Air Quality at Home Tips

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I see mold in my central air vents, grillwork, etc. What should I do?

Central Air Cleaning and Mold

One of the major issues homeowners face is mold. Once it gets into your living spaces, it can become a serious hazard and will detract from the overall air quality in your house. If you notice mold in your grillwork, vents, or other parts of the central air system, consider having your central air system cleaned by a professional.

If you need such services, be sure to look for a company that specializes in mold inspection and decontamination. A full-service cleaning of your system should take care of any mold and bacteria issues. A company that doesn't address the mold issue is probably not worth the money. Your full-service duct cleaning is an investment in your health. It should include the following:

1. Cleaning all existing ductwork, the air handler cabinet, blower fan, and cooling coil;

2. Heat exchanger cleaning;

3. Mold inspection;

4. Mold/bacteria sanitation.

Getting this full-service treatment will insure you get a central air system perfectly capable of safely controlling your air. If your system is more than eight years old or if you are able to visually identify mold growth, the full-service clean is your best bet.

What kind of home air evaluations are available?

Evaluating the Air in Your Home

When it comes to home air evaluation, there are different types of evaluations available on the market. One kind of inspection, often known as an "Energy Star Evaluation", rates your home on air leaks and other efficiency problems with a heating and cooling system. Another inspection is a mold evaluation. Unfortunately there may not be a large resource pool of air filtration experts in your area who can provide similar services for hire, but there is help available from people in the heating and air conditioning business. These experts can recommend home air filtration systems or accessories that can be added in a new or existing central air conditioning systems.

If you feel the air in your home needs to be filtered and you are considering replacing your old central air and heat, don't hesitate to ask your dealer about home air filter options to go with a new system. The advice they offer may surprise you.

Should I pay for a company to clean my central air system?

Home Air Quality and Routine Maintenance

Portable home air filters, add-on devices to your central air system, and the central air system itself all must be given maintenance and cleaning to work properly. When was the last time you had your central air conditioning unit cleaned? A dirty system can be a major contributor to poor air quality in the home. Fortunately there are companies that specialize in cleaning central air units, and you can schedule an appointment with a company in your area. When setting up the appointment, consider the age of your central air unit. How long has it been controlling your air, and how long since it was last cleaned? You may need to get a full-service cleaning if the system is old, or hasn't been properly maintained. While standard service is more inexpensive, full service jobs will insure that your system is truly clean.

I have an older home with cracks in the foundation. Can radon seep in and cause indoor air quality problems?

Air Quality at Home and Aging Houses

If you own or rent an older home, some of your indoor air quality issues could be the result of problems connected to radon gas. Older homes often have cracks in their foundations, and where radon is present, these cracks allow the cancer-causing radon to seep into homes. If you suspect you have cracks in your foundation, it's very important to begin customizing your air, but you should also have your home tested for radon and begin seeking expert help to fix the problem. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and is a very serious problem. If you are in an older home, you should have your foundation checked for cracks, and if any are found, get the dwelling tested for radon as soon as possible.

Can I buy a do-it-yourself home air evaulation kit?

Can I Test My Own Home Air Quality?

There really isn't a single, comprehensive test or kit you can purchase for a do-it-yourself home air evaluation or air quality inspection. Chances are you've already identified some problems, and wouldn't need such a kit. Which of the following apply to you?

1. I notice cooking odors long after the meal has been prepared.

2. I notice strange smells in specific places in the home or a non-specific but unpleasant odor.

3. I notice mold growth in my vents.

4. Fumes from hobby work such as modeling, painting, or other activities generated in one room are noticeable in other parts of the house.

If any of these apply, you have a home air quality issue that should be addressed right away. Your solution may include portable home air filter units, whole-house systems, or a combination of the two. Whichever you choose, address the air quality issue right away.

What is a HEPA vacuum cleaner?

Air Filtration in an Unexpected Place

If you have home air quality concerns, it's important to have the right home air filtration in the right places. Many central air conditioning companies recommend special filters for furnaces, central air systems, and the like; did you know there are also special HEPA-type filters for vacuum cleaners? If you have problems with dust, allergens, or other particle issues, home air filtration should be supplemented by frequent vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum that is properly sealed. This prevents particles from being stirred back into the air you are breathing as you clean your home. You can Google the phrase "HEPA vacuum cleaner" to get a good start on learning more about HEPA vacuums. Customizing your air includes the right kind of housekeeping products!

What should I consider when shopping for an air filtration system?

How to Choose an Air Filtration System, Part One

Are you interested in controlling your air, but don't know how to evaluate an air cleaner or house air filter? One of the most important things to consider when shopping for cleaner air is the size of the job.

Are you interested in filtering the air for the whole house? Or are you concerned with individual rooms such as the garage, a room for painting or ceramics, smoking rooms, or other fume-heavy areas? You'll need to choose the right sized system for the job. A portable unit could be the right answer in some cases, but if you generate fumes, dust, or smoke on a regular basis, consider "whole-house" solutions, including electronic filtration and specially designed replacement furnace filters. Don't forget that fumes, dust, and smoke will travel and dissipate into other areas of the home, and should be controlled over the wider area.

What should I tell a central air company rep when considering a new unit?

Replacing Your Heating and Air Conditioning Unit?

When consumers decide to install a new central air system, there are a few things to tell the inspector before an inspection or evaluation appointment with a clean air expert. Often, these experts will want to give your house an evaluation to determine the system that is best for you. Let the expert know what your clean air concerns may be. Here is a list of a few things you should pass along;

1. Concerns over dust, allergens, and fumes in the home;

2. Experiences with excessive humidity or dry air;

3. Problems with the noise level of the equipment responsible for customizing your air;

4. Any cold spots or hot spots in your home with the current system.

There are many symptoms, causes, and cures for these concerns, but armed with the right information you can be given plenty of options to fit your particular needs.

Do I really need portable air filters with a "whole-house" system?

Is My Whole House Filter Enough?

When it comes to pet allergies and air filtration, you may wonder what the advantage is to having both central air-mounted air filtration products and portable air cleaners. Customizing your air for allergy sufferers can be tricky for the simple reason that pet allergens can build up quickly in a small space like an apartment or condo bedroom. Allergy sufferers know that any exposure can trigger allergy symptoms, and doing double duty when controlling your air can prevent more severe allergy symptoms. The portable air cleaner can suck up the allergens nearest to the sufferer, while the "whole house" solution prevents allergens from spreading into other areas. Who wants to consider give up the cat or dog over allergy problems when double filtration can bring relief? Many allergy sufferers find this home air quality solution is very agreeable.

Are there any limitations to portable air filters?

A Limitation of Portable Air Filters

Those who want to deal with pet allergens with a home air filtration system will find excellent results with a combination of portable units located in all major rooms of the house, and home filtration accessories for central heating and air conditioning.

Did you know that there are "furnace-mounted" air cleaners, and air duct "grille filters" which can work together to keep pet hair from circulating through the home via your central air conditioning system? This can be a vital part of your allergen control system, as hair and other particles are trapped by the filters and kept out of your air. Portable air cleaners are excellent for controlling the air in a single room, but they can do nothing about the pet hair that gets sucked into the central air conditioning system and blown throughout the home. Consider such "add-on" house air filters when customizing your air; the difference should be quite noticeable.

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Guru Spotlight
Patricia Walters-Fischer