Archive for the ‘Indoor Air Quality’ Category

Breathe Easier: Improving Indoor Air Quality

How often do we actually think about indoor air quality? Whether at home or the office, we’re usually more concerned with temperature than we are with quality. However, low-quality air presents a host of issues. Read on to learn more about the most common contaminants and how to improve and maintain your indoor air quality.

Indoor Air Quality

Just as it sounds, indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air inside building structures and can sometimes refer to its immediate outside air. Air quality is usually defined as it relates to human health. Indoor air pollutants can cause various human health issues depending on the type, dosage, and length of contaminant exposure.

North Florida’s Most Common Indoor Air Contaminants

The main sources of indoor air pollution in the Gainesville area include:

  • Mold
  • Excess Moisture
  • Radon
  • Formaldehyde
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Construction Dust
  • Household Cleaning Products
  • Pet Dander
  • Bacteria

Note, that this list isn’t exhaustive. Depending on life habits, this list can be much longer or shorter. For example, well-maintained homes feature better air quality than homes where cleanliness is poorly maintained.

Indoor Air Contaminant Health Impacts

Florida is a peninsula with a warm and humid climate. Therefore, mold is a common issue in many homes and offices. The presence of mold indoors isn’t unprecedented. Instead, issues arise when the mold count indoors begins to exceed the outdoor count — mold concentrations indoors should be nearly identical to outdoors.

Mold begins to get out of control when homeowners fail to practice some of the following habits:

  • Regularly running their air conditioner unit during the humid summer months.
  • Quickly identifying and addressing an unwanted water source like a slow plumbing leak or roof leak.
  • Running their bathroom’s vent fan while showering.

There are thousands of mold species, and some are more toxic than others. Additionally, mold sensitivity varies from person to person, increasing in concert with mold exposure. In other words, the longer a person is exposed to mold, the more their sensitivity increases.

Nearly every home contains various levels of VOCs and formaldehyde from building materials such as insulation and flooring. When a remodel or construction project is completed in a home, there is likely construction dust that can affect the human respiratory system. Homes with pets also contain dander and hair, which can become trapped in crevices and the home’s HVAC duct system.

If left unchecked, these contaminants work together to cause diseases and conditions, including weakened immune systems, cancer, respiratory illness, allergies, and a host of other issues.

How to Improve and Maintain IAQ

Improving and maintaining indoor air quality is accomplished by the following:

  • Properly maintaining your home’s HVAC system.
  • Regularly cleaning your home.
  • Keeping your thermostat setting within an appropriate range (68°F – 78°F).
  • Quickly addressing water leaks from faulty plumbing or leaky roofs.
  • Checking caulking around windows to ensure they’re properly sealed.

Dirty return duct

These habits form a great starting place for improving and maintaining indoor air quality. Most of these habits, including some aspects of HVAC maintenance, can be performed by the average homeowner. For example, homeowners can maintain their HVAC system by regularly replacing their air filter every 1-3 months. Other aspects of HVAC maintenance, such as duct cleaning, can be done by a professional.

Contact Gator Air & Energy For a Healthier Home

Here at Gator Air & Energy, we can help you with your indoor air quality. Our services start with proper HVAC system maintenance, including coil and pan cleaning, air filter replacement, duct cleaning, and UV light installation in the HVAC system’s air handler.

Practicing good home cleaning habits and allowing us to provide routine maintenance every 6-12 months will help you breathe easier in your home. Contact us today for more information about our indoor air quality services here in Gainesville, FL, and the surrounding areas.

Remedies for Clean Indoor Air

Whether you’re spending time inside your home or outside, the quality of the air you breathe is incredibly important for your health and wellness. Harmful air pollutants can build up and collect in the air supply within your home, posing significant health threats to your household. As we tend to spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, it’s crucial to ensure that we have clean indoor air in our homes.

While it may seem as though indoor pollution may simply be the remnants of excess outdoor pollution, there are various sources of indoor air pollution directly stemming from your home. These sources include your building materials, cleaning products, pet dander, appliances, excess humidity, and furnishings.

In fact, according to the EPA, indoor air can be up to 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.

There are specialized HVAC features that can foster clean indoor air by significantly reducing the number of pollutants, including UV lights, increased ventilation, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and air filter systems. In addition to improving your home’s HVAC system, you can take some simple steps to reduce the source of indoor air pollutants and work with these features to help purify the air.

Add Greenery to Your Home

While plants aren’t as effective as air purifiers, they offer a simple solution to help clean your home’s air naturally and in a cost-effective manner. By nature, some plants help to filter out harmful chemicals in the air, allowing your family to reap the benefits of thriving plants far beyond just aesthetics. We recommend adding these houseplants to help refresh your home’s air supply:

  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
  • Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum)
  • Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum)

These plants are also some of the easiest houseplants to care for, so even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, you can surely keep these plants thriving. Place two to three of these houseplants about every 100 sq. ft. within your home to help remove harmful pollutants from the air. If your house is not only home to your family but also some furry friends, remember that most houseplants are toxic to animals. You may want to keep houseplants on shelves or safely tucked out of reach from your pets.

Switch to Cleaner Household Products

When we speak about fresh air, that’s not a cue to reach for a spray can of air freshener. While that freshener can make your room smell pleasant, it may also release harmful aerosolized chemicals. Many common store-bought household cleaners consist of toxic chemicals that can increase the pollution of your home’s air, causing additional health-related concerns. As an alternative, switch to non-toxic cleaners at the grocery store with simpler, healthier ingredients or make your own natural cleaning products.

Maintain Your Pet’s Grooming

Pet dander can easily build-up in a home with pets. Pet dander refers to your pet’s skin cells circulating in the air, causing much greater allergic reactions and respiratory problems than the pet fur you see throughout your home. To keep pet dander from accumulating in your home, groom your pet often, ensure that any brushing takes place outdoors, vacuum frequently, and change your AC filter regularly.

Take Your Shoes Off at the Door
When coming home, try to make taking off your shoes one of the first things you do. Walking through your home with your shoes on will transfer dirt throughout your house. This can leave behind harmful substances, including pollen, fungi, pesticides, fecal matter, and bacteria contributing to poor air quality.

Care for Your Home

Cleaning Your Carpets

Your carpets are like sponges for harmful particles and potentially pathogenic microorganisms. By vacuuming and cleaning your carpets regularly, you can minimize the build-up of these pollutants in your home. Most pollutants tend to weigh heavily in the air, causing them to fall downward. This can often lead the lower portion of your home’s air to be even more polluted, posing specific concerns for small children. By actively cleaning these lower areas and the floors on which these pollutants can build up, you can reduce the risk of heightened indoor air pollution.

Ensuring a Healthy Environment

Proactively cleaning your home provides countless health benefits, including improved air quality. Many contributing factors negatively affect your indoor air, including excess humidity, bacteria, mold, and mildew growth. Mold often grows in damp, dark places, like your bathroom or laundry room, and will release harmful spores into the air, causing respiratory issues or triggering allergies and asthma. Cleaning your home before this happens can prevent these additional pollutants from developing.

Open Your Windows

If the weather permits, open your windows to let fresh air into your home. Doing this for a few minutes each day can help circulate the air in your home and allow cleaner outdoor air to refresh the air inside.

Change Your AC Filter Regularly

AC filters trap the indoor air pollutants that flow through your home’s air supply. Routinely changing your filter allows for better air circulation and optimal filtering capabilities, while dirty AC filters enable contaminants to enter your HVAC system and continue to build up in your home. Having a clean AC filter in place allows your HVAC system to operate at its fullest capacity, promoting better indoor air quality. Combine this proactive measure with regular AC maintenance to keep your home’s air circulating freshly.

Breathe Better with Gator Air & Energy

While these are great ways to incorporate healthier practices into your home, to get truly high-quality indoor air, you’ll need to equip your home with the tools it needs. Minimizing the sources of pollutants in your home and purifying the air as it circulates improves the quality of the air you and your family breathe every day. Reach out to our team at Gator Air & Energy to find the best ways to combat indoor pollution. Call us at 352-389-4396 to refresh your home’s air today!

How an AC Unit Fights Against Florida’s Humidity

Living in Gainesville, homeowners are no stranger to their fair share of weather extremes. But a constant threat to the security of your home, indoor air quality, and overall comfort is humidity. Luckily, a properly maintained AC unit helps to protect your home and your family from humidity. This is because the main purpose of your HVAC system is to drive air to your unit, which conditions your air, pulling impurities and moisture from the air to deliver back to your home.

The Risks of Humidity and the Help of an AC Unit

Humidity poses risks if too much or too little exists in your home. The obvious threat is of course to your comfort, but some risks are not as noticeable and can do more damage.

Too Much Humidity

When your home has too much humidity, mold becomes a much bigger problem. This can cause mold spores to linger and lead to health or breathing problems, especially for those that suffer from allergies. Mold can even cause rashes or eye irritation.

The build-up of mold not only threatens your family, but can also compromise the integrity of your home. Hidden or noticeable mold damage can occur on ceilings, in insulation, or on your walls, causing more money to be spent on repairs.

Too Little Humidity

On the other hand, not having enough humidity can also cause issues. While this may seem like a very uncommon occurrence in Florida, it can happen in the dryer, winter months. Too little humidity can cause dryness and even irritation. Common discomfort with low humidity includes chapped lips, a scratchy throat, and nose irritation.

Like too much humidity, your home can suffer from less-than-optimal humidity levels. Wood floors can warp or shrink along with wood furniture. Plus, wallpaper can actually begin peeling off the wall if it’s too dry!

How an AC Unit Protects Against Humidity

Finding a happy medium with humidity is important, and sometimes requires either a dehumidifier or a humidifier to accompany your AC unit. However, if you have a quality HVAC system, you shouldn’t have to worry about that.

Dehumidifying is a byproduct of cooling down a house and is done if your HVAC system is working as it should. Air conditioning removes moisture from the air in order to blow cold air throughout your home.

Is My AC Unit Working?

How can you tell if your AC unit isn’t pulling its weight? Well, if you are noticing that the inside of your house is humid, (you would detect a musty smell, possible signs of mold, etc.) then it is possible that your air conditioning unit is not working up to its full potential and might need to be fixed or replaced. Aging or damaged units are not reliable when it comes to maximum humidity protection.

You may have a properly working AC unit, but if you have an older home, humidity and moisture may still find their way inside. Make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed, otherwise, your unit will be working overtime while moisture continues to find its way in.

When Should I Be Concerned?

Of course, we all know that summer is the time when you feel the most moisture in the air, but interestingly enough, summer is not always the time when you should be worried about humidity in your house. Humid air often sneaks up on a house not when you feel it most, but when it is mild and your AC unit is not working as hard.

Because a byproduct of HVAC systems is clearing the air of humidity, when your AC unit isn’t being used heavily, then humidity can easily build up in the house. Therefore, look out for humidity in the spring or fall seasons, especially in Florida.

Contact Gator Air & Energy for Air Conditioning Services

In order to keep your house at a comfortable temperature and protected against humidity, your AC unit should be helping you fight the battle against humidity. Contact our team to schedule your AC inspection or repair if you begin to feel the effects of improper humidity levels.

5 Common Questions About AC Filters Answered

According to Energy.gov, routinely replacing the filter on your air conditioner is the most important maintenance task that you can perform to ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner.

That’s because a clogged, dirty filter will block the normal airflow and significantly reduce your system’s efficiency. When normal air flow is obstructed, the air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity. Replacing that dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%!

But which air filter do you choose?

If you’ve been to the hardware store lately, you’ve probably noticed how much the air filter aisle has grown over the last few years. Let’s take a closer look at the myriad of choices available to homeowners now and answer 5 of the most common questions we hear from our customers about their AC filters.

What Size AC Filter Do I Need? 

 It’s important to use the size of filter recommended by the manufacturer of your unit. Using an improperly-sized filter can be just as detrimental to your unit as having a dirty filter! If you’re not sure how to determine what size filter your unit needs, let us know and one of our friendly technicians would be happy to assist you!

Thickness

Most air filters are 1” in thickness but can range in thickness from 1” to 4”. Thicker filters are preferable to thinner filters because they trap more contaminants and need to be replaced less frequently. Not all AC units are designed to accommodate thicker filters, however, so you should measure the filter area of your unit to make sure it will accommodate a thicker filter before purchasing one.

What Type of AC Filter Do I Need?

Filters are generally categorized by the material they are made of and by their MERV rating. 

MERV rating

All filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. These filters are rated on how small of a particle they can filter out of the air. The numbers range from 1 to 16. The higher the number, the better the filtration. 

A low ranking filter is rated 1-4 MERV.  A medium filter falls into the 5-13 MERV range. A high-efficiency filter will range from 13 to 16 MERV. 

You might think that the filter with the highest MERV rating is automatically the best choice but the same technology that traps small particles in a high-end filter will also reduce airflow which causes your AC unit to work harder. The best filter to choose is one that balances good filtration with good airflow. 

Types of Filters

Fiberglass

Fiberglass filters are typically the least expensive choice. They have a low MERV rating of 1-4 and trap only the largest particles. Fiberglass filters need to be replaced every 30 days. Many HVAC professionals prefer fiberglass filters because they have minimal impact on unit airflow and overall efficiency.

Pleated

Pleated filters are more expensive than fiberglass filters but are capable of holding more particle contaminants due to their accordion-like structure. They typically have a mid-level MERV rating of 8-13. With a lifespan of 90 days, pleated filters don’t need to be replaced as often as fiberglass filters. Because they trap more contaminants, they typically reduce unit airflow more than fiberglass filters.

HEPA filters

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters. They typically range from 17-20 MERV. 

HEPA filters meet standards that remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles. Hospitals often use these types of filters to stop the spread of disease-causing organisms.

How Often Should I Change My AC Filter (Really)?

At Gator Air & Energy, we recommend that customers change their AC filter roughly four times per year but this number can vary based on the individual. For instance, if you rarely use your AC, you might be able to go six months without changing your filter. If you have multiple pets or someone in your home has allergies, you might need to change your filter as often as every three weeks. To change the filter, all you have to do is measure the size of the filter (the size is usually written around the edge of the filter), pick up a new filter at your local hardware store, and replace the old with the new. If you need help removing your old filter and installing the new one, give us a call

How Can I Make it Easier to Remember to Change My Air Filter?

If you’re someone who has trouble remembering to change your filter, you’re not alone.

Many filter manufacturers and retailers (including Amazon) now offer home delivery so you don’t have to make a special trip to the hardware store to buy a new one. You can even sign up for a monthly subscription plan and get a fresh, new AC filter delivered right to your door every few months. At a minimum, you can use daylight savings time (Spring Forward, Fall Back) as a reminder to change your filters once every six months. 

When Should I Call a Professional?

As we explained in a previous article, changing your air filter regularly is only half of the problem when it comes to dust, mold, and mildew in your home. A thorough air duct cleaning will also help to improve the air quality in your home and improve your HVAC system’s efficiency.

We hope you found this information helpful! If you have additional questions about home filtration or indoor air quality, contact us and one of our friendly Gator Air & Energy professionals would be happy to help you. We wish you and your family good health all through the year!

Top 5 Questions about Duct Cleaning

This time of year is the perfect time to address your duct cleaning. It’s something that many people put off, but it can have serious implications on your family’s health. Here, we break down the top five questions we hear from our customers when we stop in for a duct cleaning.

1) What Does a Duct Cleaning Entail?

A duct cleaning involves searching for leaks and then cleaning the ducts. Most professionals have specific tools they use to discover leaks in your system or any other problems associated with your A/C unit or ductwork. Alongside a duct cleaning, we often find other problems with ductwork, and many homeowners would not even know about them until they received a professional inspection.

For a list of what we provide in order to solve these problems and for more information on our services that address ducts, visit our duct cleaning page. We even offer dryer vent cleaning, which is a great way to get rid of a potential fire hazard.

2) When Should I Get My Ducts Cleaned?

The most common answer to this question is: as soon as you notice a problem. That is, if you see mold anywhere near vents, if you notice that some rooms are getting A/C but not others, or if you are feeling less air power and still paying a higher energy bill, then there is probably a good chance that you need to have your ducts inspected.

However, if you don’t have these problems but want to be proactive, the best time to check your ducts is in the spring. Remember, your attic will not be astronomically hot yet in the spring, so reaching your ducts without drowning in the heat will be much easier. Also, as we all know, spring leads into the beginning of summer, and especially here in Florida, summer is when the A/C gets used more than ever, so you will definitely want to make sure your A/C is working at peak capacity.

3) What Good Does Cleaning My Air Ducts Do?

The biggest advantage to cleaning air ducts is cleaner air. Making sure your vents are clean means that the air blowing through them is also clean, and clean air will keep you healthy and less in danger of various respiratory problems. A nice byproduct of clean air ducts is that when they are in good working order, then your A/C does not have to work as hard to keep your house cool.

When your air conditioning is not working so hard, it is burning less energy, and this status is advantageous to both your energy bill and the environment. Additionally, taking the time to clean the air ducts allows the opportunity to check for possible water damage and thereby prevent it or keep it from worsening.

4) How Can I Get My Ducts Cleaned?

Consulting professionals is the easiest and best way to get your air ducts cleaned. By placing the responsibility on professionals, you are ensured the best quality work and the peace of mind that your A/C is performing optimally. Of course, as an added bonus, working with professionals also spares you the hassle of crawling into the attic yourself to inspect every inch of the air ducts before taking them apart and cleaning them out. However, if you still would rather clean them yourself, you might want to see what Bob Vila has to say about this idea first.

5) Which Professionals Should I Work With?

Hopefully, this review of air ducts has deepened your understanding of your air conditioning system unit and encouraged you to make replacing the filters and cleaning the condenser coils (as mentioned in part one) a regular activity in your home. Finally, if you are from the Gainesville area, don’t forget to contact Gator Air and Energy for more information and to set up an appointment for air duct cleaning.

The Importance of Duct Sealing

According to the Department of Energy, one of the best ways to increase energy efficiency is to examine your ductwork. Did you know that duct systems typically lose up to 40% of its heating or cooling energy? Unlike plumbing leaks, duct leaks are very common and often go unnoticed because homeowners cannot see the issue.

The Benefits of Duct Sealing

air duct blaster test

The longer duct leaks go untreated, the worse the consequences are on your health, comfort, and wallet. There are four main benefits of duct sealing, all of which contribute to the enjoyment of your home.

Improved Air Quality

Regularly replacing air filters are one of the most common ways to improve indoor air quality. However, air filters are unable to prevent duct leaks from promoting mold growth and spreading unwanted contaminants like dust, pests, and more. This can aggravate allergies and can even cause respiratory issues. This is particularly important for children, who spend “as much as 90% of their time indoors” and are more vulnerable to developing asthma. By sealing your ducts, you can further improve your indoor air quality and eliminate respiratory risk factors.

More Comfort

Houses offer relief from unbearable weather, especially during hot summers and cold winters. Leaky ducts can disrupt your sanctuary by pulling outside air into the duct system and affecting the indoor temperature. One of the biggest issues in Florida is that the inefficient ducts pull in humid air and overwhelm the dehumidification capacity. As a result, your home may feel more humid and your clothes, belongings, and furniture are susceptible to mildew, mold, and moisture rot as a result. Duct sealing prevents humidity from entering your home, making it more comfortable for you and your family.

Increased Safety

Gas appliances such as water heaters and clothes dryers produce combustion gases, like carbon monoxide. These harmful gases travel through the ventilation system and are released outside, where the threat is neutralized. Duct leaks can create a backdraft that pulls these gases back into the home, making the air more dangerous to breathe. Duct sealing can minimize this risk by ensuring the gas leaves the home instead of lingering inside.

Lowered Utility Bills

Air conditioning accounts for 50-70% of your electricity bill, which makes it important to own an energy efficient system. Leaky ducts can significantly impact utility bills because they require more energy to cool or heat the home. Homeowners can save up to 20-40% by sealing their ducts, resulting in a more efficient system.

What is a Duct Blaster® Test?

A Duct Blaster® test is the most common method for testing duct tightness. The tighter the duct, the less leaks there are. It is a relatively quick process and helps determine whether homeowners need to seal their ducts.

Duct Blaster Air® Test Process:

duct blaster test for leaky air ducts

  1. Cover all the grills and registers to isolate any leakage
  2. Turn air handler fan off
  3. Attach the Duct Blaster® near the furnace or return-air grill
  4. Turn on the Duct Blaster® to pressurize the duct system
  5. Monitor the pressure and airflow gauge to determine efficiency losses

While the Duct Blaster® test is highly effective for determining the precise leakage of your duct, it cannot identify where the leaks are coming from – but theatrical fog machines can! Smoke billows out of any leaks, illustrating exactly where duct sealing is needed.

Schedule a Duct Blaster® Test and Duct Sealing Service Today!

Protect your family, home, and wallet by scheduling a quick test to identify any duct leaks. If any are found, we can seal them to maximize your system’s energy efficiency. At Gator Air & Energy, we are committed to understanding the ductwork of every system we service to properly care for your home. Our HVAC experts are happy to help and just a call away.

Will Air Conditioning Help Allergies?

Here in Gainesville, FL, we’re already beginning to see the tell-tale signs of spring: cars covered in green pollen, seeds sprinkled on the ground, and of course the rise in seasonal allergies.

For many people, this time of year is torture. Stuffy noses, watery eyes, and sore throats are common symptoms of seasonal allergies, and here in the Sunshine State we never truly get relief from the pollen created by our beautiful foliage.

So what can be done? Outside of taking allergy medication, there are a few ways you can help control your allergies in the home. The air conditioning unit in your home helps to control pollen in a few ways. Air conditioners filter the air in your home and control humidity, which both contribute to improving indoor air quality.

As long as your air conditioner is properly maintained, your air conditioner can serve as your home’s first line of defense against Florida’s pollen counts. If you are concerned about your air conditioner maintenance or indoor air quality, Gator Air & Energy are Gainesville’s air conditioning experts, and we can help you breathe easier with our air conditioning maintenance and indoor air quality services.

The Role of Air Conditioning with Allergies

There are several ways that your air conditioner can help to keep your allergies under control in the home.

The Importance of Air Conditioning Maintenance with Allergies

If you notice that your allergy symptoms don’t subside when you get home, it may be a sign that your air conditioning unit is due for maintenance. Without regular maintenance, your air conditioning unit is suspectible to allergens and costly breakdowns.

At Gator Air & Energy, part of our process when we perform air conditioning maintenance is cleaning the condenser and evaporator coils within your system. Dirty coils can create mold throughout the system by causing a buildup of water, which in turn will affect your allergies.

In addition, we also offer duct cleaning services, which help to control allergens that may be thriving in the cool and dark environments of your duct work.

Call Gator Air & Energy for Air Conditioning Maintenance

Here in Gainesville, FL, allergies are a concern for many residents. Keeping your air conditioner properly maintained throughout the year can definitely help with airborne allergies. Call us today to schedule your air conditioning maintenance service and we’ll help you breathe easier this allergy season.

Winter Indoor Air Quality – What You Need to Know

The winter season brings about many changes to the air, including how you heat your home. In this season it’s especially important to know how your indoor air quality is affected by the heaters in your home.

Chuck Larsen, the owner of Gator Air & Energy, offers his insights below on what you need to know about how indoor air quality is affected by the changing temperatures in winter.

How Your Air Gets Contaminated

In the summer, the evaporator coil in your air conditioning unit run at 35°F – 45°F. This coil is what is cooling the air as it enters your home. An evaporator coil is similar to a radiator on a car. It has tubes where the refrigerant is evaporated and many small fins to aid in heat transfer to the tubes.

If your unit has no air filter or a fiberglass filter instead of a high-efficiency pleated filter (that captures more contaminants), the contaminated air is cycling through your home. Dirt from the air will accumulate in your system and ducts and will serve as food for the microbes that thrive in the dark, cold, wet environment of the coils. Remember the coil drains moisture out of the air and outdoors through a ¾ inch drain pipe all summer long.

Heat Pumps and Winter Indoor Air Quality

Due to Florida’s relatively warm climate, many homes in North Central Florida are equipped with heat pumps. Essentially a heat pump is the same as an air-conditioner, except for the fact that it is cycling warm air into your home rather than cool air. Throughout most of the year, air conditioners work as heat pumps in reverse by cycling hot air through cooling coils to cool your home.

In the winter, the coil works in reverse to heat your home and becomes a heat coil. When that happens, the dirt and microbes in your system will dry out. This is what causes a “musty” smell that many homeowners complain about when turning on the heat for the first time in winter.

Your system might also be equipped with an auxiliary electric heater to serve as a second stage heater or when the system needs to be defrosted. When this additional heater is activated, the dirt and contaminants will get burned off the heater elements (like they do in a toaster). This is what causes the short-lived “burning” smell when you turn on your heat pump in the winter.

Furnaces and Winter Indoor Air Quality

Furnaces are less common in North Central Florida, but there are still many homeowners who use them. In gas furnace heat, the cooling coil becomes inactive and gas is fired into a heat exchanger sitting below the cooling coil. With gas furnaces, the heat is much higher than in a heat pump. Temperatures in a heat pump are 90°F to 105°F whereas a gas furnace produces heat at 120°F to 150°F.

Similar to heat pumps, the coils in a furnace are heated and the contaminants in the duct system and on the coils can burn or become airborne. Some furnaces also produce heat using natural gas, propane, or oil. It’s especially important for homes with this type of furnace to watch out for CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning. If your home is not properly ventilated, you could be at risk.

Older combustion furnaces are also at risk of developing cracks in the heat exchanger. Annual furnace inspections are essential – even on newer furnaces – to detecting these often invisible cracks which could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If your furnace is in the 16-20 year age range, it may be time to start considering a new furnace.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Winter

If you’re looking for ways to improve your indoor air quality this winter, there are several easy things you can do today.

  • Install UV Lights – Installing UV lights in your home kills the microbes and bacteria that thrive in your ducts and coils. As the air cycles through, the air is sterilized and prevents any contaminant growth.
  • Have Your Ducts Cleaned – Having your ducts cleaned regularly prevents the buildup of dirt and dust, keeping the air clean when your heater starts.
  • Change Your Air Filter – Changing your air filter at least every three months prevents dust and dirt from entering your system. It’s important to use a high-efficiency, high MERV rated air filter.
  • Coil & Pan Maintenance – Regular maintenance and cleaning of the coils and pans of your system not only improves air quality but also improves the energy-efficiency of your system.

Dirty coils can cost up to 37% more on your energy bills.

Call Gator Air & Energy to Improve Winter Indoor Air Quality

Although AC contractors are not microbiologists or certified mold remediators, we know how to prevent or remediate indoor air quality through proper maintenance and cleaning. We also offer HVAC system upgrades such as high-efficiency air filters, UV air purifying lights, or electronic air cleaners with activated carbon working with UV lights.

If you’re concerned about your indoor air quality this winter, give us a call today! We can help you choose the best option for your needs, and keep your family breathing easy this season.

Pre-Winter Checklist: What to Check With Your Heater

We may live in the Sunshine State, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to prepare for the winter season. Of all the cities in Florida, Gainesville is particularly likely to get very cold, due to its northern and inland location. With winter quickly approaching, it’s important to make sure your home is ready. Therefore, we’ve compiled a checklist of items to inspect with your heater and your house to ensure you will be comfortable throughout the winter months.

Gator Air & Energy’s Pre-Winter Heater Checklist

✓ Make Sure Your Heater Works

Since most Floridians don’t need to use their heater for a majority of the year, it’s important to make sure that your heater still turns on and churns out some heat. In order to not be too uncomfortable while testing your heater, turn on the heat after you get back home from work when it’s not so hot outside. Keep it running for 15 minutes or more to make sure that it’s still running effectively and blowing out heat. If it isn’t turning on, smells weird, or isn’t very hot, it could be due to one of the underlying problems explained below.

✓ Check Your Duct Sealing

Leaky ducts can lead to wasted heat, and wasted heat leads to wasted money. Because the holes in your air ducts are leaking into your attic instead of holding in heat and distributing it throughout your house, you’ll be paying to heat up your attic! A tell-tale sign of leaky ductwork is finding that you really have to turn up the heat just to get your house warm. You’ll also probably have a high electric bill, due to the cost of wasted heat energy. Thankfully, Gator Air & Energy offers Duct Sealing Services, where our inspectors patch and seal off holey ducts! Getting those checked and sealed before the winter will ensure a cozy house, despite the chilly weather.

✓ Make Sure Your Ducts Are Clean

Similar to holey ducts, dirty ducts also cause heating problems. As time goes on, ductwork can easily become dusty or dirty, especially if it’s left unchecked. When you start using the heater in the winter, the hot air combined with dust can become a fire hazard. The only way to ensure your ducts are clean is to have them regularly checked. However, the danger of dirty ducts can all be prevented with a duct cleaning, which can be performed by a Gator Air & Energy professional.

✓ Have Your Furnace Burner Checked

The furnace burner is the spot in your central heating unit where air and fuel are burned to produce heat. Because there’s an actual flame here, it’s very important that the burner is clean of any dirt, grime, grease, or anything else that could inadvertently catch on fire. This should be looked at by a professional, and a complete heater inspection from an HVAC professional can easily assess and clean out any issues there might be.

✓ Check For Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is especially important to be aware of if your house has a chimney and you use your fireplace. If unchecked for an extended period of time, a chimney can gather grime and soot to the point where it traps some of the fumes in the house. Amongst those fumes is carbon monoxide. Even if you don’t have a chimney, the furnace burner, electrical wiring, mechanical controls, and more can be potential causes of carbon monoxide.

This colorless, odorless gas is impossible to detect with human senses, so a carbon monoxide test is very important leading into the winter months. Basically, the inspector can ensure that your house is clean of carbon monoxide using specific instruments, and they can help prevent future issues by finding areas where the gas might get trapped in heating the house.

✓ Replace and Maintain Your Air Filter

Dirty air filters can cause dander, germs, and dirt to get transferred throughout the house when they’re not replaced. Replacing your air filter is a quick and easy task, as most air filters have a specific size that can then be bought at a home improvement retailer for a reasonable price. Just removing your vents and replacing them with a clean, new filter will allow for better airflow, cleaner air, and a fresher environment.

✓ Prevent Allergy Season With UV

Airborne germs can collect in your ductwork and then get distributed throughout the house, worsening allergies, causing lung problems, and more. In the winter, when allergies are typically stronger, immune systems can use all the help they can get! Therefore, installing UV lights in your A/C system can help kill any germs hiding in ductwork or coils. These lights can be easily installed by professionals during an inspection.

Contact Gator Air & Energy For a Heater Inspection

Our professional team knows exactly what to do to prepare your home or office for cold weather. With services like duct cleaning, sealing, UV installation, carbon monoxide tests, and more, we can ensure that you are ready to heat your house all winter. Contact us today for a consultation!

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