How Is Your Home’s Air Indoor Quality?
Air quality in your home is something most people are impacted by, but never truly think about as much as they should.
Let’s explore why we need to be aware of your home’s air quality.
Are you asking yourself, “So why air quality?”
AC Electric is an electrician company, not HVAC!” Recently, I, Asmint Cruz, have been going to New Hampshire to become a Certified Gas Pipe and Gas Appliance Installer. The main reason for this course was so that we can install the gas lines for the generators we sell and install. I’ve done residential plumbing for over 2-decades and the only two ways to install gas lines in Ohio is to either be an HVAC or Plumbing contractor; I chose the latter and acquired my Plumber’s License (PL-24161).
In Ohio, many of the trade schools are going away. Trades are still being offered in high schools as a field of interest; but, the actual education and hands-on training needed have fallen by the wayside. The two leading companies Vatterot College and Kaplan University are no longer in Ohio.
In addition, there is no Gas License in Ohio unbelievably! Massachusetts is a big player in the natural gas and propane industry, and they do require gas licensing. Being a gas pipe and gas appliance installer in the East Coast (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine to name a few) is a separate license from Plumbing.
A Plumber’s license requires 4-years of training, the same as Ohio, and is a more prestigious trade. So, in a way, Ohio sets a more stringent requirement for installing gas lines and appliances than other states.
But here’s the reason for this newsletter—how many of us are simply going to Home Depot and getting that beautiful gas stove that heats your food up quicker than a microwave? Or the gas dryer that provides steam unlike electric dryers?
I will not bore you with technical information on proper gas sizing and venting of flue gases; but, I will point out some key things to make you aware for any potential issues in your home to keep you, your family and friends safe.
How often do you change your furnace’s air filter?
How much dust does your home produce?
We live our lives in homes with our perfect temperatures, whether in winter or summer, but neglect the workhorse to bring us that comfort.
If you have a furnace and not a boiler, then you must keep an eye on your filter and get notifications on when to change it. There are thermostats out there that have a CHANGE FILTER message as a reminder. Keep in mind that the flashing notice is not an indicator to how dirty the filter is; it’s simply a reminder. Here is a video of a professional explaining it.
Nevertheless, whether you get a thermostat reminder or a calendar reminder on your Outlook or Google calendar, a reminder needs to be set—it’s not simply replace and forget it! Or, there is the classic, “it’s not cool/warm enough in the home; adjust the thermostat.”
When your conditioned air is not feeling the same as it was a few weeks ago, 9 times out of 10—it’s your air filter!
Don’t wait until you get to this point because a lot is happening before you recognize the issue; some are disastrous. If you’re thinking I’m exaggerating, why is it that HVAC contractors are replacing furnaces dead of winter or AC units as soon as you feel that first heat wave? MAINTENANCE!!!
We’ve sent you reminder newsletters about proper maintenance to avoid being that one without AC; we hope you’ve been doing your due diligence.
How often would be an average changing of filters?
Again, it all depends on circumstances and there is no “one size fits all” approach. Do you want to lean on the side of erring? 3-times in winter and twice in summer. Or, first day of September; night before Thanksgiving; right after Christmas or New Years holidays; first day of Spring (or Easter), and 4th of July.
These are my reminder dates for simplicity reasons. For more information on what causes filters to get dirty, check out Max Air’s air quality blog here.
How To Change (Or Clean) The Furnace Filter
- Always switch off your furnace first.
- Take the filter out from the return air vent. Note the filter positioning so you can replace it easily. Typically, there are arrows on the filter that indicates how to insert it into the furnace.
- To replace a disposable furnace filter, just pop in a new one in the same position.
- To clean a permanent furnace filter, gently vacuum off the debris. Then wipe with a wet cloth. Dry thoroughly before putting it back into the furnace air vent.
- Not sure whether your filter is disposable or permanent? A plastic frame indicates a permanent filter.
Direct vent or indoor air
What does this mean and why is it important?
Some new appliances like furnaces and hot water heaters are either direct venting (air comes directly from the outside through conduit or other means) or indoor (obvious—your home).
If it is direct venting—great, you can keep that unit out of the equation.
If it is indoor, no need to panic!
The information I’m providing you is so you get an understanding of how much air you may need for those gas fired appliances and to ensure you have enough to “share” with your appliances. You may not look at it from this point of view, but you and your appliances are breathing the same air! So, when you’re bringing in that Heavy Duty 88,000 BTU gas fired range and dreaming of that Viking dinner you’re going to prepare, it is also hungry—for air!
To produce flames, gas needs 3 things—gas (obviously), spark and air. For every 1-part natural gas, you need 10-parts air (propane needs 24-parts air). The home’s 3D space is part of the requirements for that air.
Here’s an extremely general approach for calculating air requirements:
- Separate floors for your calculations; ie-basements appliances get tallied up together and don’t include the upstairs (it will be more complex).
- When adding an appliance, calculate all your gas fired appliances that use indoor air for combustion and add them up; this will give you the total BTU’s of heat you’re capable of using all at once. Do not take the approach, “I don’t use it all at once,” turkey day—you will!
- Once you get that number, divide it by 20. The result will give you the total Cubic Feet of air needed to provide air to your appliance(s).
- Calculate the Cubic Feet area of your area where the appliance(s) are in—length by width by height. This will give you the total Cubic Feet of your space.
- Now reference the numbers. If the Cubic Feet needed for your appliance(s) is less than the Cubic Feet of the space, you’re golden! If it isn’t, there is a potential problem.
Here’s an example:
Basement Area: 40’x25’x7.5’ will be 7,500 cuft
Appliance 1: Furnace 100,000 BTU’s
Appliance 2: Gas Dryer 22,000 BTU’s
Appliance 3: Gas Hot Water Tank 40,000 BTU’s
Total Appliance’s BTU’s: 162,000 BTU’s
Total Air Needed: 162,000/20=8100 cuft
Results: Combustion air needed for the appliances is greater than what is available in the basement
How often does this happen?
Well…this is my home’s scenario!
Now, there are other calculations involved to ensure everything is working properly, and that is where it gets technical. But, if you have a similar scenario, you need to evaluate your home’s available air.
If you ask, “why was everything perfect when the home was built and now it’s an issue?” I
n the example, if everything installed back in 1950 remained the same, no gas dryer, then the furnace and hot water tank will fit perfectly in the space because you’d only need 7000 cuft of indoor air. But, I wanted that new gas dryer with the steaming feature which put the space under! And what about when someone wants to replace their hot water tank with a gas fired tankless water heater?
These units can easily swallow up 199,000 BTU’s!
Luckily, many of them are direct vent; but, what if you installed one as this Youtuber did? I’m not trying to bad mouth anyone, but you can find some pretty destructive misinformation online these days!
Gas line sizing
To some, running 75ft of ½” CSST (corrugated stainless steel tubing) for your 88,000 BTU range in a high-end Brecksville home may seem the perfect setup—but, it also is a major issue! If you think it doesn’t happen, I saw it firsthand!
There are many calculations when it comes to adding gas lines and there is no suggestion I can give short of teaching you how to do a proper calculation with my benefit of getting sued for your miscalculation. Sorry, but this is a tough one to simply give you a “general rule”.
The best I can do is to inform you to contact your licensed HVAC or Plumbing contractor before you go out and purchase that new gas appliance. In case you’re asking yourself, “why do I need my contractor to purchase an appliance?” Think of this—before you buy a tool, a computer, a trip to Spain, or whatever; do you call your accountant first?
Many people do (benefit), others don’t (lose on benefits). In this case, the benefit is not monetary per se—it’s your life! Not enough air as aforementioned or gas produces carbon monoxide. I don’t think I’d have to go into it much further.
So, you just got your blower door test, and your contractor sealed all those leaky infiltrations of air keeping your home’s air conditioning and/or heating from escaping—GREAT!
Well hold on, did they account for your appliances requiring indoor air and ACH (air change per hour). Look at it this way, take a paper bag (a medium sized one) and put it around your mouth and breathe many times in and out the same air for one minute.
Do you think you can breathe the same air for 5-minutes? Well, this is a crude example of your indoor quality air. The leaky gaps around your window frame “assisted” with your indoor quality air’s change rate. Now that your home is sealed, how is your home’s air quality? Are you getting a livable ACH for yourself? What about your roommates—the appliances?
The EPA has a page stating:
ASHRAE Standard 62.2-2016 “Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Residential Buildings” recommends that homes receive 0.35 air changes per hour but not less than 15 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm)/(900 cubic feet per hour) per person as the minimum ventilation rates in residential buildings in order to provide IAQ that is acceptable to human occupants and that minimizes adverse health effects.
Note that this does not take under account appliance indoor air needs. You can read more on their website, and it will go more in depth. It’s not a bad thing to seal your home, but you need to take extra steps to keep better informed of your disposition.
Only so much can go into a newsletter where either you will get bored, or I don’t have enough time. Again, this is not a sales newsletter—it is readily available information that you may not be aware of. At AC Electric, we like for you to be a well-informed consumer and live a safe and healthy life. If you need help to evaluate your home’s needs, we recommend two companies:
Max Air Comfort (5-Stars/140 Google Reviews)
Jackson Comfort (4.9-Stars/2,962 Google Reviews)