building a new home or making improvements to your current one. A qualified Lido Key technician will know how to insulate and ventilate your home properly to protect your family’s health.

 

Riverview Indoor Air Quality Guide: Air Filters and Mold

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Among the potential problems that can plague Riverview homeowners, mold is particularly frustrating. It is persistent, the spores are tiny and easily spread and it can be hazardous to your health.

Preventing a mold problem involves properly ventilating moist areas, such as bathrooms, to prevent mold from thriving in the moisture. It also means spotting and eradicating any patches of mold that do manage to take hold. Perhaps most importantly, it also means keeping mold out of the air in your home.

Mold particles and spores can readily break off from a mold colony can get into the air. Eventually, they can be drawn up into your HVAC system and redistributed throughout your house. Once airborne, they can settle elsewhere to start new mold growth or wind up in your lungs, potentially causing respiratory problems.

Simply put, having mold in your home is a health risk, so you want to keep it under control as much as possible. The best way to keep out of the air is with an air filter.

The good news is that most mold spores are rather large (relatively speaking), so a HEPA air filter installed in your air handler can remove them from the air pretty easily. They are often 3 microns in size or smaller, so a filter with a MERV rating of 8 should do fine, although some spores can reportedly be as small as 1.5 microns. If you want to be very vigilant, or if anyone is your home has a particularly sensitive respiratory system, you can get a filter with a higher MERV rating of 12 or so.

Also, UV germicidal lights can be a good addition to your HVAC system. These lights emit UV radiation that is safe for humans to be around, but kills many microorganisms, including mold spores. They also kill bacteria and other pathogens that can cause disease.

In addition to proper ventilation, a quality filtration system can effectively eliminate the health risks to your family caused by mold. If you are interested in an indoor air quality system for your home, give Baker & Sons Air Conditioning, Inc. a call!

Bradenton Heating Guide: How to Tell if Your Air Ducts Are Leaking

Monday, December 26th, 2011

There are lots of ways for your Bradenton home to lose energy – through leaky door frames, cracks in window trim, loose or missing insulation, etc. A lot of your indoor heating and cooling winds up outdoors and drives up your utility bills.

One part of your home that is susceptible to leaks and energy loss is your ventilation system, typically metal or flexible ductwork. Older homes generally experience more duct leakage because seals and joints may have loosened over the years or may have not been properly connected when they were installed. There are some ways to check and see – or hear – if the air ducts in your home are leaking.

The most obvious way to check is by listening. Stand, sit, or kneel close to your ductwork. Listen for any hissing noises when the furnace, air conditioner, or blower motor is in operation. A hissing noise is usually an indication of a leak in a seal or joint. Since ductwork comes in a variety of lengths and contains a number of different connectors, there are likely many joints where pieces have been connected. Some joints are sealed with small sheet metal screws while other joints are sealed with duct tape or mastic. Whatever the connection is, the joints may have come loose over time from vibrations, settling of the home’s foundation, previous repairs, or by someone simply bumping into the ductwork.

Another way to check for a leaking air duct is by looking at insulation which may be wrapped around the ductwork. If an air duct is leaking it will leave dark stains on the insulation over time – giving an exact location of the leak.

Leaks in your air ducts can cause areas like your crawlspace, attic, or garage to be abnormally cold or hot. If you are conditioning unused parts of your home inadvertently, it may be because your ductwork is leaking in those areas.

Finally, a not so easy way to check for leaking ducts is to compare utility bills. If there is a big spike in your heating or cooling costs, it may be because of temperature extremes – but it also may be because your ductwork is leaking. You may not be able to see a big difference in your bills unless there are large leaks or breaks in your ductwork, but keep an eye on your energy costs anyway.

Once you have located any leaks, there are some easy fixes. But you also may want to call your local qualified heating and cooling contractor to perform a whole house energy audit, using leak detection instrumentation to check for leaks.

Types of Air Filters: A Tip from Osprey

Monday, November 14th, 2011

When choosing an air filter for your Osprey home, there are many options. Each type of material is designed to capture a different type of particle to a different degree, so make sure you choose carefully based on the specific air quality problems your home has.

  • Disposable – Disposable filters are the simplest and least expensive option on the market but they are usually rated as low as 1-5 MERV and don’t last very long. These types of filters are usually designed for basic mechanical filtration to stop debris from causing problems for your furnace or air conditioner and are therefore not ideal for actual air quality improvement.
  • Fiberglass – Fiberglass filters are very common in almost all HVAC systems and are more permanent than disposable filters. They come in MERV ratings of between 4 and 12 and are highly efficient at capturing larger particles like dust, pollen and dander. These can be dangerous, however, as they fragment and can send fibers into the air.
  • Polyester – These have a higher resistance rating than most fiberglass filters and are therefore more durable against larger particles like dust and pollen. They also don’t fray like fiberglass and are more durable over time.
  • Electrostatic – Electrostatic filters have a charge to help collect dust particles and are usually made with multiple layers of polypropylene material.
  • HEPA Filters – This is a completely different category of filters and is designed to capture everything as small as 0.3 microns – well below the threshold most commonly provided by standard HVAC filters. They can be purchased for your HVAC system or as standalone filters for individual rooms.

There are a number of different filter types to maintain the air quality in your home. If you’re interested in getting the most out of your home’s air quality control system, make sure you do it with the best possible device available to your system. Contact a professional if you’re not sure what options will suit you best.

How Animal Dander Affects Indoor Air Quality: A Guide from Palm Island

Friday, November 11th, 2011

One of the single most common indoor air quality pollutants in Palm Island homes is animal dander. The flakes of dead skin, fur or feathers produced by pets and outdoor creatures can be an allergy nightmare for millions of people. Even those without allergies tend to be less comfortable in spaces that have animal dander issues. Here are some things you should know about animal dander and allergies.

What’s the Issue?

Dead skin from dogs and cats is the biggest problem, with 27% of US homes having cats and 32% having dogs. Cats are a much larger allergen producer however. The number of allergy related complaints among cat owners is twice as high as that of dog owners according to the American Lung Association. Male cats are slightly worse than female cats as well. Don’t forget either that fur is not the primary source of dander. Dead skin, dried saliva and even specs of dried feces can contribute to indoor air quality issues. So, short haired cats or dogs are not any better for your home.

Another thing to consider is that pet dander is suspended in the air much longer than any other allergen because of how light it is. We’re talking about days of suspension, after which it settles into carpets, furniture, clothing and anything else with enough surface area to attract the dander.

Health Problems from Dander

For those allergic to animals, pet dander is an instant irritant. Just walking into a home in which a cat or dog is present can have an instant negative effect – including anything from coughing and wheezing to a runny nose or chest constriction.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to remove pet dander is to remove the pet and for severely allergic people, this is usually the only option. For others, however, there are some things you can do. You can remove the allergens themselves with high powered indoor air filtration. You can also set aside areas in the house that the pet is not allowed into and take steps to make sure pet dander doesn’t get into the air supply for that room.

How Much Ventilation Do I Need for My House? A Question from Port Charlotte

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

By now you’ve probably heard how important it is to have good ventilation in your Port Charlotte home. Especially if your home was built in the 1980s or early 1990s when ventilation issues were prevalent, you may not have enough clean air moving through your home. But, how much ventilation do you need? What is enough and if you don’t have it, how do you ensure your home is retrofitted properly?

How Much Ventilation?

Most recommendations for ventilation come from the Home Ventilation Institute, which provides a series of standards of measurement for builders and contractors retrofitting homes for better ventilation. Here are some of their recommendations and how they might apply for your home:

  • Bathroom – Small bathrooms (less than 100 sq. ft) need 1 CFM per square foot of bathroom. The number goes up for each fixture if you have a large bathroom.
  • Kitchens – Your kitchen range needs at least 100 CFM if against the wall and upwards of 150 CFM if on an island.
  • Ventilators – If you have an HRV for your home, you should have at least 100 CFM for 2,000 square feet and another 50 for every 1,000 square feet of home size being ventilated.
  • Home Ventilators – The actual volume of CFM for ventilators depends on the type of ventilator being used. For example, a whole house ventilator needs upwards of 6,000 CFM for a 2,000 square foot home. Attic ventilators need 1,400 or more.

So, what does this mean for your home? It means in general that you need a lot of ventilation and that the best way to get it is through mechanical ventilation techniques combined with your air handler and ductwork.

Especially if you recently added insulation and weather proofing to your home but have not yet updated your ventilation, you might have a major air quality problem, so have a professional measure your home’s air flow as soon as possible.

Regular Duct Cleaning Will Reduce Allergens: A Tip from Lake Sarasota

Monday, November 7th, 2011

One of the biggest problems many families face with indoor air quality in Lake Sarasota is the ever persistent presence of allergens. Especially if you have pets or plants, allergens will be in your home from the day you move in. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many ways to reduce them – especially in the case of duct work.

Allergens in Your Duct Work

How do so many allergens get into your ductwork? It starts with how the ductwork circulates air in your home. Because air only flows one way and because the ducts are not being used continuously, the air circulated by your air conditioner or furnace leaves behind all sorts of unwanted residue.

In both cases, the air drawn into your comfort system is usually the same air from inside your home. That means it is full of things like dust, pollen, dander and more. Even if the air is drawn from outside, often the case with an air conditioner unit, there are plenty of allergens outside.

How do you stop all of these allergens from working their way into your home and then your lungs? It starts with regular cleaning. You can’t ever truly stop allergens from coming inside or circulating in your air ducts, but you can take big steps in removing many of the contaminants that linger in your ducts.

Annual cleaning of the ducts by a professional will remove excess build up in places you cannot normally reach. Between those cleaning visits, you should supplement the cleaning by dusting and vacuuming vents and the areas of your ducts you can reach.

Going Beyond Cleaning

Cleaning your ducts is a great way to reduce allergens in the house. That alone, along with quality ventilation will take care of the most common allergens. However, if people in your home suffer from asthma or more severe seasonal allergies you may want to upgrade your preventative measures with an air filtration system.

An air filter alone, equipped with a HEPA filter, is capable of removing particles and allergens as small as 0.3 microns – far smaller than dander, pollen or dust. For those with more advanced allergies or too many outdoor contaminants, a purifier works wonders by removing excess gas, smoke, or mold from the air with ionization.

Whatever your concerns, it is possible to live comfortably in your home despite allergies.

Toxic Free Cleaning: A Guide from Grove City

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Once upon a time, the goal of cleaning in Grove City was to remove dirt – plain and simple. We didn’t think twice about spraying bleach, ammonia or a dozen other chemicals onto every surface of our homes in an effort to destroy germs and ensure no one got sick.

But, times change and so too does our understanding of how safe toxic cleaners with bleach and ammonia really are. Today, a whole movement has developed around cleaning without chemical laden cleaners that make people sick and worsen indoor air quality. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best replacements available.

  • Soap – There are plenty of soaps without scents or chemical additives that are biodegradable and safe to use on eating surfaces. Look out for anything with petroleum bases, however.
  • Lemon – Lemon and other citric bases are fantastic for killing bacteria on eating surfaces and in bathrooms. Many organic cleaners these days use orange or lemon concentrates as an antibacterial.
  • Vinegar – Vinegar is fantastic for cutting grease and removing mildew or odors from surfaces. It can even dig into wax build ups and stains on clothing.
  • Alcohol – Isopropyl alcohol kills almost all forms of germs, bacteria and viruses. An alternative is 100% alcohol in a water solution (70/30) as some commercial alcohols have been linked to additional health problems.
  • Cornstarch – This works wonders for cleaning rugs and carpets, polishing furniture and cleaning windows.
  • Borax – Borax is an old brand and a simple solution of sodium borate, safe and effective for cleaning walls, floors, and surfaces in your kitchen.

There are a lot of other alternatives to chemically based cleaners that use mixed formulas. Some examples include:

  • Air Freshening – A mixture of baking soda and lemon juice works wonders for absorbing odors while grinding lemon slices in a garbage disposal will kill any unwanted sink odors.
  • Mold and Mildew – Hydrogen Peroxide mixed 1 part to 2 parts water is highly effective in removing mold and mildew from shower stalls, flooring and ceilings. Don’t use it just before showering, however.
  • Stains – Stains on your carpet can be removed with a mixture of water and vinegar while borax and vinegar work well for big time stains on the carpet.

The key is to know there are alternatives to chemically laden cleaners known to cause a wide variety of health problems, but during and after use.