Indoor Air Quality

Routine Maintenance Lowers Indoor Air Pollution

Countless Americans suffer from symptoms such as asthma, emphysema, and COPD due to indoor air pollution every year. Indoor pollution, if left unchecked, can cause these and other serious health risks. However, there are plenty of preventative steps one can take to make sure these issues do not arise in your home. While there are plenty of steps one can take to lower indoor air pollution, routine maintenance is one of, if not the most, effective of these steps.

A quick and easy step you can do yourself is making sure to keep your indoor air filter clean, and change it monthly when you get your power bill.

Now in terms of more complicated maintenance, when you use your A/C system throughout the year, dirt and other debris is collected in the various components of the A/C system. The condensing unit, the system outside the home, often collects dirt. The system does not send those leaves or dirt into your home. However if the outdoor unit and the separate indoor unit, the air handler, are not properly maintained, elements of these particulates can collect the air stream within your home, damaging the air’s quality, and can eventually cause harmful air pollution.

When our Kalos technicians perform routine maintenance, they remove all the accumulated large debris that has been captured in the condenser unit; they then clean the condenser, but are careful not to bend the delicate coil pins. They also clean the air handler inside your home, by sensibly washing the evaporator coils.

When these tasks are finished none of the dangerous particulates harm your indoor air, keeping it safe and breathable. Routine maintenance is recommended at the very least annually, and preferably biannually to keep your home’s air healthy and unpolluted, and to protect your health.

BLOWN IN INSULATION PREPARATION

Here are the five things that you need to make sure gets done before and during your blown in insulation project. These steps will make sure your company actually does a quality job. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone behind the other blown insulation contractors here in Florida and seeing that they either, don’t even attempt to do what should be done in terms of performance or under deliver on what they promised and don’t actually finish what is needed. Here in Florida, it is scorching outside and one of the things that you can do in order to help make your home more energy efficient is to add a layer of insulation between that heat and your livable space. 

The work is not necessarily highly skilled or hard work in terms of needing immense education to understand its process, but it does take commitment and hard work to actually put into practice. Attic temperatures here in Florida can sometimes reach up to 150 degrees, so it’s important to make sure that the company you choose takes employee safety seriously and trains them properly. Once you’re up in an attic for more than about 10 minutes, it’s easy to start cutting corners, so proper training and leeway for needed rest are both key.

AN ESTIMATOR NEEDS TO CHECK OUT THE ATTIC

Many estimations in this business do not take the proper time to evaluate how exactly an attic should be treated. About three quarters of the time the other estimators from another company will simply ballpark the situation from down below in the cool living space so that they don’t have to get into the attic, sweat, and get their eyes on what’s actually going on up there. In our company’s expert opinion you have to actually look at something in order to know how to properly quote it. There are a lot of different variables involved with quoting blown in insulation and there’s a lot of different solutions out there, so in general, make sure that your estimator actually gets up into the attic for about 10 minutes or so to get a good look at everything and take some photos. The estimator should go over the whole plan with you and tell you exactly what you need while also visually showing you. More than likely you’re not going to follow an estimator up into the attic in order to see what they’re talking about, so you have to take their word for it. However, make sure that they give you some photos and that the photos are trustworthy. 

SEAL ANY PENETRATIONS TO THE ATTIC

We have found that most homes are pretty leaky, and need to be improved with some ceiling work. A lot of times when somebody is insulating and get quotes for blown in insulation here in Florida, they are insulating a new edition where they are insulating perhaps a lanai or their garage. There are probably a lot of penetrations into the attic ceiling that had been left unsealed by the general contractor in these areas. This allows for a lot of, not only heat, but also humidity infiltration into the space. Whenever we quote a customer for blown in insulation, we offer to both seal and insulate the area. We quote this as a package is because once there is a lot of blown in insulation in your way, it only makes it harder to actually seal up. In order to make sure that the blown in installation is the most effective insulator that it can be, we seal any penetrations into the attic using a Fonville spray that we install the morning of the blown in insulation job. This expands to fill any cracks or penetrations in the attic.

SEAL CAN-LIGHTS

Can-lights are the sort of light that sits flush with the ceiling of your living space, but is actually recessed up into the attic. It’s very important to make sure that these are actually seal themselves rather than trying to use any sort of spray fall around them. Reasons being that there are electrical processes involved. We never want to compromise any of that kind of material with anything that is flammable. We have found that in The Villages, for example, can-lights are almost exclusively used to light lanais, and they are almost always unsealed and allow the air between the two spaces to mix one way some installation contractors mitigate. We install a cone above each can light, allowing the area to be sealed from the rest of the attic, and not be touched by the new blown in insulation. That’s not a bad way to accomplish the goal of sealing it, but it’s preferable to buy pre-sealed can-lights and install them to replace the existing can-lights in the space. Many of these sealed the can-lights are actually LED, more energy efficient, and in the long run saving you money on your power bill. As licensed electrical contractors in Florida, we can offer solutions like installing these sealed can-lights, which can accomplish better energy savings.

SEALING THE ATTIC ENTRANCE POINT

In general, there are a couple of different types of ways you can get up into an attic. There’s usually either a set of pull downstairs or there is a piece of drywall with a frame that gets pushed up, a large hole is then exposed to allow access. Many homes in Florida have the benefit of having an attached garage at the front of the house, so the easiest place for the attic access was to install the pull-downstairs or push-up entrance in the garage space. Unless you are looking to add blown in insulation into your garage, this is not an area of concern, however, if your attic access is actually within the space that you are looking to either cool or insulate, this is a huge point of heat infiltration. If you ever tried to push into an attic entrance that just has blown in insulation all around it, you’ll know what a mess it makes whenever you open the attic. Hatch and blown in insulation tumbles down into your livable space to avoid this and to allow for less heat infiltration. We actually suggest to install one of two solutions. The first one that will help just keep the area around the attic hatch clear from any blown in insulation is install a barrier wall around the attic access. We built a small barrier wall, a foam board, in order to keep the blown in insulation from falling down into your livable space, you’ve paid for us to blow in the insulation, why would you want it to just fall down and be something that gets vacuumed up or thrown away every time that you go into your attic? Secondly, we would suggest a large bag filled with insulation and placed directly on top of the attic hatch a stairway, insulate it. Stairway insulator is going to be a little bit different style, but essentially if we’re talking about having a moveable piece of insulation that sits on top of the attic hatch entrance can be placed back whenever the needs to be closed up. This allows for you to make sure that you are not having a ton of heat come through your attic hatch access point, but at the same time and not have a giant mess every time you open it up.

INSTALLING BAFFLED BETWEEN EACH TRUSS

Many contractors leave this step out of their job, they leave it out because it’s simply just not easy, and takes time. Almost every home has a breathable soften around the outside edge of the home. This is meant to allow air to infiltrate up into the attic from outside, allowing the attic to breathe and ventilate out of the ridge vents in the top of the roof. This allows for there to be exchanged in the attic so it doesn’t just sit stagnantly increasing in heat. Many people don’t know that their attic is actually open to the elements outside, but if it’s beneficial to do so in a controlled manner. The last thing that a customer wants to do when starting one project is to create additional follow-up problems without these baffles in place. The problem we see many customers have when they hire an unqualified blown in insulation contractor, is that the blown in insulation usually falls directly down onto those soffit vents and close them up, not allowing for air to enter the space and ventilate through to the Richmond at the top of the attic. Essentially they are ceiling in that space and when they do so, they’re actually creating a higher level of humidity and a myriad of other problems. The solution to this is to staple cardboard core polyurethane baffles between each of the trusses in the attic. This allows for a natural barrier to be formed allowing the blown in insulation to be bonded right to the edge of the attic space without ever falling onto the soffit. Another central part is to make sure that the baffles are tall enough for the amount of installation that is being installed. The thicker the installation, the taller the baffled needs to be. Unfortunately, it is not too easy. Essentially one will need to be on their back, should been through the attic, stopping at every trust bay, and stapling these baffled into place one by one. Take a look at our video below to get a better sense of this.

CONCLUSION

Here within our five points the prep work is everything. The blown in insulation portion is actually the easiest part of the job, but if the preparation is not done properly you will be setting yourself up for a long list of problems in the future. Make sure you work with trustworthy and detail oriented technicians to save yourself the headaches. If you have any questions, please feel free to give our office a call at 352-224-3708 or visit us online at kalosflorida.com/installation.

 

Why Does My House Feel Muggy?

muggy

A muggy house is very uncomfortable, but especially here in Florida, it’s an occurrence we are often faced with. As someone who works in the air conditioning business, this is a common issue our customers are faced with, and we’re always asked the same question:

Why is my house so muggy, and how can I fix it?

Here’s the good news: by knowing what causes that muggy feeling (it’s called relative humidity) and how to eliminate or reduce that cause, we can help to increase your indoor air quality and keep you comfortable in your house.

What is Relative Humidity?

Relative humidity is the cause of a muggy feeling in the house. Relative humidity measures the humidity that is relative to the temperature. If, for example, you add a bunch of sugar to a glass of hot tea, once it cools down, sugar crystals can appear. In our case, the air is the tea and the moisture level would be those sugar crystals. Hotter air can hold more moisture than cold air, so once “hot muggy air” cools, it becomes even more humid and muggy.

Most homes will fluctuate between about 55 and 65% relative humidity in Florida. An air conditioning unit combats these lovely effects by not only cooling the air, but also dehumidifying it. Moisture is extracted from the air as it runs across the evaporator coil in the air handler, and is dispelled outside the home through a drain. The air conditioner is therefore cooling the air as well as removing moisture from the house.

So Why Does My House Feel Muggy?

We’ve established how an air conditioning unit can help combat humidity and that general unpleasant muggy feeling. So why does your home still sometimes feel muggy?

While air conditioning units are effective at cooling a house, there are a few ways we may accidentally be adding more moisture back into the house ourselves.

A few ways we introduce more moisture into the house and raise the humidity include:

  1. Lots of People. A large percentage of human being is made up of water. Humans perspire to keep ourselves cooled, and that in turn adds moisture to the air. If you’ve got a lot of people in one place, that’s a lot of extra moisture.
  2. When you cook, there’s a lot of open vessels that water is evaporating into the air from.
  3. Anytime you take a shower, bath, or anything like that, you’re exposing moisture (and often steam) into the air. Good ventilation can help with this, but it won’t eliminate the moisture completely.
  4. House Plants/Pets. Pets and plants, just like people, will increase the amount of moisture in the air.
  5. It’s just plain muggy outside. Hello, Florida afternoon summer thunderstorms. Those are the perfect recipe for sending relative humidity skyrocketing—it’s not blazing hot, but there’s a ton of moisture in the air. The more moisture there is outside, the more of it that will come in every time a door or window is open. Even if you shut yourself in, your house won’t be immune to increased moisture on a particularly muggy day; an exchange of air will still happen from outside to inside, just from your house being there.

How to Reduce Humidity in Your Home

Our homes can easily become muggy, so the important thing to know is how to combat it, reducing the moisture in the air. There’s a few ways to do this.

The first thing to note is that the best dehumidifying air conditioner is one that runs all the time. Plenty of people shudder at this because of the perceived expense, but if you get an appropriately sized ac unit for your home, you’ll see a big difference.  When you aren’t running your air conditioning all the time, it may still keep your house cool, but it won’t be an effective dehumidifier.

Let’s look at another example. Let’s say it’s raining like crazy outside. Your AC unit has probably turned off, because the rain on the house is cooling it down. That’s fine for the temperature, but it’s still raining outside, meaning there’s a ridiculous amount of moisture in the air. Your house is cool, but your air conditioner isn’t running, so it’s not being dehumidified. Before you know it, that horrible muggy feeling will set in.

Variable speed air conditioning units will help with these types of issues. You can also choose to purchase a separate dehumidifying systems, which we can install in your home for you. You can also buy small dehumidifiers that you manually drain, which can also be decently effective.

With lower amounts of moisture in the air, you’ll improve the indoor air quality, and you’ll be a lot more comfortable.

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3 Questions to Ask BEFORE Buying an Indoor Air Quality System

One of the most common Air Conditioning upgrades that homeowners are pitched are Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) products.

These are products that improve the air that your family breathes on a regular basis. While many IAQ products are extremely helpful for the overall quality of the air in your home, many times consumers don’t understand what they are purchasing and can become dissatisfied with their purchase.

For an extensive read on these systems, take a look at our free eBook by clicking the icon below.

Keep scrolling to find the 3 questions to ask BEFORE buying one of these types of systems.

indoor-ac

Air filters of all types, UV lights and photo-ionization products are all examples of an indoor air quality system. Here are the questions you should always ask before buying.

1. – What is the ongoing cost of operation per year?

Many IAQ products require regular cleaning as well as filter, bulb or cartridge replacement and sometimes all of the above. You should be very clear what the ongoing cost of operation is going to be when making a decision. Make sure to ask your technician for some cost breakdowns to make sure you know what the upkeep costs will be like.

2. – Are you required to buy these products through the installing contractor or if they can be purchased elsewhere?

In some cases you can buy filters, bulbs and cartridges over the counter at local hardware stores, but in most cases you will be required to buy them through the installing contractor or possibly online. Sometimes the process can be time consuming and frustrating, so it’s best if you know what to expect upfront.

3. – What specific problem does this particular product address?

Indoor air can be a confusing and complex subject. Dust or pollen that bother one person may not bother another. Some systems deal with live organisms such as bacteria and viruses while other deal with larger particles. Make sure that the installing company is clear with you about the purpose and expectations you can have of each product.

In closing, there is no single IAQ solution that cures all ills. Your best bet is to know specifically what you hope to accomplish and match an air quality solution to your needs.

More questions? Make sure to sound off in the comments or leave us a voicemail on SpeakPipe. If you do, you might end up on our Podcast!

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