Categories hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

Does Improved HVAC Air Quality Still Matter?

Exxel Mechanical

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 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 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 It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories Uncategorized

How to know if you may have an HVAC emergency

Emergency HVAC repairs or service during the hottest or coldest days of the year is one of those things you hope you never have to deal with. So, as they say, (and as we say!) prevention is the best medicine. Check out our article on preventing HVAC emergencies (insert hyperlink) before they make you sweat (or shiver). 

Sounds and smells are often the biggest tip-offs that you have a problem with your HVAC system needing immediate attention. And unfortunately, HVAC emergencies aren’t something you can tackle yourself. Fires, carbon monoxide leaks, or even explosions may occur. This article lists many signs of an emergency that should prompt you to call an HVAC professional right away.

This article also discusses some possible causes for HVAC issues or problems you might be seeing with your system. 

Noises: HVAC is turning on too often, or making odd sounds

Your HVAC system’s cycles–turning on and off to maintain the desired temperature in your home–should be consistent and regular. One thing you may hear is your system turning on and off more often. While cycles can shorten when it’s extremely hot or cold outside, this can also be a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes it may indicate a problem with the thermostat or the unit needing other service; or it could be that something is seriously wrong with the entire HVAC system. A thorough check by an HVAC professional can often target the source of the problem and prevent other issues from cropping up.

Odd sounds are probably the most obvious sign that your HVAC system is struggling. 

  • A rattle could mean an internal part has gotten loose and needs tightening. 
  • A grinding or higher-pitched shrill sound could mean your motor or compressor has a problem.
  • A rhythmic knocking sound could mean something is stuck to the internal fan or there is another type of blockage inside your unit. 
  • A normal but overly loud unit could mean there is a blockage in airflow. 

Of course, these sounds could also mean something else entirely. While some of these situations are more urgent than others, it’s important to make sure the noise isn’t a technical issue putting you or your family in danger or doing damage to your unit if it continues. If you hear odd noises, get it checked by an HVAC professional.

Vents: hot air, smelly air, or no air coming out 

When the AC is on, the air should be cool, not warm or hot. Some culprits for warm air are:

  • dirty filters, 
  • lack of airflow, 
  • electrical issues, 
  • a thermostat issue, 
  • evaporator coils that have frozen… among others. 

If you notice a warm air problem, you might consider checking the thermostat temperature, and turning down the thermostat to see if your HVAC system responds as it should. If the air does not cool off, you should call an HVAC professional.

Smelly air is another problem. 

  • A burning smell could indicate a motor that’s overheating, a potential fire, or a melted part inside the system. 
  • A mildew smell could indicate mold growing somewhere inside your HVAC system or inside your vents. 
  • Rancid smells could indicate a rodent or small animal has gotten inside the unit or vents and died. 

These are just some of the smells you may notice, but if there is a bad smell in your home, take a sniff of your vents. If you think there’s a possibility the odor is coming from your HVAC system, your next step should be a call to an HVAC professional. It’s also best to turn off your system if it’s not too hot or cold outside. However, if it’s a burning smell, turn off the system immediately and get a professional in quickly, so you can get to the bottom of the issue before more damage is done.

No air or lack of airflow coming from your air vents is another sign to watch for. This could be: 

  • a clogged fan or loose fan belt, 
  • motor issues, 
  • or a clogged air filter. 

Regardless of the cause, reduced airflow is another sign that requires immediate attention. You might also notice that certain areas of the house are not cooled or warmed– another indicator of a problem with airflow. It is possible that you’re just noticing how poorly your HVAC system and vents’ airflow is, which is not necessarily an emergency but something that an HVAC professional can assess. 

Ice or water where it shouldn’t be

A visibly frozen HVAC unit, or a unit with leaking and pooling water, can be indicators of:

  • dirty air filters or coils, 
  • refrigerant leaks, 
  • or blocked airflow. 

Your best course of action if you notice ice or water where it shouldn’t be is to call an HVAC professional, and if possible, turn off your HVAC system. If your system has frozen over, continuing to run it can cause bigger problems– like breaking the most expensive parts of the unit and needing an entire HVAC unit replacement. While leaking or even freezing aren’t uncommon, they are issues that need immediate attention to avoid further damage.

Is it an emergency or not?

Smells, sounds, leaks, freezes… these are indicators that something has gone wrong. Is it an emergency? Wiill your entire system be compromised or will your house burn down if you don’t get someone in ASAP to check it out? Because it’s not possible to answer these questions or diagnose the issues without a professional assessing your HVAC unit, it’s best to err on the side of caution. 

If your HVAC system shuts down or you smell burning or otherwise unbearable odors, paired with temperatures outside that require heating or cooling, this certainly would be considered an HVAC emergency. If you can, turn off your HVAC unit and make the call to a professional right away.

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. This means we not only care about saving you money, but we also care about your safety. If you think you have an HVAC emergency, call us immediately and we will send someone out to check on your HVAC system! 
Call (443) 821-1040 or email