Get Your HVAC Maintenace Under Control With This Easy Guide

You have a lot on the go, so it’s normal if tending to the needs of your furnace, air conditioner, and other HVAC equipment often comes last on the list of priorities.

That’s why we have compiled this primer on common HVAC equipment and care. Whether you have recently moved in to a new home or gotten new equipment, or it has been a while and you need a refresher, this guide will help you gain an understanding of your equipment and the basic maintenance it requires.

Maintaining Your Air Conditioner, Furnace, and HRV/ERV

This following schedule is based on the use of a standard 1″ furnace air filter. If you are using a thicker filter you will be able to change it once or twice a year, depending on your home’s attributes, respiratory sensitivities, and personal preference. 

HVAC Equipment Maintenance Schedule

Replacing Your Furnace FilterClean Versus Dirty Furnace Filter

Turn off your furnace at the switch. Generally the air filter cabinet is on the left or right side of the furnace in a vertical position, and is 1 – 5 inches wide. You should be able to pop off the front panel by hand.  To see if your filter is dirty, hold it up to the light and compare with a clean filter. If the filter looks dirty and is near the prescribed length of time it is supposed to last, it is time to replace it.

Why to Get Preventative Maintenance

Just like a car, your home comfort equipment requires regular tune ups. Manufacturers recommend having your furnace and A/C professionally maintained annually to preserve efficiency and extend the lifetime of the equipment. In some cases it may even be required to keep your warranty valid. Since a maintenance includes cleaning and checking of all functions, these visits often catch small issues before they grow and lead to big repair needs or equipment failure.

5 inch furnace air filter

Did You Know?

The air conditioner ventilates through the furnace, so it is still extremely important that the furnace filter be changed throughout the cooling season. Cool and warm air travel differently, so use a filter no thicker than .5” or 1” during the cooling season to avoid restriction of airflow. A thicker filter with a high MERV rating can be used in the heating season.

Understanding the Purpose of Your ERV/HRV

Your home either has an energy or heat recovery ventilator, whose purpose is to exchange stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. This ventilates carbon dioxide, fumes, cooking odours, dust, and excess humidity out of your home.  A new home can take 12 – 18 months to fully dry out from the construction, so you may run your ERV/HRV more during this initial period.

Cleaning Your ERV/HRV Filters

1.   Unplug the unitVanEE HRV

2.   Remove reusable filters and vacuum off dust/dirt

3.   Wash with warm water and dish soap. Rinse and let dry completely before replacing

Cleaning the ERV/HRV Core

This should be cleaned once/year at the end of summer. Vacuum the plastic core with a soft brush and then soak in a mild soap solution for 3 hours. Rinse it and let it dry completely before reinstalling. During your furnace maintenance a technician can do this for your upon request.

Controlling the Humidity in your Home

As a rule of thumb, set your ERV/HRV to run intermittently in the winter and do not run it in the summer. Acceptable humidity levels in winter are 15 – 25%, while in summer you can expect 40%. You can adjust  your humidity levels from your thermostat/humidistat or a control on your humidifier.

For more tips check the FAQ page, or email service@hy-mark.ca.

Here’s Why Your Allergies Flared Up Recently

Ah, allergies – this gift that keeps on giving.  For most people, they tend to act up in the spring and summer months when outdoor air is ripe with pollen.

But if during our recent “January thaw” you noticed your allergies kicking in, this is why.

Mold, mold, mold

There’s a certain degree of mold present outside year-round, but most grows in the fall season. At this time piles of leaves and other dead vegetation absorb moisture and create dark, wet places ideal for bacteria growth. Anyone with allergies or respiratory sensitivities has probably noticed they are aggravated by activities like raking leaves or turning a compost pile.Winter allergies

Here’s the surprising part: many of these mold strains are not killed off by winter frosts. Instead they lay dormant until mid-winter warm ups when they become exposed on the ground, brush and trees as ice and snow melt off.

So if your allergies flare up whenever the weather gets above 0 degrees outside, particularly when you are spending time outside, this could be why.

 

Cold weather indoor allergens

However, we can’t forget about allergens that strike in the home all winter long. Forced air heating systems do make homes drier this time of year, but condensation gathers in the more humid parts of homes, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Cold weather means windows stay closed, so if you have an HRV/ERV it’s important to keep them running to exchange fresh outdoor air with indoor air. If you do find mold is growing in your home, it can be cleaned with vinegar or a gentle bleach and hot water solution.

Air filtration products can also be your friends year-round when it comes to reducing indoor allergens like dust, bacteria, and pet dander. There is a huge difference between a standard 1 inch furnace filter and something like the Lennox PureAir which can remove 99.9% of airborne particles and 90% of bacteria. Because the whole family and pets tend to spend more time bundled up inside in the cold months, that’s more hair, dust, pet fur and dirt accumulating inside. Ventilation upgrades – plus not skimping on the dusting and vacuuming – can help reduce respiratory irritants that bother us in winter.

By following these methods, as well as limiting time outdoors on warmer and windy winter days you can reduce your allergy flare ups in winter…at least until spring allergies kick in.

 

How to Proof Your Home Against Seasonal Allergies

The sneezing.Boy blowing nose

The itchy eyes and throat.

The inflamed sinuses.

They’re all familiar if you or someone you know has seasonal allergies, and it’s likely they are currently in full swing.

If you are stuck avoiding the outdoors, you want your home to be a safe haven from respiratory trouble. Here’s what you can do to seal your home against outdoor irritants, as well as eliminate the indoor factors that aggravate allergy and other respiratory issues.

     1. Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. This is the time to rely on your air conditioning system.

  1. Turn off your heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator unit during the mornings, when pollen is at peak levels in the outdoor air.
  1. Change your furnace filter regularly according to its size and type. See our FAQ “How often should I replace the air filter in my furnace?” for more information.
  1. Turn off your humidifier for the summer months.  Not only does this reduce the temperature in your home (because air moisture and temperature are directly tied), it reduces growth of mold. Mold spores can irritate allergies and asthma, and some strands can pose even more serious health risks.
  1. If you do spot any mold growth near showers, sinks, toilets, and in the basement, clean it with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.
  1. Have your HRV/ERV unit cleaned regularly. Most units contain two small, reusable foam filters that need to be vacuumed and washed every three months. The core filter should be cleaned once per year. If you are comfortable you can do this yourself by following these directions, or Hy-Mark can do it for you.
  1. Sweep, dust, and vacuum regularly to keep dust mites at bay. Wipe down surfaces with cleaning solutions. Here are some DIY options for natural cleaners, which may be gentler on allergies and other respiratory problems.
  1. Brush cats and dogs regularly to prevent excessive shedding. Not only is hair itself an allergen for some people, it harbours dust mites when it collects on surfaces in the home. Indoor animals shed year round, but if your pet goes outdoors it will shed the most in spring and fall. If you’re in the market for a new pet, consider a hypoallergenic breed. These types of dogs –  and cats– may shed less or carry less dander in their coats.

 If you need further help allergy proofing your home, Hy-Mark is happy to help. Just give us a call! 1 800 727 0750.

How To Beat The Heat

Lower Humidity, Increase Comfort

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fan-image15439020

In Southern Ontario we are all too familiar with humidity at this time of year.  Did you know that humidity is the second contributing factor to your home comfort? Indoor humidity levels should stay between 30-50% for ideal comfort.  Having a high level of humidity can affect the ‘felt temperature’ by as much as 8 degrees(1).

Why is humidity bad for indoor environments?

Having high levels of indoor humidity can cause the following to happen:

  • Encourages the growth of mold, mildew and other bacteria
  • Contributes to sleep problems
  • Wood swells and doors stick
  • Stains the ceiling and can cause paint and wallpaper to peel
  • Speeds up the rust and oxidization process
  • Causes your hair to frizz – while this is not a major concern for most, for some this is a disaster!

How to deal with humidity

There are multiple ways to combat humidity and stay comfortable this summer.  The conventional route is exploring the two products that focus on maintaining optimum humidity levels:

  • Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  • Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs)

Most people are familiar with humidifiers and dehumidifiers.  They have been around for quite a while and focus on adding or removing moisture in the air to maintain a healthy and comfortable environment.  The newest product lines are the HRVs and ERVs.  They are becoming the new industry standard and a requirement in new home construction.  Homes are built to be more energy efficient, but that also lends to humidity problems.  The more air-tight your home is, the less air that is exchanged and increases humidity levels.  To learn more about the differences between HRVs and ERVs check out our FAQ page here.

There are also natural ways to deal with humidity levels.  A full list of options can be found here.

Having the correct indoor humidity levels in the summer will allow you to set your thermostat a few degrees higher without compromising comfort.  This will help save energy and keep your energy bill more cost effective.

1. http://comfortmatters.lennox.com/getting-comfortable/the-four-biggest-factors-affecting-the-comfort-of-your-home/