As the weather turns chilly, improve your home’s comfort, and save energy and money all while doing a good thing for the environment. By using energy efficiently at home, you not only lower your energy bills, but prevent air pollution too. Here are ways to save, offered by the ENERGY STAR program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
1. Know the Facts – The average family spends $1,500 a year on energy bills, with nearly half of that spent on heating and cooling. Energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, installed alongside a well-sealed duct system, can save as much as 20 percent on annual energy costs.
2. Keep it Clean – A dirty air filter can increase your energy costs and lead to early equipment failure. Clean or change the air filter in your heating and cooling system regularly. Also, have your equipment checked seasonally to make sure it’s operating efficiently and safely – check-ups can identify problems early. Dirt and neglect are the #1 causes of system failure.
3. Bundle Up – Hidden gaps and cracks in a home can add up to as much airflow as an open window. When heat escapes, your system must work harder and you use more energy. Home Sealing can improve your home “envelope” – the outer walls, ceiling, windows and floors — and
can save up to 10 percent in energy costs. Start by sealing air leaks and adding insulation, while paying special attention to your attic and basement, where the biggest gaps and cracks are often found. If replacing windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified ones.
4. Tighten Your Ducts – If you have a forced air furnace or heat pump, then a duct system is responsible for circulating warm air throughout your home. Leaky ducts can reduce your system’s overall efficiency by 20 percent, causing your equipment to work harder than necessary to keep you comfortable. Ask your HVAC contractor about improving your ducts.
5. Don’t Oversize – When replacing old equipment, make sure your new equipment is properly sized for your home. An oversized system will cost more to buy and operate and will cycle on and off too frequently, reducing your comfort and leading to early system failures and repair costs. Correct sizing will ensure that your equipment works efficiently. Make sure your HVAC contractor uses Manual J or an equivalent sizing tool to determine what’s right for your home.
6. Consult a Professional – Find an experienced, licensed contractor before embarking on any heating and cooling overhaul. Visit http://www.natex.orq to find a contractor whose technicians are certified by NATE (North American Technician Excellence), the leading industry-supported testing and certification program.
7. Shop Smart – If your heating equipment has not been regularly maintained and is 15 years or older, it’s probably time for a more efficient replacement. Ask for an ENERGY STAR when buying the following equipment:
- Furnaces – Old furnaces cost more to operate per year than new, ENERGY STAR qualified models that are 15 percent more efficient than standard models.
- Boilers – An ENERGY STAR qualified boiler uses features like electric ignition and new combustion technologies that extract more heat from the same amount of fuel, to be seven percent more energy-efficient.
- Heat Pumps – When installed in a home with a well-sealed envelope, heat pumps provide great value and comfort for your energy dollar. An ENERGY STAR qualified geothermal heat pump is 30 percent more efficient than comparable new equipment and can save you as much as $400 annually. A qualified electric heat pump is 20 percent more efficient.
- Programmable Thermostats – Regulate your home’s temperature with four programmable settings and you can save about $100 annually on your energy bills.
Source: ENERGY STAR
Our bodies need moisture in the air to feel comfortable, help prevent illness and avoid those annoying static-electricity shocks. If dry household air is a discomfort you would like to live without, it may be time for a humidifier in your home.
Dry indoor air makes it super difficult to feel comfortable, and too easy to feel irritable, especially when you are suffering physical symptoms caused by dry air – like sore throat, cracked skin and a dry nose. Ways a whole house humidifier can help you:
- They maintain 30-55% humidity throughout your entire home, which is optimal
- May find relief from the above symptoms
- Protects objects in your home from drying out, cracking, peeling, shrinking and splitting
- Increases humidity in your home by providing a layer of moisture which protects against static electricity
- The flu and other viruses thrive in low humidity.
Operating a whole house humidifier is much like operating the central cooling and heating systems. Humidifiers and central cooling/heating use the same air ducts. Where a thermostat is used to control the temperature, a humidistat is adjusted to control humidity levels. Some thermostats are capable of controlling both. Humidifiers are attached to the ductwork, and may use airflow from the heating/AC system to add moisture.
For questions or more information – visit us online or call us at 770-253-2665. We are happy to help!
The easiest way to improve your home’s air quality in the winter is by: eliminate, isolate and ventilate.
By eliminating the pollutants, you get rid of as many unnecessary chemicals and other pollutants in your home as possible. Almost everything in your home some kind of chemical [nail polish, perfumes, etc.]. While the levels are generally not high enough to cause you to worry, they can irritate certain allergy and asthma symptoms.
The best way to get rid of harmful chemicals is to figure out what you have and what can be swapped a healthier version of the same product. Many household cleaners come in low chemical varieties that can be used to improve your indoor air quality. If you smoke, do so outside. Smoke is the leading cause of poor indoor air quality in many homes.
Isolating pollutants you can’t get rid of and store out of reach of children. I can be downright impossible to eliminate all of the harmful chemicals in your home. The ones you can’t eliminate, isolate. Keep kitchen chemicals locked up under the sink until you need them, store things like paint and fertilizer in the garage by an open window, and keep anything else as out of the way as possible.
Another important step is to have your gas appliances checked out during the winter so you can make sure they’ll run safely at all times.
Ventilate your home as much as possible to improve air flow and reduce moisture and pollutants. The best way to improve your home’s indoor air quality is to make sure your home is well ventilated. Make sure you have a good ventilation system in place. A well-balanced whole house ventilation system can substantially improve your indoor air quality without compromising your heating efficiency.
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The most common indoor air pollutants include:
Biological pollutants [pet dander, mites, mold, etc.] are harmful because people can be allergic to just one or several of them – and being inside with them makes everything worse.
Dust can be easily prevented by a strong air filter.
Combustion gases [like those that come from a gas furnace or stove] are normally vented harmlessly outside but can be deadly if they leak into your home.
Tobacco smoke can get inside even if you smoke outside, mainly carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
Pesticides and chemicals can come from all over the place. Fumes from spray for bugs over the summer, air fresheners and cleaning products can contribute to your indoor air quality issues.
Some things you can do to improve your indoor air quality in the winter:
- Make sure your filters are fresh and clean. Air filters are designed to trap indoor air pollutants before they can escape into your air. They fill up much faster in the winter. Make sure to replace them monthly.
- If your air is pretty dry inside, check into a humidifier.
Call us at 770-253-2665 for more information, or visit out website at http://www.progressiveac.com.
We hope you have found our series on indoor air quality useful. Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have and we’ll do our best to get an answer to you in a timely manner.
We firmly believe that knowledge is power, and one can never be too careful about the quality of the air you are putting in your body!
In March, we will give you guys a lot of information on what kind of Progressive Heating and Air really is. And remember – the best compliment you can give us is to refer us to your friends and family.
Three Basic Strategies
Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is also a more cost-efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality than increasing ventilation because increasing ventilation can increase energy costs. Specific sources of indoor air pollution in your home are listed later in this section.
Another approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.
It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants–for example, painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding. You might also choose to do some of these activities outdoors, if you can and if weather permits.
Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical systems that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air heat exchangers).
- For more information about air-to-air heat exchangers, contact the U.S. Department of Energy‘s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy‘s Office (EERE) at www.eere.energy.gov/. You may contact the EERE Information Center with questions on EERE’s products, services, and 11 technology programs by calling 1-877-EERE-INF (1-877-337-3463).
There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.
The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency rate) and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element (expressed in cubic feet per minute). A very efficient collector with a low air-circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner with a high air-circulation rate but a less efficient collector. The long-term performance of any air cleaner depends on maintaining it according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.
Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.
At present, EPA does not recommend using air cleaners to reduce levels of radon and its decay products. The effectiveness of these devices is uncertain because they only partially remove the radon decay products and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the home. EPA plans to do additional research on whether air cleaners are, or could become, a reliable means of reducing the health risk from radon. EPA’s booklet, Residential Air Cleaners, provides further information on air-cleaning devices to reduce indoor air pollutants.
For most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control is the most effective solution. This section takes a source-by-source look at the most common indoor air pollutants, their potential health effects, and ways to reduce levels in the home. (For a summary of the points made in this section, see the section entitled “Reference Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home“).
- Ozone Generators That Are Sold As Air Cleaners (which is only available via this website) was prepared by EPA to provide accurate information regarding the use of ozone-generating devices in indoor occupied spaces. This information is based on the most credible scientific evidence currently available.
- “Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?” was prepared by EPA to assist consumers in answering this often confusing question. The document explains what air duct cleaning is, provides guidance to help consumers decide whether to have the service performed in their home, and provides helpful information for choosing a duct cleaner, determining if duct cleaning was done properly, and how to prevent contamination of air ducts.
This information is courtesy of the EPA
Identifying Air Quality Problems
Some health effects can be useful indicators of an indoor air quality problem, especially if they appear after a person moves to a new residence, remodels or refurnishes a home, or treats a home with pesticides. If you think that you have symptoms that may be related to your home environment, discuss them with your doctor or your local health department to see if they could be caused by indoor air pollution. You may also want to consult a board-certified allergist or an occupational medicine specialist for answers to your questions.
The most common problem with indoor air quality is leaky ductwork. Whether your home is allowing air in our out, it is equally as bad.
Another way to judge whether your home has or could develop indoor air problems is to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution. Although the presence of such sources does not necessarily mean that you have an indoor air quality problem, being aware of the type and number of potential sources is an important step toward assessing the air quality in your home.
A third way to decide whether your home may have poor indoor air quality is to look at your lifestyle and activities. Human activities can be significant sources of indoor air pollution. Finally, look for signs of problems with the ventilation in your home. Signs that can indicate your home may not have enough ventilation include moisture condensation on windows or walls, smelly or stuffy air, dirty central heating and air cooling equipment, and areas where books, shoes, or other items become moldy (see www.epa.gov/mold). To detect odors in your home, step outside for a few minutes, and then upon reentering your home, note whether odors are noticeable.
Information courtesy of the EPA.