Categories Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac system

These are the most common home allergens – and how to use your HVAC system to reduce them

People with allergies might consider springtime the worst season, but the truth is allergens can be present indoors any time of year. In fact, depending on the type of allergens floating around your home, you might be experiencing more allergy symptoms during the winter or summer months when the HVAC is blowing air around. 

More than half of the homes in America have detectable levels of allergens including dust mites, dogs, cats, cockroaches, mice, and mold (source). With all the time spent inside, often with doors and windows closed tightly to keep the house energy efficient, allergens can run rampant. These allergens can cause the dreaded itching and sneezing (or even trigger more severe symptoms!) that we associate most commonly with pollen or other outdoor allergens. 

What are the most common allergens found in the home?

Dust mites 

Dust mites are one of the most common allergens in all American homes. They don’t bite but breathing them in causes serious irritation–especially if you are susceptible to respiratory issues like asthma. Dust mites, their waste, and the particles that remain from dead dust mites can all contribute to allergy symptoms.

Pet dander

Pet dander is another leading cause of allergies– which is not to say people are allergic to their pets. Rather, the dried saliva, urine, and skin flakes from the animal that gets into the dust around the house when they scratch or shake is what causes most allergic reactions. Furry pets are the most likely to present the allergens, although it is their dander, not their hair, which causes the allergic reactions.

Mold

The most common household mold is Alternaria, but many forms of mold can grow indoors when there is humidity, dampness, or water collecting anywhere (source). Mold releases spores into the air which can be inhaled or settle on wet areas and grow more mold. Like other allergens, mold can settle among house dust also causing allergy symptoms. Mold is common and not likely to cause serious symptoms, but people with allergies or who are immunocompromised, can have serious symptoms or reactions to indoor mold. There are also some forms of mold, such as black mold, which is toxic and can have serious effects on those exposed to it. 

Pollen

Pollen can easily get inside the house during the months when it’s covering everything outside. It can ride inside on pets’ fur and paws, or shoes and jackets left on once coming inside. Pollen grains from trees, grass, and weeds are small particles that get into the eyes, nose, and lungs and cause typical allergy symptoms. 

Fireplace, cooking, and cigarette smoke

Different emissions from burning wood, food, or tobacco products can lead to coughing and other allergy symptoms. When using a wood burning fireplace, using a gas range, cooking food in oil and butter, or smoking cigarettes, these emissions have an impact on the air quality inside the house. 

Best ways to get rid of allergens in your home

The sources of many of these allergens most often come from the fabric in wall-to-wall carpets, furniture, stuffed animals, or bed linens. Often, allergens are trapped on or in these materials and are released when they’re used. Pets and damp areas are major culprits for home allergens. 

Aside from using your HVAC system to rid your home of allergens, which we will discuss next, it’s important to engage in regular cleaning of rugs, furniture, and bedding. Washing all items that can be machine-washed in the washing machine with hot water and vacuuming surfaces with HEPA filter vacuums will greatly reduce allergen levels in your home. 

For allergens like emissions, a good ventilation system or cracking a window can have a huge effect on getting rid of those reactions. Cleaning surfaces is important too, as chemicals can get stuck on hard surfaces and fabrics long after the smoke has cleared.

How to use your HVAC to get rid of allergens 

The best ways HVAC systems fight allergens is by continuously moving air through its filters and ducts throughout the house to prevent the buildup of dust, and by removing humidity from the air so that allergens like mold will not grow. 

It might seem like, “Wow, that’s it?” It’s true that removing allergens from the air and preventing them from growing in the house, in addition to thoroughly cleaning fabric surfaces, is the easiest and most important way to get rid of the common allergens found inside. Making sure you clean or replace your HVAC filters regularly and ensuring humidity levels are where they should be are ways to keep your HVAC doing its job of cleaning the air for you.

If you want your HVAC system to do more, you can consider upgrading your filters or your HVAC system or adding an air purifier that works in tandem with your HVAC system. Depending on how new or high quality your HVAC system and its filter are, the more it will be able to do in the way of cleaning and purifying the air. High quality filters rated MERV 11 or higher, with proper cleaning and replacement, remove allergens like pollen from the air. You might also consider adding additional air purifiers that work alongside your HVAC system so that the HVAC system is spreading extra-treated air with allergens removed throughout your home.

Common reactions or symptoms from exposure to household allergens & treatments 

You might not have considered the fact that your cold or cold symptoms could be coming from poor indoor air quality. Allergy symptoms include: 

  • Stuffy nose 
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing 
  • Dripping, clear, thin mucus
  • Itchy nose and eyes 
  • Wheezing and chest tightness 

If you appear to have a nagging cold or symptoms listed, you might consider if it’s actually allergens in your home triggering these issues. Simple things you might try are cleaning the filter on your HVAC system and doing a major cleaning of all major dust-trapping fabrics like couches and rugs. 

Call us
Keeping your HVAC system running smoothly is the best way to clear the allergens from inside your home. At Exxel Mechanical Service, our team is ready to serve you. Call or email us today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you

Categories hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality

Why you should care about indoor air quality in 2022

Since mid-2020, we have thought about indoor air quality more than ever before. Due to fears about viruses and the spread of illnesses, you may have seen an increase in the use of air purifiers indoors. Whether in medical offices, schools, or businesses, people have taken steps to ensure the air inside is cleaner. 

But the truth is, air quality has always been important to monitor, and viruses aren’t even the biggest offenders when it comes to poor air quality. Scary pollutants can include noxious gasses, while dust, pet dander, and mold are among the top culprits for poor indoor air quality. Each of these pollutants can start or worsen health issues. 

Why you should care about indoor air quality

If you or anyone in your family is immunocompromised or has any respiratory issues— the most common being asthma— then you are already aware how extremely important air quality is for ensuring their health. Small dust particles, fumes from cooking or smoking, excess humidity… any of these can be devastating for someone already struggling with respiratory problems. 

On the other hand, you might consider yourself and your family members to be perfectly healthy. However, poor air quality in your home can still affect your health. 

Maintaining indoor air quality 

The EPA recommends ventilating indoor spaces with fresh outdoor air, using HVAC systems with good filters (that are cleaned or changed regularly!), and using air purifiers as ways to improve indoor air quality. The EPA published this guide in 2018 on how to choose air cleaners for improving indoor air quality in the home. The guide details how different cleaners or systems work and which options are available. 

Call us

Make sure your indoor air quality is good and that your HVAC system is contributing to the circulation of healthy air by calling in the professionals at Exxel Mechanical Services. An HVAC professional will be able to examine areas in your system that might be contributing to air pollutants and ensure that your HVAC system does its part in keeping your air clean.
Call or email us at Exxel Mechanical Services today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

Ways to Increase HVAC Air Quality

One of the many benefits of a first-rate HVAC system is that you can rely on it to improve the air quality in your home. During the winter or summer when you’re unable to crack a window for fresh outside air, you want to be able to know your HVAC is doing one of its many jobs: keeping the air fresh and contaminant-free. 

What do we mean when we say contaminant-free? We’re talking about eliminating all kinds of contaminants regularly linger in the air, including: 

  • excess moisture,
  • smoke from a fireplace, cooking or cigarettes,
  • regular house dust and dust from home renovations,
  • pet dander,
  • pollen. 

More serious air contaminants or pollutants include mold, bacteria, carbon monoxide, asbestos, or lead particles. If any of these types of contaminants are an issue in your house, you need to address them through more direct means than simply relying on an effective HVAC unit. However, for the “every day” contaminants such as those listed above, an HVAC system in good working order can improve and maintain air quality. 

To make sure your HVAC is circulating healthy air around your home, consider these 4 ways to improve air quality inside your home.

  1. Clean your air filters

When researching the question of how to make your HVAC system work better, the most common answer you’ll find is to clean or replace your air filters. Not only are clean filters able to pull more dust and other contaminants out of the air, but they won’t block air flow which increases the problem of dust and other particles collecting all over your house.

Full or clogged air filters can also damage your HVAC unit. Dirty filters make the HVAC system work harder and can even lead to broken parts or even a total unit breakdown. When it comes to air quality, it’s important to consider clean air filters your go-to for keeping the air fresh in your home.

Another consideration is the use of the correct air filter for your HVAC system. While having your HVAC serviced, ask your HVAC technician if there’s a preferred filter type or size for catching more particles and keeping your air cleaner. 

  1. Check on ductwork & other components of the HVAC system

The air conditioned by your HVAC system flows through your ductwork. Keeping your ductwork clean is another way to combat contaminants from growing and blowing around your house. Dust or even mold can build up inside ductwork (especially if the ducts were not installed well). During a tune up with an HVAC technician, ensure that the ducts are examined and given a good cleaning. 

Another area of the HVAC system that is prone to getting dirty with potential mold or bacteria is the coil inside the HVAC system. It’s possible to install special ultraviolet lights that can kill any growth inside the unit, making the system more efficient as well. 

During tune ups, the HVAC technician will also clean unit parts like the air handlers, grills, fans, and motors. These are functional parts of the HVAC unit that should only be handled and cleaned by a professional. Keeping your HVAC system and ductwork clean is one of the best ways to make sure the air blown through the system is also clean.

  1. Make use of air purifiers

You might consider using multiple means of cleaning the air, aside from your HVAC system, to improve air quality and reduce the strain on your HVAC system. The use of plants, cooking vents in the kitchen, air purifiers, humidifiers or dehumidifiers are all helpful tools to keep the air fresh. Whether you are fond of cooking foods in oil or butter, or you have a full house requiring daily showers and extra loads of laundry causing increased humidity or are enduring an especially frigid winter leading to cracking dry skin because there’s no humidity – all these place additional strain on your HVAC system. Whatever stress may be placed on your air quality, your HVAC system will thank you (through the longevity of the heating and cooling units) if you take steps to mitigate air quality issues through creative means.

  1. Run the fan more often 

Running your HVAC system’s fan more often can also help with air quality. Depending on the age of your thermostat, you should be able to turn the fan to the “on” mode. If it’s a newer, programmable thermostat, you may have the option to set the fan to remain on for a certain number of minutes per hour. 

While keeping the fan on can cost more on your utility bill or even bother you due to the sound of the fan running, it can help to filter the air as it will run the air through the air filters. But remember that if you are running the fan more often, you might need to clean or change the air filters more often. 

Keep efficiency in mind

Air quality is certainly important, especially if you live with someone who is immunocompromised or has a respiratory issue like asthma. And the Covid-19 pandemic made us more aware of airborne contaminants and ventilation than ever before. We need to think about air quality and controlling contaminants that might be getting into indoor air.

It’s also important to note that air quality also impacts the efficiency of your HVAC system. Air filters clogged with dust or pet dander can cause issues within the whole system, and high humidity will strain the system as it tries to keep it under control. Keeping the air clean helps your HVAC system heat and cool more effectively.

Call us 

Indoor air quality is an important part of a working HVAC system. Our HVAC technicians have experience with a variety of air quality problems, and we’re ready to answer your questions and provide solutions.
Exxel Mechanical serves a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland, serving Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customer as our highest priority. Call us today at (443) 821-1040, and it would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories Heating & Cooling Systems

What HVAC signs to watch for when buying an old home

Old houses have tons of charm that you rarely find in newly built houses. But unlike a newer home, buying an old house often comes with more risk. Does the house contain lead paint? Do the appliances in the kitchen look like they were purchased in a previous century? And most important, is the HVAC system in good working condition? Or does the house even have central AC? 

HVAC systems tend to need replacement between 15 and 20 years. Even if the HVAC system works, it has been proven that newer systems are far more efficient and will cost you less in utility bills over time. This article discusses important considerations when buying an older house with an old HVAC system so that you can weigh your HVAC options.

Inspection & other questions to ask

The most important “first step” is to make sure the home inspector takes a thorough look at the home’s HVAC system. Even though this is already part of the overall inspection, having knowledge about the specific aspects of the HVAC inspection will help you to ask the right questions. Additionally, you might even consider hiring an HVAC professional to check out the system if you are serious about buying the house. When getting the home inspected or at some other point during the due diligence period, find out:

  • Is there any noticeable damage or issues with the HVAC system?
  • Can you review any maintenance or service documents or records?
  • What is the energy rating on the system?
  • What kind of ductwork (or lack thereof) exists?
  • What kind of thermostat operates the system? 
  • How much does a new HVAC system cost to install?

If you do have an HVAC professional come in for a review, consider researching common issues with HVAC systems in advance and asking in-depth questions about the system.

Use the info you collected to negotiate 

Using all the information you’ve gathered about the status of the HVAC system, you now have leverage with the seller. Your realtor should be well-versed in these types of negotiations and what might be considered a good offer. Options may include: 

  • Asking the seller to lower the price of the house
  • Asking the seller to include a home warranty in case any problems occur with HVAC in the first year 
  • Asking the seller to upgrade aspects of the HVAC system 
  • Asking the seller to have the HVAC system serviced 

Call us

If you need to have an HVAC system checked out, call us! At Exxel Mechanical Services, we are happy to make sure a potential home’s HVAC system is in good condition for you. We serve a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland, serving Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customer as our highest priority. Call or email us today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories Heating & Cooling Systems

How Much Does Your HVAC Unit Affect Your Power Bill

When the last leaves finally fall and the temperatures dip below freezing at night, you might start to notice you’re just a little bit chilly even indoors. Would it hurt to turn up the thermostat one… or two… or three degrees? 

Unfortunately, your dad (or husband, or whoever in your house who is the thermostat fanatic) is right: Changing the temperature directly affects your power bill, according to the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy also reports that 48 percent of Americans’ home energy use goes to keeping our homes at a comfortable temperature. 

If you’re the one wondering just how much does an AC unit add to your electric bill, or how much does it really cost to be comfortable in your home, there isn’t an easy answer. However, it’s safe to say that heating and cooling your home justifiably impacts your power bill – a lot.

When it comes to saving on your power bill through operating your HVAC system in the smartest ways possible, there are multiple variables at play. These include where you live and the cost of electricity in your area, the age of your HVAC system and unit, and the measures you take to keep your system running efficiently. 

This article will detail how to calculate the cost of running your HVAC system and tips on cutting costs. 

Calculating the cost

If you want to calculate the actual cost of running your HVAC system so you know how much running your HVAC affects your power bill, you can make a close estimate by doing some calculations. Here’s the simple version to get the cost of running your HVAC system per day: multiply the HVAC unit’s wattage by the time it runs per day and multiply that figure by the cost per kilowatt hours (kWh). 

To break down this calculation, you first need to find out the wattage of your HVAC unit—how many watts your HVAC unit consumes. This information might be on a sticker on the unit itself or in the paperwork that came with the unit when it was installed. You can also Google your HVAC system with all its specifications if you can’t find it anywhere else.

Then, you’ll need to figure out how long your system runs every day. You can estimate running time by tracking the minutes your system runs in one hour and converting this to a 24-hour period to figure out the number of hours it runs in one day. Taking an average of the hour it’s working the hardest and the hour it’s working the least will provide the most accurate base starting point. 

Using these numbers, you can figure out your HVAC unit’s kWh. Next, multiply the wattage by the number of hours your unit runs. Don’t forget to convert the wattage to kilowatts! Finally, you can multiply this number by the price you currently pay for electricity per kWh, which will give you a rough estimate of how much you spend every day to run your HVAC system.

While it is possible for you to calculate the dollar figure using this method, there is plenty of room for error. As stated in the beginning of this article, nearly half of the average American home’s energy bill is devoted to HVAC operation. This is a national average and doesn’t mean this is what your bill should or will look like. But, if you do your calculations and find that you’re spending far more than half your energy bill on HVAC operation, you may want to investigate why this is the case.

Tips for cutting costs

Because the cost of running your AC unit or your heating system is a given, it’s smart to consider ways you can make your HVAC system run more efficiently. Actions ranging from simple tricks to investing in larger projects can help you to cut down on those regular HVAC bills.

First, consider some simple adjustments you can make that will go a long way with your power bill. For example, keep the thermostat temperature set at a comfortable level. For the summer, think around 75 or higher. For the winter, think around 68 or lower. Other ideas include using an energy-efficient space heater, using fans to circulate air (regardless of the season), and taking advantage of energy-saving window curtains. 

If you don’t want to make any sacrifices to your comfort by turning the thermostat up or down to save money, there are other ways to help your HVAC system do its job while keeping costs down. These include checking on the type of insulation you have in your attic, examining your ductwork to make sure it has no leaks, making sure the filters in your system are cleaned or changed regularly, and getting a new smart thermostat that is programmable. You should also have your system tuned up yearly to make sure it is working as efficiently as possible. All these actions can make your system cost less to operate and keep your energy bill reasonable. 

Whether you are satisfied with the state of your current utility bills, or you are desperately seeking ways to lower them, it’s always a good idea to review the many ways your HVAC system could be wasting energy. Why? Because no matter how much energy is wasted, you will still pay for it!

Call us 

Exxel Mechanical serves a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland, serving Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customer as our highest priority. 

Our professionals have seen it all and we have plenty of ideas for ways to make sure your heating and cooling systems are working as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. We want you to be comfortable and save as much money as possible.
Call (443) 821-1040 or email bob@exxelmechanical.com

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