Fall Maintenance for Your Furnace

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Trane XR80 Single-Stage Furnace

With the fall season well underway, you may have already gotten some use out of your furnace. Before you start using your furnace full time, you may want to take some time and get it ready for the cold nights ahead. One of the best ways to prevent damage to your heating system and lengthen its potential life is to ensure that it receives proper maintenance every single year.

In general, the best time of year to provide basic furnace maintenance is before the heating system begins. However, this can be a busy time of year with school starting up and workloads getting heavier. That being said, it is never too late to do a quick inspection of your heating system, especially if you rely on it to keep you warm all winter long.

Pick Up Some Replacement Filters

The beginning of the season is the best time to stock up on all the filters you will need for the fall, winter and early spring. Make sure you purchase the right filters for your system so that they properly remove contaminants from your recirculating air. Not only will a clean filter improve the energy efficiency of your unit, but it will also prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your system. By getting a full supply all at once, you will have no reason to avoid changing out the filter.

Do a Basic Inspection of Your System

You may be surprised at just what a simple inspection can do for your HVAC equipment. Even if you do not know much about your heater or furnace, you can inspect the wires and pipes for rust or corrosion. If the pipes or wires are rusting, there is a chance that your system could suddenly stop working when you need it most. Further, dust accumulating on the heating coils can indicate that the system is in desperate need for a checkup. The last thing you want is for all that dust to end up in the air that you breathe.

Other obvious problems that you want to look for include leaks and airflow issues. Not only can these leaks and airflow problems result in poor indoor air quality for you and your family during the fall and winter, but it could be dangerous for your home. If you do find a problem, get a professional to help you fix it before it becomes a major catastrophe.

Schedule a Fall Tune Up

Although you are the first line of defense for your heating system, you may not have all of the necessary knowledge needed to keep your system running smoothly. As such, it is highly recommended that you hire a professional HVAC contractor you trust. During the tune up, there are multiple things that they will check, including the pilot light, the motors and the combustion chamber and heat exchanger condition. The vent pipes will also be checked to ensure that CO is not being pumped into the home.

There is another major reason you should consider having a professional HVAC contractor. Some manufacturer and extended warranties can become voided if the equipment is not regularly maintained by a licensed professional.

Stay Efficient during the Winter

Although regular maintenance can have some costs to it, you will find that the positives of regular maintenance far outweigh the risks. Not only will regular maintenance extend the lifespan of your current heating system, saving you more in long run, but you can also make your home more comfortable. By keeping your heating system maintained, you will never need to worry about coming home to a cold home after a long day at work.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Are You At Risk?

Friday, December 4th, 2015

When you have the house all closed up for the winter, worrying about carbon monoxide poisoning may be the last thing on your mind especially with the upcoming winter festivities. However, if you are constantly using your gas appliances or fireplace, you should be aware of the dangers of CO poisoning and how to protect yourself and your family.

What is Carbon Monoxide and Why is it Poisonous?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a gas that is produced when fuels in cars, fireplaces, stoves and other appliances are burned. Because the gas is colorless and odorless, it can accumulate in a room or a home without anyone knowing. Without a CO detector, you may not realize that CO levels have become dangerous until it is too late.

Normally, the oxygen you breathe in with every breath binds to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. When you breathe in CO and oxygen, however, the CO has a much easier time binding to the hemoglobin than oxygen. As the CO levels increase, the amount of oxygen your body receives decreases. This could eventually lead to hypoxia, or oxygen starvation. If those affected do not receive medical attention, they could suffer brain damage or even die.

52 Carbon monoxide

What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

At first, the symptoms are similar to the flu. A person suffering from CO poisoning may experience nausea, vomiting, anxiety and even depression. The person may feel extremely tired and may feel like falling asleep. As the levels become more concentrated, the symptoms can include severe headaches, dizziness and extreme confusion. Low level exposure over a long period of time can potentially lead to damage to internal organs while high levels can become fatal within several minutes.

While every person is at risk for CO poisoning, infants, young children and the elderly are most likely to be affected first. Those who also have anemia, heart disease and breathing difficulties are also more at risk. These individuals are also more likely to be negatively affected by low levels of CO even when other adults may not suffer any symptoms.

 

Protecting Yourself Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

One of the best ways to protect yourself against CO poisoning is to ensure that you have a working CO alarm. Some of the alarms will alert you when the levels become elevated while other alarms will actually tell you how much CO is present in the air you are breathing. It is recommended that you install alarms in rooms where CO is likely to be found, including rooms that have gas appliances and fireplaces. If you store your vehicle in your garage, installing a CO alarm there can also be helpful.

 

What To Do When CO Levels Become Elevated

If our CO alarm goes off, do not ignore the alarm even if you do not have any of the symptoms. These alarms are designed to go off before you begin to feel ill, so you should act with caution. Silence the alarm and then make sure all of your family members are out of the home or building. You may also wish to open windows to ventilate the area. Turn off any appliances that could be causing the elevated CO levels. If it is possible, you may want to stay elsewhere until a professional can be called to fix the problem.

 

Stay Safe This Winter

Keeping yourself and your family safe with a CO alarm and an understanding of the symptoms will help you ensure that you’ll have a happy, healthy winter. You can even potentially prevent a tragedy during one of your most favorite times of the year.

Furnace Efficiency

Friday, November 20th, 2015

During the cold winter months, your furnace works hard to heat the air and send it throughout your home. Some of this heat is lost as the heated air travels through the ducts to its destination while some is lost through the chimney. While your furnace may still be providing enough heat to keep you comfortable, you are still paying for the heat that is lost. If you have an older or inefficient furnace, your energy bill may be high, making you more hesitant to run the heat.
Furnace Efficiency Ratings

A furnace’s efficiency standard is AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This standard is used to show consumers how efficient the furnace is at converting energy to heat over one year. AFUE is shown as a ratio of the output of heat that directly heats the home or business over the energy that is used.

As an example, a furnace that has an AFUE of 95 percent means that 95% of the energy the furnace uses goes towards directly heating the home or business. The remaining 5% is vented to the outdoors. In general, newer furnaces are more likely to have a higher AFUE than older furnaces.

AFUE Chart 95web2
Some high AFUE furnaces may also have an ENERGY STAR label, a symbol that is awarded to certain products by the Environmental Protection Agency. This label indicates that the furnace has been proven through verified testing to save the home or business owner money while reducing the amount of green house gases that are produced. Although furnaces with an ENERGY STAR label may have a higher upfront expense, consumers will recover the cost of their investment through energy savings.

Why Furnace Efficiency Matters

The number one reason you may want to upgrade to a new, more energy efficient furnace is to save money. Because newer furnaces use more of their energy to actually heat the home or business, the furnace does not have to work as hard or as long to make your living or working space comfortable.

Efficient furnaces have an environmental benefit in addition to a cost benefit. If every home and business replaced their outdated furnaces with highly efficient heating equipment, the EPA estimates that the annual amount of greenhouse gasses emitted in the United States would be equivalent to taking 177,000 cars off the roads.

Should I Retrofit or Replace My Furnace?

Older furnaces can be upgraded to become more efficient. However, this process can be costly; homeowners or building owners should weigh the cost of a retrofit with the cost of a furnace replacement. If you choose to retrofit your furnace, you will most likely have a vent or flue damper installed to close off the chimney when the furnace is not running.

If your furnace is older than 10 years, it is likely that it has an AFUE in the range of 56 to 70 percent. That mean up to 44% of your fuel is directly released through the chimney as wasted energy. Because some new models have AFUE ratings between 90 to 98 percent, it may be more cost-effective in the long run to bite the bullet and install a new furnace. Over time, the energy savings provided by a new furnace will allow you to recover your investment.

Choose an Efficient furnace

Ultimately, replacing your old furnace has financial and environmental benefits. When you’re looking to replace your furnace, we can discuss your to make sure that you’re getting the right furnace that works for your home or business. When you are choosing your new furnace, be sure to check the AFUE before making a commitment.

 

Restoring HVAC Systems After a Flood

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Since installing a new HVAC system can be expensive, many homeowners and business owners who experienced a flood may wish to do what they can to save their existing system. Luckily, HVAC systems can be washed and repaired after a flood has occurred.

Before th5. Housee Cleaning Begins

Before the cleaning process begins, there are some steps that should be taken in order to keep everyone involved in the process safe. First, those who are doing the cleaning should be equipped with respirators that have HEPA filters installed. Additionally, if the cleaning space is not properly ventilated, it may be recommended for the cleaners to use chemical cartridges that protect against disinfectants.

Second, the space should be closed off using plastic sheeting or other forms of temporary walls to protect those who are not working on the HVAC systems. If the contamination is severe, contractors may use blowers with HEPA filters installed to keep the work area under negative pressure.

Cleaning HVAC Systems

The first step is to remove the insulation from around the components of the HVAC system and the filter. The cleanup crew may use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter attached to remove contaminants, dirt and debris from the components. The cleanup crew will need to pay special attention to the horizontal sections of the duct system and vents. A power washer may be used if the vacuum did not remove all of the debris.

Once the loose debris has been removed, a disinfectant solution, such as chlorine bleach mixed with water, will be used to disinfect the areas that were affected by the flood. The components will then be washed down with water. When all of the components have dried, any vents or fans that were removed for cleaning can be re-installed.

When to Discard Components

Fibrous components, such as insulation and filters, will be removed and discarded. Any other components that were affected by flood water and could not be appropriately cleaned will also be removed and discarded. This includes components that may have eroded or rusted due to water contact. If these components are not removed, the HVAC systems will continue to circulate contaminated air and may not work efficiently.

Running HVAC Systems after Cleaning

It is recommended that the building owner run the system normally for up to 72 hours before the building becomes reoccupied to allow air to cycle through the system. If the smell of mold or mildew persists, the system may require additional cleaning and repairs.

Once the building reopens or the residents return, the HVAC systems should be checked weekly for any remaining contaminants and to ensure the system is working properly. During the first few inspections, the filters should be replaced in order to remove any remaining airborne contaminants or mold spores.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Friday, March 6th, 2015

As families prepare to bundle up, close the windows and turn up the heat, a potential danger is preparing to make headlines once again as the onset of winter continues to close in. This danger, carbon monoxide, has the potential to be found in every home, especially in those who neglect appliances that can be used to heat the residence. To keep your family warm, safe and healthy this winter, take the time to educate yourself about the potential risks of carbon monoxide. It could just save your life.

26. skull & cross bones
What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is often considered to be a “silent killer.” This is because the presence of carbon monoxide cannot be detected by smell or taste.

CO is incredibly dangerous to both humans and animals due to the body’s red blood cells. These cells, whose main job is to carry oxygen throughout the body, find it easier to pick up and carry CO. If the levels of CO are high enough, the CO molecules may replace the oxygen molecules in the body. This can potentially destroy the body’s tissues and ultimately result in death. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 400 people die and more than 20,000 individuals end up in the emergency room as a result of CO poisoning.

There are a number of symptoms that may alert to CO poisoning. For example, someone who is suffering may:

  • Feel nauseous and may vomit
  • Suffer from a headache or chest pain
  • Act confused
  • Lose consciousness

While everyone can die as a result of high CO levels, those who use more oxygen are at a higher risk for CO poisoning. For example, unborn infants and children take in oxygen at a faster rate, making them more susceptible to damage caused by high levels of CO. Further, elderly individuals and those who suffer from heart or respiratory problems are also more susceptible to CO poisoning.

Because CO is undetectable and because the symptoms mimic other illnesses, CO poisoning is difficult to diagnose unless CO poisoning is suspected. In extreme cases, people who go to sleep after beginning to feel ill or are already asleep can die.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

CO is generated when fossil fuels do not correctly burn. Thus, any item in the home that uses fossil fuels to function can produce this dangerous gas.

  • Furnaces or other heating appliances that do not work correctly
  • Portable generators
  • Water heaters
  • Clothes dryers
  • Wood or coal stoves
  • Chimneys that have not been properly cleaned and maintained

One of the biggest dangers for CO poisoning are when cars are left running in a garage. While many are tempted to run the family vehicle for a short amount of time in order to warm it up, especially during cold weather, the CO emissions produced from burning gasoline can be incredibly dangerous. Running the car in a garage, even with the garage door open, can result in fatal levels of CO.

Protecting Against Potential CO Poisoning

Along with your smoke alarms, CO alarms should also be installed and regularly maintained. It is highly recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that a CO detector be installed near sleeping areas within the home at the very least. However, you can provide your family with extra protection by installing one on each level of the home, including the basement. It is important to remember that CO detectors do not replace regular smoke alarms.

Further, all appliances that can potentially release CO should receive regular maintenance. If an appliance does not appear to be functioning correctly, it should be looked at by an expert immediately.

What to do if CO Poisoning is Suspected

If anyone suddenly begins to show symptoms of CO poisoning, especially if they are more susceptible, the fire department or emergency services should be called immediately. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, it is better to be safe than sorry.

If your CO detector sounds the alarm or you believe that there is a presence of CO in your home, it is highly recommended that everyone move to an area that has plenty of fresh air. This can be achieved by either opening the windows or leaving the residence altogether. Once everyone is safe and accounted for, the fire department or other emergency services should be contacted immediately.

 

 

Winter Fire Hazards

Friday, December 26th, 2014

32.0smog-clipart-house-fireWith the cold weather finally here, all you may wish is to keep your home nice and toasty. While fire hazards may be the last thing on your mind, it is important to be aware that most home fires occur between December and March. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 905 people die each year in winter fires.

 

Cooking

In more recent years, cooking has become a major fire hazard. Many families have turned to deep-fryers and other appliances to cook their holiday means, often leaving them unattended. In fact, unattended ranges, ovens and turkey fryers used for the making of holiday meals accounted for 67 percent of all winter cooking fires.

Furnace Heating

Many people rely on a furnace to keep their homes warm and cozy. However, because they often run constantly to keep the temperature consistent, they can be a serious fire hazard if they were not properly maintained.

Proper maintenance by qualified specialists will reduce any potential fire hazard from the furnace. Additionally, homeowners can further reduce fire risks by ensuring that the emergency shutoffs and all of the controls are working. Finally, they can also ensure that there is no trash or flammable items near the furnace or the vents.

Wood Stoves and Fireplaces

With heating prices being so high, many homeowners are looking for other ways to warm up their abode. Fireplaces and wood stoves are often popular alternatives. To reduce the risk of a winter fire, homeowners should ensure that the fireplace or stove is properly installed in an area that has adequate clearance away from furniture or anything that could potentially catch fire. Chimneys should always be inspected and cleaned prior to being used, especially if there has been some time between uses.

Kerosene Heaters

Kerosene heaters can be hazardous if the homeowner does not know how to use them. Because kerosene heaters can emit deadly fumes, they should only be used in areas that are well ventilated. No other fuel source should ever be used. Additionally, it is recommended that homeowners refuel the furnace outdoors and only refuel while the heater was turned off.

Christmas Trees

One of the biggest risks that you may not be aware of are Christmas trees. While the trees themselves are not dangerous, the lights give off quite a bit of heat when left on for certain periods of time. Frayed wires and plugs can start fires, especially if the family is using a live Christmas tree or if there are flammable objects nearby. Unattended Christmas trees should never be left with the lights on.

Reducing the Risk of Fire

There are many ways that you can reduce the risk of causing a winter fire at home. One of the most important and easiest ways to avoid a fire hazard is to never use ranges, stoves and other similar appliances for heating. Additionally, family members should follow the instructions when utilizing space heaters and other appropriate heating appliances.

Families can also prepare for a fire by ensuring that all smoke detectors are working and by keeping any fire hydrants clear of snow and other debris. This way, if a fire does occur, it can be dealt with safely and quickly by firefighters and other appropriately trained professionals.

 

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

As a homeowner or a tenant, it’s highly likely that you’re well aware of all the catastrophes that could affect you and your family. Ranging from tornadoes to floods and even earthquakes, it’s likely that you’ve already got a plan in place to get your family to safety in case of an emergency. While ensuring that you’ve protected your loved ones against carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely important, it is often a hazard that is overlooked. If the alarms fail to go off, especially when the household is all asleep, there is a very good chance that your loved ones could become injured or even lose their lives.

38. carbon monoxideWhat is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is found in combustion fumes. There are a number of sources for carbon monoxide, or CO, fumes, including:

  • Vehicle engines
  • Heating systems
  • Stoves
  • Burning wood
  • Gas ranges
  • Lanterns

 

Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

The body needs oxygen to survive. However, human and animal red blood cells will pickup CO instead of oxygen if there is enough CO in a specific amount of space. Since the red blood cells are full of CO molecules, they block out the oxygen molecules. Brain cell death begins when the brain is devoid of oxygen for approximately five minutes; if a person is not resuscitated or given oxygen in a timely manner, they may potentially suffer brain damage or could even die. While every human and animal can succumb to CO poisoning, infants and people who suffer from chronic breathing problems may be the first to show symptoms of CO poisonings. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also at greater risk.

Protection against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

The best way to protect against CO poisoning is to install CO detectors. These detectors should be placed near bedrooms and near sources of CO fumes. It is recommended that tenants and homeowners use detectors that either are battery operated or use batteries for backup in the event that the power goes out. The batteries should be checked monthly and be replaced at least once a year.

There are additional ways to reduce the risk of CO poisonings. These include:

  • If your HVAC systems use gas, oil or coal, they should be maintained by a qualified and trusted technician at least once a year
  • Have the refrigerator’s cooling unit serviced should you smell any odor, as the unit could be releasing CO
  • Never start or run a vehicle in a closed garage, as the fumes could buildup to dangerous levels
  • Ensure that the chimney is properly cleaned every year

Ultimately, keeping up with any and all HVAC systems and being on the lookout for any curious odors can keep tenants and homeowners safe. If the appliances that are known to release CO are in use, ensure that there is adequate ventilation.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Even you keep all of your appliances and HVAC systems properly maintained, it is always recommended to know what the symptoms of CO poisonings are. In general, someone who is breathing in too much CO will start to suffer nausea, vomiting and confusion. Additionally, they may suffer chest pain, headaches and general weakness. If a family member begins to exhibit these symptoms, they should be taken to the hospital immediately. Additionally, everyone should leave the apartment or home to avoid suffering from CO poisoning themselves. Opening a window and ventilating the home may help until the local fire department can be called for assistance.