How Particles Enter Through the AC SystemIn some cases, the mode of entrance for allergens and various related particles into your air supply is based on cracks or other seal issues with your air conditioner, ducts or related components. When these issues are present, air that has not yet passed through your filter system will be able to make its way into breathing areas, meaning contaminants like allergens and others have not been removed. In addition, however, it’s important to note that having a proper exhaust system for your HVAC system is also vital. This allows various contaminants or particles that have not been caught by the filters to exit the home properly – these particles will be present no matter how good your filters are.
Filter FactorsSpeaking of filters, you should be sure that the filters installed in your HVAC system trap allergens – most do, but some on the cheaper end do not. Also be sure areas like pet dander, which may carry allergens, are caught as well. As we noted above, however, not all the air in your home necessarily makes it to the air filter before reaching your lungs. For this reason, those homes with significant allergy sufferers may want to consider additional measures.
Other MeasuresHere are a few such options available for both allergen prevention and other areas of indoor air quality:
- Whole home filtration: We offer the “Clean Effects” filter system from Trane, arguably the top home air filtration system in the world, which will remove all pollutants, allergens, bacteria and viruses within the entire space.
- UV lights: There are also UV air cleaner options that attack mold, mildew and other bacteria within your air ducts, common collection locations for these contaminants.
- Electronic purifier: A different purifier system that charges particulates in the air and forces them to stick to metal surfaces, which can be easily cleaned.
Time and Money SavingsFor starters, you’d be surprised how much time and money you can save by arranging furnace replacement in spring. For one, furnace replacement schedules tend to be far less filled at this time of year, meaning you’re more likely to get your ideal appointment time range within a few days of calling for an appointment. You also might be able to get good deals on installation or even sales, as some manufacturers offer discounts on furnaces during their slower season. Additionally, choosing the spring offers you more time flexibility on your end. If you decide to wait on signs that replacement is needed, you could suddenly be staring at a late-fall cold front – and all of a sudden, furnace replacement appointments are much harder to get. Taking the time to cover this area now allows you a full range of product choices, plus ensures you aren’t chasing the game.
Maintaining ComfortAnother benefit of replacing the heater during spring is the comfort retention the process offers. We’re mostly past the point where homes need to have their heaters on to keep the temperature comfortable – this means it’s no big deal if our pros have to turn your heating system off for a few hours while we replace the system. If you wait on replacement, however, this process might take place during a cooler period where things won’t be so convenient.
Signs It’s TimeSome general signs your furnace or heating system is giving you that it’s time for replacement:
- Common repairs: If you’re making the same kinds of repairs over and over again, this is a sign that the heater has worn down and needs to be replaced.
- Age: Any furnace or heater that reaches above 15 years of age should at least see replacement considered.
- Lost efficiency: If you notice your HVAC costs rising compared to previous years, or if you can’t seem to get the proper heating levels, this could mean the furnace is worn down and needs a replacement.
- Noises: Finally, some malfunctioning furnaces make loud noises like rattling, clanging or electrical humming, all of which may signal replacement needs.
Dry Air and HealthFirst and foremost, it’s important to realize that dry air is more than a nuisance for many people – in plenty of cases, it actually has a direct impact on human health. This is often the case in relatively minor areas, such as dry skin, chapped lips and related areas. However, in some cases these risks will be even more significant. Many, especially those with previous respiratory conditions or weakened immune systems, will experience coughing, sore throats and even sometimes illness due to mucous membranes that have dried out as a result of extremely dry air.
Home and HVAC System ImpactIn addition to having a potential impact on your health, dry air may also have an impact on your home. This begins with the HVAC system, which often has to use far more energy to warm the home during the cooler months – this is because warm air and humidity tend to go together, and vice versa. If your air is overly dry, you may find your winter heating bill is far higher than it should be. In addition, there are other home areas that could be damaged due to dry air. Spit wood is a common occurrence, for instance, as is damage to electronics, chipping paint and split wallpaper due to static shock or related factors.
Humidification BenefitsLuckily, we offer the “Clean Effects” system from Trane that provides a whole-house solution for several items, including humidity control. Offering the proper levels of humidity to your home not only keeps you more comfortable and healthy on a daily basis, it also improves your HVAC system’s efficiency by limiting its strain, particularly during winter months. Using a whole-home system also prevents dry air issues from cropping up in certain areas and then re-appearing in others, as the entire space is covered. For more on dry air and its impact on your health and home, or to learn about any of our indoor air quality or other HVAC solutions, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Cleaning AreasFor starters, there are two major cleaning areas to perform before spring hits:
- Outside unit: Many homeowners take good care of the interior elements of their HVAC system, but neglect the vital unit outside the home. This is the AC condenser, the one in charge of cycling out warm air and providing cool air during the summer – you should take the time to clean off all dirt, debris, branches, leaves or other items from this area. This will prevent costly maintenance on this unit that may arise due to built-up deposits, which can slow the unit down and damage it.
- Air ducts: It’s also vital to clean your air ducts and visible vent areas of all dust and debris, allowing the system to work without any strain or air loss.
Changing FilterHVAC filters should be changed regularly throughout the year, including during the winter-to-spring transition if they have not been swapped out recently. Filters that are left too long will build up significant blockages and clogs, slowing the passage of air through the system and raising your monthly energy bill. In the process, they will also diminish your air quality.
Test RunChances are, your air conditioning system has been completely unused for most or all of the previous winter. Take the time to switch the system to cool and run it for around 30 minutes – check in individual rooms to ensure cooling is taking place, and listen/look for any issues that may come up. If you’re scheduling professional maintenance, be sure to mention any such issues to your HVAC expert.
Schedule a Tune-UpFinally, as we noted above, there are few better ways to guarantee the quality of your AC and HVAC system headed into spring and summer than to hire our pros for a quick, affordable tune-up. We’ll inspect and clean basic elements of the system, plus check for minor issues that have arisen over time to ensure your unit is in tip-top shape headed into cooling season. For more on pre-spring HVAC tips to consider in your home, or to learn about any of our heating and cooling services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Candle Materials and Air QualityWhen it comes to determining whether a given candle is good or bad for your indoor air quality, the primary theme is assessing the materials the candle is made from. Specifically, research has shown that candles containing a substance known as paraffin – one of the most popular types available, sadly – emit toxic chemicals such as toluene, benzene and even formaldehyde. These chemicals can lead to everything from respiratory concerns like asthma to nervous system disorders and even heightened risk for certain forms of cancer. Now, not all candles are made using paraffin. The same research showed that soybean candles or beeswax did not have the same outputs of toxic chemicals, though there is still debate about whether these types are truly safer. Overall, researchers noted that even for paraffin-based candles, occasional use is generally okay and will not pose a health or air quality threat. If you constantly are lighting these candles, however, especially in spaces with poor ventilation, this is when issues can begin.
HVAC Filter ImpactOne note for those who burn candles often, even if you’re burning beeswax or soybean candles that don’t emit toxins: Soot and smoke released from candles will generally clog up your HVAC filters faster than they would have otherwise. You should check your filters often and replace them more commonly if you burn candles regularly.
General TipsSome general ventilation and other tips for burning candles safely and without health or air quality risks:
- Stick with beeswax or soybean candles, and cotton or paper wicks
- Ensure candle wicks are trimmed down to limit smoke and soot output
- Use a lighter instead of a match for lighting candles – the former emits fewer toxins
- Burn candles in a properly-ventilated area
- When possible, choose odorless candles and use essential oils for improved aromas
Tracking OdorFor starters, the most common indicator that will signal a rodent’s presence in the duct system is the odor that comes from it. At the same time, however, such a smell could be coming from several sources or locations, and you have to follow it to determine the precise area. If you’ve already checked other primary areas or believe the ductwork is the location, find the strongest area of smell nearest to a vent cover you can access. Remove this cover and use a flashlight to check inside.
Careful, Safe RemovalIn cases where you can see the dead rodent and it’s close enough to the vent opening to reach it, you can likely perform this task yourself if desired. It’s vital, however, to take proper health and safety precautions: Wear gloves, use disinfectant products and ensure you have a strong, durable garbage bag for storing the remains. If the rodent is out of your reach, however, you may need to call our team for assistance. We have special tools and expertise that will allow us to reach the rodent and remove it without damaging your ductwork in any way. Once the rodent has been removed, thoroughly disinfect the area, including any section that was touched by the animal.
Repairing Leaks or DamageFinally, once the area is clean and sanitary, it’s important to inspect the system and understand how the rodent was able to enter it to begin with. Our pros will be able to help you ascertain this location, which often includes a small leak or hole that allowed the rodent to get in. We’ll also assist with simple, affordable repairs or replacement to ensure this cannot happen again, plus increase your energy efficiency. For more on what to do if a rodent has died in your HVAC duct system, or to learn about any of our heating and air services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Inspection and MaintenanceFor starters, having your HVAC system and furnace inspected and maintained by our quality HVAC pros during the late fall or early winter is vital, both for this and several other reasons. The last thing you want to be running into is a broken furnace or some other temperature issue while company is around, the kinds of issues that could have been prevented with a basic inspection and upkeep appointment. We’ll perform tasks ranging from basic cleaning to minor repairs as needed, also lengthening the lifespan of your system.
Filter, Vents and DuctsChanging HVAC filters is important throughout the year, and especially so if your home will have additional occupants for a period of time – this introduces a wider array of contaminants that need to be removed from the air. Ensure your filter is up-to-date and clean. In addition, take a few minutes to clean the accessible areas of your vents and air ducts, particularly if any dust or other buildups are present. This will limit allergens and other air quality detractors while also making it easier for the system to function at peak capacity.
Specific Room PrepWhen preparing guest rooms or other areas where guests will stay, take some time to ensure all vents are both open and free of any impediments, such as furniture. Even if you don’t normally keep vents open in this room, you should now. You may also consider leaving an extra blanket just in case your guests need additional warmth.
Large Groups and Thermostat ConsiderationsFinally, for some minor cost savings, you might consider lowering your thermostat a degree or two during large holiday gatherings. This is because large groups of people give off significant body heat, often warming the room or even the entire home on their own. Combine this with potential oven use and lots of lights being on, and you can likely give the thermostat at least a minor respite during events. For more on preparing the HVAC system and your home for holiday guests, or to learn about any of our furnace, air conditioning or air quality services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Common Seasonal AllergiesThe most common individual fall seasonal allergy is ragweed, which can travel all over the country through wind currents that pick it up and move it around. Ragweed causes eye and lung irritation symptoms, and is generally felt by those who also suffer from spring allergies as well. In addition, mold is a common allergy trigger that often tends to show up in greater quantities during the fall period. This is because as temperatures get colder, moisture and humidity often increase, which improves the conditions for mold to grow in. Another factor here is leaves piling up around the home, restricting air, holding in water and generally increasing the risk of mold forming.
HVAC MaintenanceThere are several distinct strategies you can take to benefit your home’s air quality while also increasing HVAC efficiency:
- Cleaning: Take time to clean dust, dirt and other debris off every area of the HVAC system, including the outdoor AC condenser. Dust is another common allergy trigger, but one you can significantly reduce within your home through basic cleaning.
- Ducts: Another area to clean is the ducts within your HVAC system, which can also become dusty. You likely won’t be able to clean the entire duct system on your own, but our HVAC pros are happy to help.
- Home cleanliness: Even areas like raking leaves, vacuuming dirt and other household chores will limit allergy risks.
- Filters: Perhaps the most important tactic listed here is changing your HVAC filters, which should be done on a regular basis throughout the year for many reasons. Filters keep the air quality high and your HVAC components functioning optimally.
Other Air Quality ProductsFinally, if you’ve done all the above and are still experiencing allergy or air quality risks, contact our team about our air quality products, which will clean either individual rooms or your entire house and leave you with nothing but healthy air. For more on air quality or any of our other HVAC services such as furnace installation or repair, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Keep an Eye (And an Ear) OutFor starters, maybe the single most valuable thing you can do as a homeowner is simply pay attention to your HVAC system on a regular basis. Once you have a basic idea of how your system operates when it’s functioning properly – how it sounds, how long it runs for during heating or cooling season, how often filters need to be changed, etc. – you should also be able to identify occasions when the system is not operating normally. In many cases, the first signs here are noises like rattling, grinding, buzzing or thumping. In others, you may notice actual performance issues like weak airflow, malfunctioning thermostats or pooling water near indoor units. The keener your eyes and ears are, the sooner you’ll spot these issues and can immediately remedy them before they worsen.
Regular Filter ReplacementEvery 30 to 90 days, depending on the filter type and the details of your system, you should be changing out your air filters. This frequency increases if you have pets in the home, which add to the dust and dander levels in the air. Not only does changing filters at the proper intervals lead to cleaner, healthier air, it also keeps several HVAC components functioning optimally rather than wearing down too quickly.
Cleaning AreasThere are a few areas you can clean regularly to keep your HVAC system in peak shape:
- Vents: Vacuuming in and around vents helps remove dust and dirt that might block airflow.
- Outdoor unit: Outdoor AC condensers need regular maintenance too – make sure they’re free of leaves and other debris, plus cut back any nearby shrubs to give them space to breathe.
- Ductwork: If your home has ductwork, schedule an inspection at least once every couple years with our HVAC technicians to ensure there are no blockages or leaks.