Indoor Air Quality

How to Avoid AC Unit Humidity Problems


During the hot summer months, the last thing homeowners want is an air conditioner that adds humidity to their houses, especially in Jacksonville. An AC unit that functions properly should not only cool your home but actually decrease humidity levels in the process. Sometimes the humidity problems that arise while the air conditioner is running have nothing to do with the unit at all. Here are some things to think about when tackling the issue.

Dust and Dirt Are Accumulating

Now and then, air filters tend to accumulate dirt and dust. This can cause both indoor and outdoor AC units to malfunction. When the air conditioner’s coils gather dirt and dust, the unit is not able to efficiently draw heat from inside the home, leaving the air humid.

If you suspect that this may be the problem, consider doing some maintenance on your air filtration system. When your AC unit is free from dust and debris, the refrigerant cycle should begin functioning normally again.

The Evaporator Coil Is Frozen

If your AC unit’s evaporator coil is frozen, you will notice a layer of ice forming over it. A frozen evaporator coil is typically caused by either a lack of airflow or a lack of refrigerant flowing through the coil. Since both of these problems require significant maintenance, it is best to call an HVAC professional.

Your AC Unit Is Not the Right Size for Your Home

An air conditioner will be able to cool your house most effectively if it is the right size. If you have a large AC unit that is only cooling a relatively small amount of space, the system will run for short cycles. If your AC does not run for long enough, it will not be able to cool your house evenly or sufficiently pull the moisture from the air. On the other hand, if your AC unit is small but you have a large amount of space to cool, it will work as hard as it can and still fall short of making your residence cool and dry.

As a general rule of thumb, you should multiply the total square footage of your home by 20 to figure out how many BTUs (British thermal units) your AC unit will need to provide. For example, if you live in a 1,500-square-foot house, you will want a cooling system capable of providing about 30,000 BTUs.

The Thermostat Is Not Set Correctly

If your AC unit’s thermostat is set to “AUTO”, the system should cool and dehumidify the air whenever the fan begins to run. If it is set to “ON,” however, the unit’s fan will run continuously, interfering with the cooling and dehumidifying process. Be sure the thermostat is set to “AUTO” and not to “ON.”

There Are Too Many People in the House

When there is a large number of people crowded into a single space, your AC unit will simply not be able to cool and dehumidify your house as effectively. If it is a hot day, consider spending time with guests outdoors until the AC has enough time to sufficiently cool down your home.

Carpeting and Windows

While carpets provide any room with a nice aesthetic, they tend to retain moisture. Although your AC unit should be able to remove moisture from the air, it has a much more difficult time doing so from carpets and other fabrics. If moist carpets are bothersome, consider removing them and replacing them with something more water-resistant like tile flooring.

Additionally, condensation tends to build up quickly on windows. Lining your windows with storm coating or plastic film can aid in reducing and even eliminating moisture buildup while your cooling system is operating.

Your Unit Is Using Too Much Refrigerant

Just as a lack of refrigerant can cause problems within your AC unit, so can too much refrigerant. Too much refrigerant can overcharge the unit, resulting in a lower cooling capacity and eventually causing the compressor to burn out.

A thermal expansion valve might be just what you need in this case. A thermal expansion valve, or TXV, will adjust the amount of refrigerant being used so that the unit is always receiving exactly what it requires. This allows the evaporator coil to remove heat and humidity, regardless of the current temperature or circumstance.

Excess Moisture From Beneath Your House

In climates characterized by significant rainfall, the soil beneath the foundation of homes can hold quite a bit of moisture. This is one of the main reasons that basements tend to be the most humid part of a house — particularly those that are not insulated well and do not have windows.

One of the biggest things that you can do is ensure that your gutters and downspouts are working correctly. If rainwater is not being properly directed away from the house’s foundation, moisture is bound to penetrate the home.

Cooking and Other Activities Naturally Add Moisture

Water vapor from cooking will bring up humidity levels significantly. If your oven has a ventilation fan, make sure that it is running whenever you are boiling water or using the stove. If you do not have a ventilation fan above your stove, purchasing one can make a profound difference.

Other activities like showering can also contribute to excess moisture. Taking cooler showers and making sure that your bathroom’s ventilation fans are working are great ways to combat this nuisance.

Your AC Unit Is Too Old

Even top-quality AC units cannot work well forever. This is particularly true for air conditioners that have not been consistently maintained. While some problems within the system can be fixed fairly easily, others cannot be. If you are trying to decide whether to have your unit repaired or replaced altogether, there are a couple of things to think about.

If your AC unit has been cooling your home for 10 to 15 years, it is probably best to get it replaced. Making proper repairs at this point would likely be more expensive and inconvenient than simply purchasing a new unit.

If you think an AC system of a different size or brand might be a better fit for your house, then buying a new one is probably the optimal thing to do. An air conditioner that is too big, too small, or otherwise lacking in compatibility with your house’s structure will see little to no improvements upon being repaired.

Invest in a Dehumidifier

If you live in a humid climate, sometimes even a perfectly functional AC unit will not be able to keep your home as dry as you would like. A dehumidifier that can support your air conditioner is a worthwhile purchase.

With drier air, your AC unit will cool your house much more quickly and will not need to work as hard. Even having a single humidifier in a room that tends to retain a large amount of humidity can make all the difference.

At Reliable Ducts Heating & Cooling, we are ready to tackle HVAC problems in Jacksonville, Florida and the surrounding areas. With additional services such as heating, UV lighting, ventilation testing, air quality, and more, our team of experts is committed to providing you with the highest level of comfort year-round. Give us a call today, and let our professionals get to work on your home!

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Comparing Air Purifiers With Dehumidifiers


An air purifier is an ideal solution for eliminating offensive odors and dust from a wide range of air pollutants, including cooking and pet smells, smoke, and tannins from your backyard as well as dust and pollens that cause respiratory conditions. Air purifiers also protect you from harmful chemicals, viruses, and bacteria lurking in unclean indoor air.

On the other hand, dehumidifiers take moisture out of the air. Though a dehumidifier is not a substitute for air conditioning, it is ideal for reducing humidity and protecting walls, bookshelves, and artworks from damage. Some people may choose to go for either the air purifier or the dehumidifier, and others may need both, depending on the season and their personal needs.

Functions of Air Purifiers and Dehumidifiers

An air purifier is a device that provides an inexpensive method of eliminating odors and pollutants found in common household environments when it is placed at a door or near an existing window. It features an activated carbon pre-filter to trap larger particles and to extend the filter’s life while enhancing odor-control capabilities. The air cleaner includes an allergen mode for removing the most common airborne allergens that can irritate the sensitive tissues of the nose and eyes, such as pollen and specific pet dander components.

A comprehensive air purifier system is comprised of three active components. The pre-filter traps big particles in the air and stops them from getting to the other more sensitive filters. The active carbon filter works to remove odors from your air. The final component is the high-efficiency filter. These filters are made from millions of fibers that are woven together tightly. This design allows air to pass through, but it captures even the smallest particles in your home, including mold spores, pollen, dust mites, bacteria, viruses, and germs.

A dehumidifier controls humidity in the home, lowering levels when they are too high. This device sucks excess water vapor moisture out of the air and then gathers it in a container within its system. Dehumidifiers don’t purify your home’s air like an air cleaner, but they do offer some benefits, including effectively lowering humidity levels. Dehumidifiers are best for those living in humid or hot areas or for those who want to prevent mold and mildew buildup.

For the best results, put your unit in a spot with the most accessible area to suck up the air closest to where you spend most of your time. Unlike an air purifier, a dehumidifier does not have a filter or a fan to circulate air. While it will work best in any room with small amounts of moisture, you can also keep yours in closets and basements where mold commonly grows to help prevent problems.

Features of Dehumidifiers and Air Purifiers

When considering a dehumidifier for your home, some features are almost must-haves. A humidistat, or hygrometer, is essential for effective operation and proper humidity control. This feature automatically controls the amount of moisture the device pumps out of the air based on a preset humidity level you enter. Choosing one with a humidistat is crucial because a dehumidifier will work harder and burn out quickly without it.

Size or capacity is probably more critical in dehumidifiers than with other appliances like room air conditioners and fans since you’re going to be using this device several times every day. You could also consider buying multiple devices if you have enough space in your basement, laundry room, storage area, or wherever you notice extra humidity.

Finally, drainage options are also important; if you don’t have time to drain the bucket every day or two manually (more often during the most humid times), make sure you pick a dehumidifier with a built-in condensate pump.

When looking to acquire an air purifier, several features set it apart from the dehumidifier. The change filter indicator gives you a visual sign when your filters need changing. It will help you avoid any unexpected shutdowns or a machine that stops functioning as it should. Intelligent control is vital; most people rely on connected devices that are controlled via smartphone or tablet.

The eco-mode feature automatically turns off your purifier or keeps it in standby mode if it detects no indoor pollution for 30 minutes. When combined with the eco-timer function, this helps save energy and reduce electricity bills. Noise-reduction technology in the air purifier is an important feature, especially now that a lot of people work from home. It allows people to focus on their tasks and rest undisturbed while enjoying good air quality. Low noise levels in work environments and homesteads with easily bothered children are particularly important.

Energy Efficiency and Cost of Air Purifiers and Dehumidifiers

It would help if you always considered energy efficiency when purchasing an air purifier. While the process of removing harmful contaminants from the air is a good thing, you also do not want to spend too much energy and money on it. Dehumidifiers and air purifiers are much cheaper than a new heating or cooling system; however, the cost of operating either device is similar. A dehumidifier will cost about 13 cents per hour to run whereas an air purifier will cost 11 cents per hour to run. Compare this to the average microwave, which costs 18 cents per hour to operate.

Air purifier technology has advanced considerably in the last few years, and companies have begun to put out some moderately priced devices. Of course, many devices cost upward of a thousand dollars. Go for the air cleaner that fits your space completely because this reduces the strain put on the machine. Some tips also help improve the air cleaner’s efficiency, like reducing large flows of air into the space when the air cleaner is running by avoiding unnecessary door openings and by keeping windows closed when the machine is running. These steps reduce the number of contaminants entering the space by keeping external pollutants out. Routine maintenance is also vital to ensure that the purifier operates efficiently.

A cost-effective air cleaner does not have to operate all the time at maximum capacity; a low flow of air is just as effective as a high airflow on most models. The smaller airflow, in turn, consumes a lower amount of energy. Both types of equipment are good options in terms of energy efficiency. However, the device features might sometimes be the deciding factor on the energy efficiency of the equipment. Therefore, it is essential to have a wide range of options from which you can select, making it easier to find the most energy-efficient device.

All of this information is a good starting point to selecting a good solution for air quality. At Reliable Ducts, we can further assist you in choosing the right air cleaner for your home in Jacksonville or a surrounding area. Our services include heating and cooling, air duct cleaning, humidity control systems, and more. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or to learn more about our services.

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What Are the Most Common Indoor Air Pollutants?


Everyone wants to have a clean home, especially when it comes to indoor air. Pollutants, unfortunately, can cause a wide range of problems. According to the EPA, there are plenty of indoor air pollutants. Many of them fall into four categories: combustion by-products, biological contaminants, VOCs and legacy pollutants. In any case, you never want to breathe in these irritants. If you’re concerned about your home, you need to watch out for these common air pollutants.

Asbestos

Asbestos occurs naturally in the soil, and it is considered a mineral fiber. Since it is heat resistant, it is often used in construction products, such as roofing shingles and insulation. At one time, asbestos was used as a fire retardant. You can even find asbestos in cars. However, it is known to cause significant health problems, including mesothelioma, lung disease and asbestosis. As a result, many countries have banned the distribution of products containing this fiber.

Biological Pollutants

Any contaminant that is produced by a living thing is considered a biological pollutant. These pollutants include viruses, bacteria, pet dander, dust, pollen and mites. You can often find these pollutants in places with excessive moisture, such as an unvented bathroom. Any spots with excessive moisture are a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and mildew.

Formaldehyde

Some household products and building materials contain formaldehyde. If you use glue, cosmetics, paints or pesticides around your home, you might be exposed to formaldehyde. This chemical compound is a combustion by-product, and it is often emitted from fuel-burning appliances. High exposure to formaldehyde can lead to death. However, even a small amount of exposure can cause throat, nose, skin and eye irritation.

Carbon Monoxide

When fossil fuels are burned, carbon monoxide (CO) is released into the air. In your home, you might want to monitor gas heaters and kerosene lamps for any excessive amounts of CO. When carbon monoxide is inhaled in large quantities, it can affect the oxygen in your blood. As a result, reduced oxygen is delivered to your critical organs. Carbon monoxide causes dizziness and unconsciousness. In some severe cases, it can be deadly. CO is commonly found in enclosed places with poor ventilation.

Stoves and Heaters

If you burn wood or charcoal in a building, it can reduce your indoor air quality. Some people use wood-burning stoves for cooking food. However, it can lead to problems in the air. When combined with poor ventilation, the smoke and fumes can create substantial lung and health issues.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is another pollutant that comes from burning fuel. If you have a pre-existing respiratory condition, exposure to this pollutant can cause difficulty breathing, coughing and wheezing. Over time, exposure increases your chances of respiratory infections.

Lead

Lead can find its way into your home from various sources. If you burn leaded fuel, such as gasoline, you might introduce some lead emissions in your home. Lead inhalation can create issues with your cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems. Children are also susceptible to lead inhalation problems, and it can cause behavioral and learning difficulties.

Pesticides

If you use pesticides to control rodents, pests or insects, it can increase your exposure to these pollutants. All pesticides are toxic, and you need to limit your time around these chemicals. Pesticides can even be found in disinfectants. In some cases, exposure can result in eye, nose, throat and skin irritations. You might even increase your risk of damage to the central nervous system.

Indoor Particulate Matter

Particulate matter is also known as particle pollution. These pollutants mix with solid particles in the air to cause health issues. Dust, sand, smoke and dirt are large enough to be seen by the human eye. However, some small particles can only be viewed through a microscope. Some particulate matter is the result of a complex chemical reaction from other pollutants. Any prolonged exposure can lead to irregular heartbeats, respiratory issues and asthma. For those with pre-existing health issues, you have a greater risk of experiencing adverse reactions to these particulate particles. If you’re worried about air quality in your home, you might want to schedule an indoor air quality test. With these tests, you can find out if there are dangerous pollution levels in your home.

Radon

Radon is a dangerous radioactive gas. It has no color, smell or taste. Without conducting a test, it can be tough to detect this gas in your home. When radon becomes trapped inside a building, it causes significant health issues. Long-term radon exposure increases your chances of developing lung cancer. If you’re concerned about the radon levels in your home, you need to have a professional test your air. Any high levels can be corrected by increasing the airflow in your home or improving your ventilation.

Secondhand Smoke

Cigarettes and cigars are the biggest causes of secondhand smoke. This type of pollutant might also be known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). When tobacco products are burned, they release pollutants into the air. Secondhand smoke is a carcinogen. There are over 7,000 toxic chemicals released into the air when the products are burned. These pollutants are incredibly hazardous to your health. Exposure to these chemicals leads to stroke, lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks and respiratory issues.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases that are emitted from liquids and solids. You can find plenty of products in your home with these compounds. Aerosol sprays, paints, wood preserves, cleaners, air fresheners and pesticides all contain these harmful compounds. When you’re exposed to VOCs, you can suffer from several issues. Some of the significant health effects include headaches, throat irritation and damage to your major organs. If the exposure levels are high, there is the potential for death.

Wood Smoke

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you are putting yourself at risk for smoke inhalation. When wood is burned, the smoke contains fine microscopic particles and gases. Particulate matter is the main irritant found in the smoke. Despite all the risks, many people still use wood in their fireplaces. For those homes without the proper ventilation, you might release harmful smoke into your indoor spaces. You can do a few things to reduce your risk of smoke exposure. Make sure that all your air ducts are inspected to maintain healthy airflow.

Keep Yourself Safe

With all these common pollutants in your home, you will want to keep your home safe. You can purchase air filters to remove any fine particle pollutants. If you’re concerned about other types of irritants, you might want to invest in an air purifier. However, your first step should be scheduling an indoor test of your air. With a test, you will know the exact levels of any pollutants in your home. You can find ways to remove them for cleaner and healthier air.

Let Us Help With Your Ducts

If you’re concerned about the indoor air quality in your home, reach out to the experts at Reliable Ducts Heating and Cooling in Jacksonville, FL. We are a family-owned and -operated business with extensive experience in heating and cooling. Our company carries a wide range of products, including the Trane and Carrier brands. In addition to air quality tests, we can help with heating and cooling repairs, installation and maintenance services. When you need a home quality service in Jacksonville, contact the professional team at Reliable Ducts Heating and Cooling.

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How to Monitor Your Indoor Air Quality


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. In addition, the EPA warns that air pollution is often two to five times more concentrated indoors than outdoors. In fact, without some form of air purification, indoor air quality will always be poorer than outdoor air quality in the same region. For these reasons, the EPA, CDC and other prominent organizations have recognized indoor air pollution as a serious health concern.

Mechanical Ventilation

There are two primary types of ventilation in a home: mechanical and natural. Mechanical ventilation refers to your air handler, ductwork, extractor fans, registers and all the other equipment involved. Modern homes are tightly sealed, which is advantageous when it comes to energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, it can also be problematic if the ventilation system is not introducing fresh air at a high enough rate since air pollution will accumulate. It is therefore advised that you schedule ventilation testing and duct cleaning every three years or so.

Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation occurs through windows, doorways, cracks in your foundation and so forth. On a comfortable spring day, opening up some windows can be a good thing. But too much unintended natural ventilation is a bad thing. It undermines an otherwise well-functioning mechanical ventilation system, and it can introduce pollen, dust and other unwanted contaminants.

Avoidable Pollutants

Many homeowners unintentionally pollute their indoor air. There are, for instance, many household cleaners that contain toxic materials that are quite bad for your health when used in an indoor space. Chemical deodorizers are another example of a commonly used household product that actually degrades the quality of your indoor air. Houseplants can be a source of indoor air pollution as well if they are overwatered, which leads to mold growth in the soil that then emits mold spores into the air. It is therefore important to vet all of the products and substances you introduce into your home.

Dust Control

Controlling dust is the single most important step you can take to ensuring good indoor air quality. The problem with dust is that it traps pollutants and extends their lifespans by reemitting them over time. It is recommended that you perform a deep dust cleaning of your home once a week and that you spot dust problem areas on a daily basis. Deep dusting should be conducted top to bottom, and then you should vacuum your carpets and floors. Ideally, you should use a HEPA vacuum bag, which will help ensure that dust is trapped rather than redistributed. You should also use floor mats at all entrances to avoid introducing dirt into the home. Mats should be cleaned weekly and discarded annually.

Air Quality Monitor

You should also invest in at least one high-quality indoor air quality monitor, which can provide real-time data on indoor air pollution, humidity and other factors. Some of the best thermostats on the market have such technology integrated. If you own a large home, then you may want multiple monitors installed in various zones. You also have the option of a smart monitor that can use your Wi-Fi network or communicate through an ad-hoc mesh and be expanded throughout the home with sensors.

Humidity Control

It is also important to ensure that humidity inside the home is not too high or too low. The ideal humidity for your home will depend on your region, the season and your preferences. But 30% to 50% is a good rule of thumb according to the Mayo Clinic. Humidity above 60% is problematic because it fosters an environment conducive to mold growth. If the humidity falls below 30%, it requires you to run your heating equipment for longer periods and at higher temperatures, and it can also dry out and irritate your nose, eyes, mouth, throat, lungs and so forth.

Radon Testing

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that presents considerable health risks, and the gas can enter your home by seeping up from the ground. The EPA estimates that radon causes 7.5 times as many residential deaths as house fires annually. Since the presence of radon can develop over time, the EPA recommends having your home tested every two years. However, if you live in a “red zone,” which the EPA refers to as Zone 1, you may want to consider testing on an annual basis.

Air Purification

Without some form of air cleaning, your indoor air can never be less polluted than the air outside your home. You can check air pollution levels online by zip code. If you have good air quality in your neighborhood on a regular basis, then a well-functioning mechanical ventilation system may be all that you need. If, on the other hand, the AQI rating in your area is often at moderate or worse, then it is highly recommended that you invest in a whole-home air purification system.

Professional IAQ Test

You may also want to consider scheduling a professional indoor air quality test. It may be a good idea to schedule an IAQ test as opposed to just radon testing. Professional IAQ tests are extensive and in addition to radon, carbon monoxide and mold can extend to allergens, volatile organic compounds and even your water source. Such testing can also be useful in determining how accurate your monitor is, and depending on your equipment, it may even be possible to have your monitor calibrated.

Replace Filters and Clean Vents

Not replacing HVAC filters is among the most common indoor air quality mistakes. While the purpose of these air intakes and return registers is not indoor air quality, dust that accumulates on them can quickly undermine what is otherwise clean air. Check all filters and vents once a month. Dust the vents, and swap out filters as soon as there is visible discoloration of the filter media.

Pest Control

Pests are much more than a nuisance. They present serious health risks, and many people underestimate just how much mice, cockroaches, ants and so forth can degrade your indoor air quality. If you see any signs of such activity, you should schedule professional pest control as soon as possible. However, be mindful that some pesticides are worse than the pest themselves, so be sure to choose a company that takes the indoor air quality aspect of its trade seriously.

Monitor AQI

AQI stands for air quality index. Even if you live in a county that normally has a green AQI, you will experience bad days where the AQI is moderate or above due to climate changes. Moderate is acceptable for otherwise healthy people. If ever the AQI goes above moderate, it is best to stay inside, rely on your mechanical ventilation and perhaps use an air purifier that you can carry from room to room.

Your IAQ Experts in Jacksonville

Reliable Ducts Heating and Cooling in Jacksonville is proud to serve homeowners throughout Duval County and the surrounding areas. We are a family-owned and -operated business that offers a broad range of indoor air quality services, including ventilation testing, humidity control, UV air purifiers and duct cleaning. Our team also performs heating and cooling installations, maintenance and repairs. We offer maintenance plans and are available around the clock for emergency repairs. Call Reliable Ducts Heating and Cooling today to schedule your appointment.

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