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.

Program Your Thermostat and Save $180/year

iComfort ThermostatMost homes these days have programmable thermostats. Yet amazingly, one study found that 53% of programmable thermostats in homes were not even set up.  If this includes yours, it’s time to get programming, and start

saving!

In theory, manually adjusting your thermostat as needed will work.  The problem is, none of us are perfect, and that means we don’t remember to turn down the heat or cooling every time we leave the house.  We often also don’t realize just how long our systems have been running once we are comfortable.  Manually handling the temperature also means you will always come home to a temperature you’re not comfortable with, and have to wait while your system kicks in for your house to cool or warm up.

Instead, take advantage of your thermostat’s functions.  Set a program to run that follows your daily schedule. When you are getting ready in the morning, have it set to your comfort level, and when you and your family leave the house for the day have the heat/cooling running at a low speed.  Set the system to kick back in to your desired temperature about 45 minutes before you normally arrive home.  Program the system to dip down again at bedtime and stay working at a low speed throughout the night. A tip: you can be comfortable with less heat in the winter and less cooling in the summer than you might think.

Be sure you set up a different program for your weekend schedule, and also adjust the program before you go on any vacations.

According to energy efficiency experts, programming your thermostat could save you $180/year.  So why not take advantage of your thermostat’s functions?

Hy-Mark offers several options in our product catalog for programmable thermostats.  Want even more control and capabilities?  A WiFi-enabled thermostat allows you to control your home comfort settings from your mobile device, with automatic changeover from heating to cooling and humidity settings, all from an intuitive and modern touch screen display.

Check out our product catalog of thermostats here.

 

 

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/

Tips for Changing your Filter

The much debated question about your home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is: how often should the filter be changed?

There is no one answer to this question, as there are many factors to consider.  These include:Types of Filters

  • Type of filter being used – there is a clear distinction between a 1” filter compared to a pleated MERV 16 filter that is 5” thick.
  • Type of furnace and AC – if you have a new high efficiency furnace and/or air conditioner it will help increase the lifespan of your filter in comparison to a 15+ year old system that is tired and needs all the help it can get.
  • House specific – the size of your home, where you live, how many people and pets are living in your home all factor into how long your filter will function at an optimal level.
  • Season – the filter efficiency is also dependent on the time of year and how often you run your equipment.

There are many different sources you can reference for guidelines to this question.  According to energystar.gov and Consumer Reports the average filter should be checked every month and replaced at least every three months.

Regardless of what type of filter you have, and how often you choose to change your filter, all homeowners should understand why a filter needs to be replaced.  Heating and cooling systems have a filter to remove airborne particles before they reach the blower motor and cause damage.  The filter also ensures that the air being pushed through your vents is clean and dust free.  When the filter is replaced often, it allows your furnace and air conditioner to run at optimal efficiency, and that is reflected in your monthly energy bill.

For all instructions as to how to replace the filter in your HVAC system please reference your owner’s manual, or see our FAQ post How do I change my furnace air filter?

In the Press: Innovation in Duct Materials

At Hy-Mark we pride ourselves in living out our company Core Values each and every day.  Core Value #7 states that ‘We are world class innovators.’  In the March edition of the Plumbing and HVAC magazine, Hy-Mark was featured for our Plumbing and HVAC Magazineinnovation in our use of different duct materials.

Hy-Mark takes a unique approach with duct materials, from standard sheet metal, to duct board, to flex ducting.  All of these duct materials are being used and tested in residential applications.  The article in the March edition of Plumbing and HVAC magazine compares flexible duct to standard sheet metal duct in a townhouse.  Click here for the full article on page 26 and see the results for yourself.

For a full overview of all residential equipment Hy-Mark offers check our Residential menu.

 

Will Your Furnace Last All Winter?

We have already had our first glimpse into winter this year. Have you thought about whether your furnace is ready for the change in temperature? Before the cold sticks around for longer than a week, here are the top three tips to make sure your Cold Winterfurnace is winter-ready.

  1. Replace your filter

Furnace filters should be replaced every two to three months depending on the type of system you have, and the quality of filter you are using. It’s possible you don’t remember the last time you changed your furnace filter, since you have not been using the unit for quite a few months. As a general rule, your filter should always be free of dust and debris. For more information see our FAQ “How do I change my furnace filter?”

Reminder: always remember to shut off your furnace power before attempting to replace your filter for safety reasons.

  1. Double check your vents and registers

The first time you power up your furnace you will want to pay attention for any strange noises in your vents. Also, you should walk around your home to make sure there is nothing blocking your heat registers; furniture, drapes and toys can all be a fire hazards. The registers may also need to be adjusted in order to achieve a consistent temperature throughout your home. Warm air rises, so you may want to restrict airflow to all the warmest rooms, thereby increasing airflow to the coolest rooms.

  1. Schedule an annual maintenance

Arranging for a professional to inspect your furnace will ensure your unit is functioning at its best. When your furnace runs well there are many benefits: it runs less frequently, burns less energy, and heats more efficiently. Furnace service also ensures that clean air is passing through your unit, making your home dust and allergen-free.

Reminder: if you have a warranty with your furnace, it likely stipulates that you need to have an annual maintenance performed in order to be covered.