Categories Air Conditoners, hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

5 Tips On How To Stay Cool In 4th Of July Heat

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The Fourth of July is many Americans’ favorite holiday. What’s not to love? Celebrating freedom, eating good food, gathering together, watching fireworks… It’s a pretty great holiday. Staying cool on the Fourth of July, however, is another story. If you’re hosting the festivities, there are some little tips that can go a long way in keeping your guests, and your home, cool and comfortable. 

  1. Keep everything outside or in the garage 

If you and your guests are constantly going in and out, you’ll likely lose a lot of the air conditioned air to the outside. Your HVAC will be working hard in the Fourth of July heat and wasting energy. One way to reduce this is by keeping the food and drinks outside, in coolers when necessary.

For times when people have to go indoors, to go to the bathroom or change their clothes or something like that, it’s good to remind them to shut the door behind them. Putting up a note on the door helps to keep the cool air in and the flies out. 

  1. Do the cooking outside 

Appliances give off a lot of heat, especially ovens and stoves, that your HVAC has to combat to keep the temperature down. Since the Fourth of July is all about barbecuing, take the opportunity to cook outside! If possible, cook anything that needs to cook in the oven the night before, so that the oven isn’t on during the hottest part of the day. 

  1. Put out fans & turn on the sprinkler

If it’s a hot day, your guests are going to get sick of being hot. If you have fans going (better yet, with water misting in front of the fans), a sprinkler for the kids and more adventurous adults, and even a blow up pool, this will encourage people to stay outside and keep cool at the same time. 

  1. Monitor the heat & your guests

On holidays like the Fourth of July, when people are indulging in adult beverages and spending a long time outside in the heat, heat stroke and dehydration become a concern. Make sure it’s not too hot for everyone to be outside, and know the signs of heat stroke and dehydration. Serve plenty of water and provide some ways for everyone to cool off!

  1. Turn down the AC

While it might sound counterintuitive to turn down the AC on a hot day when you have company coming over, it’s a good option if everyone’s mostly going to be outside! Adjusting your temperature or putting it on a schedule to lessen the load on your HVAC is always a good idea, and if everyone’s outside, it could be the perfect day for it. 

As always, make sure your HVAC is ready for the heat by cleaning the filters and making sure it’s in tip top shape with a yearly tune up.

Categories hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality

10 Tips To Improve Your HVAC Quality This Summer (And Save Money!)

10 Tips To Improve Your HVAC Quality This Summer (And Save Money!)

As summer begins, you’re probably thinking about how much it’s going to cost to keep your house cool and about keeping your HVAC system working in tip-top shape. Here are ten tips to help you cut costs and save your HVAC from working too hard:

1. Set the thermostat as high as you’re comfortable 

The higher the temperature you keep your home in the summer, the higher the savings. That being said, you shouldn’t be uncomfortable! The EPA received a lot of attention when they suggested keeping the home thermostat at high temperatures in the summer – 78 degrees when you’re home, 82 degrees when you sleep, and 85 degrees when you’re away from home (source, source).  

While some might be able to handle 78 degrees, others might not be comfortable at that temp. It’s not good to continuously change your thermostat up and down, so take a sweltering day to figure out what temperature you can manage. Once you know which temperature is cool enough to be comfortable, you can set your thermostat (or even put it on a schedule if you have a smart thermostat) to mid to high seventies for optimal savings. 

2. Adjust the thermostat when you’re out or away

In addition to keeping your thermostat at an elevated temperature while you’re in your home, increasing the temperature while you’re away is another method for getting those savings on your energy bill. The EPA suggested 85 degrees but cooling the house again when you return might take too long or require a ton of energy, depending on how long you’re gone. If you’re away for 8 hours or more, and it doesn’t take a long time to get your house comfortable again, increasing the temperature is a great move for energy costs. 

3. Seal your windows, doors, ducts, and cracks

Sealing or weatherproofing your windows, doors, ducts, and any other cracks that might be making your home less energy-efficient is another good move during a hot summer. Your HVAC system won’t be working hard only to have cooled air escaping, and you’ll get to enjoy much more of the cool air it’s producing. 

4. Use fans 

Fans don’t lower the temperature in the house but having one on while you’re in a room will help to cool you off. Fans moving counterclockwise in the summer will push cool air downward and draw warm air up. Using fans is another way you can lower your thermostat a degree or two.

5. Open the windows at night 

If it’s not too hot and humid overnight, turning the thermostat up or off while opening the windows at night is another good move to give your HVAC system a break and lower costs. 

6. Use thick blackout curtains

Thick curtains can prevent the hot sun from heating up your home and can insulate your home, helping to retain the cool air your HVAC is producing. Blackout curtains are just another tool for reducing the workload on your HVAC system and helping keep costs down.

7. Check on the humidity level & use dehumidifiers 

When it’s humid, you’ll be less comfortable. Your HVAC’s job is to remove humidity from the air, which is half the battle when keeping you cool and comfortable. If you’re able to test the humidity level, or it simply feels humid inside, adding dehumidifiers can help to make your home more comfortable, reduce the strain on your HVAC system, and even allow you to increase the temperature by a few degrees. 

8. Be smart about heat-producing appliances 

Cooking on the stove and using other heat-producing appliances will add to the hard work of your HVAC system, especially during extremely hot days. Using these as little as possible or limiting use to the evening or early morning when temperatures are a bit cooler will reduce not only costs but also strain on your HVAC system. 

9. Close off entrances to the basement

Your basement is the coolest place in the house as the cool air will settle to the lowest place possible. Open doors or vents to the basement means cool air from your HVAC system will be lost to the basement. Sealing off the basement so that cool air stays in the main living spaces can help. If you have a finished basement, consider spending more time there during the summer months so that you can turn down your home’s thermostat and stay comfortable in the basement.

10. Change your air filters & service your HVAC before it’s hot

Changing the filters regularly is always important for an efficient HVAC system. With summer plants in full bloom and indoor spaces sealed off, dirt and pollen can build up within the house dust. Making sure your air filter is clean is one of the best ways to be assured that your HVAC system is working properly in the summer. Additionally, servicing your HVAC system before the hottest months will guarantee it’s in the best shape possible and can prevent a breakdown due to something that could have been fixed during a tune up. 

While all these tips may not be for everyone, there are at least a few actionable steps on the list that can help you save money on your bill and lessen the burden on your HVAC system. And as the weather gets hot, you may even return to this practical list to review what you can do to improve your HVAC quality this summer.

Call us 

If your bills are too high during the summer, call in the professionals at Exxel Mechanical Services. An HVAC professional can examine your HVAC system to make sure it’s working properly and as efficiently as possible.
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 hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

Does Improved HVAC Air Quality Still Matter?

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Indoor air quality, or IAQ as abbreviated by the EPA, has been a topic of much conversation since we have started to figure out the effects of Covid-19 and the role of airborne virus particles on transmission of the virus. We have learned more than we’d ever wanted to know about social distancing, masking, ventilation, and other tools to mitigate the spread of a respiratory virus. As we move on to an endemic stage of the pandemic, the question is: should we still concern ourselves with indoor air quality?

Is indoor air quality important?

The quick answer is yes. Indoor air quality affects us all as the average American spends about 90% of their time inside, and often there are more pollutants in indoor environments (source). Even if the spread of a virus through airborne respiratory virus particles is less of a concern, there are still many indoor air pollutants that can lead to health problems or exacerbate health issues already present. 

The most common indoor air quality offenders are:

  • dust mites and their waste,
  • pet dander,
  • pollen,
  • excess moisture, and
  • smoke from a fireplace, cooking, or cigarettes.

These allergens are very common and often contribute to symptoms of allergies or asthma. Dust mites and pet dander are some of the most common allergens in houses, and often gather in piles along with regular house dust. The particles from dead dust mites’ waste, dried saliva, and urine, as well as skin flakes from pets are what cause many allergic reactions in people. Pollen is tiny grains from trees, grass, and weeds which cause an allergic reaction when it gets into the eyes, nose, and lungs. Humidity mostly bothers the physical structure of your home when moisture gathers on surfaces, but it can cause mold and mold spores to begin to grow, also developing into allergy symptoms. Smoke emissions differ depending on what’s being burned, but these also cause similar allergic reactions in people. 

More serious air contaminants or pollutants inside homes include: 

  • mold (black mold and other toxic molds),
  • bacteria,
  • carbon monoxide,
  • radon,
  • asbestos, and  
  • lead particles.

As we always caution, these are serious issues that need to be remedied beyond your typical HVAC use or air purifier use, as they can lead to serious health problems or even death if you are breathing in too much of these types of air pollutants. While less common than pet dander or pollen, ensuring your home is free of these contaminants is especially important. 

Who needs clean air?

Another quick answer is everyone. Everyone needs clean indoor air. But there are some people who require clean air because health issues could worsen due to contaminants in the air. These groups of people include: 

  • those with heart disease or other heart issues,
  • those with lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, or COPD,
  • pregnant women,  
  • seniors, and
  • children under age 14.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we also became much more familiar with the term “immunocompromised,” which refers to those who are suffering from cancer or other illnesses compromising the immune system. If you or your family member is one of those individuals, (including people who struggle with asthma or other respiratory problems), you already know how important air quality is for their health. Small dust particles, fumes from cooking or smoking, excess humidity– these may not affect a healthy person but may make it difficult for someone who has underlying conditions.

If you don’t find yourself or anyone in your family in those groups, it’s also true that poor indoor air quality can be the cause of new health issues. As noted earlier, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Even if you spend a lot of time outdoors and don’t think that statistic applies to the way you live your life, at the very least you sleep inside. With poor air quality in your home, you face an increased risk of:

  • heart and lung illnesses, 
  • stress to the heart and lungs which work harder in polluted environments,
  • a damaged respiratory system & aging of the lungs,
  • asthma,
  • bronchitis, or 
  • emphysema. 

What role does your HVAC system play in keeping your air clean?

HVAC systems improve air quality by moving air through its filters and ducts throughout the house to remove particles and humidity from the air. Allergens get trapped in the filters, which you should clean or replace every 6 to 12 months.

It’s relatively simple, but the air flow and filtering do a big job to keep the dust piles and particles in the air to a minimum. With a quality HVAC system, you are doing one of the best things you can do to improve your indoor air quality. 

Ways to help your HVAC do its job are to add higher rated filters or an air purifying system that works alongside your HVAC system. High quality filters rated MERV 11 or higher, with the proper cleaning and replacement, can remove allergens like pollen from the air. You can also employ other methods of improving the air quality in your home, which in turn will only help your HVAC in doing its job of keeping air quality good. 

Other methods of improving your HVAC air quality

Besides using your home’s HVAC system to improve the air quality, the EPA recommends ventilating indoor spaces with fresh outdoor air and using air purifiers as ways to improve indoor air quality. Most people are lucky to live in areas in which ventilation with outdoor air is one helpful way to improve indoor air quality through the introduction of cleaner air and air flow. 

Air purifiers can be effective tools in cleaning the air, although most air purifiers are limited in their capabilities depending on location, flow rate, run time, and other factors. While no air filter or purifier will be able to remove all particles or toxins in the air, and the jury is out on how much air filters do to reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma, the EPA maintains that these can be a good choice for those who suffer from respiratory issues and for those who want to breathe cleaner air. 

To make the best decision possible on an air purifier, the EPA suggests looking into the clean air delivery rate (CADR), which refers to how many particles the air purifier can clean and how big a space it can remove particles from. This information should be on the packaging. They also mention higher run times and higher fan speeds as the most effective at cleaning the air, and to choose an air purifier that can remove gasses as well as particles, specifically those outfitted with an activated carbon filter. Examples of common gasses or VOCs you might have problems with are those emitted from paint, cleaning products, and air fresheners, to name a few. Lastly, it’s important to clean or replace the filters as often as necessary, at least every three months, to get the biggest benefit out of your air purifier. 

You can reference the EPA guide on air purifiers here.

Dehumidifiers are another tool if you struggle with things like dampness or mold in your home. While your HVAC system should be taking care of the humidity level, some areas in the home are more prone to humidity and sometimes your HVAC is working well enough yet not managing the humidity. Dehumidifiers remove water from the air, improving air quality by removing musty smells or mold/mildew growth.

Call us

To make sure you’re breathing healthy air and your HVAC is doing its job, call 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 hvac efficiency, HVAC maintenance, hvac maryland, hvac system, hvac westminster md, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac, Uncategorized

Is your HVAC to blame for your sniffles?

HVAC Allergies

If you’re prone to allergies, you might have mixed reactions about the coming of spring. The warm weather and pretty flowers are nice, but if you’re sneezing and coughing and not feeling well because of your allergies, they can be tough to enjoy. Going inside your home should be an escape from outside air contaminants, providing relief, right? 

A properly working HVAC system can help to rid the indoor air of the contaminants, providing that escape allergy-sufferers seek. By filtering and circulating the air, HVAC system rids dust from the home by catching it and keeps it from piling up by moving the air around. So, as long as the HVAC is properly working, you can rule out your HVAC system as the cause of your allergies. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re sneezing every time the air turns on, you may want to consider that your HVAC system isn’t working properly.

If your allergies are worse when you’re inside than when you’re outside during the spring (or anytime, for that matter), then consider what kind of indoor air pollutants are gathering in your house and how you can help your HVAC system do its job. 

Types of indoor air contaminants 

The most common types of indoor contaminants are dust mites, pet dander, combustion from cooking, and mold. Dust mites are distant relatives of ticks and spiders– tiny bugs whose waste and carcasses are found pretty much in every American home. That’s right– they don’t bite and generally leave us alone, but for the unlucky few affected by dust, it’s usually dead dust mites and their waste that are affecting those who are allergic . 

Pet dander is another allergen that is pretty disgusting to think about. Those who are bothered by allergies including pet dander are not typically allergic to their actual pet, but rather dried saliva, urine, and skin flakes that their pets spread about the house with scratching and shaking.

Combustion of any kind of material leads to emissions into the air. This includes smoking cigarettes and wood-burning fireplaces, but most commonly comes from cooking with oil or using gas stoves.

Another common allergen or pollutant in the house is mold, which grows in humid or damp areas or where water collects. Mold releases spores into the air which in turn grows more mold, causing allergy symptoms when these spores settle into dust piles. 

Pollen can also find its way indoors and collect in dust piles and circulating in the indoor air. Without a quality HVAC system or one that filters the air, the typical symptoms from pollen-induced allergies can result.

Less common household air pollutants 

Although less common, carbon monoxide, radon, disease-carrying animals and their waste, and bacterial infections and viruses can result in airborne contaminants with serious side effects. Normally you would determine the presence of one of these pollutants quite quickly, but it is possible for low levels of contaminants like these to contribute to allergy-like symptoms and other more serious symptoms. 

Sick or allergies?

It can be difficult to tell what’s going on when you have allergy symptoms, because of the multiple symptoms you may experience. If you’re really experiencing an allergic reaction to allergens in the air inside your home, you’ll typically have cold symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, or an itchy throat. But it’s also possible to have headaches, a low-grade fever, or skin reactions like eczema. 

While you shouldn’t take our word for it— we’re HVAC doctors, not people doctors— it’s definitely worth following up if you have any of these persisting symptoms. If it is a reaction to some type of indoor air contaminant, your symptoms could worsen to the point of having trouble breathing or developing into something more serious than allergies. 

How to combat indoor air contamination 

  • Cleaning your HVAC system 

Inspecting and cleaning your HVAC system is a good first step to make sure it’s not part of the problem. 

Cleaning or replacing your air filters and cleaning the vents are the primary steps to making sure your HVAC system can do its job. Clogged air filters will strain the overall system. Dust in and around the vents only creates more clogging and blows around dusty air. 

You also might consider having your HVAC system professionally cleaned or at the very least inspected during a tune up. During a springtime tune up, an HVAC professional can check the parts you might not be able to access, cleaning inside the unit itself or the ductwork. 

  • Cleaning carpets and other fabrics

Vacuuming carpets and even couches and mattresses, washing any washable fabrics like stuffed animals and blankets, and keeping the home as dust-free as possible are the best ways to help your HVAC system to do its job.

  • Ventilation & air purifiers

The EPA recommends regular “natural ventilation” through open doors and windows. While you might think that keeping the pollen and other outdoor air pollutants out is the best option, fresh air is helpful for flushing out any pollutants that might have gathered indoors. 

Another great option for especially sensitive or allergy-prone people is an air purifier with a good filter. Air purifiers help HVAC systems do their job by removing allergens. The air circulated by the system is then more likely to be free of allergy-causing contaminants.

Replacing your HVAC system 

If your HVAC system is old and not effectively circulating or filtering the air in your home, if the ductwork is leaky or poorly constructed, or if an old thermostat is hindering your HVAC’s performance, it may be time to consider repairing or replacing your HVAC or affected units. Without good humidity control and air flow, allergens listed in this article can collect and air quality can suffer. 

Call us
Having a quality HVAC system that is working at peak capacity is one of the best ways to improve indoor air quality. At Exxel Mechanical Services, our priority is safety and comfort for you and your family, delivered through our expertise and attention to detail. 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.