Sick Building Syndrome

Does it ever seem like no matter how often you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer avoiding the illnesses circulating the office seems impossible. Sickness can strike from time to time but what about when you feel sick every time you are at work? The indoor air quality of the office might be the cause, one in four buildings can be classified as a “sick building” and the effects might be more serious that you think.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

The EPA defines Sick Building Syndrome as “situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” Individuals may be healthy, but after spending time in a sick building they may experience certain side effects including:

  • lack of energy
  • irritated eyes
  • inability to concentrate
  • headaches
  • eye irritation

The symptoms and severity of Sick Building Syndrome may vary from person to person depending on their sensitivity to airborne allergens. Breathing polluted air may not immediately affect some, but it may cause respiratory diseases in the long run.

What are the causes of Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome can stem from causes such as inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants, or a buildup of allergens. Examples of these allergens are:

  • mold
  • mildew
  • pollen
  • dust mites

A buildup of these containments can occur in the air ducts of office buildings and, as air circulates through the ducts, the containments are blown around and distributed throughout the building. This causes the people within the building to be continuously exposed to the allergens and air pollutants.

What is the cost of Sick Building Syndrome?

Sick Building Syndrome creates bigger issues than just giving employees a stuffy nose.  According to The American Lung Association, US adults miss about 14 million workdays per year because of asthma, which is an issue commonly triggered by poor indoor air quality

According to the EPA, almost $60 billion dollars are lost in productivity due to poor indoor air quality.

Sick Building Syndrome can affect workers ability to productively and efficiently do their jobs, which can add up to be a major loss for employers. Reducing sick building symptoms through properly maintained HVAC systems can lead to $10-$30 billion in productivity gains, better indoor air quality, and happier and healthier employees.  

Original article written by NADCA

What is Growing in Your Air Ducts?

Just because you can’t see mold doesn’t mean it’s not hidden behind wall or worse in your duct work. Mold thrives in dark, damp places, and can begin to grow within your ductwork undetected. If not removed quickly and carefully, this fast-growing fungus has the potential to take over your entire ductwork system.

So how harmful is mold? Not only can mold present serious health hazards, it can contaminate your ductwork and eventually break down the structure of your property. When mold levels begin to increase, those who are more sensitive to the fungus will experience greater effects. If left untreated, mold can present complications with both the respiratory and nervous system.

Our NADCA certified team has been providing quality duct cleaning services throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire since 2005. Contact our team of professionals today to have your ductwork inspected for mold.

  • Mold Symptoms

If ingested or inhaled, mold spores can cause a variety of unpleasant and dangerous symptoms for everyone in the home. Some symptoms of mold exposure include:

  • Rashes
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic coughing and sneezing
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat
  • Reoccurring headaches

If you are exposed to mold for a longer period, health risks can be more dangerous. Mold poisoning can produce symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and bleeding in the lungs and nose. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect mold growth in your home, call our team right away to have your ductwork inspected. You can rely on the professionals at Aspen Air Duct Cleaning for prompt and careful mold removal.

Learn more about the dangers of mold growth from the Global Healing Center.

Preventing Mold Growth in Ductwork

Once the mold has been properly removed, you will want to prevent a future infestation. First, you should try to identify what caused the mold to grow the first time. High levels of moisture, warm temperatures, and limited lighting are factors that will make it easy for mold or mildew to spread. To prevent mold from growing in your home, we recommend you:

  • Reduce humidity levels. Elevated humidity levels will increase your risk of mold exposer. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air or speak with your local HVAC dealer to find a less humid heating and cooling system for your home.
  • Prevent water leaks. Inspect all moisture-creating sources to be sure they are directed and vented outside your home or building. Remember, mold can grow in as little as 24 hours, so it’s important to identify and stop leaks quickly.
  • Schedule annual ductwork service. Regular maintenance will help you prevent future mold growth and increase energy efficiency. Schedule your duct sealing service today and we will send out our qualified professionals to inspect air flow and seal all ducts.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect mold growth in your home, call our team right away to have your ductwork inspected. You can rely on the professionals at Aspen Air Duct Cleaning for prompt and careful mold removal.

Original Article written by Atlantic Duct Cleaning

Air Loss in Your Home

Air duct leakage is a big deal and according to Green Building Advisor, on average your air ducts leak nearly 10% of your air supply, making your air duct one of the biggest wastes of energy in your home. How can you tell if your air ducts are leaking? Thankfully, there are tell-tale signs of air duct leakage, and ways to avoid the extra costs and dangers of air duct leakage in your home. Here are signs our experts encourage you to look for:

  • High Utility Bills

If you are often surprised by your monthly utility bill, your leaking air ducts could be to blame. When your air ducts leak, it forces your HVAC unit to work harder in order to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. This, in turn, causes energy deficiency within your home, and costs your wallet unnecessary fees for heating and cooling.

  • Varying Temperatures Throughout Your Home

Leaking ducts can cause conditioned air to escape to the attic or the outdoors and can inhibit air from reaching the right rooms in your home. If you feel weak airflow exiting the vents in certain rooms of your home, you can likely attribute it to leaking air ducts.

  • Poor Indoor Air Quality

Leaky ductwork can create high humidity in your home, which, in turn, can cause excess mold growth. When mold grows excessively in your home, you and your family are breathing in dangerous spores and aggravating those with allergies or asthma that live in or visit your house.

In addition to mold growth, leaky ducts can be the cause of back drafting. When your return ducts leak air, it depressurizes your home, and that can cause air to be pulled in from outside. When this happens, harmful gases and dirty air can circulate through your home, which could harm the health of your family.

  • Excessive Dust in Your Home

Duct leaks in unconditioned areas of your home, like the attic or crawl spaces, can pull in dust and distribute it to various rooms. If you find that you are always dusting, yet never see results, it could be due to a leak in your air ducts.

  • Duct Sealing Services in MA and NH

Are the rooms in your home uncomfortably cold or too warm? Do you have excess amounts of dust or mold growth? Are your utility bills unusually high? These could be signs of leaking air ducts. Stop wasting money on conditioned air that’s escaping your home and diminishing the quality of your indoor air. Save money, and allow your HVAC unit to work more efficiently, by scheduling professional duct sealing services now.

At Aspen Air Duct Cleaning, we have been a trusted industry leader since 2006, providing professional indoor environmental solutions that improve air quality in your residence or commercial property. We can improve your leaky air ducts with Aeroseal® duct sealing, an advanced technology that allows us to seal every leak from the inside out!

Are you ready to increase your indoor air quality and save on your utility bill? Learn more about Aeroseal® duct sealing and schedule an appointment now! Article written by Atlantic Duct Cleaning

Can Duct Cleaning Help You Conserve Energy?

Most homeowners want to find ways to reduce living expenses, especially regarding their utility bills. The good news is that there is no shortage of ways to reduce energy consumption and lower electric bills.

Having an airtight home can help to stop energy waste through leaks around windows, doors, pipes, and vents. Homeowners will also enjoy the benefit of maintaining a set interior temperature. Using a programmable thermostat to roll back the temperature during the time you’re out of the house could significantly cut the costs for heating and cooling your home.

However, you might not realize that your ducts also play a role in the overall energy efficiency of your home. Just as a good dryer vent cleaning can ensure that your appliance operates at peak efficiency, regular residential air duct cleaning can help you to conserve energy and reduce your costs, not to mention improving interior air quality. Here are just a few ways in which air duct cleaning makes your HVAC system more efficient.

Blocked Vents

Think about what happens when you fail to dust and vacuum your home. Over time, dust, dirt, dander, and other detritus begins to build up on surfaces. You can see visible particulates gathering on surfaces in as little as just a few days.

When was the last time you had a professional clean your ducts? Never, you say? Imagine all the dust that’s been building up in them over the months and years that you’ve lived in your home.

Servicing your furnace and AC unit regularly and replacing filters can go a long way toward maintaining clean ducts. However, filters can’t catch everything. In addition, failing to check your vents could mean families of rodents may have taken up residence over time, building nests and leaving messes.

These conditions can even cause health concerns. They can also have a negative impact on energy efficiency as you place higher demand on your system to push air through and meet your heating and cooling needs. Regular vent cleaning can eliminate such concerns and improve efficiency.

Leaks

Ductwork is built to last, but over time fittings can deteriorate, this breakdown can lead to spots where your air leaks into the walls and crawl spaces in your home instead of making it to your living spaces. This will cause you to crank up the air in order to maintain your desired temperature, wasting energy and air in the process.

Other Issues

When you hire professional technicians to clean your ducts regularly, they may notice issues like moisture or mold. These signs may indicate your ducts have inadequate insulation. With properly insulated ducts you can greatly reduce energy needs and lower utility bills in the process.

Written by Fresh Aire

Common Misconception about the HVAC System in Newer Homes

With most all newly constructed homes comes freshly installed flooring, crisp cabinets and high expectations. But what about the air handling system of the home—the largest source of energy? Despite popular belief, the duct work and HVAC system of a newly constructed house may not be in top-notch condition and immaculate, like the rest of the home.

Since a common misconception among homeowners is that the HVAC system of a new build is clean, NADCA urges homeowners of new-construction builds to hire a company with a NADCA certified technician on staff to inspect ductwork and the air handling system of the home. HVAC ductwork is sometimes one of the first systems to be installed in a home and construction dust and drywall dust can make its way into a system during the building process.

Homes undergoing renovations can be exposed to similar amounts of dust and debris, which can impact the functionality of the air conveyance system. NADCA urges homeowners who are renovating their living space to consider the following:

  • Install high-efficiency disposable filters before beginning the renovation process and change them frequently.
  • If you hire a contractor, ask that the return vent, supply registers, and diffusers be sealed and the HVAC system is shut off during renovations that include demo work or other dust-contributing activities.
  • Discuss with your contractor ways to minimize the amount of airborne dust within your home.
  • Ask that poly-plastic barriers be installed and HEPA-filtered negative air scrubbers be used in the work area to “scrub” clean the air and keep dust from migrating to other areas of the house.

After the work in your home has been completed have a NADCA certified air duct cleaning company come in and evaluate the condition of your ductwork, it may still need cleaning.

What Is In Your Duct Work?

If you have duct work in your home, you have probably not given much thought to what is inside them. The average American home is about 35 years old, that is a lot of time for things to accumulate inside the duct work. While cleaning we often find small toys and food that has fallen down into the vents, here are some stories from fellow duct cleaners of the crazy things they have found.

                A few years ago, during a cleaning job, we found a box behind a register that contained $400 of Confederate money. We gave it to the homeowner, and she gave it to her children, who cashed it out. That $400 of Confederate money ended up being worth $100,000!

We got a call from a customer saying they had a mysterious odor in the home. Our technicians went into the home and they definitely smelled something very strong but couldn’t find anything obvious at the start. Finally, they took off the vent covers and found a dead skunk!

We were cleaning ductwork and in the basement of the establishment, there was a kitchen with a grill. Right above that was the bulkhead with an air duct blowing right over the grill, which we were cleaning. We took off the supply duct, shined a light in there and, low and behold, there was a giant, dead rat. In the course of cleaning, the gentleman befriended us and offered to make us lunch on the grill. We politely declined the offer.

We had posted a video of a cleaning job to our social media account and someone commented on it, “Wow, did you see the dollar bill get sucked in there?” The trunk line was really full of all kinds of junk, so I thought “Well, I’m not surprised that there was a dollar bill in that mess.” Later on, someone commented, “That wasn’t a dollar bill, that was a $100 bill!” I went into the truck and sifted through all the garbage to try to find it, but no luck.

We did a cleaning on an old rail car and found a pre-Civil War whiskey bottle stashed away in the ducts of the rail car. The bottle is now sitting in a museum somewhere.

All these stories and more can be found on NADCA’s website.

Give Your Home a Good Deep Clean

In the spring we start opening the blinds and the windows to let in all that fresh air and light but with that light streaming in you can now see the dust floating through the air in your home.  Having your air ducts cleaned can be like a breath of fresh air, cleaning out all that dust. Below are a few facts you should know when it comes time to have the ducts in your home cleaned.

Air ducts are going to get dirty.

Pet dander, dust, chemicals, and other contaminants are pulled into the HVAC system, where they can build up and possibly contribute to health problems. This is especially true for people with respiratory conditions, autoimmune disorders, or allergies.

Clean air ducts can save you money.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25% to 40% of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted. Contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work harder and shorten the life of your system. A clean HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard, so it uses less energy.

There’s a wrong way to clean air ducts.

When you hire a professional cleaner, ask if they’re a member of NADCA, a trade association of the HVAC inspection, cleaning, and restoration industry. NADCA members have signed a Code of Ethics and invested time and resources into industry-related training and education. They also have general liability insurance.

Beware of air duct cleaning scams.

You should be aware that some non-NADCA companies use scare tactics and bait-and-switch methods to squeeze money out of their clients or don’t clean the HVAC system at all, let alone to the industry’s standards.

How to Tell You’re Getting A Professional Air Duct Cleaner:

Is the company able to show proof of NADCA membership and certification? Is the contractor willing to conduct a thorough inspection of the HVAC system prior to performing any work and disclose any problems discovered? Will the contractor clean the supply and return air ductwork, the air-stream side of the heat exchanger and the secondary heat exchanger? After cleaning, are access panels properly sealed; blower blades and compartment clean and free of oil, dust, and debris? Point a flashlight into the cooling coil. Does light shine through? It should if the coil is clean. Check to make sure the coil fins are straight and evenly spaced, and the coil drain pan is clean and draining properly. After cleaning, do the filters fit properly and are they the proper efficiency recommended by the manufacturer?

For the original article visit NADCA.

What is a High-Velocity System?

As the temperatures rise, homeowners across most of the country face the same dilemma: whether to turn on the noisy air conditioning and suffer the skyrocketing energy bills or sit through a sticky, uncomfortable summer. There doesn’t seem to be much of a compromise, given that conventional forced-air systems dominate the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) landscape in the United States; and for owners of historic, architecturally sensitive, or aesthetically challenging houses, these systems may not even be a viable option due to lack of space or the need for extensive renovation. Even window units—though they offer some reprieve—aren’t necessarily any more ideal: They block views, use energy inefficiently, generate unbearable noise, and can pose security risks if stationed in unlocked windows.

                However, there is an alternative! High-velocity or “small-duct” HVAC systems comprise flexible mini ducts that can be easily routed through existing space within walls, floors, and ceilings. Moreover, the uniquely small size of their parts plays a role in ensuring operational efficiency and lower monthly bills—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what the system’s smart design can offer.

                High-velocity systems work similarly to older HVAC systems, hot or cool air comes from a heating or cooling source. That’s usually a heat pump or compressor outside the home, then it travels through the house and enters the rooms through vents. For a high-velocity systems instead of the metal duct work uses small 2” flex duct tubing and small 5” round vents.

The hot or cool air then moves from the compressor or heat pump to a high-velocity air handler, this pushes the air through your home with more pressure than duct-and-vent HVAC systems. Because of this, the air circulates very quickly through the area it’s treating once it comes through the vents. This means the room gets to the temperature you want faster than with other systems. This makes for better climate control.  It also saves you money! Since it works quickly, the system doesn’t need to stay on as long, therefore, it uses fewer resources, or energy, to run and less the less energy it uses, the less you’re charged on your energy bills.

                Another great savings factor is the professional installation of a high-velocity HVAC system is so quick and simple that homeowners can start reaping its benefits almost immediately. Whereas the bulky ducts in most conventional cooling and heating systems require a fair amount of renovation—from the opening of drywall to the construction of soffits and drop ceilings—to incorporate them, a high-velocity system has the upper hand because of the compact size of its components. The flexible ducts can snake between beams and joists throughout existing cavities in ceilings, walls, or floors, while the modular air handlers and coils fit in any opening that’s just a couple of feet tall and wide in, for example, an attic or crawl space.

                If you are looking for a permanent heating and cooling solution in your home that doesn’t require tearing out walls, a high-velocity system might be the right choice for you.

Clean Your Dryer Vent

Each year about 2,900 fires are caused by the dryer in your home, it is estimated to cause 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property damage. Failure to clean your dryer is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires and the majority of these fires occur in the fall and winter months with the peak season being January. Here are some helpful tips on how to avoid becoming one of these homes.

  • Clothes dryer do’s
    • Installation
      • Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
      • Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
      • Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.
    • Cleaning
      • Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
      • Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
      • Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
    • Maintenance
      • Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
      • Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
      • Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
      • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
      • Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
      • Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
      • Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
      • If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
  • Clothes dryer don’ts
    • Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
    • Don’t overload the dryer.
    • Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
    • Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
    • Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
    • Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers’ instructions allow).
    • Don’t dry items that have meet anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
    • Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.

Follow these helpful tips to help ensure you and your home stay safe.

Home Basics: Air Handler and Condenser

Owning a home can sometimes seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t understand how everything in your house works. For example, did you know that your air conditioning unit has more to it than just that piece that sits outside? You probably have an air handler in your basement or attic. Today, we are going to talk about the different parts of your HVAC system and where you might find them.

                So, lets start with that piece that sits outside of your house, you probably think of it as your “air conditioner”, this is your condenser. A condenser turns certain chemicals from a gas to a liquid by cooling it. This process happens repeatedly in order to cool the home. The condenser (in conjunction with the compressor) primarily works with a substance called refrigerant. The compressor turns that refrigerant, typically Freon, into a liquid. That liquid begins to travel through the condenser coils, and eventually the heat can escape. From this point, the liquid heads to a different part of the air conditioning unit (the evaporator) as a highly pressurized gas that is now cooler.

                The newly cooled air is then pushed throughout your home by your air handler, it is located in the attic, basement or a dedicated closet, and may closely resemble the shape of a gas furnace. Depending on the design of your home, an air handler may be a principal indoor component of your heat pump system. Depending on the season, the circulated air is either cool or hot; your air handler assists in regulating the circulation of indoor air and the temperature of the air in your home that you have set on your thermostat or control system. Your air handler consists of an evaporator coil, blower motor, air filter and the electrical and electronic components required to deliver enhanced levels of indoor comfort.

  • Coil:  The indoor coil or evaporator coil is a crucial component of the refrigeration cycle.
    • When your home requires cool indoor air, the coil is cold and removes humidity as the indoor air passes over it. This makes the conditioned air feel cooler throughout your home.
    • When your home requires warm indoor air, the coil is warm and transfers heat to the air that passes over it. This makes the conditioned air feel warmer throughout your home.
  • Blower Motor: The blower moves the air to the connected ductwork to circulate it into your indoor spaces. The blower motor may be a single speed, multi-speed or variable speed model.
  • Air Supply and Return Plenum Connections: Duct work is connected to your air handler by a plenum to
    • “supply” or deliver the conditioned heated or cooled air to your interior spaces
    • “return” the air to the air handler that needs to be heated or cooled
  • Filter: Before your air conditioned or heated air enters your ductwork, it passes through an air filter. The filter is intended to minimize the number of particulates circulated throughout your home, accumulate in the duct work, and land on the indoor components of your heat pump system.

The air is circulated through your home via ductwork, this involves the air being sucked from throughout the house into the heater/air conditioner, where it is heated or cooled, and pushed back through ducts into the living space. Both intake and output of air is critical to smooth-operating ductwork, not to mention heating, cooling, and indoor air quality.

Now that you know the basics of residential ductwork and air handlers, you can ask questions and speak intelligently with your contractor to be sure that you’re getting the system that’s right for you.