December 5th, 2012 by Dave
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Many homes throughout the United States utilize a space heater in their home. Whether this is to warm up that frosty garage or supplement an insufficient heating system, a space heater can be an excellent addition to your home heating strategy. Unfortunately, these appliances come with their fair share of dangers and risks. Roughly 25,000 home fires and 300 deaths result from space heaters every year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Wait! Before you throw your space heater away and condemn it as the infernal death trap it appears to be, there are ways to drastically reduce this risk with safe operation. Here for your viewing pleasure are the space heater safety tips.
Tips for Safe Space Heater Use
- Use the Timer: Many space heaters are equipped with a sleep timer. Be sure to set it before bed if you intend to heat your room as you sleep. By closing the door you can keep most of the heat inside the room throughout the night.
- Keep Fire Prevention/Detection Devices Handy: Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with fresh batteries are essential to warn you if a fire has started. Make sure they are located in the rooms with the space heater. If you cannot keep a fire extinguisher in the same room as the heater, be sure to keep it at least on the same floor.
- The Heater is Not a Toy: Make sure your children understand this concept. Explain to them that the heater is dangerous and they are not to touch it.
- Frayed Cords: Never use a space heater with a frayed power cord. This is a fire waiting to happen.
- Keep it Away from Flammable Objects: The most common cause of space heater fires are heater location. Keep space heaters 3-5 feet away from anything flammable.
Space Heater Safety
As you can see, with a little forethought and planning you can vastly minimize the risks of a space heater. They are no more or less dangerous than a standard furnace. If you kept your furnace right up against your drapes you’d have the same issues. Let’s not besmirch the good name of the space heater too readily, but instead follow the proper space heater guidelines and ensure proper and safe use.
November 28th, 2012 by Dave
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Regulating air quality of your home is much easier in the summer. With the fluctuating temperatures it is easy enough to open the windows occasionally and let the fresh air inside. However, in the heart of winter, it is a dreadful prospect to let in the freezing winds. So, many homes stay shut and closed off to the outdoors for months at a time. This leads to poor air quality. Here are a few tips to freshen the air quality of your home.
Tips to Improving Indoor Air Quality this Winter
- Set the Thermostat: Set the thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night. The lower temperature, though a little chillier, is better for your sinuses. Your sinuses and throat is more relaxed and less irritated by the lower temperature. This is especially good for those who snore or breathe through their mouth.
- Open the windows…Briefly: In the summertime it is much easier to keep control of air quality. In the evenings when it is cooler, it is a simple matter of opening the windows. In the wintertime it is cold throughout the day and the furnace must run almost constantly. Despite this, it is important for your air quality to open the windows briefly to let that fresh air inside.
- Travel Tip: In the wintertime it is all too common that hotel rooms blast their heat and dry out their rooms. Take a damp towel and lay it on the heat register. This will disperse the moisture throughout the room. As the towel dries out, re-moisten the towel and you will keep the appropriate level of humidity in your air quality.
Take heed of this advice for the coming months. Come January or February, when the windows have been shut for over a month, take a moment and address the stale air and humidity concerns of your home. Also, when traveling for the holidays be sure not to allow that hot air to get to you. Air quality is incredibly important and can be taken care of with a little forethought.
November 21st, 2012 by Dave
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At AC Chicagoland we talk a lot about the big appliances in your homes. From humidifiers to heating and cooling systems, they all get their due. However, there is on appliance I don’t believe has been highlighted yet. So, in an effort to make amends with this very important fan in the home, we pay tribute to exhaust fans and show a way to test their strength.
The Benefits of Exhaust Fans
The exhaust fans are located in your bathroom and above your stove. Usually you just flip them on out of habit, not really recognizing their importance in home maintenance. An exhaust fan has two primary functions, and one potential (easily moderated) drawback
- Remove Smells: The bathroom and kitchen can… how do I put this delicately… stink to high heaven. Whether you are answer the call of nature or frying up a tuna melt, odors are common in these rooms. The exhaust fan is used to suck up these odor-causing particles in the air and expel them from your home.
- Remove Moisture: After a long hot shower the steam will collect on the walls and mirrors of the bathroom. If left to sit, this will warp wallpaper, crack paint, and serve as a breeding ground for mold. The exhaust fan sucks up this steam and safely expels it outside.
A Minor Drawback
- Sucks the Heat/Air Conditioning as Well: The exhaust fan expels any air in the room. This means your expensive temperature controlled air is bring shot out of your home when you turn on your exhaust fan, thus lowering/raising the temperature in the room. The dip in energy efficiencyis completely worth it when you consider the disastrous effects of mold. However, all this means is that you must use a degree of care when operating your exhaust fan.
- Use the bathroom/shower with the door closed as to not suck up the air from the rest of the house.
- Don’t leave it running after you are done.
The Tissue Test
If you suspect that your exhaust fan is not operating correctly or see moisture collecting on your walls and mirror long after your shower is done, you can quickly test the strength of your fan with a piece of tissue paper. Turn on the fan and hold the tissue up to the grills. A strong healthy exhaust fan should be able to hold the tissue to the grills without your assistance. If it cannot, then you may need to consider maintenance.
The exhaust fan is the unsung hero of home appliances. It gets not credit, but keeps our home smelling fresh and mold free. It deserves as much respect as any other appliance in your home.
November 13th, 2012 by Dave
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In short, professional furnace maintenance is the difference between a furnace that lasts ten years, and one that lasts twenty five! That sounds incredible, and something everyone should take advantage of– which is true. However, in the ongoing effort to reveal the mysteries of the HVAC industry, we will be going into the details of furnace cleanings and maintenance.
Furnace Clean and Checks
The most important question looming in everyones mind is…
“What do they actually do to make my furnace last an extra fifteen years?”
Most HVAC contractors have an extensive checklist by which they perform a standard furnace cleaning. These may vary slightly from company to company, but the main points remain the same throughout all credible (and beneficial) furnace cleanings.
- Physically cleaning the furnace or boiler
- Check safety devices
- Test for gas leaks
- Check furnace filter
- Inspect heat exchanger for leaks and cracks
- Check and calibrate thermostat
- Check furnace wiring
- Check hot water tank
While a furnace cleaning will make your furnace last long, it has a related secondary (but more immediate) benefit. When a professional comes to look at your heating system in the fall, the technician will be able to identify any future breakdowns before they happen. This way, you don’t need to go the the hassle, discomfort, and frustration of a breakdown at an inconvenient time. There’s no reason to purchase a furnace every decade or spend a night without the joys of modern home heating. Schedule a furnace cleaning today with your local trusted HVAC contractor.
November 6th, 2012 by Dave
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Nothing lasts forever. Everything good must end. All we are is dust in the wind. The same sentiment has been expressed over and over again in songs, literature, and television. Eventually things come to a close. The same is true for your furnace. No matter how well you take care of it, no matter how clean you keep it, eventually it will break down. The important thing is to recognize when this breakdown is about to happen so you are not left in the cold this winter. By being able to identify the breakdown before it happens you can call your local HVAC company to come out and replace the furnace with a newer model.
Three Red Flags
- Ancient Furnace: A furnace has an expected lifespan. Granted no one knows EXACTLY how long any given furnace will live but you can estimate. A furnace that has been cleaned every seasons and well maintained throughout its life can live up to around 25 years. However, if the furnace has never been cleaned, with poor maintenance and simply left in the basement to be turned on in November, it will probably only live around ten years. How old is your furnace? When was the last time it was cleaned?
- Strange Noises: Furnaces often tell you something is wrong before the problem escalates to a breakdown. Stay vigilant! Listen to your furnace every one and a while and see if everything is running smoothly. Any rattling, hissing, or popping noise is sure to be a problem. If you hear anything of the sort it is important that you schedule a maintenance check with a NATE certified professional so your furnace can be diagnosed.
- Crack Heat Exchanger: You can tell that your heat exchanger is cracked by several different ways. The easiest of which to to take a look at the flames come from the burner. The furnace flames should be blue and steady. When the heat exchanger cracks it releases impurities which distort the flames. They will burn with flecks of yellow and dance about.
- NOTE: This is a serious problem that must be addressed IMMEDIATELY! Turn off your furnace and your gas because a crack in the heat exchanger will leak carbon dioxide into the air and could prove deadly for your family.
Call In a Professional
If you notice any of these signs, it is time to call in a professional to take a look at your furnace. It is possible that your furnace needs a simple repair, or it may be time to say goodbye to your beloved friend. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While a new furnace is a bit of an investment, every year new furnaces are designed to be more and more energy efficient. This will cut huge chunks out of your heating costs. The money you save could be put to paying off the new furnace. Before you know it, the furnace will be paid off and you’ll be reaping savings every month.
October 31st, 2012 by Dave
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Happy Halloween everyone! Generally, furnaces and air conditioning have nothing to do with Halloween. There’s certainly nothing scary about them, but I’m going to try to link them nonetheless…
In every haunted mansion movie you see there’s always one thing in common. Sure, there may be ghosts, werewolves, or tiny pixies with box-cutters, but there is always a nice thick layer of dust. Dust forms naturally and consists mostly of dead skin cells and settled particles in the air. Normally dust is just an aesthetic problem, or could irritate your breathing a little bit. All in all, no big deal right? WRONG!
A Dusty Furnace
Dust will also settle in your furnace. Even if you keep a clean home and dust regularly, you still have a furnace sitting around unsued for upwards of 6-7 months. Any appliance will develop dust in that amount of time. The effects this can have on your furnace are about as scary as some of the best haunted houses.
- The Smell: This first time your turn on your furnace this dust is burnt away. Two things then happen. One, as the dust burns, it emits a foul burning smell throughout the house. Two, the dust leaves behind a sticky black residue.
- The Inefficiency: This black residue will coat the internal components of your machine. It will limit your furnace’s ability to emit heat from the combustion chamber. Now, your furnace needs to run longer to perform the same job. The longer your furnace runs, the more you’ll have to pay.
- Biting the Dust: Furnaces are built to last between 20-25 years if they are well maintained. If you consistantly burn off the dust inside the furnace, the residue will compound and compound until an inevitable breakdown. Without proper maintenance, your furnace is likely to only live 10 or so years.
There’s no need to channel the spirits, make a copy of a video, or run upstairs from a slasher villain (ugh) to solve this problem. Just schedule a furnace cleaning each season before you run your furnace. All the dust will be cleaned and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with a furnace guaranteed to last the winter. This is expensive equipment and it is very important that you take care of it.
October 29th, 2012 by Dave
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Dust is very damaging to HVAC equipment. As a matter of fact, many repairs can be traced back to dirt buildup inside the system. If you have lived through a home remodeling project you know just how dusty they can be. Take some precautions ahead of time to make sure you don’t end up with a costly repair when the project is completed.
- Go over your plans with your heating and cooling contractor before you commit to the project. You don’t want to discover that things ought to have been done differently after the project has started.
- When possible, do not to run your furnace or air conditioner when dusty work is being done.
- Close off the registers in the area where work is being done and cover them to keep dust from being pulled into your HVAC system. If you are running your heating or cooling equipment during the remodel, make sure you don’t close off too many registers at one time. If you’re not sure if you are limiting the airflow in your system too much you can ask your heating contractor to test it for you.
- Keep as much of the cutting and sanding outside (or at least in the garage) as possible to keep more of the mess out of your home.
- Isolate the construction area from the rest of the house with tarps and make sure your contractor takes steps to control dust for your remodeling project. The area ought to be kept at a negative pressure to the rest of the house while dust is being generated.
- The work area should be cleaned frequently throughout the project to keep dust from being tracked around. We have seen the openings for the heating and cooling system used as dust bins for swept up debris. This is another good reason to make sure they stay sealed during the whole remodeling process.
- Change or clean your filter regularly during the project and once it is completed. Even a filter that does not look particularly dirty can have tiny particles blocking the airflow. This can put a strain on your heating or cooling system so it is better to be safe.
- Consider having your blower and indoor coil checked when the project is completed to make sure dust and debris did not build up. You may also want to consider duct cleaning to make sure dust isn’t being drawn continually through your heating and cooling system.
Don’t let your remodeling project lead to an HVAC equipment replacement. A little advance planning can help protect your heating and cooling equipment from the dust of a home improvement project. For more information about getting the most out of your heating and cooling equipment visit www.pkwadsworth.com.
Kim Nemecek works at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling in Cleveland, Ohio. After growing up in Cleveland, she lived in Florida for many years, working at an air conditioning company there. Kim has four grown children, two grandchildren and two spoiled dogs. She lives in Solon with her husband, Todd.
The opinions and statements contained in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not instructions. Only trained, licensed and experienced personnel should attempt installation/repair. The author assumes no liability for the opinions/statements made in this article. Any individual attempting a repair or installation based on this article does so at their own risk of loss.
October 25th, 2012 by Dave
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Shut it Off!!!
Okay, now that is taken care of we can try to diagnose why the furnace made such a terrifying smell. In truth, there could be many reasons why such a thing occurred, some of which are really bad, and some could be a minor issue you can fix this evening. The important thing is not to panic and try to troubleshoot the furnace yourself for a moment. There may not be a need to spend the money on a service call from your local HVAC company.
Diagnosing the Burning Smell
First check for these signs before calling a professional:
- Dust in the Wind: Furnaces are generally located in basements or extra rooms that don’t receive much TLC during your cleaning routine. Your furnace has been sitting there unused in a dusty room for about 6 months. Chances are it has accumulated a layer of dust inside the furnace. The first time you turn it on each season this dust is burned away and emits a burning smell. The smell should go away after the dust is burned off and your furnace will continue to operate correctly.
- NOTE: It is very important to have your furnace cleaned before the heating season. This dust doesn’t completely burn away, and leaves a black sticky residue. If this residue is left to accumulate over the years it can clog internal components and lead to a breakdown. Get your furnace cleaned.
- Something is Being Burned: Furnaces are machines that burn natural gas and work with heat and fire on a regular basis. No matter how safe they are made, the heat is still there. If a blanket or toy ends up making its way into contact with the furnace, then you could have a problem. Look around to see if anything foreign has come to close to your furnace.
- Dirty Filter: Every HVAC professional will go on and on about the necessities of changing your furnace filter every season. It is for this reason. If a filter becomes too dirty, it will clog. A clogged filter will not allow the proper amound of air to reach the furnace. Now you furnace is running way hotter than it should and creates this burning smell. Make sure you change the filter before a fire starts! Once the filter is replaced, it should operate normally again.
- NOTE: Do not run a furnace without a filter. It is a terrible idea and will result in a breakdown as your internal components are clogged with dust.
Still Smells? Okay NOW Call a Professional
If your furnace still smells, then it is time to bring in the calvary. Call your local HVAC company to schedule a furnace cleaning and maintenance check. The technician should be able to quickly diagnose the reason why your furnace would make such a noise. From there you can decide whether or not a repair or a whole new unit is needed. The important thing is to stay safe this winter, and keep your nose peeled.
October 23rd, 2012 by Dave
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You may have read my previous articles in which I tirelessly advocate for the use of ceiling fans in the summertime. By doing so, you can use your air conditioner less and still receive the same cooling effect and lower your cooling costs. Now that it is almost time for winter to rear its ugly head, the ceiling fan must resurface as a method of lowering your heating costs. While this may seem an odd appliance to make a room warmer, this can all be explained with a little physics.
The Physics of Heat
Heat rises. So, when you are heating a room, all the heat pumped in through the vents will quickly rise to the ceiling. That is why vents are placed on the floor to allow for maximum heating as it travels upward. This law of thermodynamics is a problem because unless you are ten feet tall, you cannot take advantage of all that heated air near your ceiling.
Ceiling Fans in the Summer: In the summer, a ceiling fan will blow air downward forcing the air to circulate and creating an artificial breeze. This makes the room colder, not by actually reducing the temperature of the air, but by causing it to move. When it pushes around conditioned air, this can be a very effective cooling strategy.
Ceiling Fans in the Winter: In the winter you want to do just the opposite. The hot air is collected at the ceiling, so by turning your fan on and spinning it in the opposite direction it sucks air from beneath the fan and sends it toward your ceiling. This pushes the warm air down the walls back to the floor where it must rise again. It is important not to set the fan on too high or you will create a cooling breeze. A low setting in winter mode will do the trick.
By using a ceiling fan in the winter you can utilize the heated air over and over again until your body absorbs all the heat from it. This will keep a room warmer for longer and stave off the need to activate the furnace again. Ceiling fans are incredibly cheap to operate and with an energy efficient fan, virtually free. Don’t let your expensive heated air go to waste, turn on those fans this winter.
October 18th, 2012 by Dave
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Earlier in the week, we discussed how to effectively locate and diagnose gas leaks in your furnace. I briefly touched upon the negative health effects natural gas can have on your body and air quality, but I wanted to take some time today to elaborate on that information.
Health Hazards of Natural Gas
- In high doses natural gas can cause you to black out and can even result in death.
- Natural gas can lower the levels of oxygen in the air resulting in dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache and difficulty breathing.
- Low levels of natural gas are will not negatively affect your health, but it is dangerous to flirt with the threshold.
- When natural gas is burned is creates methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides which can be harmful in and of themselves.
- Natural gas is highly flammable and could explode if a spark ignites a significant concentration in the air.
While natural gas certainly isn’t as harmful as other toxins that may be in your air, such as carbon monoxide, it is still serious. If you suspect a leak in your home it is imperative that you seek professional assistance immediately to eliminate the problem. Don’t wait until the gas leak is out of control, call your local HVAC company today.