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.

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.

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.