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 contractor, hvac license, hvac maryland

Who Licenses HVAC contractors in MD?

To work as a licensed HVAC contractor, different states have different requirements. In fact, several states do not even have state-wide licensing requirements. Others have multiple licensing requirements. In the case of Maryland, individuals are required to not only become a licensed journeyman but also a licensed HVAC contractor. In addition to the multiple levels of licenses, there are different ways to waive test-taking in Maryland. This process is discussed in the section below that covers the step-by-step process to become an HVAC licensed contractor in Maryland. 

Most of the HVAC-related licensing issues and questions are managed by Maryland’s Department of Labor, the Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors (HVACR). This office also deals with contractors who work on any type of refrigeration. 

Maryland’s Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR)

The Board of HVACR not only manages the issuing of licenses, but also serves as an overseer and regulator for all commercial and residential HVACR contractors. By law, the Board of HVACR in Maryland can also implement codes and standards for the way HVACR contractors conduct their work– whether it’s repairing or maintaining, installing a new system, or replacing an existing system for remodeling. When there is an issue with the work of an HVACR contractor, a person or business can contact the Board of HVACR as a matter of recourse, and the Board will hear complaints and potentially take action against that contractor. 

Per the Labor Department’s website, a list of management and disciplinary actions that the Board of HVACR in Maryland can enact include:

  • Issue HVACR contractor licenses and certificates of insurance 
  • Adopt applicable regulations such as codes and standards for HVACR contractors 
  • Hear complaints about HVACR contractors 
  • Conduct hearings against individuals and businesses who are HVACR contractors
  • Impose administrative sanctions such as suspending or revoking licenses, or imposing fines up to $5,000 per infringement by a contractor 

How to become a HVACR contractor in Maryland 

Contractors who work on HVAC systems in Maryland must be licensed with either a master license, master restricted license, limited license, or a journeyman license. To begin the licensing process, you must first have a journeyman license. 

The Labor Department instructs those who are seeking to pass the examination to become a licensed HVAC contractor to fill out an application with the testing service, PSI. PSI staff will review the application and notify the applicant as to which test they should apply based on their past HVAC experience. However, the general steps of holding any type of license to work on HVAC systems in Maryland are:

  1. Become a licensed apprentice 

Working as a licensed apprentice entails registering with the state and then receiving training by assisting a technician who is a licensed Master, Master Restricted or Limited HVACR contractor. It does not require passing an exam. The application to become an HVACR Licensed Apprentice can be found here.

  1. Become a journeyman 

Once licensed as an apprentice, the training continues for three years and 1,875 hours of training under a licensed HVACR contractor before moving to the next step: journeyman. At the conclusion of these training hours, the apprentice must pass the journeyman test with a score of at least 70%. The application for the journeyman test can be found on the PSI testing website

  1. Become a master, master restricted, or limited license holder

While similar in several ways, the various HVACR contractors’ licensing levels – master, master restricted, and limited – contain slight differences depending on the type of license one may be interested in obtaining. For a master license, one must have experience in all areas of HVACR services. For a master restricted license, one must have experience in providing HVACR services but not necessarily in all areas. For a limited license, less training time and less areas of specialty are required as compared to the requirements for a master and master restricted. The differences are listed below (in bold): 

To hold a master license: 

  • You must be a licensed journeyman who has been employed and working under an HVACR master for three years, during that time providing all areas of HVACR services. 
  • You must have worked at least 1,875 hours in the previous year before applying.
  • You must pass the master license test with a score of 70% or higher.

To hold a master restricted license: 

  • You must be a licensed journeyman who has been employed, working, and providing HVACR services under an HVACR master for three years.
  • You must have worked at least 1,875 hours in the previous year before applying.
  • You must pass the master restricted license test with a score of 70% or higher.

To hold a limited license: 

  • You must be a licensed journeyman who has been employed, working, and providing HVACR services under an HVACR master for two years.
  • You must have worked at least 1,000 hours in the previous year before applying.
  • You must pass the master restricted license test with a score of 70% or higher.

The application for each of these tests can be found on the PSI testing website

Waiving test requirement, insurance requirement, reciprocal licensing

Additional details to be aware of include how to waive certain testing requirements, insurance requirements of all licensed contractors, and reciprocal licensing between nearby states.

While the Labor Department mentions briefly that it may be possible to waive test requirements for those who have been working as apprentices or journeymen, one would have to discuss their unique situation and experience with a representative at their office. Depending on the amount of experience you have or if you have completed a state-approved apprenticeship program, you may qualify for a testing exemption.

Equally important, HVAC contractors should know that there are also insurance requirements for any licensed contractor. If an HVAC contractor does not have insurance or fails to renew their insurance policy, it is illegal for them to enter into any contracts to provide HVAC services. The Board of HVACR in Maryland offers a list of important licensing requirements that can be found here

Finally, the Board of HVACR in Maryland currently engages in reciprocal licensing with Delaware and Virginia, and allows those who hold licenses in other states to apply for reciprocal licensing as well. A list of requirements for reciprocal licensing can be found here.

Exxel Mechanical: well-versed on the rules and regulations 

As premier HVAC service providers in Maryland, we here at Exxel Mechanical are knowledgeable and stay current on all license requirements in order to be HVAC contractors in good standing. If you have questions about becoming an HVAC contractor, are interested in joining our team, or are in need of the HVAC services that we provide, feel free to reach out. We are here to answer your call! Call us at (443) 821-1040.