Custom Home, Custom Problems

More and more studies show the lack of consumer confidence in the housing market as a whole. The steep decline in home values along with the weak performance of the stock market has consumers reinvesting in their existing homes. These studies are backed by the increase in demand for remodeling as well as in the demand for custom-built homes. Smart consumers are educating themselves on re-inventing their dream home concept; home builders are in a race to scrap the cookie-cutter subdivisions in favor of the custom home market.

Savvy customers want more space and lower utility bills. One of the problems with this trend is the home builders or re-modelers inability to match their current construction practices with the demands of today’s consumer. Low E windows and sliding glass doors combined with good insulation practices is a great start. Unfortunately the new dream home often gets a cheap heating and air conditioning system, and the consumer is left with a space that they cannot fully ENJOY.

A recent comfort audit was conducted on the addition to the home of a new client. In square footage alone, the addition was so large it could be classified as a free-standing custom home. The client occupied this space for more than a year before he reached out to us for help.

His problems were far too common, ranging from uncomfortable areas to poor performance from his hot water system to other comfort imbalances. After investing large sums of money with both the contractor and his heating and air conditioning crew and numerous call backs, he was fed up! He needed to know why his house was working the way it WAS and how to fix it.

What I saw made me sick to my stomach. Something about this business makes me take everything way to personal. The installation of his multiple furnace and air conditioners as well as boiler and water heating system screamed “budget-build”. I conceded that the companies involved knew how to make the equipment turn on, but they could NOT make the components work; no engineering in this design. The forward thinking architect was responsible for the concept, unfortunately the heating and air conditioning engineering was left to the bidding contractors. That would be like building a brand new car and putting in an engine designed for a car built in the 1960’s. It may look good – and drives – but it won’t be your ideal daily ride and over the long haul it will cost you big time.

It’s sooo important that the client who is going to be living in the home have his/her say in every aspect of the project to some degree. I realize it’s impractical for most of us to act as your own general contractor, but you shouldn’t blindly trust the opinion of your general contractor. Make sure that you are getting experts involved in everything from design to installation practices.

In the case of the mammoth addition, I was able to follow the usual trail of clues leading to the source of the problems the client was experiencing. Lack of mechanical design by an expert had lead to wild-ass guessing by the HVAC contractor. Airflow requirements to make each room comfortable and provide even temperatures were not met. “Rule of thumb” does not work, and certainly did not work in this case. Computerized modeling + larger ductwork = even room temperatures and happy client.

My next task was to investigate why the homeowner was having so many issues with the hot water heating system. The system was a-typical for residential, but more in line with what you would find at a health club or in a small hotel. It consisted of a boiler and holding tank. This combination is capable of supplying endless hot water and radiant in-floor heating. The client complained that he could not rely on it for tasks as small as a three minute hot shower. In fact, things had gotten so bad for a stretch of time that he sent his family to stay at a hotel. The contractor was unable to get the system operating consistently because he could not figure out the root of the problem. We corrected the pumping and piping issues and Walla problem solved. A good concept needed good engineering.

At Corcoran Heating and Air Conditioning, we have learned so much and gotten to where we are because we continually test. If you don’t test you’re just guessing. Thanks to new design procedures, we can design the ideal indoor environment. We also keep on top of things in our field, and will continue to do so.

For all of your new construction or remodeling projects, find the right general contractor, and demand excellence. Be sure to check references to find out if their clients are comfortable and happy with the end result. Check with the Illinois States attorney’s office. These resources are invaluable to your decision making process. Also, do not settle for working with the general contractor’s own sub-contractors. Stick with the companies you are comfortable with, and never hesitate to get a second opinion; it’s your money! Make sure you get what you’re paying for!

 

Helping at Da Coach’s Restaurant

As many of you know ex Chicago Bears head coach is in the restaurant industry along with many other businesses. Currently there are two different restaurants, one located in Chicago right near Water Tower Place, and one directly across the street from Oak Brook terrace. There is talk of maybe even a third so keep your eyes peeled for that on the North Shore.

When it comes to his restaurants its simple, great atmosphere, great food, and even a chance too meet the coach. Just like his style of coaching going back to the good old days of Super Bowl Bears the coach demands the best. His staff was having problems with the comfort at both locations and wanted to get to the bottom of his problems.

For his Chicago location the problem was the main bar area could not maintain temperatures when it was in the extreme temperatures. There is no place for uncomfortable clients when it comes to Da Coach and his staff. The equipment at this location was also nearing the end of its expected life and displaying some design flaws. After consulting with other companies their only answers were new equipment.

Being the smart managers they were, the GMs knew this was not the way. After visiting with the Corcoran’s they learned that a new return was needed for the bar area, a new supply was needed for the private dinning area, and the kitchen’s make-up air needed to be turned on. All this information can easily be gained through load calculations and duct calculators.

However, the implementation side is what is often overlooked by the majority of contractors. They stick to replacing boxes and try to avoid the creativity needed for proper airflow. In this case the restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, and we needed to adapt including the ductwork and holes required all while keeping them up and running.

Thanks to our design expertise and for cite this was just another project from Corcoran. Post completion the head chef was shocked by how easily the bar area cooled down, and even how powerful the newly added supply was. A great example of how looking at all aspects of the project and environment are the difference between comfortable happy clients, and the same old school results.

Now the Oak Brook location is a different story with an entirely new set of challenges. This location is newly built with new equipment and a hi tech control system. What has been going on here is a multitude of comfort and control problems, as well as parts failures, and building over pressurization. These problems needed to be met with a sophisticated understanding of how the equipment was operating, and where the short comings came into play.

After careful testing and research we were able to determine places we could make a difference. A few adjustments here, some controller reprogramming, and getting all the kitchen mechanical equipment operating. Without that the kitchen exhaust was robbing the space of air conditioning and wasting their money!

Just like football our services come down to a good game plan developed by the smartest people it can partner with. This game plan can be implemented, repeated, and successful. This game plan is applied to all our home, commercial, and restaurant clients. By simply switching plays and coverage’s we can adapt and discover all the comfort robbing and energy wasting problems.

It would be bad for you not to check out all Da Coach has to offer, he has a lot to check out!: MikeDitka.com

Cooling Chicago’s Hottest Club

Paris Club – Studio Paris Chicago

59 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654

Behind the scenes look at how our crew takes on a comfort problem beyond the same old inadequate steps, delivering the same old inadequate results.

Recently, we were approached with a very typical, yet extremely complex situation at one of Chicago’s hottest new nightclubs. I can safely say hottest both figuratively and literally. Paris Club, located at 59. W Hubbard in downtown Chicago, approached us with one major request, “Make my clients cool!” This new club is the brain child of legendary restaurant gurus from Lettuce Entertain You. They are setting the standards in Chiacgoland dining, and keep patrons raving.

Now, this is a typical and not outrageous request in that a business owner wants his indoor comfort to be perfect to attract the sophisticated clientele that frequent the restaurant/nightclub. What is not typical is the extent that it took to deliver on this request. It took 30+ years of experience and the knowledge of constantly being a student in the comfort performance industry.

Paris Club is only a year old and completely remodeled including newly installed HVAC equipment intended only for the newly added lounge area. A very cool room, with a black and white motif and a retractable glass top roof. On nice nights they open the roof top and let the beautiful Chicago night sky add to the experience. Very cool looking under the stars I might add.

During their renovation process the club hired in the typical players, an architect, engineer, construction company, mechanicals, etc. Agreeing on a design they set the project in motion and after a few months the club was ready to unveil their newly designed space. What they discovered over the next several months was what brought them to call us. They found that when they were at their busiest times they could never get the temperature to stay as low as they wanted it to.

If they are struggling to keep their club as comfortable as the clients deserved it to be, how the heck could they keep people coming back? Thus, began our journey into this project and on a quest to the best solution meeting their specific needs.

Our crew got started out in the investigative phase to understand what was going on here, and what needed to be straightened out. Step one is assessing the newly installed equipment and evaluating its functionality. On the surface level, where most contractors can only go, it would appear that all equipment was in working order. The parts and pieces of the physical unit where working complete with air blowing out of the vents.

Since stopping at that diagnosis would be doing only half of our job we next test the performance of the units. It is imperative to understand how the HVAC equipment is actually running. You need to compare this to what the equipment manufacturer says, and understand where the short falls are.

If the equipment is not only sized wrong, but under ducted as well, we need to document and correct these deficiencies. By simply going by typical industry practices these step are not taken, and the customer is left wondering where the ball was dropped, and why I am not comfortable in my own business.

The next step we took was to reengineer the club ourselves using computerized modeling software. Which is taking the physical dimensions of the space, adding windows, people and desired temperature to be sure the new equipment could handle the actual demand of the space. This step brought to light exactly what we had been fearing from the beginning. The fear was that the newly installed HVAC equipment was not big enough to handle the demand required by the space and all the people inside.

Baffling as it was to the owner, the reality was that we needing to double the amount of air conditioning that was currently existing. Yes, I said double. I am sure you are making the same face as the owners where when we told them.

We needed a plan, and we needed one quick with these 90 degree summer days not going away. This portion of the process comes the 30+ years experience and the research to offer the best possible solution. The owners do not want to be having this conversation again.

After a couple days of researching options and get together all the facts it was clear to us that there was one shot for us that would do the trick. Instead of relying on one new unit to supplement the space, or starting from scratch with new equipment and new ductwork, we took a different approach. We also had to account for the sunlight pound on the exposed ductwork, having the same effect as on the existing equipment. Besides the fact that the space was undersized, the existing equipment was only working at about half of its total capability. This is based on a combination of poorly sized ductwork, lack of opens in the ductwork, and the sun heating up the ductwork.

Our decision was made clear; why not go with ductless units like we did when it came to cooling down the junior high last summer? This solution would allow us to seamlessly integrate cooling into the club that could not upset the esthetics of the overall club. It also eliminates the need to find a space for the new unit and ductwork in the already crowded environment. Even better, by installing 7 of these ductless models would allow for other units to keep running should one fail. If they went with a new rooftop and it fails, well then you are right back where you started.

Thanks to newly designed technology these ductless systems could also be used for heating the space should they ever need it. By the amount of people dancing there I can not imagine them ever needed to make this space any hotter! If they want the ability though, it is just two buttons on the thermostat and away they go. Not to mention these units do not take a lot of electricity to function.

Once my install crew was able to begin this project, within 5 long days the club was ready to benefit from the newly installed units. Thanks to the craftsmanship of my crew the only equipment the customer had to see in the space was the indoor air handling units. Everything else was seamlessly hidden on the outside of the building. We also can not overlook that these things are library approved quiet. The club owner is able to cool off his hot crowd, and have no impact on the music system. Heck that is one large reason why they come to the club in the first place.

This success story helps illustrate why the HVAC equipment is just the tip of the iceberg. Had we not had the knowledge and understanding to solve this problem I know the owner would have spent good money chasing bad results. This is the same care and attention that gets taken into homes and businesses where people want real improvements and results.

If you are looking to experience a high end venue for one of your parties or gathers, or are just looking for an exclusive new night spot check this place out. And you won’t have to worry about the temperature inside, because we already took care of that.

 

Emergency Service Call on a Broken AC Leads to a Toxic Discovery

Are you one of the millions of American’s who suffers from itchy red eyes, sneezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing? If not you are one lucky person, because according to the Allergy Institute of America more than half of the population suffer from and have tested positive for at least one type of allergen. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones, but what about someone living in your home? The real problem is that the number of those suffering is not going down, but rather increasing every year.

It’s typical for people to never know what causes their problems, or that they even have one. Far too often people attribute their problems to some sort of seasonal allergy or think that they may just be getting the flu. Just ask our dear friends Steve and Michele who live in Inverness. One day last summer they called us to the rescue, because after two days of suffering with no air conditioning they could not bare it any longer. What we discovered opened our eyes to a shocking realization and the fact that we had to share this with you.

Upon our arrival to a seemingly routine air conditioner problem we noticed both Steve and Michele seemed very run down, and suffering from flu like symptoms. Steve was very pale, and you could tell he just wanted to curl up in bed and sleep this off. Michele was complaining about how she had not been able to sleep lately. Had we not been friends previously I worry I may have never gotten that information from her. This was important, because we were able to find and fix their problem.

Not only was their air conditioner broken and in need of replacement, but they had a broken water line leaking into their basement since the winter. For at least 4-5 months they had water soaking into a workbench in their basement, right where the furnace was located of course. The workbench was completely saturated and cover in black mold!

We immediately sprung into action and started to pull out anything that had been contaminated. We pulled out box after box of antiques and collectible. Most notably was Steve’s baseball card collection. Steve being a huge baseball fan, I can only imagine how valuable these cards where. After developing a solution with Steve and Michele we were able to get our crew into action and get them immediate relief.

There is no doubt that Steve and Michele had been breathing in toxic particulates cause them to suffer from what they thought was normal causes. To us no suffering is normal, and there are ways to combated each situation. The typical indoor environment is 5 times more polluted than that of the outdoors. That means you and your loved ones are breathing in toxic and pollutants everyday, and in some cases they can cause serious health problems.

There are signs that you can look for in your own home to understand if your heating and cooling system is contributing to your health problems. The first is to make sure your system is operating properly and filters are being changed regularly. Dirty and clogged filters as well as poorly performing equipment are leading causes to indoor air quality issues. If your system seems to be turning on and off excessively it is not doing its job at properly removing the high humidity in the home. High humidity levels are an allergens dream, as they can easily grow and multiple. Another leading factor to look at is how well your ducts are sealed and where they are located. The environment that the ducts are in can have a large influence on the environment of your home in general.

How much would it mean to you if you could drastically reduce your costs associated with allergy medicine as well as over the counter prescriptions? How much does time off from work or sick days affect your family? It is estimated the the health care industry spends 18 billion annually in relation to allergies and allergens. There is no reason for you to be suffering in your own home! Like Steve and Michele I am sure your home is your castle and sanctuary. From now until May 31st, or until we run out of our secret weapon, we want to help!

By installing a Guardian Air PHI light, as well as new equipment in Steve and Michele’s house we were able to improve their quality of life back to where it should be. Michele tells me every time I see her that the little blue light indicating her RGF light is on, is her way of know she can sleep and be protected. Not only was Michele suffering during the water leak, she told me that she could never really sleep well since living in her house. She knew instantly as soon as her cleaned air started flowing she could take a deep breathe and relax. Sure some cases are extreme like our friends, and may need other solutions. However, we knew that by adding this light we were going to help them drastically.

What is so great about this system is that it can easily be added to an existing system, and does not require you to change out your equipment. So from now until the end of May, we want to help you put an end to any needless suffering in your home. We are offering this system to you for 90 days, no risks, no gimmicks. We are going to slash the price of these units from $925.00 down to $825.00, installed. They come with a full two year parts and labor guarantee. To us that wasn’t giving this light enough justice. So as a incentive to you our loyal reader we are adding in a 90 satisfaction guarantee with a full refund in that 90 days if you are not happy. No questions asked, no BS, and no gimmicks. If you would like to find out if this is the right solution for you, or want to understand your particular situation better call us for a free no obligation consultation. We want to help you! I know that this system will end needless suffering, and I want to share it with as many people as I can help!

Even The Hospitals Aren’t Safe!?!

If you are one of the millions suffering from the latest strand of flu virus, you may just as well stay home.  According to Northwest Community Hospital as well as press releases from other institutions, you will simply be turned away. That is true even for your children under the age of 18.

Hospitals understand just how easily the virus spreads from person to person or through ventilation systems, and how resistant it is to common medications.  They are worried about the havoc the flu virus will wreak on their patients, who are very susceptible to contracting it.

In this age of viruses and flu bugs that mutate and seem invincible to current treatments, it is more important than ever to recognize how big an impact our ventilation systems can have on our home or business.  It also serves as a reminder of what steps we should be taking to strengthen our immune system by improving our physical condition.

Maybe the first issue to address is taking care of ourselves so we can build up defenses in order to stay healthy.  There are no magic formulas or hidden insider secrets to achieve this.  Eating right and exercising thirty minutes every day has proven to cut the chance of getting sick by half, yes half!

It’s harder during the winter – everything is!  But it’s not impossible.  The body can create as many good habits as bad ones given the chance.  Habits are said to become routine if given thirty days of repetition.  Experiment with this by waking up at a specific time for the next month, and then see how your body reacts in the following month.  You should find you’ve conditioned yourself to awaken at that same time.  It’s a strategy that fitness centers have embraced, and the reason why so many offer the first thirty days of membership for free.

If you’ve gotten hooked into a one year gym membership, no matter by what means, put it to good use.  According to Health.com, “thirty to sixty minutes (physical activity) a day lowers blood sugar and blood pressure, boosts HDL (good cholesterol) and can reduce the protein that contributes to blood clots”.

As long as we can’t hibernate, we may as well feel better, live longer, and enjoy an overall better quality of life.   Making a habit of being active is the cheapest and quickest solution to help prevent illness and disease.
Eating habits can be changed too.  Start simple.  If you think you need 3 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, condition yourself to get that spoon out of the bowl after 2.  Remove the salt shaker from your table and leave it in the basement or rent a storage locker for it.  There’s enough sodium in most foods, anyway.  Grab the 1% milk at the grocery store. In a few days, you won’t notice the difference between it and either 2% or whole milk.  We’ve all read the benefits of fruits, vegetables, fish, etc.  Start believing a lot of this is true.

I’m not your mother so I won’t tell you that you have to do anything.  On that note, I’ll end this portion of the lecture.

Next up is advice about properly filtering and venting a home or office.  Start by understanding what you are trying to accomplish.

Are you looking for a cleaner home?  The first and easiest place is to start with replaceable filters.  The one inch filters are designed to be replaced every thirty days, while the five inch filters are designed to be changed every three to six months.  A common, replaceable filter is designed to capture airborne particles such as dog hair, dander, dust and other non-living particles present in the indoor air.

If allergies plague your family, there are high level HEPA self-contained filtration systems which are mounted to the home duct work or available as standalone units. These add a higher capture rate for harmful air born particles and are ideal for use in extreme allergy cases or in situations where household members are susceptible to illness from outdoor air which means the house needs to be closed up for most of the year.  These systems do put extra pressure on your equipment’s static pressure by restricting airflow.  Call me for this type of application.  It really needs expert analysis of your current duct system.

Are you looking to take the next step or for additional suggestions to keep your home cleaner and its indoor air safer and healthier?  A newer and easily added option is the RGF germicidal lamp.  It can be easily added to most HVAC systems and is ideal for killing living bacteria and viruses in the air stream.

The lamps have been tested and recommended for treating even severe viruses like H1N1.  Testing has been done in places where bacteria is easily introduced, such as in offices, health care facilities, hotels and even cruise ships.  It’s now trusted to be effective in the commercial UV treatment of food.  It is also used widely in hospitals and large industrial applications.

Personally, we have seen such positive results that we have no problem allowing people to test drive the equipment in their own place for ninety days.

If you do not notice results, we will take it out and refund your money.  That’s how much faith we have in RGF germicidal lamps.

Whether you’re in charge of a household or business, it is important to take time to protect it.  By stepping up efforts at the gym, or at the kitchen table – every effort to improve immunity to sickness and disease is worth the effort.

Take some time to investigate what you’re living with on a daily basis, and set up your indoor environment to match your body’s needs.  Each case is unique, and that’s why we don’t waste time on magic bullet solutions, but rather want to investigate your situation and your needs.

Why we test Static Pressure

They Check Your Blood Pressure Every Time You Go To the Doctor, Don’t They?

The truth is that the medical profession has used the simple act of checking a person’s blood pressure to tell an awful lot about that person.  The results of this basic test serve as a reliable indicator upon which the doctor can make his/her decisions for recommendations and remedies.  People with high blood pressure are instructed in ways to help lower that pressure in order to allow the heart to perform better while working easier.

Luckily, people much smarter than me have learned to adapt this system to the HVAC industry.  If you’re thinking your system doesn’t have blood, or for that matter, a heart, just hear me out. You see, we can actually take your duct system’s blood pressure.

Think of it this way.  Your equipment is the heart of your comfort system, and the ductwork is its veins and arteries.  When the blower turns on to move the air, it acts as the heart pumping air through your system’s veins.

Using the correctly calibrated tools along with the proper formulas, our technicians can check your duct’s ‘blood pressure’ performing a test done during routine maintenance and service or as a  measure implemented when helping to improve comfort issues or while replacing equipment. The higher the pressure in the ductwork, the harder the blower motor and other components need to work.  The harder they work, the shorter they’ll last, the worse they’ll perform and the less comfortable you will be.  Additionally, you will incur heftier utility charges trying to compensate for poor performance.

The pressure in your system should not be higher or lower than the manufacturer’s specified parameters.  You see, manufacturers of air moving equipment have a very specific static pressure they want their equipment subjected to.  They know that exceeding this pressure will affect how well their systems work or how much shorten the life span of it will be.

This information is not limited to those of you with a conventional forced air system.  Using the same principles and the right software, tests have been adapted to help with hydronic systems.  The same principles apply, only the testing and configuration changes.  On the hydronics side, boilers use pumps to force water through a series of piping to deliver heat or hot water to certain areas.  The more pressure in these pipes, the harder the pumps and boilers have to work.  Again, the harder they work, the worse they perform.

Improperly pumped and piped systems have a continual uphill battle trying to deliver hot water where it is needed.  This leads to radiators that never seem to work right, or areas of floor heating that never seem to do what they were intended to.

With proper diagnostics available, technicians can make better recommendations for improved performance.  Improvements can be something as simple as adding ductwork to relieve pressure thus increasing airflow, or reconfiguring pumping and piping configurations.  The diagnostics are also essential when determining the right replacement equipment – a new system that not only matches the load on the space but also corresponds to the right duct or piping delivery system.

So, why am I telling you this and why should you care?

Simple.  We have been performing this ‘blood pressure’ test for years along with the other top contractors in the industry.  By using these tests we have been able to save clients hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars.  We have the ability to provide clients with the right information so they can make modifications without having to change out equipment to get to the end goal; which is INCREASED COMFORT, EASIER EQUIPMENT OPERATION, AND MORE MONEY IN YOUR POCKET.

In some cases we are able to change blower speeds or make simple adjustments to offer these results.  In others, we actually have to make duct modifications to achieve optimum success.  But an investment in this area will not only improve comfort and ease pressure, it will also directly and immediately impact your monthly utility costs.  Every percent increase in efficient air movement is a direct decrease in gas, electric or water expenses.  In most cases, financial outlay to make improvements, replacement or corrections to your forced air or hydronic system will be offset by the money you save month to month.

The best part is that we perform static pressure tests during the course of all maintenance and service calls which show potential of high static pressure WITHOUT CHARGING YOU EXTRA FOR THIS VALUABLE INFORMATION.  We use the information to help our clients make the most informed decision possible.  You are free to live with the system you have and its’ current performance, or take the opportunity to help relieve the pressure.

For those of you who have not signed up for maintenance, would like to learn about the costs or steps involved – simply log on and check it out.  We now offer monthly payment plans if that’s your preference.

Wait, Home Improvements Could Be the Problem?

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.

Well Insulated Homes Bringing Air Quality Challenges

One of the main advantages of a well-insulated and well-sealed building envelope is that it takes less energy to heat and cool the home. An efficient building envelope keeps the conditioned air within the home that needs a smaller furnace and/or air-conditioner that is working less often — and this translates into real savings on the utility bills.

New construction and remodeling standards have been increased, along with new insulation technologies. These higher standards and a desire to keep your energy dollars in your home, and not leaking passed poorly insulated areas., brings a unique set of problem.

When a home is well sealed new problems begin to arise — the home becomes a plastic bag, which means any pollutants, such as dust, that may get in the home “stay” in the home. To solve this particular problem,the home needs to be ventilated, and this is where an HRV — heat recovery ventilator — comes into affect.

In recently renovated homes we have introduced the HRV technology to ensure we are introducing fresh air into the home, while taking the stale re-circulated air out. This vastly improves indoor air quality and overall indoor comfort. HRVs have been around for some time now, but are just recently being adapted.

An HRV pulls in outside air and exhausts the stale air from inside the home, and it does this in an efficient way by using the “exhausted” air to condition — or heat or cool — the incoming fresh air. For example, during the heating season the cold outside air is being tempered with the indoor air via the HRV and, therefore, you’ll be saving a good deal of heated air. The reverse is true in the cooling season. On average about 80% of the exhausted heat is recycled in a heat exchanger to keep the tempered air in.

It is much easier for a customer of a newly renovated home to notice the need for an HRV after the project is complete. It is not typical for contractors to offer this sort of sophisticated comfort techniques. If your home sounds like it may benefit from a system like this please call us today to discuss your particular situation. With each being unique, it is important for us to discuss your needs and desired outcome. Only then can we determine if this sort of a solution would be a good fit for you and your family.

What Is That Smell?

Before blaming family members or clients for not showering, take a minute to assess your brick and mortar structure.  Recent studies back that unpleasant indoor odors can be largely blamed on high humidity.  What you smell may be the result of a lack of proper ventilation and dehumidification.   One of the largest challenges of home and business indoor environments is the ability to properly manage the air flow and moisture inherent in them.  Overlooking this can lead to a problem which will materialize right under  your nose – the creation of a space perfectly suited as a breeding ground for unwelcome living organisms – like mold spores which can easily form thanks to the perfect storm of moisture, food, and air.

The building industry agrees, and has begun to modify its practices to alleviate the problem.

Until about ten years or so ago, each component of the building industry worked separately on construction projects.  Each trade focused on their own specialty, and paid no attention to the fact that all of their different materials and installation practices might have a direct impact on the space as a whole system, and that every component positively or negatively worked with one another.

The root cause for organism build up and the resultant musty smell is water.  Whether water is present due to conditions of, say, recent flooding, or perhaps lack of fresh air into a space, or even over or under sized mechanical systems (such as your air conditioning unit), water is the culprit.  With all the time spent indoors, it’s never been more important to look how water can adversely affect air quality than now.

Recently built homes along with newer remodeling projects are constructed much tighter thanks to better building practices, but the resulting cocoon cannot breathe.  Contractors do not understand the importance of actual mechanical ventilation, and underestimate or ignore the use of components which can control the amount of fresh air brought into the home.  Newer ventilation components are necessary to take the place of the cracks and leaks found in older structures – and as undesirable as those flaws may sound – actually allowed for some fresh-air flow.

Older homes certainly aren’t exempt from problems.  In fact, far from it.  Mold and odors thrive in damp crawl spaces, under-ventilated attics, leaking foundations, and unventilated bathrooms.  The resultant musty smell from any of those can linger all season long.  If that’s the case, it’s important to de-humidify, whether using portable or duct mounted equipment, especially in warm weather.  Our area calls for such equipment to run all summer long for the best results.

All is not doom and gloom.  Through proper testing, design, and control we can now eliminate excess moisture.  Using fresh air ventilation systems and ducted dehumidifiers we have been able to eliminate musty smells due to water and organism build ups from homes and businesses.  In most cases, we totally eliminate the airborne pollutants and unpleasant scents using RGF Germicidal lamps.  The lamps are installed in all instances of direct flood damage because they have such an exceptional track record of success.

Doc, You Can Fix It Right?

From Doug Garrett of the EPA

With newer and smarter technological marvels hitting the marketplace daily, it seems reasonable to expect that something as basic as a house should do what it is intended to do. At a minimum, your house should be safe, durable, comfortable, healthy to breathe in, and energy efficient. But the fact is that you are quite likely to experience problems in your house such as mold, cold drafts, rotting roofs, polluted air, and high energy costs. Any one of these performance problems is an indication that your house is not performing as it should: It is sick, and it needs a diagnosis and cure.

While these performance failures are all distinct types of problems, they have a common cause. They stem from a failure to understand the complex, interactive system that is a home. Surprisingly, until the last 15 years, very little scientific research had been conducted into how homes and buildings actually function. Instead, builders and contractors relied almost totally on “knowledge” handed down through word of mouth in the trades. Then when things went wrong, they had little to tell them why. Their fixes were usually based not on an understanding of how homes really function, but on what was traditionally done. Sometimes these fixes worked; often they didn’t.

Compounding the problem, the traditional view of homes is that they are simply a set of components that are, for the most part, independent of each other. Too often, the separate components of a home are designed by people who don’t communicate with each other.  The architect designs for aesthetic appeal but not for energy efficiency or even for long lasting performance. The framer builds the frame of the home for structural stability but not for airtightness. The mechanical contractor designs and installs the heating, air conditioning, and ducts but rarely thinks of the occupants’ needs for fresh air. The common insistence on seeing these construction “specialties” as separate can cause a host of home performance problems.

In the last 15 years, there has been a revolution in the science of diagnosing and curing sick buildings. Through the process of applying scientific methods and instruments to the study of buildings, scientists have come to realize that buildings are like people. They must keep moisture out via a continuous watertight skin. They must provide clean, fresh air for the occupants while at the same time maintaining comfortable temperatures. They must not take in too many toxins, and when toxins do get in they must be expelled quickly. Houses must also be affordable to live in.

Perhaps the most important realization has been that buildings–like people–function as a system. Building scientists and home performance specialists–a small but growing group of well-trained professionals–have measured and documented how all the different components in a home interact with and affect one another. When one part goes wrong, it will inevitably effect other parts that may seem on the surface to have no direct connection. We have come to know that the different parts of a house are as interdependent as the organs of a living being. Houses should therefore be designed and treated so that all the different parts of the system interact in a way that is beneficial, and they should be treated this way when they are sick.