Optimal Humidity LevelsWhen we talk about humidity levels, we’re really discussing “relative humidity,” which refers to the level of water vapor in the air as a percentage of the total saturation point of that air. In general, you want your relative humidity level in the home to range between 30 and 50 percent – you can easily test these levels using a hygrometer, which can be purchased at any Home Depot or similar hardware store. In some climates, humidity will ebb and flow fairly significantly based on what season it is. Winter might see dryer air, with relative humidity levels below 30 percent, while the hot sun can lead to levels well above 60 percent in the summer.
Effects of Improper LevelsOccasional departures from the optimal humidity ranges won’t do much damage, but homes that are consistently outside of this range could present some issues. These issues are found in both personal health and in problems with e home’s structure. They include:
- Skin problems: Conditions like eczema, chapped lips or psoriasis can be significantly worsened by air that’s too dry.
- Mold or mildew growth: On the other end of the spectrum, air that’s too humid can lead to mold and mildew growth in the home – this, in turn, can cause significant respiratory illnesses and other health conditions.
- Smells: Too much moisture from an overly humid home will produce a dank, musty smell that can make certain people feel sick.
- Wood damage: Wood in the home can crack or splinter if it’s too dry, but can also warp if its infused with too much moisture.
Steps to TakeWhether your home is too dry or too moist, there are solutions out there. We have products from Aprilaire and Trane that can help with both humidifying and dehumidifying, depending on which your home needs. These include whole-home options if the entire home is affected, or singular options if you only need solutions for a room or two. For more on humidity in the home, or to learn about any of our HVAC services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Fall is in full swing, and that means it’s an important time of year for several basic HVAC considerations. One of the most important of these is the furnace, which will be your central resource for combatting the cold of winter once the snow hits.
At Airtime Heating & Cooling, we’re here to help. Our furnace tune-up services are always available if you need a quick bit of maintenance, and we can provide furnace repair if something is broken. As a homeowner, there are also a few things you can do on your own to prep the furnace for winter. Here are a few good examples.
First Time Use
If you haven’t already gotten your furnace warmed up and primed, now is definitely the time. After months without use, the furnace collects dust, which may also collect inside vents. This can create an odor as the dust is burned out of the furnace, but this should come and go in just a few minutes if you have good air circulation. If it lingers for hours, call our technicians for a tune up.
Other precautions you should take when you’re just getting the furnace going:
Change the filter: This should be done every few weeks or so, depending on your usage.
Clear the area: If the furnace is in a storage area of your home, remove any flammable materials left near it. These can be fire hazards.
Test thermostat: Even if the thermostat was working well over the summer, the winter can be a different animal. Take a digital thermometer into each room and make sure the thermostat is heating areas evenly.
Preparations for the Cold
Once the furnace has been warmed up for the season, there are a few other things to consider:
Weather stripping: Have weather stripping on all windows and doors examined, and replace it if it’s worn.
Chimney: If you have a wood-burning fireplace that you use during the winter, have your chimney inspected before your first fire.
Trees: Trim any tree limbs that could fall on power lines or through windows.
Carbon monoxide detectors: Test all your carbon monoxide detects – cracked furnace heat exhangers are some of the most common causes of carbon monoxide leaks, and the furnace is under more pressure during this season.
Oversized FurnaceIn many cases, the problem that leads to short-cycling can be traced back to installation. A furnace that’s oversized or too big for the installation space will consume far too much energy while it tries to achieve your thermostat setting. This process causes warm air to be distributed improperly, and can cause short-cycling. This can drive up energy bills, and can also cause significant wear and tear on the furnace fan. If you aren’t sure whether this is the reason for your short-cycling, contact our experts for help.
OverheatingIn some other cases, the furnace might be shutting itself down early to protect from overheating damage. Furnaces that overheat create risks of cracks in the exchanger – these can lead to life-threatening risks from carbon monoxide. Overheating is generally caused by restricted airflow trapping hot air near the heat exchanger, often the result of a dirty air filter or blocked vents.
Thermostat MalfunctionsFinally, the thermostat itself might be the cause of short-cycling. A malfunctioning thermostat can lead to numerous heating issues, including short-cycling. In addition, a thermostat that’s improperly installed too close to a heat source can cause short-cycling – the thermostat thinks the temperature is higher than it actually is in this case. For more on short-cycling, or to find out about our furnace tune-up services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
- MERV 1-4: Filters that catch large particles like dust, mites, pollen, carpet fibers, insects, and various pieces of insect waste. Most common for residential HVAC systems.
- MERV 5-8: Catch finer particles, mold spores, pet dander and aerosol sprays. Used in some homes, and in most commercial areas.
- MERV 9-12: Filters that grab auto emissions, welding fumes, lead dust and certain larger bacteria. These are rarely used in homes.
- MERV 13-16: Heavy-duty filters that catch all ranges of bacteria along with smoke, oil droplets and even sneezing particles. These are mostly used in hospitals and surgical centers.
- MERV 17-20: These catch viruses, carbon dust and the smallest smoke particles. Generally used in clean rooms where sensitive medicines or electronics are produced.
Ceiling FansMany people think ceiling fans are only for summer cooling use, but these folks are mistaken. Did you know that you can actually flip the directional switch on most ceiling fans, causing their blades to turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise? Instead of pushing cool air down, this causes an updraft that gently circulates warm air that normally just sits around near the ceiling.
Natural HeatAnother simple way to bring more heat into your home is to maximize the help the sun gives you throughout the day. Be sure curtains and blinds are open during periods where the sun is hitting them, as long as you also remember to close them when it gets cool to prevent warm air from seeping out.
Thermostat ConcernsThe simplest way to directly lower your heating bill without sacrificing an ounce of warmth is by adjusting the thermostat during long periods when you’re not at home, such as during work hours. Lowering the thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours per day can save you up to 10 percent per year on your energy bill, per the Department of Energy – look to make these changes as long as your home is empty for some period during the day. A programmable thermostat upgrade can be very helpful here.
InspectionFinally, having annual inspections done on your furnace is a vital area for keeping your home warm without a major expense. A furnace that isn’t properly tuned can become very inefficient, and is much more likely to sustain major damage that will present a huge cost to repair. For more on how to stay warm in winter without a big cost, or to learn about our heating or AC repair services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Air FiltersDirty air filters can present two issues: First, they create dust and other air issues that can complicate allergies and asthma while causing other health concerns. Second, they significantly reduce the system’s efficiency and capacity – this will decrease your comfort in the home while simultaneously increasing your monthly energy costs.
Air DuctsBe sure to listen to your air ducts, and also feel for any air escaping from ducts in places it shouldn’t. This could signal that ducts are not airtight, and might need some basic maintenance to make sure they’re not losing vital efficiency.
Vents and AirwaysAll vents should be clear of any dust or pet hair, blockers that might decrease the capacity. If you have radiators or baseboard heating, remember that any furniture in front of these elements can block the path of heat and stop it from circulating properly around the room.
ThermostatCheck the thermostat itself to ensure that it’s performing properly. Make sure it’s actually creating the temperature you set it to, and consider a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one – these are both more effective and will help you save energy each month.
Preventive ChecksFinally, having a professional inspection and tune-up done at least once a year is vital for your HVAC system. Our technicians can make sure your system is clean and all parts are operating at their peak efficiency, and we can detect minor issues before they turn into major ones. For more information on pre-winter heating considerations, or to find out about any of our other HVAC services, contact the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Light BulbsMany people are using highly inefficient light bulbs in their homes, but aren’t aware of it at all. Incandescent bulbs are still widely available, despite the presence of LED bulbs in the marketplace – these cost a tad more, but offer up to 85 percent energy savings compared to their outdated counterparts. If your energy bills are consistently higher than you’d like despite smart conservation tactics elsewhere, consider upgrading bulbs.
Curtains and DrapesThe air conditioning isn’t the only way to cool the home – a few smart habits like heat-blocking curtains can go a long way as well. These will limit the energy the AC uses, and they can double as attractive home decoration items.
Ceiling FansNot many people realize it, but the direction in which your ceiling fans spin can directly affect energy costs. When fans move counterclockwise, they push air downward and help circulate cool air. This means you can raise the thermostat a couple degrees and still feel the same.
Air FiltersDuring non-summer months, air filters in the AC should be changed about once every few months. During the summer, up this to once a month – this will improve air quality, and will keep energy bills down. Dirty filters lead to a system that has to work harder to pump the same amount of air, and they can also lead to significant damage in the system. To find out more about summer conservation or air conditioning service. Contact the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
MoldIf you start to notice mold on the visible sections of your ducts, know that this could just be the tip of the iceberg – there are often much larger quantities of mold inside the ducts. Mold thrives in a moisture-heavy environment, and can lead to major health issues. It could signal poor insulation or leaks somewhere in the ducts, or it could be a sign of faulty condensation pans.
Pest InfestationOne of the larger potential causes of duct issues are pests in the home, often either rodents or insects. These pests come with various health concerns, often due to their feces, which can build up in the ducts and cause everything from imperfect air flow to significant breathing risk. Once particles from feces enter the airstream of the home, they can spread everywhere and become an issue for anyone who enters. If you have an infestation, chances are you’ll notice it either through visible droppings or via bits of noise (when rodent are involved). If this is the case, contact our experts plus an exterminator right away.
DustDust itself can be a cause of blockage issues in many cases, or dirt and debris that builds up over time. These items can aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms in many people as they’re spread into the air, and can also limit airflow and lead to increased utility bills. If you start to notice small clouds of dust popping out of vents every time air is turned on, this could be a telltale sign that your ducts need maintenance. Want to find out more about AC repair, or any of our other services? The experts at Airtime Heating & Cooling are here to assist you.
Installation EaseFrom a raw logistics standpoint, installing a new or replacement air conditioner is much easier before the warmest months of the year get going. It’s easier for our workers to operate in non-sweltering conditions, and because most of the major processes come inside the home, there’s no concern about inclement weather disrupting installation. This is part of the reason many vendors, including Airtime, offer specials during this time of year.
Cost SavingsThat’s a big chunk of the benefit, as well. Easier installation means it takes less time, which can mean the price is reduced. Many AC manufacturers also lower their costs or offer rebates during winter months, for similar reasons. We all want to spend less money on things like this, and installing now instead of later can accomplish this.
The Problem With “Trying it Out”Many people choose to simply give the AC a little “test” period – the beginning of the warmer months, in other words. If things go wrong, the thinking goes, it’s simple enough to replace at that point. Here’s the problem with that: If issues don’t present themselves for a couple weeks or a month, you could be in some major trouble once they do. What happens if your system breaks down for good on a Sunday afternoon in mid-July? You’re stuck paying huge rates for emergency service, that’s what happens. Instead of all this, updating your system early can be a great way to avoid getting into that sort of pickle. Want to learn more about the right times for AC repair or installation, or any of our other heating and cooling solutions? Speak to the experts at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.