Carbon Monoxide Dangers in your Home

Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer – it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. The CDC reports that about 430 people die each year from this and over 50,000 go to the ER. Mild carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Severe cases can cause heart damage, brain damage, and death. This gas can be produced when any material containing carbon (wood, coal, kerosene, natural gas, gasoline, propane, or charcoal) is burned. Because so many appliances within the home rely on these materials to run, carbon monoxide poisoning is something you need to know about. 

Here are the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning (as reported by Johns Hopkins):

  • Space heaters – unvented or improperly vented
  • Malfunctioning furnace (oil, wood, gas, or coal)
  • Malfunctioning cooking appliances
  • Malfunctioning water heater
  • Clogged chimney
  • Auto exhaust

Carbon monoxide prevents your body from being able to use oxygen efficiently. Your brain is deprived of oxygen and your body begins to asphyxiate, or suffocate. 

Because carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, it can be very hard to detect. If you know what to be on the lookout for, it could save a life and reduce a severe poisoning to a mild one. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart beat 
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Blurry vision
  • Loss of hearing
  • Disorientation
  • Unconscious/coma
  • Respiratory failure 

What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is happening:

  • Act QUICKLY – even just 5 minutes of exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can result in death.
  • Immediately take the person who has been poisoned outside into fresh air. If you cannot move the person, try to air out the space as quickly as possible by opening windows and doors.
  • Open all the windows and exterior doors to air the space out.
  • Turn off any appliances that are running, that could be the source of the carbon monoxide – furnace, gas stove, boiler, water heater, etc.
  • Take those that were exposed to the emergency room as quickly as possible. Even if someone isn’t showing signs of CO poisoning, they should still go and get checked out by a doctor. A blood test will be able to tell if the individual was poisoned and this will help medical personnel to provide better, more accurate care. 

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be life-threatening and many times it is difficult to detect early. The best way to protect against it is to take preventative measures. 

Make sure your appliances are in good shape and have regular maintenance completed on your HVAC system and furnace. Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors within your home. Working with a certified HVAC company will ensure that your system is running safely and efficiently, reducing the chances of a carbon monoxide problem stemming from there. If you purchase a furnace or furnace system with Weather Crafters, we will include a carbon monoxide detector for free. Our goal is to help keep our clients and their loved ones safe and comfortable. Get in touch with our team to schedule your next HVAC maintenance visit so one of our technicians can come out and take a good look at your current system.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Spring

Spring is in the air and it is time to start thinking about spring cleaning. After a winter with the windows closed, adding the air you breathe to your cleaning list is a great idea. According to the EPA, indoor air can actually contain 2 to 5 times more pollutants than outdoor air. Making the air cleaner inside is key to your home’s overall cleanliness and the health of your family. It’s great to throw the windows open and shake out all your rugs on a sunny day, but there is a lot more you can do to improve indoor air quality in the spring. Here are a few tips.

  • Filter – no matter what time of year it is, making sure that your HVAC filter is changed regularly is important for your health and for the overall function of the system. A clogged filter is not filtering out irritants and it can also cause stress on the HVAC system. Most filters should be changed about every 3 months but the packaging will tell you how long the filter should be good for. If you don’t want to remember to change the filter, you can sign up for a delivery service. So when the new filter arrives in the mail, you know it is time for a filter change. If you live with someone with respiratory issues, spending a little more money on a higher quality filter can really improve the quality of the air in your home. Changing the filter is easy and it is something you can do on your own. If you aren’t sure how to, ask your HVAC specialist the next time they are over. You can also ask them about which filter would be best for your home if you want to upgrade to a higher quality one. 
  • Duct Cleaning – the air ducts are the passageways that cooled and heated air is moved throughout your home. If an air duct is clogged or dirty, it means that whatever particles are in the duct are potentially being pumped into your home and you are breathing them in. Ducts can be a breeding ground for mold or mildew, among other irritants. Regular cleanings every year or two can greatly improve the air quality in your home.
  • Plants – Whether you have a green thumb or not, investing in a few plants can help to clean the air you breathe. Some plants are especially good at removing pollutants (including formaldehyde) from the air and they are pretty easy to keep alive. These include: english ivy, pothos, spider plants, peace lilies, and rubber plants. Just in time for spring holidays, you could take a live plant, such as a peace lily, as a hostess gift, rather than a bouquet of cut flowers. Not only will it look gorgeous, it will also help clean the air.  
  • Air Purifier – while plants are beautiful, they are not for everyone. If you really want to step up your game and improve the indoor air quality of your home, you can look into investing in an air purifier. There are portable as well as whole-house purifiers available, depending on your needs and your budget. Whole-house purifiers can run anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 and they work as part of the HVAC system. Portable air purifiers are also a great option. If you spend a lot of time in a certain space, like your bedroom or an office, a portable purifier might be the answer. They range anywhere from under $100 to over $500 – depending on size and quality. If you aren’t sure what is right for you, talk to your HVAC specialist to decide what fits your needs and budget.
  • Maintenance – having regular maintenance completed on your HVAC system is key to the health of your family and the health of the system. Most specialists recommend maintenance be performed twice a year – once in the spring, before turning on the air conditioning, and once in the fall, before switching over to heat. This makes sure that the system is operating efficiently and that there are no issues. If a problem is discovered it can be fixed before it becomes something bigger and more expensive. The HVAC technician will also check to make sure that everything is clean and ready to go. Checking the furnace will ensure that no carbon monoxide is leaking. Looking at the ducts, filters, and other components will check for mold, poor filtration, and any other issues that might reduce air cleanliness.

Some reports state that more than half the air a person breathes in a lifetime is air that comes from their home. During an average day, only 10% of the air we breathe comes from outdoors. It is really important to make sure that the air you and your loved ones breathe is as clean as possible. Adding a clean air component to your spring cleaning list is something that can really improve your health. We don’t really think about breathing because it is something we do all the time, unconsciously. Air is just as important (if not more) as water and you wouldn’t want to drink contaminated water, just like you shouldn’t breathe contaminated air. Make an appointment with Weather Crafters today to talk about how you can improve the air quality in your home, in a way that works for you. 

Humidifiers: Do I Need One? And What Type Should I Get?

With winter comes drier air, and this can wreak havoc on our sinuses, skin, and overall well-being. One way to combat this is by incorporating a humidifier into your bedroom or home. Humidifiers come with many benefits, but must also be well-maintained to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria. There are many types of humidifiers that range in type, style, and size. You could have a small humidifier just for your bedroom, or a large one that can add moisture for the whole house. We are going to first look into if humidifiers can be beneficial in homes, and also what type to get.

Are humidifiers beneficial? Should I get one?

Humidifiers add moisture to the air in a space, which increases the humidity level. In the midAtlantic, we generally don’t worry about humidity levels being low in the warmer months. However, in the winter, dry air can lead to a lot of issues – some minor, and some major.

  • Around the House – Humid air tends to feel warmer so you could save a few bucks on your heating bill because the humidifier would make it comfortable enough to turn the thermostat down a degree or two. Static electricity is definitely a nuisance in the winter months but moisture in the air can help reduce static. Wood generally lasts longer if it doesn’t dry out. A humidifier can help wood floors and wood furniture to look its best. Most house plants are happier with a little moisture in the air, and tend to thrive with a humidifier nearby. 
  • Coughs – If you are coughing a lot, but no mucus is coming up, this can be attributed to low humidity levels. As gross as it may be, a “productive” cough is one that removes irritants from your respiratory system. When you are sick, your body can make extra mucus, and this needs to be expelled.  Mucus and phlegm can build up and be trapped in your body, because the dry air prevents them from being coughed up.  A humidifier may be able to alleviate this problem.
  • Skin – The cold, dry air outside is not the only cause of skin and hair problems. Many heating systems pump hot, dry air into your home. So your body is losing moisture to dry air, no matter if you are indoors or out. The skin is actually the largest organ of your body and it protects you from outside threats, such as bacteria, extreme temperatures, and chemicals that you may encounter. Keeping your skin healthy is a major part of your overall health, and dry skin is not healthy skin.
  • Snoring – When your airway dries out, it can make snoring louder. If you or your spouse tend to snore, a humidifier can help reduce this. 
  • Flu – Some studies show that humidity levels above 40% deactivated flu particles that were expelled into the air. This greatly reduced the virus’s infectiousness. 

What type of humidifier should I get? 

  • Steam – uses electricity to create steam, which cools, before leaving the humidifier. This is a great option if you have a lot of woodwork in your home, or expensive wood furniture. It is also a great option if you need really accurate humidity controls, due to respiratory issues. The steam humidifier is usually the most effective option, especially if you are looking for something that can work for the whole house. Steam humidifiers are generally more costly and will need annual maintenance to replace worn out parts and clean out mineral deposits. Discussing if a steam humidifier is right for your home with a trained professional is key to making the right choice. 
  • Evaporative Pad – creates water vapor by blowing air past evaporating water. This can also be a good option if you want a humidifier that can help raise humidity within your whole house. There are 2 different types – power or bypass. Power setups install a fan that is attached to the supply ductwork, and it draws air across the evaporative pad, and then sends the humidified air back through the ductwork and into your home. A bypass setup has a bypass duct that moves air across the evaporative pad with the help of the furnace’s fan, and then back into the ductwork. Both of these are great options to consider. Talk to a trained HVAC specialist to see which one would be the best fit for your HVAC system. 

Adding a humidifier to your home – whether it is just for a single bedroom, or if it is for the whole house, can be very beneficial to your loved ones and your home itself. There are a lot of options out there to choose from. Talking to a trained professional about what would be the best fit for your home can help you to ensure that you are making the best choice. Give Weather Crafters a call today to talk about humidifier options, or any other HVAC questions you may have. 


Improving Indoor Air Quality

When we think of air pollution, we often conjure images of factory smoke stacks, car exhausts, and other fumes that are being emitted out into the outdoors. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has research that shows that often indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air – as much as 5 times more polluted.

At first that might seem impossible, but the water cycle and nature make it possible. In our homes and offices, air is often recycled, so pollutants stay there. Outside, pollutants can be dissolved or mitigated by wind, rain, clouds, and plant life. There is also a lot more air outside to dilute pollution levels.

Common indoor pollutants include the expected  mold and mildew, airborne viruses, bacteria, and dust particles. There are also a lot of other pollutants you might not have thought about. The EPA reports that the top 5 air quality issues we have in the U.S. are all indoor air pollutants, such as combustion products, pesticides, radon, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds – think paints, pharmaceuticals, refrigerants). Whether you are aware or not, these pollutants are in your home and you are breathing them in every day.

So how can you improve your indoor air quality and improve the health of your loved ones? Here are some quick tips:

  • Filters – Change the filters in your HVAC regularly. Most filters should be changed every 3 months, the packaging will tell you when to change it. You can improve your filtration by upgrading the quality of the filter in your HVAC to one that catches more pollutants than the basic models do. You should also be replacing the other filters in your home – the filter in your vacuum, your dryer, and your kitchen vent. A filter that is overdue for a change is not filtering out the pollutants in your air, so it is really important to stay on top of filter changes.
  • Kitchen Ventilation – Not only should you be changing the filter in your kitchen vent regularly, you should also be ventilating the area whenever you are cooking. Gas and electric stoves produce carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide – gases that are harmful to humans. When cooking, be sure to turn on your kitchen vent and even open a window to improve ventilation.
  • Carpets – dust, dust mites, and other irritants can become trapped in carpets and rugs throughout your home. Regularly cleaning these areas will improve air quality by reducing the amount of pollutants floating through the air. Think of any time you walk across a carpet, those irritants are being disturbed and are floating back up into the air you breathe.
  • Plants – We know that plants help clean the air outside, and you can apply the same idea to indoor plants. Research started in the 1980s when NASA began looking for ways to improve indoor air quality on space ships.  They saw that the roots and soil of houseplants significantly reduced the levels of VOCs. So not only do plants look good as part of the decor, they play an important role in cleaning up the air in your home. The plants most effective in reducing VOCs are palm plants, rubber trees, Boston ferns, spider plants, and ficus trees. The spider plant, ficus, and Boston fern are all great for first-time plant owners as they are easy to care for.
  • Humidity – One of the biggest concerns for indoor air pollution is caused by moisture. It becomes trapped in homes and can lead to mold, mildew, and other issues that you may not even know are there because they often grow in places that are hard to see. These irritants can cause asthma or allergy issues to flare up. You can control the level of humidity in your home by incorporating humidifiers. If you are unsure what type of humidifiers to get, or where to place them, contact Weather Crafters today and we will be happy to walk you through the process.
  • Air Ducts – These work to distribute air throughout your home, like a highway for your HVAC to use. If they are not installed correctly, or not maintained, they can greatly contribute to indoor pollutants. Pet dander, dust, and mold can travel through these ducts and travel through the air you breathe. Well-cleaned and maintained air ducts can greatly reduce the pollutants in your home. Schedule an HVAC maintenance check twice a year with Weather Crafters, once before turning on the heat in the fall, and once in the spring before switching over to air conditioning.
  • Windows – Another easy way to help clean the air in your home is to open the windows when possible. This allows fresh outdoor air to circulate in. Not only does it help freshen things inside, it also improves air quality.

Keeping the air in your home as clean as possible can be tricky, but there are quite a few tricks listed above. One of the best ways to keep your indoor air clean is by scheduling maintenance with Weather Crafters. We can help change your filters, inspect your duct system, and make sure that your heating and cooling systems are operating efficiently, providing clean air for your home. Give us a call today to schedule your next maintenance visit.

Should I have an air humidifier in my home or office?

Humidity is something that we generally think of as a warm-weather thing, but humidity can also play a big part in your comfort over the winter. Humid air can make you uncomfortable, but so can air that is not humid enough. You might be wondering if you should have air humidifiers in your home or office. Air humidifiers help to control the amount of moisture in the air. An air humidifier can help with stuffy noses, coughs, and other ailments that are common during flu season.  To help keep a comfortable humidity level in your home, you might want to consider adding an air humidifier to your HVAC system. There are many benefits, not just your overall comfort.

Heating Bill

A money-saver for heating your home is the humidity level. In the summer months air that has a lot of moisture in it can make a space feel warmer. The moisture that amplifies the heat in the summer makes things feel colder in the winter. If you have humidifiers in your home, you won’t have to adjust the thermostat as much to feel comfortable. Turn the heat down a few degrees in the winter, and the humidifier will help maintain a nice temperature indoors. If you are able to adjust  the heat just three degrees, you could save up to 5% on your heating bill.  

Home Maintenance

Because most are made of wood, homes move and change with the weather. If you have wood floors, door frames, or other wood products in your home – these will all shrink and swell with the amount of moisture in the air. Too much humidity can cause wooden floors to warp, or grow mold underneath. Too little humidity will cause things like wooden furniture or door frames, to shrink and crack. If you add a humidifier to a space, you can provide a steady level of humidity and prevent these issues. Humidifiers help keep your home or office in good shape while you are living or working there. They also help when it is time to sell – a well-maintained home is much more attractive to potential buyers.

Health Benefits

Being hydrated is important all year, but it can become more difficult with the cold because of the drier air. Your skin is your first line of defense against illness and germs, and skin that is well-hydrated makes your body more prepared to ward off winter colds. Washing hands is definitely an important step in keeping away germs, but what about all the things you are breathing in? Winter is known as a time for sniffles, colds, coughs, and the flu. When your body is properly hydrated, it can more effectively deal with the pollutants and irritants in the air. While drinking water is important, you can also help your body hydrate by using a humidifier in your home or office. 

Types of Humidifiers

  • Central humidifiers: can be added to the HVAC system, are meant to control humidity in the whole house or building
  • Evaporators: blow moistened air through a filter using a fan, meant for one room
  • Impeller humidifiers: create moisture through the use of rotating discs, meant for one room
  • Steam vaporizers: heat water, then cool it and release the moisture into the air, generally single room use
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers: produce a cool mist through ultrasonic vibrations, come in varying sizes

At Weather Crafters, we are here to help. If you have any questions about selecting the best humidifier for your home or office, give us a call. We can talk to you about the best option for you, help you pick out the ideal humidifier, and complete the install. Winter is coming – let Weather Crafters help you get ready!