Althoff Home Services Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Air Quality’

Whole House Humidifier Pros vs. Cons

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Many view home heating from a pretty straight-forward standpoint. If they are comfortable, their thermostat is set correctly. If they are not comfortable, the thermostat is set too low or too high. Of course, when multiple family members are involved, this can create quite a challenging situation that is often resolved by the person who pays the utility bills. There is, however, another major factor in the comfort of your home. It is humidity.

We are all familiar with humidity during our Chicago summers but humidity plays a significant role in comfort during our winters in the Crystal Lake area as well.

Humidified air can feel much warmer, cozy, and comfortable. Dry air can lead to static electricity, premature drying of wood cabinets, flooring and furniture, and even more frequent illness. Families are often surprised at the amazing impact a properly humidified home can have on their comfort, especially during the cold weather months. They can also see energy saving benefits.

Some are familiar with smaller, single-room humidifiers that can help humidify a small space. These portable humidifiers can offer some relief but if lack of humidity is an issue for the whole house, and having an impact on you and your home’s comfort you may want to consider a whole house humidifier.

What is a Whole House Humidifier?

A whole house humidifier is a device that works with your furnace to add moisture into the air in your home. This moisture is provided through your home’s plumbing and is heated and dispersed into your home through your furnace and ductwork. A whole house humidifier is sometimes referred to as a furnace humidifier and provides air that simply feels warmer.

Pros and Cons

If you experience dryer air in your home, you can find relief from either a portable or whole house humidifier. Portable humidifiers only impact a small area and the water tank the humidifier uses must be refilled frequently. A whole house humidifier will improve the comfort of your entire home and because it is directly fed moisture through your plumbing, refilling a tank is unnecessary.

The downsides to a whole house humidifier are few but significant. First, a whole house or furnace humidifier can be a sizeable investment. Many, however, find that the air is warmer in their home following installation, allowing them to operate their furnace at a lower temperature. This, of course, can translate into long-term energy savings, which can help offset the original investment.

The other con to the installation of a whole house humidifier is that it can be a fairly complex task. It should be handled by a professional. A furnace humidifier must be installed correctly to provide full value. Beyond exceptional comfort, families using a whole house humidifier experience less illness and annoying static shocks.

Contact the Pros at Althoff Industries

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying “I can’t seem to get warm in here” or are constantly edging the thermostat upwards to stay warm, the problem may not be the heat but the lack of humidity. We invite you to contact us at Althoff Industries for a complete assessment of your HVAC system and your indoor air quality. We can help determine the efficiency of your present system and help you decide if a whole house humidifier can be beneficial to you and your family.

Staying comfortable indoors is more than just about the heat. Discover the important role well functioning equipment and humidity play in the warmth of your home with a call to Althoff Industries.

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The Best Overall Furnace Filter for Your Residential HVAC System

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

There are more choices than ever when choosing a furnace air filter for your home. How do you know what is the best furnace filter for you?

Furnace Filter Purpose

It can help to have a basic understanding of the purpose of an air filter. A furnace air filter should remove larger particulate matter from the air flowing into your furnace, keeping it from accumulating in your HVAC system and being redistributed into your home. It also should facilitate proper airflow through your HVAC system and into your home. It seems simple enough, so why the confusion?

The sheer number of choices in furnace filters complicates the matter for many. Today’s furnace filters range from just a few dollars up to $50 or more. Some feel that more expensive filters must be better. That is simply not the case. Some consumers are impacted by the clever marketing of some companies producing filters that promise fresher, cleaner, healthier air. The challenge is that some of these filters restrict airflow to the point of causing inefficiencies, potentially overworking your furnace and perhaps even causing mechanical problems.

Standard Air Filter, the Best?

So what’s a homeowner to do? The reality is for the vast majority, the inexpensive, fiberglass, disposable furnace filters will perform fine, especially when replaced frequently. These filters range from 1-4 on the MERV scale, removing 80% of the particles that are 50 microns and larger while collecting 25% of the particles within the 3 to 10-micron range. Pleated filters may improve filtration by 15-20% over the spun fiberglass variety but they can cost four to five times as much and inhibit airflow.

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What about Air Filters and Allergies?

Now, if someone in your family suffers from severe allergies or is sensitive to dust, you may want a filter that can remove smaller particles without negatively impacting airflow. At Althoff Industries, we offer such filters that can be compatible with your system. These thicker air filters we recommend will upgrade your indoor air quality, while minimizing negative impact on air flow. Our professionals will measure the airflow to ensure your equipment is being protected while improving filtration. This is not something you should guess at on your own, however.

It’s a Balancing Act

The appropriate air filter strikes the balance between protecting equipment, facilitating airflow, and keeping your indoor air quality in check. Keep in mind, the main function of your furnace is to heat your home, not clean the air. Asking it to perform the added task of an air cleaner with an inappropriate filter may ultimately cause mechanical issues.

If you have questions on how to improve your indoor air quality without damaging your HVAC system or would like to schedule a thorough clean and check of your system for the winter, contact the professionals at Althoff Industries.

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How to Choose the Right Air Filter for Your HVAC Equipment

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

If you find yourself having to set your thermostat at unusually high or low temperatures just to stay comfortable, your problem may be poor air flow. Poor air flow may be caused by too much friction in your HVAC system or too much turbulence. One of the most significant causes of friction in an HVAC system is the air filter.

How is an Air Filter Related to the Comfort of a Home?

Even a clean HVAC air filter will offer some friction to the air flow in a furnace. If a filter is dirty or too restrictive in its design, it will not allow a sufficient airflow through your system and into the rooms it serves. This can lead to your system overworking and struggling to provide the comfort you desire. It will also increase the inefficiency of your unit. While we find that more and more homeowners understand the importance of changing filters, many still fail to remember to do it or are purchasing filters that are too restrictive for their systems to operate properly.

How Do You Determine the Best Filter for You?

HVAC filters are rated based on a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). This is a 1-16 scale but most home filters fall within the 4 to 12 range. The higher the rating, the smaller the particles are that can be trapped by the filter. Higher ratings also make filters more restrictive to air flow and generally are more expensive.

Selecting the right filter for you and your family will depend on the balance you place on comfort, expense, clean indoor air quality, and furnace efficiency. Most homeowners can usually settle in the 6-8 MERV range without negatively impacting air flow. The 6-8 range filters are also still affordable.

Before You Switch to a High-Efficiency Furnace Filter

A high-efficiency HVAC air filter can remove up to 99% of particulate matter in the air. This can be terrific news if you or someone in your family suffers from allergies or are sensitive to dust. A word of caution about high-efficiency filters, however. Before making the switch, contact your HVAC professional. A trained technician can help determine how disruptive the filter will be and perhaps even make adjustments to increase fan speed to make up for the reduced airflow. You’ll also want to make sure you stay on top of changing these more restrictive filters on schedule.

Keep in mind that a dirty HVAC air filter can cause more than just discomfort. They can lead to damage to the blower motor or heat exchanger. You can see the difference between a minimally restrictive fiberglass filter and a pleated filter in the below video.

If you have rooms that just don’t seem to get comfortable, check your air filters. If you are interested in switching to a higher MERV rated filter for cleaner indoor air, contact us at Althoff Industries, We’ll conduct an inexpensive clean and check and help determine the best HVAC air filter for your family. If adjustments need to be made, we can accomplish that on the same call.

Don’t settle for anything less than superior comfort when it comes to your indoor air. Contact Althoff Industries and get the indoor air quality you deserve.

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The #1 Way to Improve Air Flow in Your Home

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Many homeowners don’t fully appreciate the importance of airflow when it comes to the performance of their HVAC system and ultimately, the comfort of each room in your home. The fact is, if you have one room or many rooms that are less comfortable than others, it is quite possible it is an issue with airflow. Free airflow is disturbed by two basic forces friction and turbulence. What are some of the causes of poor or restrictive airflow in a home and how can it be improved? What is the #1 way to improve airflow in your home?

To find out the #1 way to improve airflow, we will first discuss 5 causes of poor airflow. At Althoff, our goal is always to get to the root of the problem first then provide solutions to improve comfort, function and performance of your equipment.

5 Causes of Poor Airflow

5. Duct Work That is Improperly Installed or Blocked

This happens more frequently than you may think. Improperly installed ductwork may not be sized properly or may even not be connected correctly. We have seen ductwork runs that seem to simply and mysteriously end! More common is ductwork that becomes blocked through the years by layers of dirt and dust or even foreign objects like clothing and toys. These improperly installed or blocked ducts create frictions that restrict proper airflow and will negatively affect the comfort of a room.

4. Lengthy Duct Runs and Those That Contain Too Many Turns

Some installers just expect too much from their HVAC, installing lengthy duct runs or duct runs that have too many turns. These turns create turbulence that doesn’t allow them to efficiently reach their desired destinations.

3. Too Few or too Small Return Air Vents

An efficiently installed and operating HVAC system with good airflow will both push air into a room and pull it out at the same rate. If too much air is being pushed into a room, it becomes slightly pressurized and uncomfortable. A frequent problem with rooms with poor air flow is that of having too few or too small return air vents.

2. Ducts That “Leak” Air

Over the course of the life of a structure, duct work can easily get holes or cracks from a combination of age, settling, and alterations to the structure. Duct work is often inadvertently punctured through nails. Like holes in a water hose, this leaking air can make the duct work and thus the furnace, much less effective in delivering treated air and in returning fresh air. It is estimated that nine out of ten homes have duct work that is leaking on some level. Depending on the number, size, and location of these holes, airflow can be dramatically negatively affected.

1. Dirty Air Filter 

While the above issues negatively affecting air flow in your home may take the assistance of a professional to properly correct, the simple, most effective way to improve air flow is to keep your air filter clean by performing regular air filter maintenance. Air filters are inexpensive and easy to change on your own. Ideally, they should be changed bi-monthly. If you have gone to a more restrictive air filter to get cleaner air in your home, it may be too restrictive for your HVAC system. If you have found some rooms becoming more uncomfortable, you may want to select a less restrictive filter. We’ve put together a brief video that helps explain why this is such an effective and simple idea to improve airflow in your home.

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Althoff Can Service Your AirFlow Issue

If you have areas of your home that never quite seem to get warm enough during our Chicago winters, airflow just may be the problem. Our technicians at Althoff Industries can check your furnace, airflow, and duct work to ensure they are working in harmony. If not, we will come up with a solution to resolve your airflow problem. Don’t just keep turning your furnace higher and higher. Solve your comfort issues at it core cause with an HVAC airflow check and a call to Althoff Industries.

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Will an Air Purifier Minimize My Allergy Symptoms?

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

There are plenty of myths about how to best clean the air in your home. Some people believe a good HEPA air filter will do. Others suggest an air purifier. Still others say that perhaps there is nothing you can do, especially when it comes to allergens. The Chicago area has experienced medium to high pollen levels throughout the spring and forecasts call for it to continue. If you or someone in your family suffers from pollen-related allergies, the following may help.

Will My HVAC Filters Help?

The answer is yes, but to a limited degree. HEPA filters provide more stringent cleaning than standard filters but when it comes to allergens, your basic filters provide limited protection. These filters are designed to keep airflow moving unobstructed to your HVAC system, not in removing dust or allergens from your home.

What is an Air Purifier?

While HVAC filters remove contaminants from clogging your HVAC system, and do, in fact remove larger particles from the air, an air purifier or air cleaner is designed to remove contaminants from the air in a room. A HEPA filter in particular is designed to pass the air in a room through it multiple times, removing increasingly smaller particulars from the room.

Will an Air Purifier Help with my Allergy Symptoms?

Again, the answer is yes, but probably only to a limited degree if you are not taking other steps. Your first goal should be to limit your exposure to allergens.

  • Avoid spending time in the outdoors, where you may breathe in allergens or even have them collect on your hair and clothes.
  • Take a shower before bed so you will not transfer allergens to bedding and your pillows.
  • Make sure all filters in your HVAC system are cleaned and/or replaced often, at least once every three months.
  • If someone in your family has severe allergies, consider replacing carpeting with solid flooring material like wood, wood-like flooring, or tile flooring. This will keep allergens from collecting in carpeting and being redistributed during vacuuming.
  • Furniture can gather allergens so make sure yours is cleaned regularly.
  • Keep your windows closed at home, even when the weather is tempting you to open all the windows. This is really important in the spring when flower and tree pollen is highest.
  • Take spring cleaning seriously. Allergies are a good reason people take the time to thoroughly clean their homes. It works. It also helps to keep the air clean with the appropriate filtration devices.

If you have taken the above steps and are still suffering significantly, it is a good idea to contact the indoor air experts at Althoff Industries. Depending on your home, your HVAC system and your specific allergen related issues, Althoff can design a system using a variety of the latest technologies to removed allergens, dust and dust mites from your indoor air. Without the proper air filtration and purification system, many homes are simply recycling dirty air. Help is just a phone call away.

The Althoff Difference

At Althoff Industries, we aren’t interested in selling the latest trendy devices. We have built our reputation and our company on providing solutions that work. This includes air cleaner and air purification systems that perform in concert with your HVAC system to provide a healthy environment for you and your family. Are you experiencing runny noses, sneezing, red or watering eyes, or seem to be constantly dusting your home? We may have the solution for you. Contact Althoff Industries and enjoy cleaner, healthier and more comfortable air in your home.

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