What Is a HEPA Filter?

January 22nd, 2015

Modern building codes, security standards, and health codes emphasize safety, which is why we have locks on the doors of our homes, vents over the oven, and handrails in public restrooms. Without modern advancements in technology and government regulations in manufacturing and construction, there could be a health or safety risk in any area of your home or a public building—even in the air you breathe. As it turns out, the air inside of a building could be more polluted than the outside air. Thankfully, air conditioning and heating manufacturers and installers are required to use filters in forced air HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and one of the most advanced of these is the HEPA filter.

HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters were actually designed to eliminate radioactive contaminants from the air after the invention of the atomic bomb, and that’s how you can tell that these systems are effective. In fact, HEPA filters eliminate over 99% of the contaminants that pass into it (down to 0.3 micrometers in size), which is far more than the average home filter. This is partly due to the design of the filter; it’s folded into pleats to create a larger surface area, so that small particles are more likely to become trapped in the fibers as the indoor fan sucks them in.

Most of the filters installed in a home heating and air conditioning system have a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) of about 1 to 6, which means that they can only filter out about 75-90% of the particles that pass through, no less than 3 to 10 micrometers in diameter. That means your home filter may eliminate dust mites, pollen, and dusting aids, but not all mold spores, which would require a MERV 8 filter.

HEPA filters, however, are generally not effective for use in homes unless they are built into separate electronic air cleaners. This is because a HEPA filter can actually interfere with airflow to the air conditioning or heating unit. The unit needs a certain amount of air to come in in order to work properly, and a HEPA filter is simply too powerful and can block some air from entering. HEPA filters are more common in hospitals, laboratories, and even airplanes, although you may be able to get the power of a HEPA filter with a home air purifier.

Speak with the indoor air quality experts at Air Mechanical, Inc. to learn more about air cleaners in Ham Lake. Contact us today!

What to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Garage Heater

January 15th, 2015

It gets cold in Minnesota, and if you work in a garage, you know that without heat, a garage in sub-freezing temperatures is not much more than a lean-to. However, there are some choices to make before installing a new garage heater, as we’ll explain below.

How Big Is Your Garage?

Installing a garage heater that can’t effectively heat your entire garage space pretty much negates installing one in the first place. As such, the first thing to do is assess what is known as heat range, which is the amount of square feet that needs to be heated in your garage. Heaters should be labeled with this information, but if it’s not, your installation technician can do the calculation for you.

Fuel Types

There are two main fuel choices when it comes to garage heaters: natural gas (or propane) and electricity. Both can heat your garage effectively, but each has its own advantages. Gas garage heaters can heat spaces that are both small and large; some gas heaters can heat spaces up to 4,500 square feet. Gas fuel can also be less costly in the long run. Electric garage heaters are best for spaces 500 square feet and under as they are not as effective in larger spaces. Because electric heaters don’t use fossil fuels, they can be easily relocated and have very high efficiency ratings. Working with a trained expert can help you determine which fuel type is best for your needs.

Features to Consider

There are a number of features that can come with garage heaters; some may be included with the model you choose, some may need to be added. Safety features are always included with garage heaters, including finger-proof grilles and shut-off safety controls. Other types of features include:

  • Fans
  • Portability
  • Mounting brackets
  • Adjustable thermostats

Don’t let our Minnesota winter turn your garage space into an igloo. Call Air Mechanical, Inc., today and schedule an appointment for garage heating installation in Blaine.

How to Ensure Your Sump Pump Works Properly

January 8th, 2015

A sump pump can help protect your home from flooding if you live in an area with a high water table or if your home is in an area prone to flash floods. A sump pump may be a necessary installation for homes in your area, but it’s still quite probable that a flood won’t make it to your basement and that your unit won’t need to turn on for a very long time  after installation. Sump pumps do not run until the sump (the basin that the pump sits in) begins to fill, so it can be difficult to tell whether or not your sump pump will operate properly when the time comes.

For installation, repair, or maintenance of sump pumps in Moundsview and the surrounding areas, call the plumbing experts at Air Mechanical, Inc.

Some experts recommend testing your sump pump every couple of months. Perhaps the most obvious way to test your sump pump is by pouring water into the basin. To test out the pump using this method, simply grab a bucket, pour in the water, and wait. If it doesn’t discharge any of the water, or if water seems to be draining quite slowly, you should call a technician sooner rather than later. You can also test your sump pump by simply unplugging the unit and plugging it back in to make sure it comes on. You should ask a professional about the best way to test your particular unit at installation or during a maintenance visit.

Perhaps the best way to ensure that your sump pump is operating properly is by scheduling a maintenance visit with a professional every year, especially before the rainy season begins. A professional will check for issues that may have the potential to disable your unit at some point in the future, even if it seems to be working well now. They’ll make sure that the sump is clean and that none of the inlets are clogged. They’ll also check that the discharge pipe that leads outdoors is not clogged or frozen.

You can schedule sump pump maintenance as part of regular plumbing maintenance with a professional like the ones at Air Mechanical, Inc.

The Benefits of Honeywell Redlink Thermostats in Ham Lake

January 5th, 2015

Have you ever come home to a cold house in the middle of winter and wish you’d gotten some kind of message from your heating system that a problem developed before the chill set in? With the Honeywell Redlink thermostat, you can. Using Honeywell’s specialized Redlink technology, not only can your HVAC system tell you when something’s wrong, it can help you become more energy efficient and even keep your system running should the thermostat’s batteries run out. Interested? Let’s take a look at some of the features and benefits of installing a Honeywell Redlink thermostat into your Ham Lake home.

Redlink Technology

Redlink technology isn’t just wi-fi for your thermostat; it is a dedicated, protected wireless communication technology between your Redlink thermostat, your HVAC system and you. One of the strongest benefits of using a Redlink system is that it won’t suffer interference from other wireless devices, such as neighbor’s wireless routers, baby monitors or cordless phones. This is because Redlink was designed specifically for the HVAC industry and it supplies your home and HVAC system with a strong, secure, interference-free and reliable wireless communication.

How It Works

A Honeywell Redlink thermostat does not need to be wired into your HVAC system. This is because the system uses a component called a push terminal is installed directly onto your HVAC system and communicated directly with the thermostat. All the thermostat needs to operate are batteries; the simple press of a button connects the two components. As the homeowner, all you have to do is download the free app on a smart device once the thermostat and push terminal are installed, and you can begin to manage your home’s entire system.

Benefits

Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy with a Honeywell Redlink thermostat:

  • Programmability (not all models)
  • View and change HVAC system settings, including humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  • View and set the temperature
  • View outdoor temperature and humidity
  • Access multiple thermostats if the system is zoned
  • Access multiple locations if more than one system is connected
  • Receive temperature and humidity alerts via e-mail
  • Access over 90 system alerts via the web
  • Get automatic upgrades as new features are available

A new thermostat can increase your comfort and energy efficiency and reduce the stress on your HVAC system. If you are interested in seeing what a Honeywell Redlink thermostat can do for you, call Air Mechanical, Inc., today!

The History of “Auld Lang Syne”

January 1st, 2015

There are numerous different traditional songs associated with Christmas—but there is only one song that comes to mind immediately when people think of New Year’s Eve: “Auld Lang Syne.” It is hard to find a New Year’s Eve party where people won’t leap into singing “Should old acquaintance be forgot…” as the first stroke of midnight sounds. This tradition encompasses the globe, with almost every culture that celebrates New Year’s on January 1st breaking into song with the same set of lyrics.

Where did this song come from? And what do the words “auld lang syne” actually mean? The best place to ask these questions is Scotland. The Official Gateway to Scotland website calls the song “one of Scotland’s gifts to the world, recalling the love and kindness of days gone by, but in the communion of taking our neighbor’s hands, it also gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship to take us into the future.”

The melody of the piece originates from Lowland Scots folk song tradition. It was legendary Scottish Romantic poet Robert Burns (1759–1796) who created the words we know today, however. During the later years of his life, Burns dedicated much of his work to collecting Scottish folk tunes and giving them new life. The first mention Burns makes of “Auld Lang Syne” is in 1788, when he calls the song “a glorious fragment.” Burns wrote new lyrics to the old melody, and used the words “auld lang syne,” which is Scottish for “old long since,” and which can be translated into standard English as “long, long ago” or “days gone by.” The phrase was already known in earlier Scottish poems and folk songs, and appears to be the equivalent of “Once upon a time…” for Scots fairy tales.

Soon after Burns introduced the song to the public, it spread across Scotland as a New Year’s custom, and then to the rest of Great Britain. Scottish immigrants took the song with them as they moved across the globe, and by the middle of the 19th century it was a holiday tradition throughout the English-speaking world. By the close of the 20th century, it was a global phenomenon to ring in the New Year.

We imagine that you’ll end up singing or hearing “Auld Lang Syne” at some point this New Year’s (maybe you’ve already heard it while watching It’s a Wonderful Life).

All of us at Air Mechanical Inc. would like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy coming year in the tradition of the song.

5 Facts about Santa Claus

December 25th, 2014

Many holiday traditions involve the story of Santa Claus, the lovable old man who spends most of his time at the North Pole taking a single evening to deliver presents and candy to children everywhere. But since Santa Claus is so elusive (unless he happens to be visiting your local shopping mall), how do we know so much about him? Where exactly does his journey begin? Our holiday guide details 5 of the most common traditions associated with Jolly Old Saint Nick.

  1. The Origins of Santa: The name “Santa Claus” comes from St. Nicholas (a name which became Sinter Klaas for short in Dutch), a Christian Bishop from 4 A.D. who was known for giving his fortune away to those in need in Turkey. Santa Claus’ first associations with gift-giving comes from Holland’s St. Nicholas’ feast day, during which children would leave out their shoes overnight and find presents waiting inside the shoes on the next morning.
  2. The Stocking by the Chimney: While many people associate Holland’s shoe tradition with the origins of hanging a stocking, this isn’t entirely accurate. Hanging stockings instead comes from the legend of a time St. Nick helped a man afford to marry off his daughter by throwing a bag of gold down the chimney, which landed in a stocking that was hanging up to dry.
  3. St. Nick’s Outfit: Santa got his fashion sense from a wooden cutout handed out during a meeting of the New York Historical Society in 1804. But it wasn’t until a 1930s Coca Cola advertisement that his traditionally blue, white, and green outfit was transformed into a big red suit.
  4. Leaving Cookies out for Santa: Food was traditionally used as ornamentation during the holidays in medieval Germany as apples and cookies commonly adorned the home at wintertime. When the Christmas tree became a common symbol of the season, edible treats began to vanish, a phenomenon which became attributed to Santa Claus’ snacking habits.
  5. Why Santa Drives a Sleigh: Santa gets his sleigh from a tale spun by Washington Irving, the same author who brought us the Headless Horseman. He wrote down an account of a dream in which Santa Claus drives a weightless wagon through the sky, and the stories became so popular, they stuck around.

Here at Air Mechanical Inc., we hope that you have a joyful and safe celebration, no matter what holiday traditions you engage in this year. Happy holidays!

Still Time to Receive Federal Tax Credit!

December 24th, 2014

Money in hand

There’s still time to take advantage of federal tax credits for high efficiency furnace, air conditioning, and heat pump models. If you have an old system that is 15 years old or more, a new system can save you an average of $350-$650 annually on your utility costs. And you can qualify for up to $500 in tax credits!

Even if you already bought a new system in 2014, you may still be eligible to take advantage of these tax credits. Give us a call or check with your tax professional for more information.

How Can I Tell if I Need a Humidifier?

December 18th, 2014

When weather reports detail the relative humidity outdoors, most people pay no attention. But if you’re way more concerned with the temperature than you are with the amount of moisture in the air, you may be missing out on a chance to better control your climate with whole-home humidity control. The amount of moisture in the air contributes greatly to how comfortable you feel and even to your level of health, which is why you sometimes run your heater or air conditioner at full force without feeling any more restful.

Too much humidity in the air causes people to feel hot and sticky, since sweat cannot evaporate from their bodies. But in the winter, low humidity is more likely to affect you, leaving you feeling dried out and even possibly upsetting the structure of your home. Because of this, contractors often recommend whole-home humidifiers to homeowners in Andover, as the following symptoms can make them a near necessity in your home.

  1. Dry skin: Dry, itchy, or flaky skin and chapped lips are a couple of fairly irritating ways to tell that a humidifier is right for you. A humidifier emits water vapor into the air so that the air so that your skin can retain more moisture. This ensures healthier skin, hair, and sinuses, and can even help prevent a sudden acne breakout.
  2. Prolonged sickness: When there’s not enough moisture in the air, your sinuses and mucus membranes can dry out as well. And when the nasal passages don’t have any moisture, it takes your body a bit longer to heal from an illness like the cold or the flu. This is why a whole-house humidifying unit is recommended over a portable unit as they give everyone in the home an equal chance at recovery.
  3. Cracked walls and peeling paint: Finally, it may surprise you to learn that low humidity can even affect your environment, causing paint to peel, walls to crack, and even damaging wood furniture and floors.

Speak with an expert at Air Mechanical, Inc. today to learn more about all of the benefits homeowners have discovered by installing humidifiers in Andover.

Why Schedule Plumbing Maintenance?

December 11th, 2014

Just as you maintain your cooling and heating systems, you should also maintain your home’s plumbing systems. Plumbing problems can be messy and incur water damage, and certain types of plumbing repairs can be very costly. How can maintenance help prevent these types of things? We’ll explain more below, but first let’s take a look at what happens during a routine plumbing maintenance appointment:

  • Thorough inspection of all plumbing systems
  • Water pressure checks in all piping and fixtures
  • Check all toilets for leaks
  • Inspection of water-using appliances, such as washing machine and dishwasher
  • Inspection of all main valves
  • Inspection of all piping, with a particular focus on any potential leaks or corrosion
  • Inspection of faucets and drains
  • Inspection of piping under all sinks
  • Inspection of emergency shut-off valves

If any problems are found, the issue(s) will be explained to you and recommendations given for repair.

Benefits of Plumbing Maintenance

Here are some of the reasons why scheduling plumbing maintenance is beneficial:

  • Maintenance of appliances – plumbing problems can put stress on appliances like washing machines and dish washers; properly maintaining your plumbing helps prevent this kind of stress, which can extend the life of your water-using appliances.
  • Prevent/reduce clogs – if you’ve been experiencing slow drainage in any of your drains, your plumber can inspect the problem(s) during maintenance. Even if your drains are flowing well, your plumber will be able to inspect your drains for potential soap scum and/or hair build-up.
  • Improve water pressure – if you’ve been experiencing problems with your water pressure, maintenance can help clear some of the issues that may be causing this.
  • Decrease water bills – small leaks can increase your water bills; during a maintenance appointment, these leaks are repaired, which can save you money for the long-term.

Maintaining your home systems is important to your comfort, health and the longevity of the system.

If it’s been more than 12 months since your last plumbing maintenance appointment in Oak Grove, call Air Mechanical, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

Do Geothermal Systems Require Frequent Repair?

December 4th, 2014

There can be some concern in regard to repairing geothermal systems because of how the system is set up. As such, one of the main concerns is how frequently do geothermal systems need repair? The answer is: very infrequently. Not only are geothermal systems made to be durable, their operation is very different from more traditional systems, so the risk of malfunction is far less. Understanding how geothermal systems work helps explain why geothermal systems do not have the same frequency of breakdowns as other systems, so let’s take a look at how a geothermal system works.

Geothermal Operation

A geothermal system takes advantage of the steady temperature of the ground below the frost line to heat your home. It does this via a ground loop filled with a solution (typically anti-freeze) that absorbs the latent heat and transfers this heat to the ground-source heat pump. The heat pump concentrates the heat, then distributes it to your living spaces.

What About Repairs?

The ground loop is a simple component that does not have mechanical parts; in fact, the main mechanical component in a geothermal system is the heat pump. Furnaces and boilers are mechanical devices with moving parts, which makes them more prone to developing problems; a geothermal system does not have multiple moving parts. Additionally, unlike traditional combustion heating systems, geothermal systems do not generate heat; instead, they transfer heat. This, too, helps the system to be more stable. None of the geothermal components are exposed to the outdoors, which helps protect the parts from corrosion and damage. Lastly, the average lifespan of the equipment is some of the longest around: ground loops have an average lifespan of 25-50 years and the heat pumps have an average lifespan of 20-25 years.

Geothermal systems are the most energy efficient heating and cooling system available, so don’t let the possibility of geothermal repair in Lino Lakes keep you from considering a geothermal system for your home.

Have questions? Contact Air Mechanical, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation experts.