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CleanAir Solutions Blog

April 2019

Are You Paying Too Much for Energy Because of Leaky Ducts? We Can Help

roll of duct tape

If you have leaky air ducts, you are paying too much for heating and cooling your home or workplace - guaranteed.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, up to 30 percent of the air in the typical home leaks out through duct holes and poorly sealed connection points.

That is a lot of lost air!

The average Ontario homeowner spends $2,358 per year on utilities, with 64 percent, or $1,509, going toward heating and cooling the home.

This means that if you have leaking ductwork, you’ve spent $452 extra just to stay comfortable inside your own home.

What could you do with an extra $452 back in your pocket? A lot, we are betting! In this post, learn how to trim your heating and cooling costs all year long by finding and fixing your leaking ducts.

How Do Ducts Leak?

If you are like the vast majority of homeowners, you probably know your ductwork only from afar. In other words, unless an obvious problem crops up, you wouldn’t think to check your ductwork.

But over time, ductwork can begin to break down. The materials used to make the ducts can degrade, thin, sag and twist. A very common problem for ducts today is unwelcome visitors. Insects and even small animals may find their way inside and then in the warm and cozy enclosed ducts, leaving behind gaping holes and noxious debris when they finally exit.

 

Ducts can also fill up with dust, dirt, debris and other waste over time, which places more pressure on the ductwork.

Where Do Ducts Leak?

Ducts that are aging and sagging will readily develop leaks as the connection points between them widen or the material degrades. These gaps let out air as it whooshes past en route to the farther reaches of your home space.

Ducts that have been pulling double duty as critter homes and insect shelters can also degrade and be pulled apart or destroyed at entry and exit points. Animals and insects also love to use any softer, flexible ductwork to build nests. Over time, this constant harvesting can thin and degrade those duct walls, leaving behind cracks that allow air to escape.

Problems Caused by Leaking Ducts

We’ve already mentioned the significant issue of increased energy costs. With systemic leaks letting out up to 30 percent of your temperature-controlled indoor air, you may have even found yourself wondering why your power bill keeps increasing while your usage patterns remain the same.

But there are other equally troublesome issues that begin to arise when ducts start leaking.

One of the most concerning is the potential for fire safety risk as ducts become inhabited and potentially blocked by insect or animal visitors. Animals in particular are often fond of chewing on electrical wiring, which can then spark and catch fire, spreading dangerously before you get an inkling something is amiss.

Leaking ducts also let in toxins that then get pushed out into your home along with the cooled or heated air.

Since ducts are typically located in behind-the-scenes places that are more likely to become dusty, musty, mouldy or damp, these are the types of toxins that are likely to enter your ducts through a leak, crack or widened seal.

You might only know your allergies seem worse this season or you have more asthma attacks at night. You may not realize it could be duct-borne toxins causing these health symptoms.

DIY Fixes for Leaking Ducts

Fixing leaking ducts is not difficult, but it can be time-consuming - and it is definitely manual labour! Not every homeowner has the time or inclination to tackle duct leak repair as a do-it-yourself project, but it is important to know that if you are so inclined, it can be done.

The path more homeowners tend to take is to contact their HVAC service to come out to evaluate the state of their home duct system and make repairs as may be required to seal up cracks or leaks and even replace sections of duct that have started sagging.

In most cases, a full replacement of your duct system is rarely necessary.

Timely small repairs like patching up leaks or cracks, resealing connection points, unraveling kinks, adding fresh insulation, and ensuring vents and air registers are cleaned and sealed can extend the useful life of your duct system.

Indoor Air Duct Cleaning Removes Airborne Toxins

The final often-overlooked step to take in reducing energy bills and improving indoor air quality is to schedule a professional indoor air duct cleaning. There is no set recommended time to do this.

However, simple common sense dictates that over time your ducts will take on dust, debris, dirt, insect or animal waste and other unwelcome toxins that build up, weigh down your ducts and toxify your indoor air.

If you have no record from the previous homeowner that your ducts have ever been professionally cleaned and sanitized and if you are not living in a new construction, chances are good an indoor air duct cleaning is in order.

This cleaning generally takes less than half a day and will leave your ducts squeaky clean and sanitized to improve your family’s health.

Get in Touch

Now and through April 30, 2019, save 10 percent on any of our duct-cleaning packages!

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

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Incomplete Combustion Is a Killer: What to Do to Keep Your Family Safe

carbon monoxide alarm closeup

“Incomplete combustion” is happening all across Canada and around the world in homes and workplaces every single day.

The world as we know it relies on combustion to keep going. In this post, learn what you need to know to make sure the combustion happening in your home or workspace is safe (complete) and non-toxic.

What Is Incomplete Combustion?

At its simplest, combustion is what happens when we burn a fuel.

Complete combustion is often called “clean combustion.” Incomplete combustion is often called “dirty combustion.”

To generate combustion, there must be a heat source, a fuel type and an oxidant (oxygen). When a heat source plus oxygen and fuel interact, the result is also heat, along with trace amounts of carbon dioxide and water.

Common fuel types include wax, wood, oil, gas, kerosene, propane and coal. Tobacco is another common fuel type.

Combustion is pretty great when we want to heat our homes or offices, cook something or drive our car.

But it isn't so great when it doesn't work properly and produces toxic airborne waste.

What Does Incomplete Combustion Produce?

Complete combustion fully oxidizes the fuel and produces the maximum possible amount of heat energy.

Incomplete combustion, on the other hand, produces both heat energy and other byproducts that are both unhealthy and unsafe.

Incomplete combustion happens for one of two reasons: there isn’t enough oxygen to fully oxidize the fuel or the initial heat source isn’t hot enough to fully consume the fuel.

When this occurs, both gaseous compounds and particulate matter are produced, which are unsafe and unhealthy. Some of them can be fatal.

Most Common Byproducts of Incomplete Combustion

These are the most concerning byproducts that are produced when combustion is not complete.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is the least concerning of these byproducts. Carbon dioxide at high levels can cause fatigue, headaches, dizziness and similar health symptoms.

When air is described as “stale,” this often means there is a high ratio of carbon dioxide to oxygen present.

Carbon monoxide

CO, or carbon monoxide, is the most concerning of these byproducts. Nicknamed the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless - impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide alarm system.

At low levels, CO can cause fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, mental confusion, vision problems and symptoms similar to the flu. At high levels, carbon monoxide can be fatal.

Nitrogen dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, is a byproduct that is particularly concerning if you have chronic respiratory or breathing issues, such as asthma. Symptoms include irritation and inflammation in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and shortness of breath.

Particulates

Particulate matter (PM), or soot, is composed of small floating particles that readily enter your eyes, nose and mouth, causing irritation and inflammation down into the lungs and the heart. Some PMs can cause cancer.

How to Correct Incomplete Combustion

All kinds of issues can contribute to incomplete combustion in household or workplace appliances.

All too often, the reason an appliance begins to operate inefficiently is due to neglected preventative maintenance. Over time, buildup of dirt, debris, scale, soot, rust and other residue can impact the interaction between the heat source and the oxidant.

Blocked vents, flues, shutters or registers can prevent adequate oxygen from reaching the fuel source.

Malfunctioning pilot lights or ignition switches, compromised electrical wiring or heat exchangers and improper gas pressure can each contribute temperature troubles with the heat source.

Preventative maintenance service includes a safety inspection and basic cleaning that can address combustion issues ranging from dirt and debris to blockages and leaks, quickly correcting the combustion process so it once again works as designed.

NOTE: Our sister company, Shipton’s Heating & Cooling, specializes in correcting combustion issues in a wide range of residential and commercial appliances.

How to Clean Your Indoor Air After Incomplete Combustion

While an annual safety inspection and preventative maintenance service can restore combustion processes to their normal function, this service alone cannot address the byproducts now residing in your indoor air supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a concerning report stating that our indoor air is now up to five times more toxic than the air outside.

One major reason for this increase in indoor air toxicity is airtight construction. Without any natural leaks or cracks for indoor air toxins to escape, airborne toxins stay put and slowly build up inside our homes and workplaces.

This is why Ontario now requires new construction in the GTA to include the installation of a heat recovery ventilator to provide ventilation using mechanical processes.

Heat recovery ventilators are fantastic in airtight spaces - they can refresh and oxygenate your indoor air and help with seasonal humidity balancing. But they still can’t clean out toxins from your air supply.

For this, you need a specialized air cleaner. The two most popular indoor air cleaners are the ultraviolet air purifier and the HEPA filter.

An ultraviolet air purifier works to change the chemical composition of airborne toxins so they cannot harm you. UV air purifiers are especially effective against gaseous particles.

A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter works to trap airborne particulates and soot and remove them permanently from your indoor air supply. HEPA filters can remove particulates as small as 1/100th the size of a single human hair.

We always recommend scheduling a professional air duct cleaning service as a part of comprehensive indoor air cleaning to remove particulates trapped in your ducts.

Get in Touch

Through April 31, 2019, save 10 percent on duct cleaning!

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

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How Does an Ultraviolet Air Purifier Clean Your Air?

ultraviolet lights

Your lungs can hold about three large soda bottles of air at any given time - about 6 liters.

At an estimated 12 breaths per 60 seconds, you breathe approximately 1,140 times per day.

It might sound simple enough: you breathe in, breathe out, repeat as needed. Then you go on with your day.

But your lungs have a much bigger job description! They have to take in that air, process it, send oxygen out to all the areas in your body where it is needed, receive waste products (chiefly carbon dioxide), exhale those out and then start the whole process all over again.

All that to say: how pure or impure your air supply is really matters. The cleaner and more oxygenated your air supply is, the easier it is for your lungs to do their job and the stronger and healthier you will be.

But with today’s indoor air getting more toxic, finding clean, pure, oxygenated air to breathe is a lot harder than it sounds. This is where an ultraviolet air purifier can really lend your lungs a helping hand!

The State of Our Indoor Air Quality

The EPA’s recent report on the environment delivered some shocking news - on average, indoor air is two to five times more toxic than the air just outside.

This is not good news for your lungs or health. It is even worse news once you factor in that the average Canadian reports spending as little as five minutes per day outdoors.

This means that, of the 1,440 minutes you spend breathing in and out in the typical day, 1,435 of those minutes are spent breathing indoor air. This makes cleaning up your indoor air supply an urgent health matter!

For anyone who suffers from allergies, asthma, respiratory infections or lung disease, the situation becomes even more critical.

Why Is Indoor Air MORE Toxic?

After so many years spent worrying about the quality of our outdoor air, it can be shocking to learn that the air outside is actually safer to breathe in many cases.

But why is this the case? What has happened to shift air toxicity to this degree?

The answer to this question is simple and well-documented.

Along with growing concerns about dwindling natural resources, which has prompted efforts to conserve the fossil fuels required to provide power for today’s homes and workplaces, the construction industry has responded with new, advanced airtight construction techniques.

These techniques seal up every natural crack or crevice that might let indoor air slip out or outdoor air slip in. Today’s new-built homes and workplaces offer almost no natural ventilation to recycle indoor air.

As well, humans are using more toxic chemicals indoors than ever before. So what you have is a whole lot of trapped airborne chemicals that can’t get out. As a result, the indoor air gets stale, heavy with toxins and depleted of oxygen.

Ventilation Is Not the Only Answer

At this point, you might think, “Aha! I know how to fix this! Ventilation is the answer!”

And you are right, to a point. Better ventilation is needed to do artificially what used to take place naturally inside homes and offices. Ventilation can also help to some degree to move airborne toxins back outdoors and draw in new, fresh, oxygen-rich air.

Unfortunately, it can’t do the whole job by itself. Ventilation’s primary job is to move stale air out and fresh air in, just as your lungs exhale carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen.

A good heat recovery ventilation system can even boost your HVAC system’s energy efficiency, lower your monthly utility bills and help balance the humidity in your indoor air.

But ventilation can’t do anything about toxins that have already found their way into your home and have become lodged in your air ducts, where they are sent back out through the exhaust vents.

Meet Ventilation’s Trusty Sidekick: Ultraviolet Purification

Ultraviolet light has gotten a pretty bad rap over the decades as the cause for sunburns and skin cancer.

But ultraviolet, or UV, light can do many beneficial things, too, including purify the air we breathe.

At its simplest, UV light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that has the power to change the composition of living organisms, including bacteria, viruses and mould. The process UV light uses to do this is called “ionization.” When UV light hits living matter, ionization separates electrons from atoms, changing the chemical structure of the matter.

When UV light ionizes airborne toxins, it neutralizes their potential to harm you.

How Ultraviolet Purification Cleans Your Indoor Air

Our sun produces three UV light bands: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. Of these three, UV-C is the most powerful, but the protective layer of ozone surrounding our planet shields us from this light band.

An ultraviolet air purifier is basically very focused UV-C light that continuously scans the air in your home or workplace for airborne toxins. When it finds living matter such as gaseous compounds, viruses, bacteria, mould or mildew, it changes their chemical composition and neutralizes their toxicity.

Put simply, UV air purification strips toxins right out of your indoor air supply, leaving behind safe, pure, breathable air.

Ventilation + UV Purification = Safe, Clean, Breathable Indoor Air!

Are you ready to feel better, sleep better and wake up feeling rested, refreshed and ready to do your best work and really enjoy your life?

Discover the difference the potent team of ventilation plus ultraviolet air purification can make in your family’s health.

Get in Touch

Get a jump-start on indoor air quality by saving 10 percent on any indoor air duct cleaning service!

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

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