February’s groundhog teased us into believing that spring will come sooner than later this year. Having lived in this area my whole life, I will not be holding my breath waiting for his prophecy to come true. I understand that for many, many weeks there will be days in the 50’s immediately followed by half a foot of snow. When spring comes, it will come – and I’m ready for it.
What have already arrived are the updated projections for the 2013 allergy season for our area. Big surprise! The prediction is for high numbers of cases with little relief for those who are the most sensitive. After visiting a recent project, I thought it would be best to point out a contributing component to this problem.
The fact is, we are exposed to higher levels of pollutants, spending more time indoors, and then tightening our building envelope – in essence, trapping more and more pollutants in our homes. Instead of combating the air quality problem, adding insulation, caulking cracks or sealing up ductwork adversely affects how our home breathes. The tighter we seal the envelope, the less relief we feel.
There is a vital step being skipped which has only recently been detected by those in the know: the fact that in many cases of “improvement” adding the crucial ingredient of fresh air to the mix has been ignored. Adding a duct from the return to the outdoors or installing a full ventilated HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) which mechanically admits fresh air and exhausts stale air will allow your home to breathe as it needs to.
Fresh air not only helps the mechanical operations and ensures safe drafting, but also affects filtration. Duct systems that are too tight, and/or sized to outdated standards create high static scenarios which make it impossible to properly filter air. Poorly designed filtration also forces your systems to work harder than they were designed for, leading to costing you more money to operate them, and potentially creating premature parts failure.
The best way to ensure proper ventilation is by making certain this issue is addressed when making improvements to the envelope of your home. Proper testing of the static levels of ductwork will lead to a simple mathematical calculation used to determine how much fresh air needs to be introduced. The testing will also factor into the decision of whether fresh air can be ducted straight into the system or if an HRV is necessary for bringing in larger quantities of fresh air.
If ventilation, excessive dust, or uncontrollable allergy issues do arise, set your fan to the “ON” position. This will help by continually filtering the air when there is not a call for heating or cooling.
Give us a call if you or someone you know has noticed issues after making home improvements.