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CleanAir Solutions Blog

November 2018

Upgrade Your Furnace and Improve Your Health This Winter!

little girl with cold

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the best ways to enjoy cleaner, healthier indoor air this year is to remove indoor air pollutants right at their source.

In many cases, this can be accomplished with third-party appliances that can be retrofitted to work with your existing HVAC (air conditioning and heating) system.

But if you have an older air conditioner or furnace that is nearing or at the end of its useful life, this type of retrofitting may not be enough. It also may not make good cost sense in terms of wear and tear on your entire HVAC system.

The Energy Star program suggests it is time to begin thinking about replacement when your furnace or heating boiler has passed its 15th birthday. If you use a heat pump, the 10th birthday is the milestone to watch for.

Learn about how to know it is time to upgrade your furnace and how making this change can improve your indoor air quality for years to come!

Do Any of These Furnace Warning Signs Sound Familiar?

When a furnace is starting to dream of retirement, it often has a way of letting you know. However, unless you understand how your furnace communicates, you may not decode the message until one day it just stops working!

These are just a few of the many communication tools your furnace may use to try to get your attention.

Mysterious noises

Knocking. Banging. Scraping. Rattling. Clicking. Squealing. These are just a few of the many mysterious sounds a furnace can make.

Ideally, you want your furnace to be whisper quiet. Not all furnaces (especially older models) can pull this off. But at the very least, you don’t want the sound to be sufficiently loud and frequent that it becomes hard to ignore!

From expanding and contracting air ducts to broken parts to frayed belts, all parts are potential culprits when your furnace becomes more vocal.

Dust keeps piling up

Leaking ductwork, poorly sealed windows and doors, dirty filters and similar causes can create a continual influx of dust with each furnace cycle.

Too-warm and too-cold rooms—all in the same house

A furnace that is not heating evenly may or may not be your furnace’s fault. Poorly routed ductwork or degrading insulation are also possible suspects.

Your home is too humid

This can be especially notable in winter, when outdoor weather is typically dry. A poorly maintained or underpowered furnace combined with leaky ducts is often the root cause here.

Your energy bill keeps going up

If you can’t pin rising energy costs on local power costs or increased usage, it may be time to look at whether your furnace is pulling in more energy to do the same job. If your repair bills are also increasing, this is likely the case.

Benefits to Upgrading Your Furnace Now

It is true that upgrading your furnace is an investment. It is also true that most people don’t get wildly excited about purchasing a new furnace (in contrast with, say, purchasing a vacation to Tahiti).

But once your new furnace starts paying for itself with lower energy bills, better heating efficiency and healthier family members, this can generate its own excitement—plus help you save towards that dream vacation getaway!

A new Energy Star certified furnace can achieve a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency right out of the starting gate.

The average homeowner in Toronto area spends $201.23 per month on hydro alone. A 15 percent savings trims $30 off that cost monthly or $362 annually.

If your new furnace costs $1,500, your annual energy savings will pay for it within five years. Plus, you get the benefits of cleaner indoor air, more balanced heating from room to room, better control over humidity seasonally, quieter operation and the chance to conserve natural resources.

And it is impossible to put a price tag to the peace of mind you get from knowing you have a brand-new furnace that won’t just conk out on you mid-winter!

How Your New Furnace Can Help Purify Your Indoor Air

Choosing to do a furnace upgrade with professional installation gives you the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate your central ductwork and your entire HVAC system.

This is not nearly as overwhelming as it may sound, however!

What we recommend is to schedule a professional indoor air duct cleaning service at the same time as you do your furnace upgrade. This ensures you bring in a squeaky clean, energy-efficient new furnace to operate in concert with squeaky clean, like-new air ducts.

We also recommend adding two additional elements to your HVAC system to provide cleaner, purified and humidity-balanced indoor air for the foreseeable future.

With a heat recovery ventilator, an appliance that is now required for all new residential construction in Ontario, you recapture otherwise wasted heat to further improve the energy efficiency of your furnace operation. A heat recovery ventilator also helps to remove toxins, balance the humidity in your home and ensure continuous ventilation.

For the finishing touch, we recommend adding either a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration system or an ultraviolet air purification system to work with your new furnace, duct system and heat recovery ventilator to ensure even micro-particulate toxins never infiltrate your indoor air in the future.

Get in Touch

If you suspect this may be the year your furnace needs an upgrade, the first step is to give us a call to talk through options.

Right now, if you purchase a new furnace and A/C combo through our sister company, Shipton’s Heating & Cooling, you can save up to $1,850!

Plus, save 10 percent on any of our popular air duct cleaning packages!

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470 to talk about options for improving indoor air quality this winter!

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Improve Your Winter Indoor Air Quality by Pest-Proofing Your Home

cockroach close up

It is no fun to find pests of any shape or size in your home, whether it is a spider scurrying down your draperies or a rodent raiding your kitchen garbage.

Worse than simply uninvited company, however, are the sanitation issues these pests can bring along with them, infiltrating your indoor air supply, compromising your food stores and creating questionable drinking water.

Add to these the complexities of pest removal in the dead of winter and this makes prevention the hands-down best method of keeping your home and indoor air safe and clean this winter season. In this article, find timely tips to pest-proof your home before temperatures plunge this year.

Indoor Air Quality Is on a Downward Plunge

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the quality of indoor air throughout North America is on a downward plunge.

Research reveals that the average person’s indoor air is anywhere from two to five times more polluted than the air we breathe outside. This wouldn’t be quite so concerning if we spent more time outdoors.

To hear the Canadian Parks Council tell it, the average Canadian today spends up to 90 percent of every day indoors.

The Toronto Sun states that 3 in 10 Canadians spend less than five minutes a day outdoors!

These statistics reveal why taking the time to clean up our indoor air supply has become a top priority at any age and stage of life.

Pests Vs. Indoor Air Quality

When most people think about what pollutes the air in our homes and workspaces, we think of volatile organic compounds, asbestos, radon, fossil fuels and similar toxins.

Yet as Healthlink Canada reports, biological pollutants are actually the number one cause of indoor air pollution!

Biological pollutants are a diverse group ranging from dust mites to pet dander, cockroaches to fungi. Mould, mildew, dust, bacteria, airborne viruses, rodent poop, dead insects and all manner of other undesirables can create conditions ripe for disease, illness and chronic allergy and asthma symptoms.

Where Pests Hide In Your Home

If you look around your home right now, you might see a pretty clean space. This may lull you into a false sense of complacency and even cause you to assume that you don’t have to worry about the impact of pests on your indoor air supply.

Unfortunately, unwanted pests know all too well what will happen if they are spotted. Insects and animals tend to naturally seek out small, private, secluded spaces to make their homes during the cold season. And bacteria, fungi and viral matter tend to gravitate toward high-humidity enclosed spaces that are conducive to growth.

So it just makes sense that these pests won’t be hiding out in plain sight where you can easily spot and evict them!

Here are some of the most favoured hiding spots for winter pests:

  • Air ducts

  • Attics and crawl spaces

  • Basements

  • Cabinets and closets

  • Air registers

  • Exhaust vents

  • Carpeting

  • Draperies and fabrics

  • Garages and work sheds

  • Bathrooms

  • Laundry rooms

  • Cooking areas

  • Unused chimneys and fireplaces

These types of more humid, warm, enclosed and out-of-the-way areas are perfect for stowaway insects, animals and microorganisms to spend the winter in quiet comfort undetected.

How to Send Stowaway Pests Packing

The first step is to identify where pests and microorganisms may be hiding out in your home.

Since not all areas of your home may be easily accessible, one helpful way to identify hidden issues such as mould and mildew is to schedule an indoor air quality test. This silent 72-hour test takes continuous air readings, analyzes these for pollutants and collates these into a report complete with action recommendations.

Scheduling a professional indoor air duct cleaning is a great way to remove trapped and dead insects, microorganisms, viral matter, bacteria, fungi, pet dander, dust mites and other toxins. At the same time, your technician can identify leaks and cracks that may need repairs in the interests of your ongoing pest-proofing efforts.

Scheduling a professional dryer vent cleaning at the same time ensures comprehensive removal of trapped dust, lint and dust mites. Cleaning this matter out of the interior traps in your dryer also improves the fire safety of your home.

Permanent Indoor Air Quality Solutions

Installing a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can trap airborne microorganisms and toxins as small as 1/100th of a single human hair.

Another popular option is to install an ultraviolet air purification system, which uses ultraviolet band-C to neutralize airborne toxins before they can infiltrate your indoor air supply.

Using a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner can remove particulate matter from carpeting, furniture and floors before it can spread.

One of our favourite long-term indoor air quality solutions is a heat recovery ventilator.

This appliance not only ensures a steady influx of fresh oxygenated air into your home but also separates stale, toxic outgoing air so it cannot seep back inside. Best of all, a heat recovery ventilator can help balance seasonal humidity and aid in moving indoor pollution outside.

Any one of these appliances can be retrofitted to work with any existing central (ducted) HVAC system. If your home uses ductless indoor cooling and heating, there are portable versions that can work equally well to clean your indoor air on a continuous basis.

Get in Touch

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we spend all year helping our clients improve air quality so you can stay healthier! Contact us online or give us a call now at 905-544-2470 to save 10 percent on any one of our popular indoor air duct cleaning packages.

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Carbon Monoxide Exposure: An Indoor Air Quality Risk You Can't Afford to Ignore

carbon monoxide alarm

Carbon monoxide may be a colourless and odourless naturally occurring gas, but as most people know, this still doesn’t make it safe!

Every year, an average of 50 Canadians (11 Ontarians) die from carbon monoxide exposure, according to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC).

More Canadians succumb to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter season than at any other time of year.

With statistics like these, carbon monoxide is one indoor air quality concern you clearly can’t afford to overlook! In this post, we share timely tips for how to protect your home, yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.

Carbon Monoxide: A Quick Overview

Carbon monoxide, or CO for short, occurs naturally during the process of combustion. It doesn’t matter what you are burning, how much of it you burn or how often you burn it.

Any type of fossil fuel—wood, gasoline, coal, kerosene, natural gas, propane, charcoal, oil, tobacco—will produce carbon monoxide when ignited. This is because all fossil fuels contain both carbon and hydrogen and perfect combustion with no by-products is virtually unheard of.

In a perfect world, of course, carbon and hydrogen would combine to produce carbon dioxide and water only (“complete combustion”). In the real world, however, inefficient fuel use produces not just carbon dioxide and water but also partially oxidized carbon. This is CO—carbon monoxide.

While most appliances cannot achieve pure complete combustion even when meticulously maintained, such appliances can come close enough to meet national safety standards.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that 0 to 50 parts per million (ppm) is the only level that will not produce health symptoms in people.

“Incomplete combustion” can occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common reasons are poorly maintained appliances and inadequate indoor air ventilation.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless, tasteless and does not cause any irritation to the skin or mucous membranes. This makes it very hard to detect, even at toxic levels!

The main symptoms of toxic carbon monoxide exposure include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage (often irreversible) and death.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning can build gradually or come on suddenly depending on the level of exposure. At 200 ppm, you may develop a low-grade headache after an hour or two. At 12,000 ppm, you may die within 3 minutes.

3 Steps to Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Since carbon monoxide is a naturally occurring gas in the presence of fossil fuel combustion, it is nearly impossible to completely avoid exposure. This is especially true since CO is also present in secondhand tobacco smoke and automobile emissions.

However, it is possible to control your exposure and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

We suggest this three-step process:

  1. Install and maintain a certified carbon monoxide detection alarm.

  2. Improve the ventilation throughout your home space (including garage, workshops, attic, basements).

  3. Schedule routine safety inspections and preventative maintenance service for all fuel-burning appliances.

Step 1: Carbon Monoxide Detection Alarm

The best way to detect carbon monoxide inside your home is to install a carbon monoxide detection alarm.

You will want to be sure the alarm you install is certified by an organization approved by the Standards Council of Canada. Look for a certification seal such as UL, CSA, Intertek or something similar.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs now requires CO monitors be placed near each sleeping area or room inside a home or apartment. The CO monitor can be powered by batteries, a plug or hard-wired.

You should test your CO monitoring system monthly at the same time you test your smoke alarm detector.

Step 2: Preventative Appliance Inspection & Maintenance

Our sister company, Shipton’s Heating & Cooling, visits hundreds of homes and worksites annually year-round to perform routine safety inspections and preventative maintenance on heating and cooling appliances and equipment.

This simple preventative service is designed to catch small issues before they become major outages or human safety concerns. All safety inspections and maintenance service calls include routine testing and cleaning of the wiring, pilot or other source of ignition.

Step 3: Improve Indoor Ventilation

Ventilation is the process of removing stale or toxic indoor air and replacing it with fresh oxygenated air.

In past decades, before the advent of green airtight building practices, homes typically allowed for some level of natural ventilation through existing cracks, gaps or leaks.

But today’s homes are built to be so energy efficient and airtight that Ontario’s SB-12 building code now requires all new construction homes to include installation of a heat recovery ventilation system to provide ventilation mechanically.

This illustrates just how vital adequate indoor ventilation is to your health and safety.

Heat recovery ventilation systems use two separate air pathways to move stale air out of your home and draw fresh oxygenated air into your home. These appliances also work to balance seasonal humidity changes and remove toxins like carbon monoxide from your home space.

A heat recovery ventilator, or HRV, can be retrofitted to work with any existing central (ducted) HVAC system so you don’t need to upgrade your heating and air conditioning equipment.

Get in Touch

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we live, eat and breathe (literally) indoor air quality! Right now, take advantage of our seasonal indoor air duct cleaning sale and save 10 percent on any of our popular professional air duct cleaning services!

To schedule your annual safety inspection and preventative HVAC maintenance service, call our sister company, Shipton’s Heating & Cooling, at 905-549-4616.

For help improving the ventilation inside your home or workplace, contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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