Indoor Air Quality
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Do I Need a Humidifier?
The answer to this question depends on a few things, but first you should know about the importance of properly humidified air.
Air that lacks sufficient moisture can be damaging to the skin, causing it to dry out, chap and crack. It also exacerbates respiratory symptoms, such as those accompanying asthma, allergies and the common cold. It may also be more contaminated, as filtration systems have a harder time cleaning out air that is very dry.
For those that are susceptible to respiratory problems, especially those living in dry climates, then yes, a humidifier is probably a good idea. Keep in mind, however, that there are drawbacks to having air that is too humid. Air that contains too much moisture does not circulate as readily and promotes mildew and mold growth, so it is best not to get a humidifier if you don’t need one.
What Are UV Germicidal Lights?
Simply put, UV germicidal lights are a special kind of light that cleans indoor air by exposing it to ultraviolet radiation. The UV light does not damage the air and is safe for humans, but is deadly to biological contaminants that may be in the air. Bacteria, mold and viruses are eradicated by these lights, which are usually installed after your air cleaner within your HVAC system.
The result is air that is safer to breathe and less likely to carry microorganisms that can make you sick.
I Already Have an Air Purification System. Why Do I Need UV Germicidal Lights?
Air purification systems are great for removing particulate matter, such as dust and pollen. They are also highly effective at reducing the amount of smoke, dander and other allergens in the air. They are a blessing for people who suffer from asthma and allergies.
What they cannot do, however, is remove microorganisms and other biological contaminants. The filters are simply not enough to catch things that small, but UV germicidal lights can which is why they make such a strong addition to your existing air filtration system, allowing you to keep the air in your home as clean as possible.
How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?
The short answer is to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
The longer answer is that it varies depending on a number of factors, such as the type of filter, the type of ventilation system, the local outdoor air quality and how well your home circulates air. It also depends on the composition of the home, such as whether there are any smokers or pets in the household. These introduce contaminants, which shortens filter life.
Finally, it also depends on your needs and preferences. If you or a family member is prone to respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies, you will want to use a higher rated filter and change it more often. The first step, though, is always to check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector?
In a word: YES!
Carbon monoxide is a toxic, potentially deadly, invisible, odorless gas that is caused by what is termed “incomplete combustion of organic materials.” Essentially, that means any time something is burned, some amount of carbon monoxide is released into the air.
Common household causes of elevated carbon monoxide levels include improperly sealed chimneys, poor home ventilation and secondhand smoke, among others. A carbon monoxide detector will warn you when gas levels have reached a potentially dangerous point, so that you can leave the area and seek help for the problem.
Many smoke detectors are combined with carbon monoxide detectors these days, so there is no real excuse not to have one.
How Old Must My System Be Before Replacement Saves Me Money?
If you have a system that’s only 5 years old or less, the savings probably won’t offset the cost of installation. However, a much older system, even if it’s great condition and running well may be far less efficient, to the point you’ll save money with an upgrade. Specifically, look for major ratings like SEER ratings on air conditioners, AFUE on furnaces, HSPF on combined heat pump devices and general operation costs from year to year. A professional can help you determine whether a new system will save enough money to offset the cost of replacement.
Another factor to consider is switching to an entirely new type of system. Geothermal heating or cooling or evaporative cooling are extremely effective in reducing costs, especially if you have a much older system to start with.
What is Energy Management?
Increasingly, businesses are turning to energy management systems to reduce the overall cost of heating and cooling their commercial buildings. More than 35% of all US buildings with 100,000 or more square feet use these systems and save a tremendous amount of money on their heating and cooling costs as a result. Significant savings can be had in smaller buildings as well.
The idea is that you centralize all energy related decisions. Specifically, all heating, cooling, and ventilation systems are placed on centralized timers and sensors. One terminal will tell you how much energy is being used and where you can reduce usage. Better yet, you can access these systems from any computer via a web login.
What Will I Need for Effective Air Cleaning?
There are a lot of air cleaning and purification devices on the market for commercial systems. Most of those devices are designed to act as add-ons. Usually these air cleaners and purifiers will integrate directly into your air handler, immediately impacting the air flowing in to your building. Humidification and dehumidification options can both be important upgrades as well.
One thing to consider is prospective energy loss. If you have an extensive ventilation system in place, there is always a risk that you will lose energy when the fans run. A management system will help keep this from happening, or you can upgrade to a system that uses only a limited amount of energy to ventilate exhaust.
How Big Does My System Need to Be?
Roughly 30% of all commercial HVAC systems are improperly sized. It doesn’t matter if your system is too small or too large – the cost will add up quickly if you don’t have the right size in your building. Make sure you call someone who can perform heat load tests on large buildings (10,000+ square feet) and adjust as necessary to reduce costs without compromising your heating or cooling needs. Having the right size system for your space will ensure it runs more efficiently, distributes even heating and cooling, and it will likely last longer.
How Big of a Rooftop Unit Do I Need?
If you opt for a rooftop unit, the size will depend on how much space you need to cool. Most major brands offer rooftop units in sizes ranging from 3 tons up to 150 or more tons. Options within this range are even adequate for large office buildings. The key is to determine what type of cooling system you want and what extras, like building management systems, you would like included.
How Do I Know When to Replace My Old Air Conditioning System?
Air conditioners tend to give off some warning signs that they are nearing the end of their useful lives. Obviously, if your air conditioner stops cold one day, it may be time to invest in a new one, but short of that, there are some other signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Excessive noise is one symptom of an ailing air conditioner. They necessarily make some noise as part of operation, but if you have noticed more noise or a change in the sounds coming from your air conditioning system, something may be wrong. Inefficient or uneven cooling are other symptoms of a problem.
Now, these things do not necessarily mean that your air conditioning system automatically has to be replaced. It is possible that it just needs some repair. However, if you find yourself frequently calling for repairs and forking over more and more money to keep your old system running, it may be time to spring for a new system altogether.
What Are My Options for a New Air Conditioning System?
When you are in the market for a new air conditioning system, you have several options. The simplest and most basic is a window unit, which is a good, inexpensive solution for cooling just a room or two. For the whole house, there is always the central air conditioning option, which requires more extensive installation but is extremely effective.
A third option that you may not have heard about but should be aware of is a ductless mini split system Although relatively new on the scene, these systems are growing in popularity, because like central air, they can cool many rooms or even a whole house at once, but they do not require any ductwork, which makes the installation much simpler.
Different solutions work better for different homes, so consult with a professional about your needs to determine what the best option is for you.
Why Should I Have My New Air Conditioning System Professionally Installed?
Because a new air conditioner is such a big purchase, you want to be sure it’s installed by an experienced technician who really knows what they’re doing. Plus, having a professional install your AC is an investment in its future, ensuring it’s hooked up and operating as it should from day one.
An improperly installed AC system may not function properly, resulting in more repairs than would ordinarily be necessary. It may have to run too often, resulting in excess wear and tear. As a result, you may face higher repair bills, higher monthly utility bills and a shorter life span for your new system.
How Long Can I Expect My New Air Conditioning System to Last?
This is a tricky question, because generally air conditioning systems are quite durable, but there are things that can have positive or negative impacts. A professionally installed, well-maintained air conditioning system that has been kept clean throughout its life should perform well for up to fifteen years or more.
By contrast, if you do not keep your system clean, do not change the filters and neglect to have the system maintained annually, you can expect to pay for a lot of repairs and then have to replace the whole thing much sooner. Air conditioners are a good lasting investment, as long as your protect them well.
How Often Does My Heating System Need To Be Serviced?
It’s recommended that you schedule a maintenance service visit once a year with a licensed HVAC technician. This will prolong the life of your heating system and keep it running safely and efficiently throughout the cold season. A qualified heating technician will thoroughly clean and inspect all of your heater’s components and make any necessary repairs or adjustments. Not only does this ensure that your heater is performing at optimal levels, which helps to save on overall heating costs, but it also allows the technician to address any major problems or safety concerns.
When Should I Replace My Heating System?
There are a few obvious signals that let you know when it’s time to upgrade your heating system. Frequent repairs, recent spikes in utility bills, and inconsistent temperatures in the home are a few warning signs that it’s time for a new heater. But if you’ve had the same heating system for twenty years or more, it would be a good idea to talk to an HVAC contractor about having it inspected to determine if it’s time for a heater replacement. Even if your old heater has worked without problems for years, a professional heating technician is trained to detect any indication that it needs to be replaced. If you are concerned about your heating costs, you should talk to a heating professional about other options.
How Can I Tell If My Heating System Is Working Efficiently?
When you schedule your regular maintenance visit with a qualified heating technician, they will test your system to make sure it is running at optimal levels. But there are some ways you can determine whether or not your system is working efficiently on your own. Abnormally high heating bills are one of the indicators that your system is running at low efficiency levels, but keep in mind that how well your home is insulated and sealed also plays a role in heating costs.
You can also tell by how warm your house stays throughout the winter. If some rooms are colder than others, or if you find that you are turning up the thermostat more often, your heating system may not be running very efficiently. Changing your filters and vacuuming your vents can help, but if you continue to have problems, call an HVAC professional to inspect and test your heater.
How Do I Know What Type of Heating System Is Right For Me?
Hiring an HVAC contractor for professional advice is the best approach when you are in the market for a new heating system. Different types of heaters work better in some homes than others. For instance, if you need both heat and air, you may want to consider installing a heat pump rather than a furnace. However, an electric or gas furnace may be a better option for your particular home.