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Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality can be a significant issue in residential homes. Indoor air pollution according to the EPA can be 10 times worse than outdoors. Many HVAC firms claim to be experts in indoor air quality issues and are rarely trained properly. Always check their experience and credentials.

  • We have had on staff a full time Cal-EPA Registered Environmental Assessor since 1992.
  • We have been qualified in court as an expert in this field.

Homes contaminants can include mold, bacteria, chemicals and respirable particles that can be inhaled into a person’s lungs causing upper respiratory problems.

Mold growth is generally a result of water intrusion of some kind. This could be a roof leak,
plumbing leak or some other event that allows an accumulation of water to form. The single most
important thing you can do is determine the source of the water problem and deal with it. If the source
of the problem is not eliminated the mold will return no matter what you do.

The next important thing to do is to treat the water damaged area. Thoroughly dry the area and inspect it.
Remember, you need to see both sides of the affected area to determine the full extent of the problem.
If it's a wall and the water was present for only a short period of time you may not need to open the wall.
However, if you treat the area that has mold and it comes back quickly that is usually a sign of a bigger problem.

Potential chemical exposures can be avoided by using products in a manner other than as specified by the manufacturer. Chemicals should not be stored under a sink, near water heaters and or in areas accessible by children. Highly allergic individuals should wear a respirator with an organic vapor cartridge on it to protect themselves.

Particulates (dust) are typically fall into two categories, respirable and nuisance dust. Particulates in the respiratory category generally are 5 microns and lower which can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Nuisance dust is dust that is merely a nuisance and not a potential health hazard. However, nuisance dust can contain mold spores, dust mites etc that can cause allergic reactions in people.

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Filtering the Air We Breathe

The most important step in filter improvement is to make sure that all the air that goes through the electric air handler or gas furnace is filtered. If your HVAC system is pulling air through cracks in the duct system or return air chase, it pulls the contaminants along with it. Our service technician will check to verify that all the return air to a system is pulled through the filter system. This is a good time for our service technician to verify that the filter system is sized large enough for proper operation of the system.

Filters come in different efficiencies that are measured in the percentage of arrestance of particles. Simply stated, what amount and size of particles do they stop? The higher the percentage, the smaller the particle the filter will stop. The other factor that must be considered is the resistance to air flow, or will this super filter let enough air through to allow my system to function properly?

Fiberglass - these are the most inexpensive filters that you can buy. Most people refer to them as the filter you can see through. They stop less than 10 % of the largest particles in the air. Replace monthly.

Pleated Style - these filters look like a paper version of drapery pleats and are rated up to 30% efficient. This type filter is the easiest upgrade for the money spent. These filters come in the same size as a fiberglass filter and are available at most hardware/home improvement stores. This type of filter gives the greatest degree of improvement for the money spent. Replace every 1 to 3 months.

Media Filter - these filters are up to 4 inches thick and come in limited sizes, though the size selection is increasing. Rated at 90 to 95 % efficiency, these filters are changed 2 to 3 times a year. Media filters require a special frame to be mounted in the wall or mounted directly to the furnace or air handler. There are some media filters that come with special adapters that allow them to be mounted in a standard filter frame that has 4 inches of clearance behind it. Pressure drop through the filter is always a consideration.

Electrostatic filters - As an upgrade to Fiberglass filters, these are made up of layers of synthetic material that generate an electrical charge to attract dust particles. Electrostatic filters come with guarantees from five years to life. There have been problems due to high restriction of airflow across the filter. This reduction of airflow can greatly reduce the system capacity and efficiency. A new generation of these filters is now coming to market that promises less restriction to airflow. Clean at intervals of between 1 to 4 weeks.

Electronic Air Filters - this is the premiere filter system on the market today. An electrostatic grid is powered when the AC or heat comes on and attracts particles to it. The grid is cleaned as needed with a water hose or in the dishwasher. This is the most efficient filter system available. This type of filter normally fits the same space as a Fiberglass filter, but does require modification to the ductwork and wiring to be installed in your air conditioning system.

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Some contractors pre-filter either the media or the electronic filter with a pleated paper filter and move their cleaning or replacement to a yearly schedule. The main idea regardless of the type of filter you choose is to filter all the air you circulate in your house and to remove as much dust and other particles as needed to breathe comfortably. One benefit of the high efficiency filters is a reduction in the need to dust the furniture. Ask your Estes service tech which filter is best for you.

Killing the Mildew, Molds, Fungus, Bacteria, and Viruses
One of the ways an air conditioning system keeps us comfortable is by removing the water vapor (humidity) from the air. As the AC system condenses moisture from the air, a drain is supposed to take this moisture out of the system. What really happens is that some of this water splashes on the interior insulation and some of it is left standing in the bottom of the pan that is not designed or installed to get it completely out of the system. So, now, you have moisture ready to support the growth of assorted micro-organisms that will cause a variety of respiratory problems.

The simplest treatment is to keep drain lines clear and to have a positive drainage on the coil.

Pan tablets and drain pads are available that release chemicals into the condensed water and kills the pathogens. These tablets or pads must be physically placed in the evaporator drain pan on a 1 to 6 month schedule.

UV lights are the newest tool to be used to improve indoor air quality. Similar to the lights that barbers, dentists, and doctors use to sterilize their instruments, these lights are designed to not only kill what's growing in the drain pan, but also what is growing on the coil surface or on the interior insulation. These lights will kill the source of numerous allergens that people did not know existed. The light shines on the inside of the AC, in front of the coil, 24 hours a day. Even if a new bulb is required every year, the UV light combined with a good filter system will greatly improve the quality of air in either a home or business.

Even older air conditioning units can usually be retrofitted with UV lights.

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