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.

Winter Home Heating Tips

With the cold temperatures dropping below zero outside we seek shelter in the snug coziness of home. But how snug is it? Does your home’s warmth begin to sneak away the moment the furnace cycles off? Where is that warmth going, and how can we entice it to stay awhile? Short of an expensive weatherizing remodel, there are plenty of simple, affordable (or free) tricks to make your indoor refuge tighter and more fuel-efficient.

  • Use blinds or curtains and the sun to your advantage

Open any curtains or blinds on south-facing windows during the day to light in the sunlight and naturally heat your home – even the little bit of winter sun can make a difference.  Cover all windows after dark to create a simple but effective insulating layer. The thicker the coverings, the more effective the insulation. Window treatments can also reduce heat gain in summer by up to 45%, slashing air conditioning costs. If you buy dual shades (reflective white on one side, heat-absorbing dark on the other) they can be reversed seasonally to soak up that winter sun and repel summer heat. If you have particularly drafty windows you may want to consider covering them in a heavy duty, clear plastic sheet to help keep out the cold.

  • Adjust the thermostat

If you program your thermostat down 10 degrees during the time you’re sleeping or not home, you will save up to 15%. Yes, the furnace must briefly work hard to return to the target “comfort zone”, but the down-time while you’re sleeping or absent more than offsets those short bursts. If you’re still adjusting your heat by hand and trying to remember to turn it down when you go to work every day — who needs another task to remember when you’re rushing out the door? Install a programmable thermostat, your new thermostat should last for decades, saving you money every day.

And when you’re home, consider challenging your usual comfort-zone habits. Within the 60-70F zone, each degree you lower your thermostat setting will save you about 2% on your yearly energy bill: that’s 10% between 65 and 70F! More Americans are choosing to wear an extra sweater around the house as energy-conservation awareness grows, not to mention tighter budgets in many homes. Warm slippers and comfortable fleece are some of the best energy-savers you can wear. The fuel we save today will be there to keep us warm tomorrow.

  • Raise the humidity

The winter air is very dry, we get chapped lips and dry skin, but did you know that the dry air can make you feel colder. By increasing your home’s humidity to a comfortable level, you can make 68F feel as comfortable as 75F. You’ll also be decreasing your susceptibility to winter colds and sinus infections: dry air makes your mucus membranes more vulnerable. Easy non-technological ways to increase humidity include adding (well-watered) houseplants, using indoor drying racks for laundry (adding to your savings by reducing dryer use), and placing shallow containers of water on heating elements such as radiators and wood stoves. Even leaving a water-filled baking dish in an unobtrusive spot such as on top of the refrigerator will help — you might be surprised how quickly evaporation empties the vessel.

  • Eliminate the drafts

A little bit of spray form and some weatherizing caulking can help to keep out the cold. Remember to check around your attic door, all electrical outlets, door thresholds, plumbing entrances, window frames, and chimneys.

  • Don’t forget your furnace maintenance

Remember to check your filters monthly and replace them anytime they look dirty; clogged filters can greatly reduce your furnace efficiency. Also remember to have your furnace serviced yearly, a yearly cleaning will make sure your system runs smoothly and there are no sudden emergencies.  If you have an older furnace you may not be ready to replace it, but an inexpensive parts-upgrade can make a big difference: if yours uses a standing pilot light (burning fuel uselessly for hours while your furnace is resting), switch it out for a spark igniter. In an oil furnace, installing a flame retention burner can improve efficiency by 10-15% by itself!

Winter is here and many people are using the heating system to beat the chill, but most of us make the same mistakes by not applying the useful tips to save the energy and cut down the electric bill. This article shares some of the useful tips to save energy.

Have You Changed Your Air Filter Recently?

If you have a forced air HVAC system in your home you might think that the filter is improving your air quality, however, your air filter might not be improving the air quality. Air quality researchers have established that all that stuff floating though your air is bad for your health. Particles in your air that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller are the worst for your health, they can penetrate deeper into your lungs and end up in your blood stream. The best way to fight these particles is to filter the air but most homes only rely on the filter inside their HVAC system to do the filtering. Below you will find the 5 reasons that the filter in your HVAC system might not be helping your indoor air quality.

  1. No Filter!

This one seems like a no brainer but if you don’t have a filter installed there is not much filtration happening. I know it seems strange, but it happens! Sometimes a filter will get removed because it is in a difficult spot to reach, like a crawlspace. Sometimes you take it out and mean to replace it, but it slips your mind. All kinds of things can happen that lead to your filter being missing; this is not only harming the air quality in your home, but all that dirt and debris is getting into your duck work, blower, coil, and heat exchanger. Once all that dirt is inside your system it then spreads it throughout your home and causes strain on your system.

2. Bypassing the Filter

It doesn’t matter how nice the filter is if you don’t install it correctly. An incorrectly installed filter can let the air pass right by instead of through and this means your air is not being cleaned.

3. Not Enough Runtime

This one is not something a lot of people think about; your system might not be on long enough to make a difference. Your filter can only clean the air while your system is running, if your system is off then no air is being pulled through the filter. The best thing you can do to combat this is make sure the system you have in your home is the correct size and focus on minimizing the stuff that would need filtered out. You can do this by adding a standalone filter to your home or by Aerosealing your ductwork.

4. Not Changing or Using the Wrong Filter

Each system has different requirements when it comes to how often you should change your filter but if you don’t change it at all not only is the air not being filtered your system now has to work even harder to pull in air causing stress. The same thing can be said if you use the wrong filter, a basic filter is mostly designed to keep out pet hair, spiders, or lost socks. If you truly want to filter your air you need to invest in a MERV rated filter and the higher the number, the more stuff you filter out.

5. Filter in the Wrong Place

This one might also seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised what we find when going to clean a HVAC system.

If you over come these obstacles, you should see an improvement in the air quality within your home.

Bailes, Allison. “Air Quality.” How Your House Works, 2012, pp. 99–105., doi:10.1002/9781118286074.ch5

Keeping up the Humidity

This time of year, it is common to wake up with a dry nose, or a scratchy throat. Later in the day you might even experience nosebleeds, chapped lips, dry skin, or an increase of acne. You might also notice an increase in static electricity, creaks in hardwood floors, or hardwood furniture starting to crack, these are all symptoms of the air becoming drier during the winter months. Which brings us to the question, what can I do about it?

                Warmer air holds more moisture than cold air and in winter that cold air seeps into your home.  While you can turn up your heat an make your home nice and toasty again just turning on the heat doesn’t bring moisture back into the air, for that you need a humidifier. Most people choose to use a portable humidifier but if you have an HVAC system you can install a whole home humidifier.

                A whole house humidifier should not be confused with a portable humidifier. A portable humidifier is a device that you plug into the wall and place in the middle of a room. These humidifiers can only control the humidity of one room at a time, and they require frequent maintenance like changing the water and keeping the device clean. A whole house humidifier, on the other hand, is installed directly in your heating system’s ductwork. When your furnace is cycling and heating air in your home, that air is also humidified by the whole house humidifier. This means that every room in your home can enjoy humidified air by using a single unit.

A whole house humidifier is installed in your ductwork near your furnace, either on the supply or return end. The unit is also connected directly to your home’s water supply. Inside of the humidifier is a either a humidifier pad, a rotating drum or a steaming system that is used to distribute water to your home’s air. While the humidifier is running, water continuously runs down the humidifier pad, is collected by the rotating drum or is misted into the device, depending on your model. When air from your ducts enters the humidifier, it is exposed to the water inside. The water evaporates into the air, which increases the moisture levels of the air that exits the humidifier on the other side. While your furnace is running, a portion of the air that it cycles is directed into the humidifier. That air goes through the humidifier and joins back up with the rest of your home’s airflow. As a result, all the air that’s delivered to your home has higher moisture levels, which effectively raises the humidity in every room.

Fortunately, whole house humidifiers require very little maintenance. If your model uses a humidifier pad or filter, the media typically needs to be replaced about once per year. If you have a steam humidifier, it simply needs to be cleaned annually. When having your whole home humidifier cleaned ensure you use a HVAC company familiar with whole home humidifiers, when improperly maintained they can lead to mold growth inside your duct work.

Tips to Prepare and Protect Your HVAC System this Winter

Winter is well and truly upon us here in the New England area and it is time to think about how to keep your HVAC systems safe.  Winter elements such as extreme temperatures, snow, and ice can cause damage to your unit resulting in higher utility bills and possible system repairs or replacement.  There are a few things you can do to make sure your system runs smoothly and stays safe this winter.

                The first and most important step, as always, have an HVAC professional perform annual maintenance on your system. It is a consensus among HVAC professionals that most furnace breakdowns are due to the lack of maintenance. Think of it like your car, you have the oil in your car changed regularly why would your furnace not need the same care. Going hand in hand with system maintenance is the lifespan of your furnace, a well-maintained system can have a lifespan of 15-20 years. To us the idea of having to call your HVAC company for an emergency replacement in the middle of a storm sounds like the stuff of nightmares, so be on the look out for these signs your furnace might need replacement:

  • Your energy bill is on the rise
  • Your furnace is struggling to keep your home warm
  • Your furnace has become a money pit with costly repairs

Next, change your filter, a dirty filter will cause your furnace to work harder to push the air through your home. The filter for your furnace should be changed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but in most cases, it is best to change them every one to three months. To better help your system circulate air throughout your home make sure to have those air ducts cleaned regularly. The National Air Duct Cleaning Association recommends that you have your air ducts cleaned every three to five years. A buildup of dirt in your air ducts can cause your furnace to overwork itself. Moving furniture away from air duct vents can also help the air flow throughout your home.

If your HVAC unit is located on the outside of your home, make sure you have your HVAC company service and cover the unit according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  When winter weather hits make sure you take the time to clear the snow off the top and away from the sides of the unit. Before the snow starts for the winter take the time to make sure your gutters are cleaned to ensure snow and ice will not drip onto your HVAC unit.

Remember this winter if you want to save yourself money in the long run it is important to prepare your HVAC system for winter. Preparing your HVAC system for winter can lower your electricity bill, cut your energy usage, and extend the life of your HVAC system and it can all be done with the few simple steps we talk about above. For more information on the importance of duct cleaning and how it can help your family call us at (978)681-5023.

Maintaining Your Chimney

With the cold weather and the holidays upon us nothing beats the warm crackle and glow of a wood fire in a fireplace inside your home. Before you light your fireplace make sure you take a few moments to maintain it, ensuring that is operates in the safest manner possible.

                Before lighting a fire, this year make sure you take the time to check that the fireplace and surrounding areas are safe. Start by making sure that you have a screen to place in front of an open fireplace to keep embers from popping out and causing fires. Next, be sure to move highly flammable and loose items that may fall in or catch on fire (blankets, dried plants, or rugs). Next, before starting a fire check the inside of the fireplace for any left-over ash, remove any that are in the fireplace. After you have cleaned out the ash have a professional come and evaluate your fireplace for any damage and to clean your chimney.

                Sweeping the chimney and performing an annual inspection is the most important part of maintaining your fireplace and chimney. Over time, the chimney can become coated with soot and creosote, which are byproducts of fires that aren’t burning efficiently. Once the coating builds up enough, it can potentially catch fire in what is known as a dangerous “chimney fire.”  Ashley Eldridge, a veteran chimney sweep and director of education at the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)explains why a chimney fire can be so destructive: “While the firebox is builtwith firebrick and intended for direct contact with fire, everything above the damper is designed to withstand only hot smoke and gases from the fire, not fire itself, so a chimney fire can cause serious damage.” The chimney should be swept when creosote build-up is 1/8-inch or more and at the end of the season.The sweeping should be done before summer, because humidity in the air can combine with creosote to form acids which can damage masonry and result in strong odors. 

After having your chimney cleaned make sure to install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors or replace the batteries in any throughout your home. Wood burning fireplaces can also negatively affect indoor air quality. According to Burn Wise, a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency, “Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you.” Any smoke escaping from the firebox into the room means the fireplace isn’t operating properly.Also, since fires consume a large volume of air as they burn, it’s possible to create negative pressure in the home as air from outside is drawn indoors to replace the air consumed by the fire. If that “make-up” air is drawn back in through the flues of gas- or oil-burning furnaces and water heaters, it can also draw deadly flue gases, like carbon monoxide, back into the home. This is called “backdrafting” and is one reason all homes should be outfitted with working, well-maintained smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

                Once you have taken the steps listed above it is now time to light that fire and cozy up on the couch!

Animals in Your Home

With the cold wintery weather upon us you may suddenly find yourself fighting to keep common winter pests like mice, rats, racoons,cockroaches, and spiders out of your home. “Pests adapt to the changing environment and seek refuge indoors during the colder months,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for National Pest Management Association. “During the winter rodents such as house mice become one of the most common invaders and can cause serious property damage in and around the home.” So, what can you do to keep them out? Below you will find a break down of common pests and some tips on how to keep them out of your home.

The house mouse is one of the most commonly encountered rodents here in the United States, they typically like dark secluded areas like attics and basement. Mice can chew through drywall, insulation, wires, and even your ductwork causing huge problems and potentially thousands of dollars in repairs.  A mouse can fit through an opening as small as a dime, keep them out by sealing any cracks or holes on the outside of your home with caulk and steel wool. You can also help discourage mice from moving in by clearing away clutter, mice love to hide in clutter.

Rats are often found in basements and piles of debris, they have been known to gnaw through almost anything (including plastic and leadpipes) to get access to food and water. Rats also bring with them the threat of disease like jaundice, rat-bite fever, and cowpox. To keep rats out of your home fill any opening with silicone caulk, rats can fit through a crack as small as ½ inch, also make sure to eliminate any sources of moisture in basements and crawlspaces.

 The German cockroach is the most common species of cockroach found throughout the world, they prefer to live in small areas close to food and moisture. This typeof cockroach often hitchhikes into your home via grocery bags, boxes and secondhand appliances. German cockroaches can contaminate food sources and spread bacteria and allergens that are known to trigger allergies and exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially in children. To help keep your home free of cockroaches make sure to keep your counter and floors clean and regularly dispose of garbage.

   Racoons are commonly found in wooded areas,they typically enter homes through attics and chimneys in search of a denningsite. Keep them away from your home by ensuring all trash is picked up and all trash cans are either locked away or locked with animal proof lids. Also sealoff chimneys and other exposed opening with mesh caps to prevent entry and trim branches back from house so they don’t over hang your roof.

 Following these tips won’t keep pest out of your house entirely however, it will help reduce the risk of you having to go to war. Keeping these pests out of your home will save your budget, time, health, and the headache of battling them once they have moved into your home.

Aeroseal and Your Home

The heating and cooling systems in your home can only be as efficient as the ductwork hidden inside your walls, and more than 90 percent of buildings in the US have small gaps and cracks in their ventilation systems. These small cracks and gaps in your duct work lead to frustrating temperature shifts, high utility bills, and excessive amounts of dust in your home. As a licensed Aeroseal dealer and installer, Aspen Air Duct Cleaning works hard to ensure our customers are well educated, that your ducts are sealed properly, and most importantly – you save money.

What is Aeroseal? Well let’s start with the product itself, Aeroseal is a polymer that is sprayed into your ductwork and fills in any gaps or cracks. Aeroseal leaves no lingering odor and is composed of a water-based solution and UL-tested sealing material that has been used in water-based paints, hair spray, and chewing gum. In fact, this product is so safe it is used to seal the ductwork in hospitals and government buildings.                

Many homeowners worry that the product is going to build up in the duct work and cause more problems than it is worth however, the duct is not lined with the polymer. The polymer only bonds with the gaps or cracks in your system, leaving the rest of your system as it was. Aeroseal only bond where needed, the fine mist is forced through your duct work into cracks and seams and the rest blows on through leaving no residue behind.

The first change you should notice in your home is an even distribution of air, sealed air leaks prevent air loss, which makes your home more comfortable. It can help eliminate hot and cold spots, take some of the load off your HVAC system, and ultimately lower your consumption and costs. Many homes lose 20-40% of conditioned air through leaks. Aeroseal prevents 90 percent of that. You should also notice a decrease in the amount of dust in your home, which means less cleaning for you.

Aeroseal duct sealing reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Homeowners not only report significant energy savings, but also enjoy improved heat flow and room temperature balance. While Aeroseal cost is not cheap, it is proven and simple way to professionally seal hard-to-reach ductwork. In addition, Aeroseal duct sealing can save you hundreds of dollars annually. To determine the Aeroseal cost for your home, request an estimate by dialing 978-681-5023.

The Cold is Coming

With the cold weather fast approaching it is important to start thinking about having your HVAC system serviced. Maintenance of your HVAC system includes cleaning, repairing or replacing one or more components of the HVAC equipment. Having your system serviced is super important to maintaining the efficiency of your system, it also ensures that you prolong the lifespan of your equipment, and it helps to increase the air quality of your home.

Having a HVAC company and a Duct Cleaning company both come out and service your system is expensive so is it worth the price? Yes, you save money, improve your indoor air quality, improve to overall comfort of your home, and give yourself some peace of mind.

When you don’t have your system serviced the components wear out, get dirty, and/or get misaligned. When any or all these things happen, your system must work harder and consume more power to keep your home at the same comfort level. Regular HVAC maintenance can reduce the risk of costly breakdowns by as much as 95%. Chances are you wouldn’t drive your car for 30,000 miles without getting an oil change; you’d be asking for trouble; this analogy holds true for your heating and cooling system. Having regular maintenance can cut your energy bills up to 30%, extend the life of your system, and keep the system under the manufactures warranty.

Though we are not aware of it day to day, we share our homes with a variety of substances that we would rather not breathe. These common indoor allergens range from ordinary household dust that can contain dozens of respiratory issues to pet dander, dust mites, cigarette smoke, pollen and mold. All these things find their way into you duck work and HVAC system, then are circulated throughout your home when you turn your heating system on for the season. Having your annual maintenance and a duct cleaning will clean out all of the allergens that have collected in your system during the year and make it easier to breath.

Regular maintenance helps your system distribute the warm or cool air more evenly throughout your home. It also reduces the odds that you’ll come home from work one winter’s day to find frigid air blasting through your vents. Often, we think of maintenance as just another appointment we must schedule but without it you might find yourself facing the idea that a particular room is just too hot in the summer or chilly in the winter. Preventive steps like cleaning your ductwork can help ensure that your home heats and cools as evenly and efficiently as possible.

Investing in a yearly HVAC cleaning will give you comfort of knowing that if something goes wrong you have already taken steps to make the situation as painless as possible.