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Does Your Furnace Need an Air Exchanger? Five Tell-Tale Signs

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Indoor air quality can make a huge impact on your family’s health and quality of life.

In recent years, increasing volumes of research studies have pinpointed how toxic air – indoors and outdoors – can cause severe health issues as diverse as low birth weight and premature fatality.

But now even minor health irritations such as chronic allergies and headaches are linked to poor indoor air conditions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that the air in the average indoor space can be five times more toxic than the outside air.

Since most Canadians spend nine-tenths of every day indoors, indoor air toxicity has become a serious health issue.

Unfortunately, with the changing standards in the construction industry – well-meaning standards designed to lower bills and keep temperature-controlled air from leaking out – indoor air toxicity concerns have increased yet again.

Many of our customers do not realize how much of an impact indoor air quality can make until they experience it for themselves. One of the biggest improvements you can make is to add a gadget called an air exchanger.

What is an air exchanger, and what can it do to clean up your indoor air?

5 Major Benefits of Installing a Home Air Exchanger

Another word for an air exchanger is a heat recovery ventilator. A similar device is called an energy recovery ventilator.

But all three devices are designed to do essentially the same job.

  1. They provide continuous fresh air to ventilate your space.

  2. They continually exhaust the stale air inside your space to the outside.

  3. They lower energy bills by transferring heat.

  4. They provide some level of humidity balancing inside your home.

  5. They remove some seriously toxic matter from your indoor air.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these functions within the framework of improving indoor air quality inside your home or workplace.

Ventilation for fresh indoor air

An air exchanger constantly exchanges stale, oxygen-poor indoor air for fresh, oxygenated outdoor air.

But most importantly, the way it accomplishes this is special.

An air exchanger has two separate pathways for incoming fresh air and outgoing stale air so the two air supplies never mingle.

Exhaust of toxic indoor air

As the previous section described, even while the air exchanger is pulling in fresh air, sending it through your furnace filter and then into your space, it is also continually drawing out stale, toxic air and sending it back outside.

Heat transfer to lower energy costs

Where an air exchanger becomes a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) and really takes indoor air quality improvements to the next level is when it starts moving heat around to save you money.

How does a heat recovery ventilator do this?

The HRV detects and harvests heat energy in the outgoing stale indoor air that might otherwise be wasted, and recycles it to preheat the incoming fresh air stream before it reaches your furnace. This means you spend less on energy to heat your indoor air.

But that isn’t all a heat recovery ventilator can do!

In summer when temperatures soar and the last thing you want in your space is heat, the heat recovery ventilator will send excess heat back out with the stale outgoing air to reduce the cost to cool incoming fresh air.

Pretty neat!

Humidity balancing

Even these tricks don’t represent the sum total of how an air exchanger can help improve your indoor air quality even while lowering your energy bills.

As if all this wasn’t already enough, heat recovery ventilators are also experts at moving humidity around.

While the energy recovery ventilator (ERV) represents the true gold standard in terms of humidity balancing, typically ERVs are recommended only for more tropical geographic locations where humidity regularly gets up into the triple digits.

Here in the north, a heat recovery ventilator is typically sufficient to balance your indoor air humidity levels year-round.

When someone in your family struggles in the sometimes extremely dry air of winter, adding a portable or whole-home humidifier can make up for any moisture deficiency.

Toxin removal

According to Natural Resources Canada, heat recovery ventilators can readily remove a variety of potent airborne toxins from your indoor air at home or at work:

  • Mould and mildew

  • Formaldehyde

  • Radon

  • Tobacco or wood smoke

  • Common hobby and cleaning chemicals

  • Viral, bacterial and fungal matter

  • Pet dander

  • Dust mites

While home or workplace combustion-based appliances should be separately and properly vented, a high-quality heat recovery ventilator can also assist with the removal of particulates, including smoke and wood ash, carbon dioxide and similar matter.

How to Choose the Right Air Exchanger for Your Home

Heat recovery ventilators are designed to work well with central (ducted, forced air) HVAC systems. They can be easily integrated to work with your existing blower and ductwork.

So how do you choose the right air exchanger for your home’s needs?

Heat recovery ventilators, like HVAC systems, are sized by the space they need to operate in. For general purposes, you will need to calculate the amount of fresh air to be supplied to your home to determine what size air exchanger you need.

This is typically measured either in litres per second (L/s) or in cubic feet per minute (cfm).

If you are not sure what your home’s fresh air capacity is, we are happy to help with this calculation.

Get in Touch

Is 2020 the year you will clean up your indoor air once and for all? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

P.S. It’s not too late to save 10 percent on any of our air duct cleaning packages!

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Are Your Windows Weeping? What This Warning Sign Is Trying to Tell You

window condensation

Every winter, we receive calls from concerned homeowners who tell us their windows look like they are leaking.

It’s warm and cozy inside, but the windows are dripping or foggy.

This is particularly important during winter because here in Canada it is often necessary to add back humidity to the dry air. But adding back humidity, while good for your health, isn’t always good for your home’s health.

In this article, learn all about why windows seem to “weep” and what you need to do to fix it.

Why Do Windows Get Wet or Foggy In Winter?

The simplest explanation, and the one most homeowners use to console themselves (however much in error), is that window wetness or fog occurs when warm indoor air meets cold outdoor air.

But well-built, well-sealed, well-insulated windows do not fog, drip or leak when cold air hits them.

There are two main structural reasons windows may appear to “weep” when there are extreme temperature differences between your indoor air and the air outside: poor seals and no insulation.

Poor window seals

Over time and with age, the seals around windows break down and degrade. This lets air leak in and out. As warm and cold air mix and mingle, moisture occurs.

Older windows are typically single-pane, which means there is no insulation built into the window itself to keep these two air streams separated.

No interior window insulation

Today’s windows are usually double- or even triple-paned. This means that there is a layer or two of glass in between the part of the window that gets hit with warmed indoor air and the part of the window that gets hit with cold outdoor air.

This extra interior glass acts as a form of insulation to ensure condensation will not arise.

Modern Airtight Homes Are Condensation Starters

In some cases, you may have double- or triple-paned windows installed. The weatherstripping and sealing around each window is fresh and new. And you have plenty of high-quality, moisture-resistant insulation installed in your walls, ceilings and floors.

But you are seeing window fog, condensation or weeping anyway. What could be causing this?

Typically, it’s modern airtight construction standards.

As concern mounts about the planet’s dwindling energy resources, the construction industry has developed new building standards that keep 100 percent of temperature-controlled air locked inside the space.

There is just one problem with this: these new homes cannot breathe.

What would happen to you if you could only breathe in, not out? You wouldn’t be able to let out the stale carbon dioxide your body needs to get rid of. Essentially, you’d be holding your breath and becoming increasingly toxic.

This is what happens when your home can’t exhaust toxins, stale air and excess humidity. The windows start to fog up!

There are two things we tell our clients to try when this happens: lowering the humidity and adding more ventilation.

Lower the humidity

For general health purposes, it is good to add back some humidity into your indoor air in winter. This is especially the case if anyone in your family suffers from allergies or winter asthma symptoms – the humidity can make it a lot easier to breathe.

But if you are living in an airtight home, the excess humidity won’t be able to find its way out again. When this happens, you can lower the humidity temporarily as a test to see if the window condensation goes away.

If this test works to rid your home of foggy, weeping windows, you know that you need to add ventilation to keep the situation from recurring.

Once you add more ventilation, you can run your whole-home humidifier as much as you need to without worry it will cause wetness, mould or mildew inside your space.

Install a heat recovery ventilator

For this, we always recommend installing a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). HRVs are essentially mechanical lungs for your home.

They help your airtight home “breathe,” exhausting stale air through one conduit while pulling in fresh air through a separate conduit, balancing your home’s humidity levels and conserving heat energy in the process.

HRVs are so critical for airtight homes they are now mandated for all new construction in the Toronto area.

Once you install an HRV, you will no longer have to worry about running a winter humidifier inside your home. The HRV will exhaust stale, humid air so it doesn’t build up and cause window damp and condensation.

You can even connect your HRV to a humidistat monitor installed in a central location that automatically detects rising indoor humidity levels. This will trigger the HRV to start running to exhaust the excess humidity before it can cause any structural damage.

Warning Signs of Window Condensation Damage

Homes have their own language that they use to try to alert us about problems that need our attention. Window condensation is one such alert.

There are other warning signs to alert you to potential structural damage:

  • Efflorescence (powdery mineral salts left behind after water evaporates)

  • Bubbling or cracking paint or wallpaper around windows and on ledges

  • Strange smells (especially grassy or “dirty socks” odours)

  • Visible mould or mildew patches

Get in Touch

Are you tired of having to wipe down your windows just to see outside and keep moisture from pooling? We can help!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470. 

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Gas Furnace Maintenance to Lower Your Heating Bills & Clean Up Your Indoor Air

furnace cleaning technician

There is a reason – several reasons, in fact – that gas furnaces are so popular in Canada today.

Installing a gas furnace guards against having to shiver through a power outage. Gas is a relatively clean-burning fuel source that delivers high efficiency at an affordable cost.

Today’s cutting-edge gas furnaces are compact and sleek with lots of safety and efficiency features. These help you control costs and customize your home or workplace heating needs.

But gas furnaces need regular timely maintenance and safety inspections to deliver their best performance. Some of the maintenance tasks you can likely handle on your own if you have the time and inclination.

But for many home and business owners, it is easier to simply bring in a professional to do everything at once – safety inspection, preventive maintenance and minor repairs. This is especially the case if you are new to owning a gas furnace and are not sure what to look for and what needs to be done!

In this post, learn about gas furnace maintenance and how it can lower your annual heating bills and improve your indoor air quality.

A Clean Furnace Can Save You Up to $500 on Heating Bills

Too many gas furnaces fail to deliver on manufacturer efficiency ratings due to one simple issue: neglect.

As the Energy Star program explains, dirty components lead to efficiency decreases, health symptoms and a fire risk.

As dirt, dust and debris build up around and inside the furnace, they force the furnace blower to work harder to do the same job. A harder-working furnace is going to require more fuel to run. More fuel means higher energy bills for the same heat output.

One of the easiest ways to keep your furnace clean is simply to change the air filter monthly during heavy-use months.

Not only is a dirty air filter a known home fire hazard, but it also always costs less to replace or clean and reuse the air filter than it costs to buy more power to run your furnace or pay to fix a sudden furnace outage.

The Indoor Air Quality Association states that this type of simple, regular, preventive maintenance can improve energy efficiency by up to 30 percent, which represents an average annual energy savings of $500 (based on current homeowner-reported annual heating costs)!

A Clean Furnace Can Preserve Your Indoor Air Quality

Today, air quality researchers have confirmed a link between burning fossil fuels and indoor air toxicity. This makes preventive furnace maintenance essential for more reasons than just keeping winter heating costs manageable.

In fact, incomplete combustion is one of the leading causes of both toxic indoor air and home fires. Incomplete combustion is what happens when there isn’t enough oxygen to completely consume the fuel source. With complete combustion, the only by-products are carbon dioxide and water.

With incomplete combustion, however, a third by-product is produced: carbon monoxide, along with other sooty particulate matter.

Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and deadly. Since the symptoms are subtle and can overtake you quickly, the only way to protect yourself is to install a carbon monoxide detection alarm.

A gas furnace that is operating by complete combustion will demonstrate this with a blue pilot light. A gas furnace that is operating by incomplete combustion will have a yellow or orange pilot light.

SAFETY TIP: It is smart to inspect your furnace pilot light at least monthly during high-use months. If you see a change in the pilot light colour from blue to another colour, power down your furnace and call a professional service technician right away.

Annual Gas Furnace Safety Inspection and Maintenance

Scheduling your annual gas furnace safety inspection and preventive maintenance service is the best way to ensure small repair needs are spotted and fixed before they can turn into a major outage.

As well, if your gas furnace is still under warranty, scheduling this annual tune-up can ensure you keep your warranty active (many warranties require proof of professional annual maintenance when claims are made).

You can expect all of the following to take place during this annual preventive maintenance and tune-up service:

  • Pilot light and fuel lines inspected and adjusted

  • All belts and pulleys examined for wear and abrasion

  • Gas burner, flame sensor and heat exchanger inspected, cleaned and tested

  • Electrical connections tested and tightened as needed

  • Thermostat accuracy tested and calibrated as needed

  • All internal components and parts lubricated, tightened and tested

  • Test cycle run and all safety and startup controls checked

  • Condenser and evaporator coils cleaned

  • Blower and fan cleaned and adjusted, including voltage, amp and fan switch test

  • Air filter cleaned and replaced

  • All exterior and interior casings cleaned

  • Refrigerant level checked

  • Vent system, air intake and exhaust vents and grills cleaned and checked

Save 10 Percent on Air Duct Cleaning and Sanitation Through January 31, 2020

If you have never had your ducts cleaned, we recommend scheduling a professional air duct cleaning and sanitation service at the same time you have your furnace maintenance and safety inspection.

Indoor air duct cleaning does for your air ducts what furnace maintenance does for your furnace components.

Our negative-pressure commercial-grade vacuum system safely and securely removes all accumulated toxins, dirt, debris and particulate matter, finishing with a sanitizing treatment to neutralize any remaining harmful pathogens.

Give you and your family the priceless gift of clean, safe, breathable indoor air. Right now and through January 31, 2020, save 10 percent on any of our three popular indoor air duct cleaning packages!

Get in Touch

Is it time to schedule your furnace preventive maintenance tune-up and safety inspection? Are you considering a furnace upgrade, and would you like to learn more about our wonderful line of Napoleon gas furnaces?

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470. 

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