Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog : Archive for July, 2011

What to Look for when a Home is 100 Years Old

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Many people like older homes, but at a certain point, the age of a home can be a bit of a turnoff. It’s not the architecture – old homes are magnificently built and tend to have more character in the woodwork and nooks and crannies than any new home. But, when you move beyond how impressive early 20th century (or earlier) architecture is, you might find a number of maintenance and upkeep issues that have only been made worse by the passage of time.

Common Problems to Watch For

As with a 50 year old home, materials are a big issue. You need to have your home tested for lead paint and asbestos – both things that can be incredibly dangerous for every resident, especially children. These are very likely to be a part of the home if it hasn’t been remodeled in the last 30 years. Retrofitting to cover them up or remove them will be an added expense.

Additionally, older homes have much greater ratios of ventilation. If insulation has not been added in the last 25 years to cover those vents and gaps, your home will be very drafty, which is uncomfortable in the winter and costly year round. Make sure to have your home pressure tested and sealed up as soon as possible.

Upgrades You Can Make

Electricity is another major issue in older homes. While most old homes have been owned multiple times and likely upgraded since they were built, occasionally you will run across a house with extremely old wiring. That might mean a low capacity panel box or single strand wiring. Either way, it’s unsafe and unstable – for modern appliances and electronics you’ll need to upgrade that wiring as soon as possible.

The same may be true for your plumbing. If the house has original plumbing and fixtures, not only will they be inefficient, they may be rusty or prone to leakage. Sewer lines in particular are expensive replacements if they decide to break. Make sure you have these thoroughly inspected before a purchase.

The Joy of an Older Home

Despite all of the potential problems an old home might offer, there are plenty of benefits. Established neighborhoods, solid construction, and the ability to alter your home however you want are all positives you can’t overlook when buying a home. Just make sure you’re fully aware of what you’re getting into. Even a well maintained old home may have some issues that you miss on your initial walkthrough – make sure your inspector is thorough.

Continue Reading

My HVAC System Has a 10 Year Warranty – Why Do I Need a Maintenance Agreement?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

While every new furnace sold comes with a limited 10 year warranty for the unit and parts, it is a good idea to supplement your warranty with a more complete maintenance agreement with your HVAC provider. Why pay for a secondary maintenance plan when you already have a warranty?

For the most part, the limited warranty provided by the manufacturer is meant to cover things like faulty parts, abnormal breakdowns or recalls. If your system simply needs to get a checkup because you use it a lot or there is a clog that isn’t caused by the actual furnace or air conditioner, you will likely end up paying the maintenance cost. So, by paying for an upgraded service plan, you cover all potential breakdowns and you’ll never again need to worry about your system. It’s like getting the upgraded warranty for a new car that covers everything from a busted crankshaft to old windshield wipers.

Help Your System Last Longer

Another benefit of a maintenance agreement for your HVAC system is that the system lasts longer when it is regularly maintained. The best maintenance agreements come with unlimited checkups and service visits, any day of the week, any time. So, if you think your system is running poorly, call a professional in to check it out and it won’t cost you anything. The ability to do this will ensure your HVAC system lasts significantly longer than if you were forced to wait until you could afford an extra visit from your repair man.

So, not only do you ensure your system keeps working, you add a lot of valuable years to its lifespan. Imagine how much money you’ll save if your furnace or air conditioner lasts for 20+ years instead of just 10. Any breakdowns after the 10 year mark would require hefty repairs or replacement since your warranty is expired. So, it’s in your best interest to keep your system running smoothly throughout its lifespan.

Ultimately, an HVAC system is only as good as what you put into it. If you’re careful about your investments and are willing to spend a little extra now, you’ll stand to benefit far more in the future from a smoothly operating, efficient heating system.

Continue Reading

IAQ – Filters

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Installing air filters in your home is a great way to make sure the air your family breathes every day is safe and free of contaminants. But you shouldn’t just go out and buy the first air filter you see. When it comes to quality air filtration, HEPA filters are the industry leaders, and for good reason. They can remove up to 99.97% of indoor air contaminants that measure 0.3 microns or larger, a phenomenal success rate unmatched by any other filters on the market.

Proper HEPA Filter Practices

To be effective, even HEPA filters need to be installed and maintained properly. Consulting with an HVAC professional is the best way to ensure that the air filtration system you get is completely compatible with your home heating and cooling system. The filter must also be installed in the appropriate place so it can catch the most contaminants. Especially if you have a forced air heating and cooling system, there are a lot of potential locations for your filters. A good HVAC professional can help you determine which spots will serve you best.

Changing Your HEPA Filters

Once your filtration system is in place, you should maintain it properly so it continues to catch and remove all those unwanted particles from your indoor air. Keeping up with the proper filter changing schedule is a big part of this. Every HEPA filter comes with manufacturer’s recommendations on how often the filter needs to be changed. Prefilters often need to be changed more often, sometimes even once every 90 days, so you should find out if your system has one of these as well.

Many HEPA filters only need to be changed once every year or two, but the conditions in your home can make it necessary to change them more often. For example, if your home has a lot of dust or other specific air contaminants, you may need to change your HEPA filter as often as once a year.

Both HEPA filters and prefilters are quite easy to remove and replace. If you’re not sure how to do it, have your technician show you the next time they come out for a routine maintenance visit or when they put install the system. As long as you replace your filters regularly, you should have no trouble maintaining high indoor air quality with a HEPA air filtration system.

Continue Reading

Indoor Air Quality Options

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Maintaining high indoor air quality is always worth investing time and money in. After all, if the air inside your home isn’t healthy, it can cause all kinds of health problems for you and your family. The state of the art home heating and cooling systems we have today make it possible to enjoy a perfectly temperature controlled indoor environment all year long, but they also trap indoor air pollutants and contaminants inside without proper ventilation.

Choosing a System that Works

Luckily there are a number of great products out there designed to remove these pollutants before they cause you and your family discomfort or illness. Before you run out to buy a new system, however, you should first consider what each has to offer and what pollutants you need to remove. You might have some idea about this already, but the best thing to do is talk to a professional who can help assess your indoor air and determine which types of contaminants are most prevalent in your home.

Different types of indoor air cleaners are better at targeting different types of contaminants. For instance, HEPA filters can remove up to 99.97% of particulate contaminants that measure 0.3 microns or larger. This includes things like pollen, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores, so if these are the things you want to target, an indoor air system that uses HEPA filters is probably right for you.

However, if you’re more concerned with getting rid of smoke odors and cooking fumes, you probably want a system that targets even smaller particles. Air ionizers are more appropriate for these types of indoor air quality issues, as they can effectively remove much smaller particles than most HEPA filters. On the flip side, ionizers aren’t as efficient at removing the larger contaminant particles, so if you want to target both small and large contaminants, you need a system that combines both of these technologies.

Bacteria and viruses are also a problem when they find their way into your indoor air and they can be particularly tricky to get rid of. HEPA filters and air ionizers both have trouble completely eradicating these pathogens, but UV germicidal lights can be incorporated into your indoor air cleaning system to tackle biological contaminants effectively.

No matter what type of home air quality problem you have, there is a system on the market that will target and remove the pollutant. The key is to know which pollutants effect you the most and which products will do the best job of removing them from your home.

Continue Reading

What Is a Whole House Pressurization Test and Should I Get One?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

If you have a forced air heating or cooling system in your home, you also have a system of ducts through which that heated or cooled air circulates. And most people don’t give a second though to those ducts. After all, if your heating and cooling systems are working, the ducts must be doing their job, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If ducts are not working properly, the whole system will be in trouble, even when you don’t realize there is a problem. That’s why a pressurization test is so important – it provides peace of mind knowing that your home’s ductwork is not only properly installed, but that it doesn’t need any special repairs.

Why Pressure Matters

Your duct system depends on proper pressurization to evenly and efficiently distribute air throughout your home. Leaks, cracks or clogs in the system can disrupt that pressure and lead to uneven or inadequate movement of air through your ducts. This causes problems you may not notice, so if you haven’t had your ducts checked for proper pressure in a while, it’s worth looking into.

Improper pressurization causes symptoms like hot or cold spots in your home or an overall drop in the effectiveness of your home heating and cooling system. When loss of pressure is due to a leak that lets in unfiltered air from outdoors it can also lead to a decrease in indoor air quality. Often these symptoms are easy to ignore. But by doing so, you only allow the situation to get worse.

A whole house pressurization test is the best way to determine the state of your home duct system. By using high tech diagnostic equipment, home HVAC professionals check over your entire system to determine whether you have a pressurization problem. If so they can then quickly pinpoint the source. Once that’s done, the repairs are usually quite simple and you’ll get much more out of your home heating and cooling system than you did before.

Even if no symptoms of improper pressurization in your ducts have presented themselves, it’s worth having one of these tests performed. Especially if you don’t know when the system was last checked, a whole house pressurization test can help uncover small problems before they turn into bigger ones. And the peace of mind this provides is well worth the day it takes to perform the test.

Continue Reading

Control Your Home’s Moisture – Humidity Is Key

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Most people don’t give a second thought to humidity until it is either much too high or uncomfortably low. And if you have a state of the art home comfort system, you’re probably comfortable inside all year long anyway. But there are several reasons to pay attention to the humidity level in your home and take action if you realize that it isn’t providing the comfort level you’ve come to expect.

Many problems arise from excess or inadequate indoor humidity levels. For instance, a lack of humidity causes your skin and nasal passages to dry and crack, which is obviously pretty unpleasant. But air that’s too dry can also make the symptoms of allergies, asthma and colds worse. Anyone in your home suffering from these conditions will be much more comfortable when the right level of humidity is restored. Another great benefit is that the indoor air quality will no longer contribute to longer and more sever colds and flus in the winter.

Too much humidity is a problem too, though. It promotes the growth of mold, which is a big contributor to indoor air pollution. Mold spores are a big time allergen. The more moisture there is in your home, the more mold there’s likely to be. High indoor humidity levels also promote the growth of dust mites, another major indoor air contaminant and allergen.

Of course, you probably have a great indoor air cleaner in place to get all of those contaminants out of your home’s air supply. But if the air inside your home is too moist or too dry, it can actually make it harder for the air cleaner to remove all types of contaminants. Not only are you putting a greater strain on your body and immune system, you’re asking your air cleaners to work much harder, which can cost you money in repairs and filter replacements.

For all of these reasons, it’s important to put in a humidification system to maintain the overall quality of your indoor air. Plus, a properly humidified environment is simply more comfortable to live in. A humidifier can easily be integrated into your current home heating and cooling system, so you don’t have to worry about high installation costs or equipment compatibility. All you have to do is sit back, relax and breathe in the fresh air that your humidification system makes possible.

Continue Reading

What is a Whole House Fan?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Cooling your home is a big deal. Especially if the temperature in your home is generally very high in the summer, the cost of air conditioning is tremendous. A central air conditioner can cost between $2,000 and $4,000 to run for an average 2,800 square foot home over the course of six months. That’s a lot of electricity just to stay cool.

That’s why a whole house fan is a great option for those that want to forego the use of direct air conditioning for at least part of the year.

What It Does

A whole house fan is different from a standard air conditioner because it doesn’t use a heat exchanger to remove heat from air before it enters your home. That heat exchanger is the culprit for a large percentage of an air conditioner’s energy consumption. A whole house fan can be used when the temperature outside is lower than inside, a common occurrence on moderate days in the summer.

The whole house fan draws air and then cycles it through your air vents without cooling it. The act of moving air through your home, however, is often enough to cool the space to a comfortable level. The size of your whole house fan depends on quite a few things. First, how big is your home? Large homes that require even cooling need a larger fan to draw in air. However, small homes can often get away with models that use as little as 120 Watts of electricity. That’s less than your computer uses.

Choosing a Fan for Your Home

Keep in mind that a whole house fan only works when the temperature outside is lower than inside. If the air outside is excessively humid or if it is very warm in the hottest months of summer, you will still need an air conditioning unit. But, even if you run your air conditioner for two months out of the year, you’ll save a tremendous amount of money in the other four months by operating a whole house fan.

Whole house fans should be used in conjunction with an effective air purification system to ensure all outdoor contaminants are effectively removed before they are cycled through your house. They also require the same level of maintenance and cleaning as a normal AC system. However, with the right care, they work wonders to cut down on your energy bill.

Continue Reading

Worst Rooms in Your Home to Collect Allergens

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Your home is a haven for allergens, but some rooms in particular are much worse than others. They are damp. They are warm. They often have garbage in them. These are the rooms that need especially close attention when trying to maintain air quality in your home.

Basement

First on the list is your basement. A basement is the biggest problem when it’s either unfinished or not used very often. If you have water leaks in your basement or poor insulation, it’s important to have a moisture barrier put in and have your pipes checked. If the water comes from a drainage pipe or your sewer line, repairs can be made. If it comes from excess ground water or leaks in the foundation, a sump pump or drain tile system will help remove the excess water. Either way, the wetter your basement gets, the higher the risk of mold and other contaminants becomes.

Beyond moisture, a basement tends to collect a lot of dust. After all, it is where we put many of our old and unwanted possessions, and because the furnace is often in your basement, all that damp, allergen filled air gets cycled back into your home.

Bathroom

Bathrooms are allergen havens for two reasons. They are filled with moisture, and without proper ventilation they will soon be filled with mold and mildew. Additionally, when not cleaned regularly they can house buildups of hair, skin, and other dust building residue that tend to trigger allergies.

The easiest way to handle this problem is to clean your bathroom regularly and make sure it is properly ventilated. Short of an exhaust fan in your bathroom, keep the door and windows open to help it dry faster.

Kitchen

Your kitchen produces allergens like mold and mildew due to the presence of garbage and fruit. It can also attract bugs and the dirt that accrues from people passing through constantly. Pets tend to eat in the kitchen, leaving behind dander. Additionally, plants and vegetables in the kitchen release pollen that circulates through your home to trigger additional allergies. Exhaust from cooking and smoke can also be a harmful allergen trigger.

The kitchen should be kept well ventilated and clean at all times. Check for any gaps in your insulation and have your exhaust fan and hood cleaned regularly to avoid backups of smoke or gas.

Allergens are everywhere in your home – with careful attention, however, you can stop them from affecting your family negatively.

Continue Reading

Why Choose a Programmable Thermostat?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

There are many types of thermostats available for your home, but which is the best for your particular needs? It depends largely on how often you are home, how many rooms you have and how people in your house use each of those rooms.

A programmable thermostat in particular is a great option because it allows home owners to control when and how much heat or cooling is introduced to their indoor air. Normal thermostats lack this level of control, largely because they are built as simple switches that flip on whenever your temperature gets too low or too high.

Situations for a Programmable Thermostat

When you leave your home every day, you have two options. Either set the heat and AC so you’ll be comfortable when you return, or turn them off completely and suffer through the first half hour or so when you get home that night.

If you choose the former, you’ll pay a lot more in energy bills to heat or cool an empty house. And if your humidity levels need controlling as well, this may be your only option. Those in the second camp are forced to endure uncomfortable temperatures right when they get home and want nothing more than to relax. Not much better.

That’s why so many homeowners are opting for programmable thermostats to overcome this issue. With a programmable model, you can actually tell your home’s comfort system when to turn on and off each day, depending on when people will be there. Imagine going on vacation for three or four days and coming home to a nice and toasty living room and a smaller heating bill to go with it. That’s the kind of control a programmable model offers.

Zone Control and Beyond

Some programmable thermostats even allow you to section your home off into zones and choose specific temperatures for different areas of the house. This allows a great deal more control over when and how your system will operate each day, depending on the individual comfort needs of your family.

If you’re making dinner and don’t want the heat blasting you while you’re standing over the stove, just set the kitchen temperature lower. And with a programmable thermostat, you can tell it to come back on an hour after you leave the kitchen so that it’s comfortable later when you need a glass of water.

Continue Reading

How Can I Get Better Flow from My Faucets?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Most of us realize that a drain can get clogged or that the pipes in our home might require extra repairs every now and then, but rarely do we realize that when the faucet is not providing a strong, steady flow of water, it is likely because of a clog in the actual faucet. If you are suffering from low flow in your faucets or worse, sputtering and clogging, here are some tips to help fix the problem.

Why it Happens

The reason that so many faucets now have problems related to clogging is that they have been changed and redesigned over the years to reduce water flow. Older faucets would pour ridiculous amounts of water through the drain – not at all good for the environment. Today, aerators and other technology advancements greatly reduce the amount of water used, but also tend to cause these types of clogs.

Checking Your Aerator

The easiest way to fix a slow flowing faucet is to check the aerator tip for unwanted sediment. Despite filtration of tap water, over time small bits of sand, dirt, and other sediment can and will build up in the aerator. That sediment should be cleaned out of the tip of the aerator at least once a month to keep it from slowing the flow of water.

If a water main breaks somewhere or a problem occurs in the water supply outside of your home, this type of sediment might start to build up more rapidly and cause immediate clogs in your faucet. Other things that might build up include pieces of pipe or flux from plumbing joints that break free and enter the water supply. None of it poses a health problem, but it can be frustrating when it gets into your faucets and blocks the water supply.

Valve Cartridge

If the aerator is not the problem it may be in the valve cartridge. To fix this, you will need to replace the part. Each faucet can be very different, so you should refer to your owner’s manual (many of which are online) for how to take this part out of the faucet assembly. When you go to the hardware store, be sure to take the valve cartridge with you so you can get the exact piece you need for replacement.

The easiest way to avoid a clog in your faucets is to be careful with any repairs you make. While a water main break is not something you can control, you can control how the water supply is affected when someone does repairs on your home’s plumbing. Leave faucets open outside, turn the main valve back on slowly and check your faucet immediately after the repair to ensure no sediment gets clogged in the assembly.

Continue Reading