HVAC Maintenance Guidelines for a Healthy Home

One of the most significant systems installed in your home is your HVAC filtration system. It includes all the important components necessary for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This air purifier works hard to remove dust, bacteria, viruses, and mold from the circulated air. The HVAC system installed in your ductwork captures particles through air filters before they make their way out of the air ducts and into various rooms of your home. This is done as air travels through the ductwork and arrives at the filter that traps the large debris and particles. Newer systems provide fresh air from the outdoors to provide better quality air for the indoors. HVAC systems are also designed to control the temperature of the environment they’re in. They also help control the humidity level by controlling the air distribution and movement inside that environment.

Another component of the HVAC system is the furnace. This piece takes up the majority of the space in the system and moves air from the heat exchanger to the air ducts. The evaporator coil, on the other hand, is part of the furnace but it absorbs the heat from air passing over it and blows now-cold air through the ducts throughout your home.

It is important to take good care of your HVAC system to ensure the longevity of the system as well as protecting the home occupants. Routine maintenance is always a good idea to ensure this.

  1. Replace filters every 1-6 months depending on what you see in the filters after a few months of routine inspections.
  2. Consider replacing older heat exchangers with newer models. Traditional heat exchanger models are constructed from copper and/or aluminum tubes whereas, thanks to recent scientific research, tubes made of metals, alloys, carbon, graphite, polymeric materials, and ceramics, may increase heat transfer. This, in turn, will reduce the heat exchanger size and reduce costs as well.
  3. Clean evaporator and condenser coils once to twice a year. Evaporator coils tend to grow mold and in addition to the constant humidity, dirt may not be getting caught by the filters as effectively. The trapped dirt causes the condenser coils to degrade rather quickly so cleaning both the evaporator and condenser coils at the same time will improve energy efficiency. Yearly or bi-yearly antimicrobial treatments for the coils are a good option to help slow down the growth of mold.
  4. Inspect bearings, fans, and belts twice a year as part of a preventative maintenance plan. This task takes up to a couple of hours depending on the size of the fan but may save you more time and money in the long run. You should look out for strange noises, heat, or vibrations coming from the bearings and if any of these occur, that might mean it’s time to lubricate the ball bearings attached to the fan. Belts should be aligned to prevent wear and tear and should maintain proper tension to prevent torque loss and speedy wear.
  5. Clean air ducts every 2 years. If dirt is found, the ducts won’t be sound.
  6. The most common issue in HVAC equipment is unsuitable damper operation. Make sure to clean and adjust dampers annually so your indoor air quality isn’t negatively affected. Dampers keep the compressor from running when the outside temperature is less than 60 degrees F. Failure to properly maintain dampers could result in overloading the cooling coil.
  7. Inspect the area around the air intake at least twice a year. It’s never a good sign seeing water pooling around air-handlers because mold can begin to grow there. In turn, this mold could be brought into your home.
Electronic Air Filter

It is vital, especially in the current times, to make sure HVAC systems are up to date and running smoothly. A great alternative to a regular pleated HVAC filter is an electronic air filter. These filters attach to your furnace and create electrostatic charges by creating friction and conditioning air flows through the filter. The electrically charged filter attracts dirt, mold, and pet dander particles and removes them from the recirculated air by electro-force means. With the ongoing concern of COVID-19, these electric filters are a great way to ensure particles containing viruses are being filtered out before they reach your living spaces. These filters will help reduce the airborne contaminants such as viruses and protect you from that exposure. The particles move through washable filters that contain layers of material that charge the particles as they pass through. Electronic air filters are more cost-effective than your standard filter at $50-60 and typically last as long as your whole system does. These filters also save you time and hassle considering you do not need to buy filters every three months. The electronic air filters have a high MERV (Minimum Efficient Rating Value) and truly do work to improve the air quality in your home when compared to pleated filters.

The Benefits of Clean Indoor Air

Never has clean air been more important to obtain in your home than it is now during this pandemic. We know there are pollutants outside in the air, water, and in the ground but we rarely really stop to think about the harmful pollutants that are found in our very own homes. Breathing quality indoor air is essential for one’s health considering we spend the majority of our time indoors – whether at home, at the office, in stores, restaurants, and various other buildings. Though we personally cannot control the air quality in buildings we visit, we can control and ensure the air quality in our homes. We see that clean air that is circulated through a house can prevent many health hazards which affect more than 25 million people a year.

One infamous and common household toxin is combustion pollutant. Most pollutants are odorless, and are therefore, can be more difficult to pinpoint the source. This gas is a combination of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide and its sources are vast. Combustion pollutants can come from any improperly vented fuel-burning appliances which include but are not limited to: gas stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, dryers, and space heaters.

Another indoor air pollutant is radon that can enter homes through improperly sealed openings and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Typical, everyday use, household items could also lead to air pollution. Many dangerous chemicals used in hairsprays, paints, floor polishes, air fresheners, and pesticides, could produce excessive amounts of pollutant.

Dirty Air Filter vs. Clean Air Filter

These toxins can cause respiratory problems such as asthma, headaches, sore throats, eye irritation, colds, and chronic coughs. Many do not realize that these issues can be cause by indoor air pollution and could cause long term damage if the problems are not resolved and if air quality is not improved.

Luckily, there are methods you can implement in your home to better your air quality. First would be to improve your in-home air quality by cleaning out your ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Not only will this lower the levels of contaminants, it will also help to control indoor temperatures. Many new and advanced HVAC systems include mechanics that bring fresh outdoor air, in on an automated time basis. Some designs also include energy efficient heat recovery ventilators which help reduce the cost of cooling and heating during the summer and winter months.

You can also promote good air quality through natural ventilation by opening windows and doors and letting the outdoor air flow throughout your home.

Below are some simple ways in which you can help alleviate symptoms and health problems pollutants may cause:

  • Keep out the dirt. Place mats at every door to wipe your shoes given that you could be dragging pollutants inside your home. Either take your shoes off before you enter your house or make sure you are thoroughly wiping your shoes before entering.
  • Vacuum it up. Make sure all rugs and carpets within your home are cleaned or vacuumed often since carpet is known to capture traces of dirt, pesticides, and various other pollutants. Try microfiber mops and dust cloths to trap dust because they do not require any chemically induced cleaning solutions.
  • Go natural. Consider changing up your household cleans to more natural cleaners with safer ingredients that do not use artificial fragrances. Synthetic fragrances omit chemicals into the air and are found in household dryer sheets, air fresheners, detergents, and fabric softeners and can cause skin irritation and give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Many of these fragrances are a result of petroleum products and contain phthalates which are a group of chemicals not suited for human or animal inhalation. Think about switching to fragrance-free laundry products and cleaners as well as using baking soda and citrus in place of air fresheners.
  • Make it steamy! According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), keeping your home’s humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent will help reduce the growth of mold, dust mites, and other allergens. Anything over 50% humidity and you also run into the issue of musky odors, stains on walls and ceilings, as well as rot and structural damage. Low levels of humidity on the other hand can cause dry skin, hair and eyes, susceptibility to colds and various respiratory illness, furniture can start to crack, paint could chip, and viruses and germs could start to thrive. To prevent a potential health hazard from occurring in your own home, invest in a dehumidifier or use your air conditioner to reduce moisture in the air and keep cool air circulating in your home. Be sure to change your air conditioner’s filter often to ensure cleanliness.

Clean, indoor air is crucial for a healthy home. These are only a few of the steps in which you can take to improve the air you breathe. The benefits of implementing these far exceed the cost and effort of reducing pollutants in your home.  

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The Importance of Building Science

Going Beyond “Green”

When we take a look at buildings today, we see green building as a forefront integrated into projects, codes,
and even mandated by building authorities. Technological advancements have allowed us to incorporate new methods of building into today’s construction. Not only has technology advanced construction, it has also propelled the use of energy efficiency which is being adopted by the scientific principles of building. The key to today’s construction is finding the right balance between a durable, secure home and an energy-efficient smart build.

What is Building Science?

Building science is the physical behavior of buildings and their impact on energy efficiency, comfort, health, safety, and durability. It is focused on the full life cycle of a building which includes, but is not limited to, planning, design, construction, conservation, and demolition of the project. It is a multi-discipline collaboration between architects, civil, structural and mechanical engineers and other specialists in the fields of acoustical and lighting design. Not only is it important to understand how to apply the principles of physics to the structure, it is vital for optimal design and maximization of building performance.

What We Do

Here at Kowalchuk Construction, we focus on the building science to optimize your home, enhance building performance and ensuring its sustainability for years to come. We aim to prevent building failures as well as build with innovative solutions such as: facade engineering, systems integration, energy modelling, moisture and condensation analyses, and physiology and thermal comfort. We strive to understand how each component interacts with one another to make your home as efficient, functional, and beautiful as possible.

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