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Carbon Monoxide FAQ
Posted: Nov 7, 2019 by Andy
We often hear questions and concerns from our customers about carbon monoxide leaks. Here are answers to your most frequently asked questions, to keep you informed, so you and your family stay safe!
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide - or CO - is an odorless, colorless gas. In other words, it's virtually undetectable without specialized equipment. It's poisonous and can be fatal when inhaled. CO gas is created when carbon-containing substances are burned, and the carbon isn't completely consumed. Burning gasoline, propane, oil, coal, wood, and other flammable materials can produce carbon monoxide.
How dangerous is carbon monoxide?
As we said above, carbon monoxide is poisonous, and it can kill you if you inhale it. When absorbed by your lungs, it enters your bloodstream and displaces oxygen. As a result, your heart and brain are deprived and begin to shut down, eventually ceasing function altogether.
CO 's deadliness depends on its concentration in the air, and the length of your exposure to it. If there's a significant amount in the air, you'll suffocate and pass out almost instantly.
Residential CO leaks are usually smaller, causing more subtle and gradual symptoms. You may not realize you have a carbon monoxide leak, often mistaking the symptoms for another illness, like influenza - until your health is in serious jeopardy.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says around 400 people die from CO poisoning each year. Another 20,000 are treated in the emergency room, and 4,000 must recover during a hospital stay.
How do I recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Symptoms become more severe and apparent with higher exposure. As we mentioned, milder symptoms tend to be mistaken for the flu. Acute symptoms are much more noticeable. Unfortunately, during acute exposure, you'll only have a very short time between recognition and loss of consciousness - leaving you little time to act, and potentially physically incapable of doing so.
What CO inhalation symptoms I should watch out for?
Symptoms of CO poisoning include:
• Difficulty breathing
• Nausea and vomiting
• Chest pains
• Blurred vision
It's essential to note that children and the elderly are more vulnerable to CO poisoning. Being asleep or having a high blood-alcohol level means you may not notice the symptoms and puts you at much greater risk.
How much carbon monoxide is dangerous?
Let's be clear here: Any amount of carbon monoxide in the air you breathe is dangerous. At one to 70 parts-per-million (ppm), symptoms will not be evident in adults, but likely will be in children and older adults. Over 70 ppm, symptoms become more apparent. 150-200 ppm of airborne carbon monoxide can cause poor muscle coordination, delirium, fainting, and death.
How do I protect my home and family from CO leaks?
You must be proactive in preventing CO leaks so that you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets. Given the risks associated with carbon monoxide, you're better safe than sorry.
What should I do about carbon monoxide?
Make sure you carefully read the instruction manuals for all gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, etc. - any appliance that uses combustion. Don't attempt to install, clean, or repair them on your own - have a professional do the job correctly.
Schedule annual maintenance inspections and tune-ups for your appliances. Our certified experts will check for any blockages, punctures, sediment, or disconnected lines.
Never run a gas-powered appliance in an enclosed space. This can cause airborne CO levels to build up quickly, creating a hazardous situation.
Don't leave stovetop burners on when not in use, and never use them to heat your home.
Never leave your car, truck, or SUV running in the garage, even with the door open. While your car's catalytic converter is designed to reduce CO emissions, it doesn't eliminate them. Carbon monoxide and other toxic emissions will accumulate rapidly.
Install a CO detector and place it near your bedrooms. Your family is the most vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning when they're asleep. That said, installing a CO detector isn't a substitute for taking preventative steps, but it is a smart safety precaution.
We want you, the good people of northeast Ohio, to stay safe. That's why we offer repair, inspection and maintenance for your carbon-burning gas furnace! Our techs come to your home with the specialized equipment necessary to detect the presence of a carbon monoxide gas leak. We also offer carbon monoxide detector installation. To learn more, call us!
What's The Best Air Filter For My Allergies?
Posted: Oct 24, 2019 by Andy
If you're sneezing your way through allergy season, choosing the right air filter for your HVAC system will improve your home's air quality and will also ease your allergy symptoms. However, deciding which filter to choose can be as tricky as selecting the right allergy medicine. Here's what to consider before you go shopping.
These flat-panel filters have been around for years. They're not fancy, but they're affordable, and they won't restrict airflow in your HVAC system as much as some of the others we'll be talking about in this article. But, they're not great at trapping allergens - capturing less than 10% of the airborne pollutants in your home. If your allergies aren't terrible, it's a smart move to give these a try first.
The pleated filters have more surface area than a traditional flat filter and will filter up to 45% of the airborne allergens in your home - including pet dander, dust mites, and pollen. You can even use electrostatic filters that feature electrically charged materials that attract particles more effectively. The downside? They're a bit more expensive and can restrict the airflow in your HVAC system. This means your system will work a little harder, and it'll be harder to save money on your energy costs during allergy season. But, it can't hurt to test one out and see if it helps ease your allergies.
High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters (HEPA)
These filters are great - they remove up to 98% of the pollutants in your indoor air. Unfortunately, they're also thick to the point that they may require an extra fan to push air through them. That's why HEPA filters are usually incorporated into a whole-house filtration system. Filtration systems can trap particles down to one-tenth of a micron in size, and while these filters cost the most, they also have the greatest impact on alleviating your allergy symptoms.
Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)
Before you make your decision, it's a good idea to compare the CADR of the various filter types. You'll pay more for a higher CADR, but your sinuses will thank you. CADR measures the effectiveness of air-cleaning appliances. The higher the CADR of the media, the more effective the unit is at cleaning your home of airborne particles and allergens. For example, a standard one-inch filter has a CADR of 12, while a whole-house electronic air cleaner has a CADR of 660.
Employ multiple strategies
• Finally, keep in mind that your system's air filter should be just one part of your allergy battle plan. You'll stand a much better chance of reducing your allergy symptoms if you use multiple tactics. Try adding several of these simple tips to your routine.
• Try to keep your pets off of the furniture and out of bedrooms. If your pets spend time outdoors, allergens will cling to their fur, and they'll bring the particles in with them.
• Make a habit of showering before you go to bed to remove any allergens on your hair and skin that will cause you respiratory distress while you're sleeping, causing you to wake in the morning feeling congested.
• Wash your clothing, towels, and sheets in very hot water to eliminate dust mites.
• Vacuum frequently. A simple way to reduce sniffle-inducing dust and allergens is to vacuum often - consider sweeping once a day if your allergies are severe.
• Keep your windows closed and limit your outdoor time in the spring and fall to reduce your exposure to pollen, spores, and other outdoor allergens.
• Be sure to change your filter often - at least quarterly, and once a month if you have multiple pets.
• Consider adding a whole-house filtration system for a more robust approach to preventing allergy attacks.
Every allergy sufferer and heating and cooling system is unique, so some trial-and-error will be required for you to see how different filters affect your allergy symptoms and your system's operation. Before long, you'll find the perfect filter for your home (and your nose)!
14 Easy Ways To Winterize Your Home
Posted: Oct 10, 2019 by Andy
Winterizing your home feels like a daunting chore, but it can be easy, inexpensive and will surely help the winter go by as comfortably as possible.
There are many ways to get your home ready for the colder months, and they fall into one of three categories: windows and doors, HVAC, or insulation. Don't let HVAC and insulation scare you. Here are 13 easy-to-accomplish winterizing projects any homeowner can do. When December rolls around, you'll be thankful you finished each one.
Winterizing your windows and doors
1. Install new windows and storm doors. When it comes to doors and windows, the best way to keep cold air out of your home is to install energy-saving storm doors and windows. You might be surprised to learn that installing a storm door can increase energy efficiency by up to 45%!
A ventilating storm door offers an upper ventilation area while keeping its stylish design on the lower part (or vice-versa). This is useful when you want more privacy, but don't need much ventilation. It's a great option, as the screen can be closed in the winter and opened again in the spring. It also secures your home, making it harder for intruders to gain access compared to a full-length screen storm door.
2. Install new energy-efficient windows. Old windows may vintage charm you crave, but they certainly won't keep the cold out of your home. In fact, old windows are the number one source of heat loss. Bear in mind, though - new windows are not cheap. Fortunately, the long-term energy and heat savings more than make up for the initial investment.
Let's move on to cheaper projects. New doors and windows not in your budget? Don't worry! You can winterize your home while keeping your current doors and windows.
3. Caulk and seal your doors and windows. Cold air will work its way through your windows and doors, making your heating system work much harder to do its job. Overcome those cold drafts by caulking your windows and doors. It's a low-cost, easy-to-do project. ProTip: When caulking, be sure to smooth out your caulk lines with a wet finger. This keeps everything even and professional-looking.
4. Buy or make draft blockers for your doors. A draft blocker may not be quite as effective as a new door, but it certainly does work well. You can get one that mounts to the bottom of the door, use one that lays on the floor up against the door, or - in a pinch - roll up a towel and place it close to your door.
5. Weather-seal your windows with plastic sheeting. If you're not into dirtying your hands with caulk, you can always purchase window-sealing kits. The plastic in these kits is nearly invisible when installed correctly, and the adhesive strips are easily removed when spring arrives - and they won't damage your walls.
Winterizing your HVAC system
6. Replace your furnace filters. Nothing is more important during the winter than your heating system. It is essential to change your furnace filters regularly. A dirty filter restricts airflow and will make your furnace work harder. It could even cause a breakdown! If you haven't already done so, stock up on filters. Buying them by the case will save you money in the long run.
7. Repair or replace your furnace. Even with diligent maintenance, a furnace won't run forever. You'll more than likely have to repair your heater or upgrade to a new one at some point. According to Energy.gov, the average price to repair a furnace is about $250. Keep in mind, though - your furnace's age and overall condition could make that repair cost a lot more!
A good alternative to an expensive repair is to upgrade to a modern, energy-efficient furnace. While the average price of a new furnace is around $3,500, it'll recoup that initial cost in just a few years via energy bill savings.
8. Empty your exposed pipes. Frozen pipes burst and are a massive headache. They're expensive to fix, but they're cheap to prevent. Draining your outdoor and exposed pipes will ensure that they don't freeze. Close the inside valve closest to the pipe and then open the outside valve to drain any water still inside.
9. Use your thermostat wisely. When the temperature outside really starts to drop, you'll be running your heating system often. This helps keep pipes from freezing and ensures that your home's inside temperature stays comfortable. Winter isn't the time to set-and-forget your thermostat, though! It's essential to make sure that you're setting it properly, to avoid spending more on your energy bills than necessary - or worse, overworking your furnace and causing it to break down.
You'll save about 3% on your energy bill for every degree you turn down your thermostat. Even better, if you turn it down 10° when you go to work and at night (around 16 hours a day), you can save up to 30%. Consider upgrading to a smart thermostat - it handles the temperature adjustments automatically and is much more efficient than an old manual unit.
10. Reverse the rotation of your ceiling fans. As you might remember from science class, heat rises. To prevent warm air from leaving the room, reverse the rotation of your ceiling fan (making it run clockwise) to push the heat downward in the winter. As a result, the hot air your furnace is producing will be gently pushed back down, keeping it down closer to the space you're occupying. Some fans have a switch above the fan blades, while others use a pull-cord to change the direction - just be sure to stop the fan first!
Get your insulation ready for winter
11. Increase the amount of insulation in your home. You can't see it easily, but insulation is your best friend when winterizing your home. Adding new or extra insulation to your attic, roof, walls, and ducts will massively improve the overall comfort level of your home and will dramatically lower your monthly energy bills too. While the average cost to add new insulation is around $1,300, adding extra insulation or repairing old insulation can be much cheaper.
12. Insulate your pipes. An easy way you can add insulation yourself is by wrapping your pipes. This greatly decreases the chance of frozen pipes, and it'll also save you money on hot water. A great way to check if a pipe needs insulation is by checking its outside temperature. If it's very hot or cold, add insulation. Most hardware stores stock pre-slit pipe foam and materials with the highest R-value will yield the best results.
Other ways to winterize
Of course, there are also simple changes that might not make as big of a difference as some we've already talked about, but they're also very cheap, or even free.
13. Start a fire. Grab some extra firewood and build a fire in your fireplace. A properly maintained fireplace will reduce your heating costs, and it'll also give your home that cozy feeling we're all looking for in the winter.
14. Wear warmer clothing. Put on that comfy sweater as you lounge around binging on Netflix. A good pair of slippers will make you feel much warmer than walking around the house in socks or with bare feet. Snuggle up in a fuzzy blanket. For added warmth, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate.
As you can see, there are many effective ways you can prepare your home for winter. Some might be more expensive than you thought, but others are cheap, easy, and DIY-friendly. Enjoy a comfortable winter by accomplishing as many of these winterizing projects as you can. You'll be glad you did!
What's Up With My Weird Thermostat?
Posted: Sep 26, 2019 by Andy
Whether your HVAC system has an antique mercury thermostat or a new state-of-the-art smart thermostat, you're probably still surprised when your thermostat gets weird. You know the feeling when your thermostat is set to 71°, but it's 75° outside and the heat kicks on - or vice-versa with the AC in the winter.
What's up with your thermostat problem, and what can you do about it? We'll show you how to handle a weirdly-acting thermostat.
Check your thermostat's batteries
Your first step should always be to check the batteries in your thermostat, if it has any. When your thermostat isn't getting the power it needs, it will start acting strangely. We recommend replacing your thermostat's batteries as part of your annual maintenance routine.
Check your thermostat's accuracy
Get a known-accurate thermometer and take a reading right next to your thermostat, then compare it to the room temperature your thermostat is displaying. If there's a significant difference, you know your thermostat is misreading the room temperature.
Grease and dust and settling on an older mercury-bulb thermostat can adversely affect its accuracy. We suggest upgrading to a modern model, such as a digital programmable or smart thermostat. If your thermostat already is digital, you should check its calibration carefully. Many newer digital thermostats can be adjusted up and down by several degrees. Your thermostat's manual will have more details. Don't have the manual? Look it up online! Most thermostat manuals are available as a free online download.
Is your thermostat installed correctly?
Your thermostat's installation also matters. If the hole in the wall behind it isn't sealed correctly, air from your attic or crawlspace could cause an inaccurate temperature reading. Its quality is also essential - that cheap thermostat may not be very accurate. Invest in a high-quality smart thermostat - like a Nest or Ecobee - and it'll pay for itself in energy savings!
Make sure your thermostat's location doesn't affect it
Start by making sure no sunlight shines on your thermostat. Lights and electronics located near your thermostat can also affect its accuracy, so be sure to give your thermostat some space away from them. Likewise, being near a door will also impact a thermostat's performance, as cooler or warmer outdoor air will work its way past leaky door seals. A hallway with no windows is the ideal place for your thermostat. Need your thermostat moved? Call us! Our expert techs will have your thermostat relocated to the perfect spot in no time.
The problem might be something else
Years of quality service have taught us that the majority of calls for a thermostat problem usually end up being an issue with a customer's HVAC system itself. A dirty flame sensor, a frozen AC coil, poor air circulation - they all affect your HVAC system's operation, without involving the thermostat. Fortunately, a seasonal system tune-up will take care of all these problems.
A Yearly Furnace Tune-Up Is Essential - Here's Why
Posted: Sep 12, 2019 by Andy
As a trusted HVAC company that's been in business since 1999, we've answered thousands of questions from customers. One question we hear often is this one: "Is a furnace tune-up really necessary?"
If you've been reading our blog, you know that we're firm believers in getting a yearly furnace tune-up. Tune-ups are vital to your furnace's overall health and safety. However, we also understand why so many homeowners question the need. Scheduling a tune-up every year can feel inconvenient, like having to get the oil changed in your car. If we weren't 100% sure a tune-up is for the best, we might question it ourselves!
It only takes a few easy minutes to schedule a furnace tune-up, and homeowners definitely shouldn't skip this crucial yearly maintenance. Here are four reasons why a furnace tune-up is necessary for the health and safety of your HVAC system:
1. It prevents future breakdowns.
Getting an annual furnace tune-up is the easiest way to prevent breakdowns. Tune-ups can vary, depending on who you hire, but they usually consist of cleaning your system, lubricating its parts, and verifying its connections are correct. A tune-up technician also keeps an eye out for any other problems, such as weak pilot lights or cracked heat exchangers. By investing a little in yearly maintenance, you won't have to worry about malfunctioning parts, loose connections, or dirty gas valves causing your heater to fail on the coldest night of northeast Ohio's already-frigid winter.
Dust, dirt, and debris naturally build up in your furnace, causing it to work harder than usual to heat your home to your desired temperature. If you don't get a yearly tune-up, this unnecessary strain on your furnace can shorten the life of your unit. As with any device, the harder your furnace's parts have to work, the shorter they're going to last before failing.
The average annual furnace tune-up costs between $80 and $150, but we run specials fairly often - call us today, and you could save a bundle! Even without a coupon, the low cost of a furnace tune-up now is much smarter than paying for a replacement or expensive repairs later on.
2. It lowers your energy bill.
Energy.gov estimates that the average household spends over $2,200 a year on energy bills, and almost half of this cost goes toward heating and cooling costs. A furnace tune-up is an easy way to reduce this cost with very little effort.
As we mentioned above, a neglected furnace has to work harder to heat your home. This not only places extra strain on your unit, but it really hurts your furnace's efficiency, too.
A tune-up can improve your heating system's energy efficiency by as much as 30%. This makes it much easier on your furnace to heat your home, and it also lightens the load on your wallet each month. You like saving money, right?
3. Your warranty may require a furnace tune-up.
A warranty agreement will vary depending on your furnace's manufacturer, but most furnace warranties require a unit to be installed and serviced by a licensed, professional HVAC service provider.
An annual furnace tune-up is an easy way to ensure you're complying with your warranty while keeping your furnace in great shape. Make sure you hang onto every bit of documentation regarding your seasonal furnace tune-ups, since many manufacturers will ask for proof of maintenance when making a warranty claim.
Skipping your yearly tune-up will only cause you financial pain down the road when you're faced with repairs or need to replace your failing unit. It'll cause your family discomfort, too!
4. It helps prevent carbon monoxide (CO) leaks.
Homeowners worry about the possibility of carbon monoxide leaks in their home, and for good reason. According to the CDC, roughly 50,000 people in the USA find themselves in the ER each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning.
While furnaces have safeguards in place to protect homeowners from carbon monoxide, leaks can still happen. A cracked heat exchanger is the usual cause of furnace-related carbon monoxide leaks. The exchanger is the set of coils inside your furnace that create the hot air to heat your home. Heat exchangers usually crack when the coils work too hard, which often happens due to a dirty air filter or an improperly-sized HVAC system.
Our expert HVAC technicians are trained to look for a cracked heat exchanger during a furnace tune-up, and they'll also detect any other problems that can lead to a carbon monoxide leak.
Scheduling a yearly furnace tune-up isn't as exciting as planning a vacation, but it's an essential item on your seasonal to-do list. By having your furnace professionally cleaned and maintained, you're helping prevent a future breakdown, a potential carbon monoxide leak, and astronomical heating bills. Schedule a furnace tune-up today and keep your family safe and warm this winter!
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