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Tuesday, 02 April 2019 18:43

Humidity and Indoor Air Quality

Humidity and Indoor Air Quality in Florida

In the subtropical climate of southwest Florida warm humid air keeps our central air conditioners working almost year round to keep the air in our homes cool and comfortable. While one of an air conditioner's main purposes is to remove moisture from the air to reduce humidity, in many homes high humidity can lead to air quality problems.

If your indoor humidity is above 60 percent you may notice condensation on windows, a musty smell and mold growth in bathrooms and other areas of your home.

What Is a Healthy Indoor Humidity Level?

Many newer digital and smart thermostats will display the relative humidity (RH) in your home. You can alos buy a hygrometer to measure the humidity. For healthy air and comfort a range of 30-50% is ideal.

The Effects of High Humidity In the Home

Besides being just plain uncomfortable, excessive humidity can cause a number of problems that can effect your health, including crating an ideal environment for mold growth and dust mites – both of which can lead to allergies and other respiratory ailments.

High humidity can also damage your home by warping wood furniture, cupping wood floors and peeling paint and wall paper.

Controlling Humidity Levels In the Home

While your central AC will remove much of the humidity in the air, it's also important to avoid creating a lot of humidity inside. Sources of humidity include: cooking, doing laundry, bathing and other household tasks. Ensure that there is adequate ventilation in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. If humidity is a problem in these spaces, consider increasing the size of the ventilation and exhaust fans to remove the humid air.

When the temperatures are lower, consider leaving doors open to allow air to circulate and opening drapes and partially opening blinds on sunny days can also reduce the buildup of excess moisture in the home.

If you're concerned about excessive humidity in your home, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning we can help.
Central Air Conditioner Smells
Is your central air conditioner emitting a musty or sour smell? There are a few things you can check. In addition to lowering the temperature in your home your air conditioner also dehumidifies the air by blowing warm air over coils that contain refrigerant. This both reduces the temperature of the air and extracts the moisture from the air through condensation. The moisture drips off the coil and collects in a condensate pan where it can flow down the drain.

Condensate Pan

The condensate pan is located inside the air handler right under the refrigerant coils. When dirt and debris collect in the pan it can clog the drain hole, causing mold and mildew to grow – resulting in a musty smell.

If the drain is clogged you can us a piece of wire or a paper clip to clean out the drain opening. If there are signs of mold or mildew, wipe the pan clean with a sponge and  diluted chlorine bleach.

Air Ducts

If humidity levels reach high enough levels it can cause the dirt inside air ducts to turn to mold. Mold in the air ducts can be a serious health hazard. If you notice mold inside air ducts, or experience musty smells coming from the air registers, your ventilation system could be harboring mold. You should contact a mold specialist to have the duct work inspected.

Dirty Air Filter

A dirty air filter can limit the amount of air that can cycle through the system, creating an increase in humidity and dampness in the ventilation system – creating an ideal environment for mold to grow. Replace your air filter at least once a month, or at the interval recommended by the filter manufacturer.

If you suspect your central air conditioner is causing strange smells in your home, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can inspect the system and ensure that it is operating safely and reliably.
Thursday, 13 December 2018 16:22

5 Tips To Prevent Mold Growth In Your Home

Preventing mold growth in Southwest Florida

High humidity is a feature of the tropical southwest Florida climate. One of the keys to controlling humidity indoors is a central air conditioner and good ventilation. If the AC and ventilation are not optimal, mold and mildew can quickly gain a foothold, leading to potential negative health effects. Inhaling or touching mold spores can cause cause an allergic reaction, leading to hay fever-like symtoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, red eyes and skin irritation. For those with a health conditions such as upper respiratory diseases, including asthma, and compromised immune systems, mold can represent a more serious health risk.

Because it can be difficult to remove mold once it begins to grow on walls and inside air ducts, it's best to prevent its growth in the first place. The best way to prevent mold is to control moisture indoors.

Here are 5 ways to prevent mold growth inside your home:
  1. Look for water stains in ceilings and under sinks. Locate the cause of the leak and repair it. These are usually caused leaking roofs or plumbing.
  2. Reduce indoor humidity by properly venting bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas. Install or upgrade existing exhaust fans if there is excessive condensation.
  3. Keep your air conditioner maintained and ensure that the condensate line is draining. There should be no standing water in the drain pan.
  4. Use moisture proof flooring in bathrooms and indoor spas.
  5. If excess humidity is a concern, consider a whole-home dehumidifier to supplement your AC and HVAC system.
Have questions about preventing mold in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help.
Allergies

As the spring season arrives and trees and plants bloom, filling the air with pollen, many allergy sufferers retreat indoors with the AC turned on and windows closed. But is there more that can be done to keep the air on the home free of pollen and other allergens?

Changing the HVAC filter once a month is a good practice, but does buying a more expensive filter advertised to trap smaller particles really make a difference in how clean the air is in your home? It's important to remember that the main purpose of HVAC filters is to keep the equipment free of dirt that can damage the unit and cause it to wear out prematurely, or lower its performance. While the filter may do a good job of removing many of the larger particles from the air, removing pollen and other allergens are not what HVAC filters are design to do.

To effectively remove allergens from the air we recommend a whole home air cleaner. Depending on the design, these systems can not only remove the finest pollen, mold and bacteria particles from the air, but can even kill biological contaminants live viruses and remove harmful chemical vapors.

Have questions about improving the air quality in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.
Tuesday, 06 March 2018 23:46

10 Steps To Cleaner Indoor Air

Indoor Air Quality
According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. Because we spend around 90% of our time indoors, where the air can be 2 to 5 times as polluted as outdoor air, it's important to take steps to reduce the harmful health effects of pollutants like dust mites, mold, chemicals, radon, pet dander and more.

Here are 10 steps you can take to create a healthier indoor environment.

1. Vacuum Carpets and Dust Your Home Every Week

Although they can't be seen with the naked eye, dust mites are common in most homes. Dust mites can aggravate allergies and asthma, leading to respiratory irritation. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is the best way to reduce the number of dust mites in the bedroom and throughout the home.

2. Change Your Furnace Filter Every Month

A dirty furnace air filter not only makes your central heating and cooling system operate less efficiently, it can cause dirt to build build up inside your air ducts, creating an ideal environment for dust mites, mold and mildew.

3. Wash Bedding Every Week In Hot Water

Using a washable dust cover on mattresses can also reduce reduce allergens like dust mites.

4. Ensure that Kitchen and Bathrooms are Well Ventilated

Proper ventilation of cooking fumes and stale, humid air is critical to reducing the growth of mold and mildew.

5. Maintain Humidity Levels Between 30–50%

When the air is too dry in the winter, it can lead to cracked, dry skin and respiratory irritation. If the air is too humid it can lead to harmful mold growth.

If the humidity levels are difficult to control in your home, consider installing a whole house humidifier or dehumidifier that works in conjunction with your home's central heating and cooling system to maintain healthy humidity levels.

6. Test For Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. Exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. Buy a radon test kit and if the radon levels are unhealthy, take steps to reduce the entry to your home by sealing cracks inside the walls and on floors.

8. Let Fresh Air Inside

Whenever possible, increase ventilation by opening windows to let fresh air inside the home.

9. Buy Air Cleaning Houseplants

Years ago NASA conducted study on the effectiveness of different houseplants in removing harmful chemicals from the air. They found many houseplants are effective at removing chemical pollution. By choosing house plants like Boston Fern and English Ivy, you can reduce chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia in the air.

10. Consider Installing a Whole House Air Filtration System

If someone in the household has allergies or asthma, consider installing a whole home air filtration system. With features like UV light and advanced, multistage filtration, advanced home air cleaners can remove almost any type of indoor pollution.

11. Have Your Air Ducts Professionally Cleaned

Over time, dust and dirt can build up inside air ducts, providing an ideal environment for dust mites, mold, bacteria and other harmful pollutants to thrive. Regular duct cleaning will ensure that the air blowing through your air ducts is not spreading pollution throughout your home.

Choosing the Right MERV Rating For Your HVAC System



If you want to find out how effective your air filter is at removing contaminants from the air, check the filter's MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. MERV is a standard that rates the effectiveness of air filters. A higher numeric rating means the filter will remove finer particulate matter from the air.

Filters are tested for for their ability to trap pollen, dust mites, mold spores, dust, pet dander, bacteria and tobacco smoke. Here are how effective the different MERV ratings are at removing various contaminants from the air.

1-4 : Filters out pollen and dust mites.

5-8 : Removes mold and dust.

9-12 : Traps lead dust and most bacteria

12+ : Filters out all bacteria and tobacco smoke

When choosing an air filter for your HVAC system it may seem like a good idea to buy the filter with the highest MERV rating, since you want to have the cleanest air possible, right? In most cases, you should use a filter in the 5-8 range. The reason is that filters with a high MERV rating will have the smallest pores for air to pass through. This can make it harder for the HVAC system to push air through the filter, reducing system performance. To avoid restricting the air flow, filters with a higher MERV rating should be changed more frequently (at least every three months) to prevent damage to the HVAC system.

Ultimately, if your home's air is dirty enough to require a higher MERV rating, or you're changing air filters more than once a month, you may be better served by having a whole home air filtration system. A furnace air filter is really just designed to keep your HVAC equipment clean to prevent wear and tear. A whole house air filtration system is designed to actually clean the air inside the home.

Have questions about air filters? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your questions.

Even if your home looks clean and the air smells fresh, there can still be harmful pollutants lurking inside that can be harmful to your health. In fact, the EPA reports that the air inside can be 2 to 5 times as polluted as the air outside. The problem gets worse in newer homes that are well sealed and insulated. Because most of us spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors, it's important to understand the types of indoor pollution that exist in most homes and how to reduce their impact on your health.

Here are some of the most common sources of indoor pollution:

1. Dust Mites - Furniture, carpet and bedding provides an ideal environment for dust mites to thrive. Wash or vacuum carpets and wash bedding weekly in hot water. Change your furnace air filter at least once a month and have your ducts professional cleaned when needed.

2. Mold and Mildew - Damp bathrooms and basements can harbor mold and mildew that can reduce air quality. Ensure that there is good ventilation in bathrooms in the form of windows or vent fans. Aim to keep humidity levels in the home between 30-50%.

3. Carbon Monoxide - Gas appliances can emit odorless, deadly carbon monoxide. Install carbon monoxide detectors near every bedroom and test them regularly.

4. Smoke and Pet Dander – If there are pets or smoking in the home, consider limiting smoking to outside and installing a whole home air cleaner.

5. Radon - Radon a invisible, odorless form of radiation that can enter the home from the ground and increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Purchase a radon detection kit and follow the instructions for testing radon in your home. If problems are found, proper radon mitigation techniques should be performed to reduce exposure to safe levels.
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 01:44

The ABC's of Indoor Air Quality - VOCs

VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are gases emitted by solids or liquids inside the home. The sources of VOCs in the home are numerous and include:
  • Household cleaning products
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Wood preservatives
  • Wax that contain organic solvents
  • Disinfectants
  • Cosmetics
  • Hobby products
All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and to a lesser degree when they are stored.The possible health effects of exposure to VOCs include:
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination and nausea
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Some VOCs are also suspected carcinogens
The extent of the health effects depend on many factors such as the level and length of exposure. According to the EPA, concentrations of VOCs (https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality) indoors are up to 10 times higher than outdoors.

So what can you do to limit your family's exposure to potentially harmful VOCs? The EPA recommends taking the following steps:
  • Use good ventilation when using products that emit VOCs
  • Read and follow product instructions and warnings carefully
  • Store opened containers of unused products in a safe location and ensure they are tightly sealed and not leaking.
  • If a product is leaking, discard of the container as directed. Do not transfer the contents to another container.
  • Plywood furniture and flooring should be sealed to reduce potential exposure to formaldehyde.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 18:27

When Should You Consider Duct Cleaning?

If you have ever removed a cover on an air register you may have noticed how dirty the inside of air ducts can be. One of the best ways to keep your air ducts clean is to replace your air filter regularly. When filters become clogged they allow dust to pass through them into your ductwork. Most 1" pleated filters should be replaced every month.

If someone in your household suffers from allergies or upper respiratory ailments, duct cleaning can help to ensure that airborne dust and mold are kept to a minimum. If dust or debris is visible coming through the vents while the air conditioner is running, or mold is seen growing on air registers, duct cleaning is recommended.

Have questions about indoor air quality issues? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.
While your home's central air conditioner plays the most important role in maintaining cool comfortable air inside the home, there several types of fans that each plan an important role in keeping the air cool and healthy. The four main types of fans are:

Whole-House Fans

This type of fan is designed to circulate air throughout a home's ductwork. It is sometimes confused with an attic ventilator fan (see below), which exhausts hot air from the attic to the outside through an opening in the roof. In some cases, a whole house fan can take the place of a home's air conditioning system by circulating air during times of the year when it's not too hot, particularly when combined with ceiling fans.

Bathroom Exhaust Fans

A bathroom exhaust fan is designed to remove stale, humid air from bathrooms, laundry rooms and other enclosed spaces with high humidity. They improve air quality and reduce the likelihood of mold and mildew growth. When installing an exhaust fan it's important to ensure that the fan is ducted to the exterior of the house and not just into an attic.

Attic Fans

Also called an attic ventilator, attic fans regulate the heat level of a home's attic by exhausting hot air. They are usually controlled by a thermostat that automatically turns the fan off and on, or less frequently by a manual switch. An attic fan can be gable mounted or roof mounted.

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are a popular choice for improving airflow in rooms, as well as serving as lighting fixtures and enhancing room decor. While a ceiling fan doesn't actually lower the temperature, it circulates the conditioned air where it's needed most and provides evaporative cooling.

Have fan questions? Give ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call. We're here to help.




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