Tag Archives: indoor air quality

Considering Improving Your Home’s IAQ by Using UV Lights? Here’s What to Know

Considering Improving Your Home's IAQ by Using UV Lights? Here's What to KnowYou may not spend a lot of time thinking about the quality of the air inside your home. However, clean air can help keep everyone in the home healthy. It has even greater benefits for allergy sufferers and for those with breathing difficulties. Improving your indoor air quality, or IAQ, is a fairly easy task that offers a great return on your investment.

What Affects IAQ?

The quality of your air can be affected by many factors. If you have smokers or pets in the home, if you have pollen-bearing plants in your yard or neighborhood, or if there’s a major roadway nearby, your air may not be as clean as you’d want it to be. Other factors affecting IAQ include having lots of dust in the air or high levels of humidity that might encourage mold growth.

What Improves IAQ?

The first, and simplest, fix for your IAQ is a good filter for your HVAC system. If you replace it regularly, a filter will catch many of the larger allergens and contaminants that get into your home.

Filters aren’t sufficient to catch the smallest particles, however. They also don’t do much about mold or mildew growth inside your ducts or around your A/C’s evaporator coil.

To take care of these contaminants, many homeowners opt to install UV, or ultraviolet, lights inside their ducts or near their evaporator coils. These lights work at a wavelength that attacks bacteria and mold spores. The lights disrupt the contaminants’ DNA, preventing them from reproducing and shortening their lives.

Since UV lights are installed within the HVAC system, they have no effect on the people or pets living in the home. These lights are remarkably effective. They have been shown to improve IAQ in less than an hour after being turned on, and they continue to clean the air as long as your HVAC system is on. Paired with a high-quality filter, UV lights can give you the indoor air quality your family needs to stay healthy.

For more information about using UV lights in your Portland area home, contact Roth Heating & Cooling today.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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How You Should Check Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

How You Should Check Your Carbon Monoxide DetectorsWhen you being running your heating system and close your home against the winter air, the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure increases. You can lessen the threat it poses to your family’s well-being by keeping your furnace professionally maintained. For complete protection though, you also need to know how to check and maintain the carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Why Checking Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors Matters

Carbon monoxide gas is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of any fossil fuel, so it can be produced by your gas furnace, hot water heater or kitchen range. In small amounts, CO causes flu-like illness. Exposure to a high level of the gas can render a person unconscious and quickly cause death. Since CO has no color, taste or odor, you won’t know you’re at risk unless a carbon monoxide detector sounds a warning alarm.

Advice for Testing and Maintaining Your CO Detectors

Here’s some helpful advice on how to test and maintain well-functioning carbon monoxide detectors in your home:

  • Read the manual for each detection device you own and follow any brand-specific guidelines from the manufacturer for proper use and care.
  • In general, it’s wise to check the functionality of your detectors monthly by holding down the “test” button for a few seconds. If you don’t hear a beep, put in new batteries and test again. If the device makes no sound, it needs replacement.
  • Replace all device batteries twice a year. You might find it easier to remember if you do this when you’re changing the clocks for daylight saving time.
  • CO detectors lose the ability to sense the gas after five years of use, so replace all of your devices when they reach that age. So you don’t forget to do so, choose a model with a replacement alert feature.
  • If you want plug-in or wired detectors, buy detectors with battery backup so they’ll still function if a power outage

Contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling for more advice about keeping your Portland home protected by checking your carbon monoxide detectors and properly maintaining your heating equipment.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Should Air Filters be Changed More Frequently During Summer?

Should Air Filters be Changed More Frequently During Summer? | RothEven though Portland’s summers are relatively mild, your air filter has a lot to deal with during the cooling season. Taking care of your filter correctly protects your comfort and your health.

How Summer Affects Your Air Filter

While it’s a good idea to inspect your filter once a month, during milder weather, you may not always need to change it monthly. During the cooling season, when you’re using your A/C almost daily, lower-efficiency filters should be changed every month. There are a few reasons for this.

Higher cooling demand — As your air conditioner runs, it pulls room air through the filter and the filter picks up debris from the air. If you’re running your A/C for hours a day most days, it will fill up quickly.

More air contaminants — Naturally higher summertime humidity encourages the growth of mold and bacteria, which worsens your indoor air quality. Plants that bloom in summer add pollen to your air. All this means more contaminants to clog up your filter.

Higher humidity — Humid indoor air provides ideal growing conditions for the mold spores and bacteria on your filter. Leave the filter in too long and it could develop mold that releases more spores into your air.

Know When to Change Your Air Filter

In summer, 1-inch fiberglass filters should be changed every month. Higher-efficiency filters, which have larger particle-trapping surfaces, can last up to 3 months. They also improve your indoor air quality, unlike lower-efficiency filters. Your air quality affects exactly how long they last. If you smoke, have pets or live near a major road or other source of pollution, the filter will become dirty faster.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on when to change the filter. To be on the safe side, once a month, remove the filter and hold it up to a light source. If you can’t see light through the filter, it’s time to put in a clean one.

For more guidance on keeping your air quality high, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling in the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Clean Your Air With These Houseplants

Clean Your Air With These Houseplants | RothDecorating with houseplants creates natural beauty indoors, along with enhancing indoor air quality (IAQ). Some plants are natural air cleaners and remove stubborn volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could degrade your health. VOCs come from many common household products and are one of the most difficult indoor pollutants to neutralize.

These plants offer the best protection against a buildup of VOCs indoors:

  • Spider plants
  • Dracena
  • Ficus trees or weeping figs
  • Peace lily
  • Boston fern
  • Snake plant (mother-in-law’s tongue)
  • Aloe vera
  • Bamboo palm, lady palm,
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Golden pothos
  • English ivy
  • Wax begonia

These plants are among the most common used indoors and are readily available at local nurseries, in the garden centers of home improvement stores and at flower shops. Although each of these is easy to grow, they have individual needs for light exposure and moisture requirements.

To achieve higher IAQ using plants, you’ll need two plants every 100 square feet, whose pot diameter is 10 to 12 inches. Some are also toxic to children and pets, so before choosing, check with your veterinarian or look it up on a reputable website to learn if it’s safe.

The gases from chemicals that these houseplants remove include benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and trichloroethylene. These VOCs come from new furniture, flooring, carpeting, paints and finishes, along with cleaning supplies. You’ll also find them in air fresheners, cosmetics, anything perfumed and many household cleaners.

VOCs lower IAQ as they concentrate, primarily because of the lack of fresh air ventilation. You can, however, use ultraviolet lights inside the ductwork or the air handler for your HVAC system to lessen the impact VOCs make on your health.

An energy recovery ventilator (ERVs) dilutes the concentration of VOCs by exchanging stale indoor air with fresh, outside air. ERVs are an energy efficient option for better IAQ since they use heat exchange technology to keep cooling and heating bills low.

While houseplants are a solution for removing harmful VOCs, you can also use your home’s HVAC system to improve the overall air quality. To learn more, contact Roth Heating & Cooling, providing trusted HVAC services for Portland-area homeowners.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Orlando, Florida and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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How to Decide Between Air Filtration and Air Cleaning

How to Decide Between Air Filtration and Air CleaningIf you’re concerned about maintaining indoor air quality in your Portland area home, it’s important to understand the difference between air filtration and air cleaning. While all forced-air heating and cooling systems have some form of air filtration, not all households have dedicated air cleaning systems. If you have family members who are susceptible to allergies or respiratory ailments, you’ll want to consider an air cleaning system.

First it helps to understand how basic air filtration works in an HVAC system. In most households, this involves a cheap, flat-panel fiberglass (or other synthetic) filter that goes into a slot in your furnace compartment, usually where the ductwork attaches. Before air is drawn into the furnace or A/C for conditioning, the filter removes some proportion of the solid particulates in that air. However, the main purpose of a low- or standard-efficiency air filter is to protect HVAC components rather than clean indoor air.

This doesn’t mean that higher-efficiency air filtration can’t achieve cleaner and healthier air. High-efficiency HVAC filters can remove the vast majority of airborne particulates. This is accomplished with denser (or more) filtration media removing a wide range of contaminants, large and small. However, the denser filtration media also may restrict airflow. Adverse effects may include wasted energy, stressed system components, and uneven heating and cooling. A forced-air system can be modified to work with a high-efficiency filter, though this may be costly. Consider a whole-house air cleaning system instead.

A whole-house air cleaner is connected directly to your HVAC system, and like an air filter treats all of the air that circulates through that system. But rather than simply capturing airborne particulates with fiberglass or some other filtration medium, an air cleaner typically employs a combination of technologies to clean the air. These might include ultraviolet light, electrostatic attraction or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filtration. A quality air cleaner can remove more than 99 percent of the particulates in your indoor air.

To talk to a trained technician about cleaning or filtering the air in your Portland area home, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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Improve Comfort by Installing a Humidifier in Your Home

Improve Comfort by Installing a Humidifier in Your HomeEven in our humid climate, a furnace can dry out a home’s air and cause a number of problems over the winter. One of the best remedies for an overly dry indoor environment is a humidifier.

Adding humidity to the home eases respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and rhinitis, and other problems such as dry skin and chapped lips. Slightly humid conditions also make a home’s occupants feel warmer, so that the homeowner can turn down the thermostat a few degrees during the winter.

In addition, low humidity in homes damages wooden floors, furnishings, and musical instruments by drying them out and causing cracking.

For best results, aim for balanced humidity between 30 and 50 percent.

Installing a Humidifier

A whole-house humidifier, installed in your HVAC system, is the best way to maintain proper humidity. The appliance emits water vapor into the air through the ductwork, while the system monitors and controls the level of moisture. It uses water from the home’s plumbing system, so there’s no need to buy distilled water. Generally no maintenance is required other than cleaning out the tank a couple of times a year to remove mineral deposits.

Portable Humidifiers

Although a whole-house humidifier does a better, more efficient job of humidifying a home, some homeowners may opt for a portable or console model. These can be moved from room to room. They require refilling and frequent cleaning of filters to guard against mold and bacteria buildup.

Following are some popular types of portable humidifiers:

  • Warm mist: A heating element boils water, releasing it into the air as warm steam. It makes the room feel warmer than a cold mist type.
  • Cool mist: A wick filter absorbs water in the base of the appliance, while a fan blows dry air through the filter, causing the moisture to evaporate into the air.
  • Ultrasonic: These quiet humidifiers employ high-frequency sound waves to vibrate a metal diaphragm at an ultrasonic frequency, breaking water down into a fine vapor mist.

For more on installing a humidifier, contact Roth Heating and Cooling. We’ve served Portland residents since 1976.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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Best Practices for Air Sealing Your Home

Best Practices for Air Sealing Your HomeAir sealing the leaks around your house keeps your home more comfortable in Portland’s chilly winters and warm summers, and protects your indoor air quality. Learn your options for blocking leaks so you can achieve the best results possible.

Caulk

Caulk is a viscous substance that hardens after application. It’s typically sold in tubes designed to be loaded into a caulk gun. Caulk is used for air sealing gaps and cracks around non-movable surfaces, such as door and window frames, ventilation and appliance vents, points where pipes and wires penetrate exterior walls, and where the foundation meets the wooden sill on the home’s exterior.

All-purpose acrylic latex caulk is a good option for most interior sealing jobs. If you need to seal leaks in a wet area, such as the bathroom or kitchen, waterproof silicone caulk is a better choice. For outdoor sealing jobs, consider elastomeric or butyl caulk. Before buying caulk, check the product’s label to learn where it can be used.

Spray Foam

Polyurethane expanding spray foam insulation, sold in spray cans, is used to seal gaps between one-quarter inch and 3 inches wide around non-movable surfaces. It’s often applied around furnace flues, pipes, and other large penetrations in the attic and basement. In the crawl space, it can be used to seal a plastic vapor barrier to rigid foam insulation on the wall.

Because spray foam isn’t eco-friendly and is difficult to remove when repairs are needed, consider an alternative such as cellulose or cotton insulation.

Weatherstripping

Weatherstripping consists of strips of material used to block leaks on movable surfaces. The ideal weatherstripping depends on the surface you want to seal. Foam tape provides an inexpensive way to seal window sash tops and bottoms, as well as the insides of doorframes. For double-hung or sliding windows, use V-strip weatherstripping. Tubular gaskets, available in vinyl, rubber, and silicone, can be applied to window sash tops and bottoms and along doorjambs.

For more guidance on air sealing or to hire a pro for the job, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling in the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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HRV and ERV Troubleshooting Tips that Keep Your Ventilation Working

HRV and ERV Troubleshooting Tips that Keep Your Ventilation WorkingA few heat recovery ventilation (HRV) and energy recovery ventilation (ERV) troubleshooting tips can keep fresh air moving in and stale, stagnant air moving out of your home. The goal of HRV and ERV is to intake and exhaust air in balanced amounts, without compromising heating and cooling. Heat energy is transferred from the warmer air stream to the cooler air stream. In summer, that means heat in the incoming fresh air is moved to the outgoing air stream to prevent burdening your A/C. During winter, the opposite occurs. Up to 85 percent of heat is recovered from an HRV system. ERV units also transfer humidity in addition to heat, reducing the accumulation of indoor humidity in summer and preventing excessively dry air conditions in winter.

Both ventilation systems consist of small-diameter, dedicated intake and exhaust ducts routed through a central controller that incorporates twin blower fans, filter media and the heat/humidity exchange core. HRVs and ERVs impose minimal maintenance requirements and only a few HRV and ERV troubleshooting tips are generally necessary for proper operation. The following are a few common problems and how to troubleshoot them:

  • No Power: Is a circuit breaker tripped? Reset any tripped breakers and try again. If the tripped breaker recurs, contact your qualified HVAC service provider.
  • Low Air Flow: Reusable filters should be removed and cleaned at regular intervals per manufacturer’s instructions, generally every other month. If air flow is not improved, contact a professional.
  • HRV Leaking Condensate: This is usually a drain issue. Is the condensate drain line kinked or obstructed? Make sure the drain line is routed on a slope to allow gravity flow of water.
  • ERV Unresponsive: If outdoor temperatures fall below 23 degrees, an automatic defrost cycle activates to prevent a frozen central core. While the defrost cycle is active—up to 20 minutes—operation is interrupted. After defrost is completed, normal function should return. If not, call a qualified service technician.

For more HRV and ERV troubleshooting tips and professional service to remedy the trouble, in Portland contact Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Don’t Let Heat Gain Make Your Air Conditioner Work Harder

Don't Let Heat Gain Make Your Air Conditioner Work HarderThe amount of heat gain in your home has a direct impact on your cooling costs because heat naturally moves from hot to cold constantly. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to slow or block heat gain to maintain indoor comfort.

Windows

Unless your home has Energy Star certified or thermal-rated windows, the windows could be responsible for nearly half the heat entering your home. Glass is a poor insulator, and heat readily flows through windows whether they receive direct sunlight or not.

Closing the window coverings during the hottest part of the day will slow some of the heat transfer. To get the best heat protection, make sure the coverings extend above and below the window frames and sit as closely to the glass surface as possible.

Solar shade screens work well on south- and west-facing windows to cut the radiant heat from entering. You can make them from kits sold at home improvement centers or ask a specialty contractor to make them for you.

Insulation

Although wall insulation matters, most of the heat gain that drives up cooling costs comes from an inadequately insulated attic. Attics reach extreme temperatures during the day, and that heat can penetrate through the ceilings. Consider increasing the insulation to 20 inches for the best heat control.

You can also improve your home’s heat resistance by choosing light roofing and exterior wall colors that reflect much more radiant energy.

Seal the Leaks

Air leaks around the window and door frames increase cooling bills. Caulk, expanding foam and weatherstripping are easy to apply to stop air infiltration immediately.

Internal Heat Sources

While your home’s exterior color, insulation levels and air leaks account for nearly 35 percent of the heat your home gains, indoor sources may account for almost 15 percent. Put off heat-producing activities as much as possible until it’s cooler, and use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to vent warm air.

To learn more about heat gain and keeping cooling costs low, contact Roth Heating & Cooling. We’ve proudly served Portland area homeowners since 1976.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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