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CleanAir Solutions Blog

February 2020

Duct Tips to Save You Money and Keep You Healthy

spraying deodorizer

Ducts don’t get a lot of love.

In fact, in most cases ducts don’t get any love.

Not only are ducts typically located in difficult to access and nearly impossible to see places inside the average home, but also when things go wrong, it is usually the air conditioner or furnace that takes the blame.

This is the case whether or not there is actually anything wrong with the HVAC components themselves.

According to Energy Star, up to 30 percent of the air your furnace or A/C unit produces is lost in just one place – duct leaks.

That is a lot of hot or cool air you’re paying for and not using.

In this post, we offer our best and brightest duct tune-up tips to trim your energy bills and keep you healthier, too.

How Old Are Your Ducts?

Have you ever stopped to wonder how old the ductwork is in the average Canadian home - or in your home?

Most of us haven’t. But statistically speaking, we know that 62 percent of Canadians live in homes built between 1950 and 1999.

We also know that central (ducted) air conditioning wasn’t widely available until the 1970s.

What this tells us is that there are likely some pretty old duct systems right here in Ontario!

What Is the Life Expectancy of a Duct System?

A well-built, well-maintained ductwork system can theoretically last as long as 30 years.

But as you now know, this doesn’t describe most residential ductwork systems.

A solid system of ducts can last up to 15 years before you will see some major deterioration.

This is because the materials used to make ducts will begin to degrade over time. This is especially the case when ducts are located in unheated, non-air-conditioned areas where cold, heat and humidity cause the natural expansion and contraction of ducts.

This, in turn, causes loosening of the seals that connect each duct to the network. Humidity and moisture can also lead to rust, which over time will eat right through the metal and cause holes.

Now it is easier to see why Energy Star estimates up to 30 percent of temperature-controlled air in the average home today gets lost before it ever gets far enough to flow out through the air registers in each room of your home.

6 Warning Signs You Have Leaking Ducts

As we mentioned in the introduction here, whenever there is any type of problem with the HVAC system, it is common to just blame the furnace or air conditioner.

But the full HVAC system includes many more components than just those two.

Your HVAC system consists of your furnace and A/C, ducts, exhaust vents and return/supply air registers.

Any of these components can potentially cause issues with your energy costs and heating or cooling efficiency.

Here are some of the main warning signs you may have a problem with your ductwork.

1. Uneven airflow

Uneven airflow is one of the most common ways that your ducts communicate with you about developing air leaks.

When you walk into one room and the airflow from the register is strong, but in an adjacent room the airflow is weak or absent, this can signal a leaking or detached duct that needs repair.

2. Strange odour

Despite the known toxicity of many commercial “air fresheners” and deodorizers, the companies that produce them continue to do a robust business.

Why? Because often our homes stink! Even more often, we can’t find the root cause of the smell and so we just do our best to mask it with scents or deodorizers that add more chemicals to our indoor air.

In many cases, the reason it’s so hard to pinpoint the cause of the smell is that it is coming from your ducts. Mildew, mould, unwelcome visitors, rotting insulation and detached ducts can all distribute strange odours throughout your home space.

3. Odd noises

Even when you start hearing strange sounds coming from the general direction of your HVAC system, it can be tempting to just dismiss them as “normal.”

In most cases, however, those noises are not normal at all.

Ducts make noises for a few reasons, the most common being that they are leaking or blocked. If you hear something that sounds like escaping air, it probably is!

4. Visitors!

Whenever you start seeing signs of unwelcome visitors such as bugs or even small animals, it is time to look at what is letting them in, which might be your ducts.

5. Chronically poor health

Respiratory symptoms, in particular, can often be traced back to dust, debris, mildew, mould, bacteria and toxins trapped in your ductwork.

6. Increased energy costs

Earlier we mentioned that leaking ducts may let out as much as 30 percent of your temperature-controlled indoor air before you ever get to use it.

That is a lot of air you are paying for that you don’t get to enjoy.

The average Ontario homeowner reports spending around $2,358 in energy costs annually, and 64 percent ($1,509) of that goes to heating and cooling.

A 30 percent duct leak costs you $453 per year.

Want Lower Energy Bills, Better Health and That “New Home” Smell?

A professional indoor air duct cleaning is just what the duct doctor ordered.

Clean out years of trapped debris in less than half a day. Scour and sanitize the interior of your ducts to neutralize odours, eradicate mildew and bacteria and send encamped insects packing. Plus, we check for any leaks and wear and tear that might need repair. 

Right now and through the end of February, save 10 percent on any of our popular duct cleaning packages!

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-549-4616.

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Renovating Your Space? Guard Against Toxic Indoor Air With These Tips

asbestos in the wall

Are you thinking about fixing up your fixer-upper? You are in good company, according to HGTV-Canada.

Recent statistics indicate that more than half of all Canadian homeowners made major or minor repairs to their homes in just the last year.

With repair costs ranging from the hundreds to the tens of thousands, clearly it is an investment to upgrade your space.

But these are just the costs you know to calculate. There are other, less visible costs that can add up over time and turn your much-anticipated home renovation into a health nightmare.

Yes, we are talking about toxic indoor air.

The problem of indoor air toxicity during home renovations is so prevalent that whole task forces have been assembled to study and combat the problem.

In this blog post, we have assembled a shortlist of industry best practices so you and your family can stay safe during and after your home renovations.

Close Encounters With Home Renovation Contaminants

The first step to avoiding close encounters with common home renovation contaminants is knowing what to avoid.

The Canadian Committee on Indoor Air Quality and Buildings has taken care of this step for us by assembling a helpful guide of the most common renovation-related indoor air contaminants.

  • Asbestos (this is particularly relevant since nearly two-thirds of Canadian homeowners report living in “older homes,” in other words, those built between 1950 and 1999

  • Vermiculite (common ingredient in older insulation)

  • Lead

  • Mould and mildew

  • Mercury

  • Formaldehyde

  • Refrigerant

  • Radon, sewer gas and other gases

  • PCBs

  • Dust and particulates

  • VOCs

  • Combustion by-products (carbon monoxide, etc.)

  • Hydrocarbons

This is a pretty lengthy list. Is there anything that can tackle every single toxin?

The answer to this is yes... and no.

There is no single appliance or solution that can handle every single toxin that might get uncovered during a home renovation. But there is a set of solutions that can ensure minimal exposure from start to long after your renovation is finished.

Follow these tips to stay safe and healthy throughout your renovation.

Step 1: Identify Potential Hazards in Advance

Step one involves going back into the archives (mental or otherwise) to identify which major toxins you are likely to encounter during renovations.

You can think of this as doing risk management for home repairs.

You may or may not ever actually deal with the risk, but at least you are taking steps to be prepared if you do.

Here are two toxins that you may encounter during renovations and that require special safety precautions.

Lead

Canada banned the use of lead paint in 1960. But remember when we said nearly two-thirds of Canadian homeowners report living in older homes with build dates as far back as 1955?

When renovating an older home, you are likely to encounter lead paint at some point mid-project.

Asbestos

Asbestos was not banned in Canada until 1999. This tells us that the full two-thirds of Canadians still living in older homes will likely encounter it in some form or fashion during a remodel or major repair.

Asbestos has properties that can make materials stronger, fire-retardant and longer-lasting. It was commonly used to make insulation, tiles, siding, cement and plaster, among other things.

Any reputable contractor can help ensure that appropriate protections are in place for these and the other toxins mentioned in the introduction here.

3 Categories of Home Renovation Toxins to Avoid

In this list of common home renovation toxins mentioned here earlier, you probably noticed there are a few common categories. These are particulate (solid), gaseous and liquid.

Splitting the toxins into these major categories can make the job of protecting yourself during and after your renovation much more manageable.

Particulate (solid) toxins

Particulate or solid toxins may be tiny, even microscopic, but they are still considered solids. The best way to guard against inhaling solids is filtration.

The best filtration to tackle even microscopic airborne solids is the high-efficiency particulate air filter, or HEPA filter.

Modern HEPA filters trap and remove even the tiniest micro-particulates (as small as 1/100th the width of a single human hair) from the air.

Lead, asbestos, vermiculite, mould, mildew, dust and other micro-solids can be efficiently removed from your indoor air with a HEPA filter.

Gaseous and liquid toxins

For the purposes of indoor air cleanup, gaseous and liquid toxins are grouped together in a single category.

These toxins do not respond well to filtration – it is hard to trap a drop of liquid or a gas bubble!

What does neutralize both very effectively is purification. The most powerful air purifier in the whole world is our own sun. The ultraviolet radiation emanating from the sun is the inspiration behind the modern ultraviolet air purifier.

Today’s ultraviolet air purification systems use the most powerful band of ultraviolet light: band C. UV-C changes the molecular composition of liquid and gaseous toxins so they cannot do any harm.

Two More Home Renovation Air Quality Essentials

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends scheduling an indoor air duct cleaning following major home repairs or renovations.

This cleans out trapped toxins so they will not reinfect your indoor space before you move back in.

We always recommend installing a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) post-renovation.

The heat recovery ventilator not only provides continuous fresh air with continuous removal of stale, toxic air, but it also keeps the humidity balanced inside your home.

Best of all, the HRV recycles heat energy to reduce your home heating bills.

Get in Touch

Right now and through the end of February, save 10 percent off the cost of any of our three popular professional indoor air duct cleaning services.

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

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Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace: 6 Signs Your Workplace May Have a Problem with Mould

man with headache in workplace

How common is mould? It is everywhere – literally. Mould spores are all around us in the air, water, and soil.

Some moulds are good. They make yogurt, cheese, soy sauce and many medications (including penicillin and other antibiotics).

Other moulds are bad. These require goggles and face masks and special equipment to clean up and dispose of.

While the former has saved many a life and nourished far more besides, the latter can strike fear into the heart of even the most stalwart home or business owner.

Mould spores are tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye. By the time spores have colonized a space and spread to the point at which they become visible, the problem is often severe.

Luckily, mould generally announces its presence first through more obvious warning signs. In this blog post, learn what to watch for to get early warning your space may have a mould problem.

1. There is a persistent strange odour in the building

A strange odour is among the first and most common of the warning signs mould often sends out when it colonizes a space.

This odour has been described in a number of ways. But there are some similarities that seem to stay consistent regardless of the size of the space or the degree of infestation:

  • The odour is persistent and does not respond to air fresheners, fragrances or even ventilation efforts.

  • The odour smells dank, earthy, musty or grassy – some describe it more like “dirty gym socks.”

  • The odour becomes immediately apparent when first entering the space.

2. Certain areas in the building are consistently humid or damp

Depending on the age of your building and the state of any existing ductwork or ventilation system, some areas may be naturally more humid than others. Poorly routed ductwork, in particular, can often cause chronic temperature and humidity imbalances that will then lead to mould growth and buildup.

A basement or crawl space is usually damper and more humid than any area above ground. This is due to the nature of having a soil-surrounded space versus a space surrounded by air.

Condensation on windows, damp or soggy patches on carpeting or a higher natural humidity level (such as in laundry rooms or unvented storage areas) can also indicate areas at a higher risk of developing mould infestations.

3. The building was impacted by a significant leak or flood in the past

If you have occupied a commercial building for some time and/or you know of its history from a prior owner, you may be aware of a significant leak or water event that impacted it in the past.

Here, it is smart to find out all you can about any remediation work that was done (or not) after that event.

Poorly done remediation or a lack of remediation can leave trapped moisture or even cover it up with insulation or vapour barriers that actually end up encouraging mould growth rather than repelling it!

4. Workers are complaining of health symptoms

When mould infestation gets bad enough, it becomes possible to sense it immediately upon entering the infested space.

Headaches, runny noses, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing, headache, mental fogginess, daytime sleepiness, skin itching, rashes and respiratory symptoms can all signal that there is a mould problem.

The more workers are affected, the more likely it is the root cause of the health symptoms is mould in the building.

5. Employee health insurance claims are on the rise

Another possible indication that your building has a mould problem is when you see an ongoing increase in worker sick days and employee health insurance claims. Mould can cause health issues ranging from mild to severe.

On the mild end of the spectrum, persistent low-grade health symptoms like those described in number four above may interfere with productivity.

As the mould issue becomes more serious, worker sick days and health insurance claims may increase as occasional health symptoms become chronic and more severe.

6. There is visible discoloration or staining on surfaces

Yet another way that mould announces its presence is through visible discoloration and staining on surfaces.

Seeing darker patches, small dark dots, white powdery “dust” or what appears to be staining may actually be mould spores growing and spreading.

Is It Mould or Something Else? 5 Common Workplace Indoor Air Contaminants

Mould problems tend to be headline-grabbing by their very nature. Everyone is afraid of mould, especially when it is the dreaded black mould.

But mould isn’t the only type of indoor air contaminant that can cause air quality and structural issues in the workplace.

The five most common types of indoor air quality contaminants in the workplace are these:

  1. Microbials: bacteria, fungi, mould, mildew

  2. Volatile organic compounds: off-gassing from office equipment, cleaning supplies, solvents, pesticides, adhesives and glues, disinfectants, etc.

  3. Particulates: dust and dust mites, tobacco, combustion byproducts

  4. Harmful/radioactive gases and vapours: ozone, radon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide

  5. People: use of personal care products including fragrance, deodorant, aerosols

Before assuming your workspace has a mould problem, it is worth doing an indoor air quality test to accurately determine the true cause of the symptoms you are observing.

Improving Workplace Indoor Air Quality

Today, many effective aftermarket tools exist to clean, filter, ventilate and purify your indoor air at work and at home.

Conducting an indoor air quality test will pinpoint the critical indoor air quality concerns and remediation needs to help you choose.

Get in Touch

Right now and through the end of February, save 10 percent off the cost of any of our three popular professional indoor air duct cleaning services.

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

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