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The ABCs of ERVs

The ABCs of ERVs

As building standards continue to grow more stringent in regards to energy efficiency, heating, cooling and ventilation systems are themselves becoming more advanced to meet the needs of today’s demands. One such system that is on the rise is the Energy Recovery Ventilation system, or ERV.

To explain why ERVs have become so highly regarded, let’s first look at why this type of ventilation has become necessary.

In a 2010 report titled “Building Codes and Indoor Air Quality” prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Radiation and Indoor Environments Division, researcher David H. Mudarri wrote:

There is significant political and institutional momentum toward energy conservation in buildings which has led to building codes devoted solely to energy conservation, and resulted in the tightening of building envelopes and reduced air infiltration and leakage. With air exchange significantly reduced, there is little room for error in protecting indoor air quality, other than providing more sophisticated and more tightly calibrated and coordinated systems.

 

The momentum that he spoke of back in 2010 has most surely continued, and for the sake of energy conservation, this has been a good thing. New buildings are more tightly constructed than ever, with fewer and fewer “leaks” to let air from the outside world in. This is a great thing when we are working to heat a building in a cold climate. The draftier the building, the more energy loss. Yet, this excerpt also points to one key drawback: as we have snugged-up our buildings with higher construction standards, we have also significantly increased the risk of indoor air pollution. Back in the “old days” when we weren’t so concerned about energy loss, most buildings were able to breathe through various cracks and gaps allowing enough fresh outdoor air to permeate the building that indoor fumes and pollutants were sufficiently diluted. That is not the case these days.

In response to this growing trend towards super tight construction and high levels of insulation, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has quite dramatically increased its standards for ventilation rates, in some instances nearly tripling from its 2003 standards.

To see how this all ties together, let’s look at a real-world example. Say for instance your business is located in a new, highly energy efficient building. To keep the air you and your employees are breathing fresh, healthy, and safe, you want to make sure that you are circulating the proper amount of fresh air as set forth by the latest ventilation standards. For sake of example, let’s make this number 500 cubic feet per minute (CFM).

Now let’s say it’s February in New England and the outside air temperature is 10 degrees. You want the building to feel comfortable, so the thermostat is set to 70. With a traditional system, your HVAC unit must heat that freezing cold incoming air to blend with the building’s return air so that the air coming out of your heating vents is 70 degrees as you specified on the thermostat. With a flow rate of 500 CFM that’s no small task for your heating unit. And what about the air going out of the building? You may have guessed it. As the system draws in 500 CFM of fresh, outside air, so does it pump out 500 CFM of conditioned air. That’s a lot of hot air being wasted.

But what if you could recover that energy instead of losing it?

Well, you can. That’s what an ERV is all about.

 

How does it work?

The principle of an ERV is heat exchange. While this may sound like a pretty technical word, the concept is actually pretty simple. To help understand it, think about the nose. Your nose is designed to filter and warm the air you breathe. It’s your personal ventilation system. But you could also see it as your body’s own built-in heat exchanger. As you breathe out, the nasal passages absorb some of the heat of the warm air coming from deep inside your body. When you breathe back in, the cool air from outside passes through these warmed passages and becomes heated on its way down to the lungs. The result of this, is that the air you expel is cooler (since part of its heat is deposited in the nasal cavities), and the fresh air coming in becomes warmer. This natural heat exchange helps your body to retain heat energy and operate more efficiently.

If we look at an ERV, the principle is essentially the same.

An ERV is comprised of two ventilation ducts running next to one another passing between the inside and the outside of a house. One of these ducts carries in fresh, cool air from the outside; the other ushers the warm, moist, stale air out. The trick is, these two airstreams pass through a heat exchanger that allows the warm inside air to pass most of its heat onto the cool incoming air without the two airstreams actually mixing together. In many models, a blower fan is placed in each duct so that airflow can be controlled depending on temperature and humidity levels.

The ABCs of ERVs

During colder winter months, the ERV can be calibrated to warm as much as the cold incoming air as possible. While no ERV can produce a 100% exchange rate, a high-quality unit should reach about 80%. Going back to our example of a 70-degree indoor air temperature with a 0 degree outside temperature, the results of a unit running at 80% efficiency would be this: The inside air entering the heat exchange at 70 degrees would leave the building at 14 degrees. The incoming air would then rise from 0 to 56 degrees before entering the heating unit. Needless to say, it takes a whole lot less energy to warm air from 56 degrees to 70 than from 0 to 70.

Another smart feature of ERVs is their ability to help cool a building during the hot summer months. This happens in two main ways. First, most ERVs are equipped with a bypass fitted along the intake, so for times when it’s cooler outside than in (say for instance during a nice cool, breezy evening), this cool air can rush straight into the house. Secondly, during those hot, humid days, the hot incoming air will enter the heat exchanger and be cooled by the pre-conditioned cool air coming out the exhaust channel. Just as it is much easier for your heating unit to heat air that has already been preheated, it is easier for your cooling unit to cool air that has already been pre-chilled. The result in summer is similar to winter: you will experience a drastic increase in energy savings.

 

Why to Buy?

In recap, ERVs are steadily growing in popularity as a highly effective way to meet the increased need for added ventilation within modern, airtight buildings while improving overall HVAC efficiency. Considering the massive volumes of air being pumped in and out of commercial buildings to meet today’s standards for indoor air quality, these units can provide substantial savings. In the winter they alleviate a lot of pressure off of your heating system. In summer they substantially decrease load on the air conditioner. By keeping excess moisture out of your air supply, they’re better for your building, your furnishings, and your health (properly ventilated homes that are neither too hot nor too damp are less likely to harbor dust mites, mold, and other respiratory irritants) and they help to keep the “climate” inside your home at a more constant, comfortable level.

Tips for Commercial Indoor Air Quality

3 Tips for Commercial Indoor Air Quality

Did you know that most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors? In work alone, the average person can spend 40 hours or more per week in an office, factory, warehouse, or other indoor environment. This is why maintaining the quality of indoor air has become such a hot topic. Studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other scientific panels continue to inform us of the impact of indoor air quality on businesses, building managers, tenants, and employees. Numerous studies have even uncovered a link between poor indoor air quality and loss of productivity through employee illness, lost work days, and reduction in concentration and focus. From both a moral and economic standpoint, maintaining a building’s indoor air quality is an important task. At Suburban, we work hard every day to help business in all sectors of commerce get the professional heating, cooling, and ventilation service they need to keep their employees healthy, comfortable, and productive.

This article will explore 3 ways that you can protect the air in your building’s environment.

1. Ensure proper air circulation in air vents and/or grills.

Poor air circulation is one of the leading causes for poor indoor air quality. There are a variety of ways that this can occur.

  • If a building’s HVAC system hasn’t been properly maintained, vents, grills, and ductwork can become clogged with dust and debris. Not only does this prevent proper air flow, but the air that does get circulated is infected with the pollutants that have been allowed to accumulate. This can be easily avoided through routine, professional care by a trained specialist. Not only will this vastly improve air quality, it will also save you money in the long run by preventing poor system efficiency caused by blocked ducts and vents.

 

  • Furniture, boxes, shelving, or other such obstacles are physically blocking air vents and restricting air flow. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often vents get accidentally obstructed when things get moved around in a building. Properly educating staff and installing signage around vents to prevent this can really help. Also, encourage staff to notify their maintenance department if an area feels unusually warm, cold, stuffy, or odorous. This is a sure sign that something is not right and needs to be fixed.

 

2. Store and dispose of food products properly.

This may sound like a funny one, but believe it or not, improperly handled food can be a major source of pollutants within a building. Let’s look at a few of the most common ways this occurs:

  • Food attracts pests. When food is not stored properly, or when eating areas are not properly cleaned, a variety of pests such as insects and rodents can infiltrate your building in droves. Unfortunately, getting rid of these unwanted visitors can be tricky. Most often, a pest control specialist will have to spray or set traps; both of which introduce toxic chemicals into the air. Maintaining good food handling and cleanliness practices can prevent this from happening. A great idea is to make sure your employees are trained and properly informed, and that someone is in charge of monitoring and maintaining these areas.

 

  • When food is improperly stored, it can begin to spoil. When this occurs, a host of biological contaminants can be released, including dangerous types of mold. Making sure that your building has dedicated areas for food consumption and storage is key. Maintaining the cleanliness of these areas and properly storing, rotating, and disposing of leftovers can really help your building stay fresh and safe.

 

  • Trash can be a major site of contamination and pollution. Poorly managed, trash can become odorous and attract flies, insects, and rodents and lead to the need for toxic pest control agents. Trash can also be a major source of mold and noxious fumes.

 

3. Manage and monitor pollutants.

Pollutants can be introduced in your building in a variety of ways. Some of the most common are: Cleaning supplies, pest control, new furniture, remodeling materials such as new flooring or shelving, and biological contaminants like dust, animal dander, mold, bacteria, and fungi. It is important to be aware of the risk of these contaminants, and to develop a proactive strategy for mitigating their effects. Examples would be:

  • Communicating with your cleaning personnel your intention to protect indoor air quality. Many quality products are now available on the market that are specially-formulated for safe use indoors. Working with your cleaning crew to select environmentally-friendly products can be a major step forward in reducing harmful chemical fumes and pollutants.

 

  • When installing new office furniture, try to let the new materials “breathe” before bringing them inside. This could mean letting them sit unwrapped for a few days in a well-ventilated area. If your building doesn’t afford you a space to do this, then at least be mindful to keep the room well-ventilated when installing these new products. If possible (weather permitting) open the windows. If not, try and operate fans. And above all, make sure that all vents and ducts are clean and unobstructed.

 

  • Have a trained professional do a walk-through of your building. An experienced, knowledgeable heating and ventilation specialist will help you to assess the efficacy of your indoor air pollution control measures, as well as help you to see areas that may need extra attention. For example, there are often times where pollutants get spread throughout the building in pathways such as elevator shafts, wall spaces, stairwells, and more hidden areas that require special attention. An HVAC specialist can help you spot these areas and can provide you with customized solutions to help block pollutants from spreading.

 

In short, maintaining the health and productivity of yourself and your employees is no small task. There are a number of variables that come into play when we consider the quality of a building’s indoor air. However, with proper education, training, and communication, you can establish an effective plan with your employees and building managers. And as always, we at Suburban are here to help. Feel free to reach out to us anytime with your questions. Maintaining your comfort is what we do. It’s our pride and our passion.

 

Contact Suburban today!

Winter Heating Checklist

Winter Heating Checklist

It’s going to be cold this winter. We’re coming off of one of the warmest winters in our history, so, this year will make up for the “comfort” we had last year. We expect it to be cold, wet, and, the combination of those two will undoubtedly yield a healthy amount of snow, and ice.

But, we’re not the weatherman, and we don’t deal with what your yard looks like. What we do is make sure the inside of your home is geared up and ready for total comfort indoors. Regardless of what’s happening outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Right?

Heating System Check

This is basically the name of the game when it comes to preparing yourself for winter. If you’ve been keeping up with what we’ve got going on, chances are, you’ve already called us and have a maintenance schedule in place. Right? If you haven’t, it’s not too late, but it’s time to take it seriously and be proactive. Nobody wants to get stuck without heat…

If you have, great!

In either case, we’ve provided you with a quick and simple checklist of subjects that you should be discussing with your general HVAC contractor.

These items may or may not be applicable to all heating systems – they’re totally dependent on the size and type of your system equipment. In any event, if you have any questions at all, we’re happy to answer them for you.

  • Look for cracks in the heat exchangers
  • Check the safety mechanism for proper operation
  • Check that the flames are burning clean and efficiently
  • Check the flues for carbon buildup and address if buildup exists
  • Check that water pressure gauges are calibrated correctly
  • Remove and clean burners to assure clean and efficient operation
  • Inspect the system’s expansion tanks for proper air cushions to be sure they are not flooded and able to perform their task correctly
  • Be sure to periodically brush the boiler tubes
  • Address thermostat calibration for efficient and effective operation
  • And of course, be sure to change the air filters so that your system can “breath” property

Preparing for the Colder Months Ahead

Preparing for the Colder Months Ahead

Believe it or not, fall is right around the corner. As we cherish these last days of warmth and sunshine, we may also be thinking about fall cleanup, and the list of things we can do to welcome the changing of seasons and prepare for the colder months ahead.

A typical fall “to-do” list may include things like: looking for a good deal on heating oil or firewood, pulling the snowblower out of storage, preparing for leaf cleanup, or scheduling a time to get the snow tires put on the car…

But how many of us think about changing the air filters on our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems?

We know it may seem like a trivial detail when compared to something more obviously tangible, such as, planning for snow removal, or making sure you have enough firewood to keep from freezing, but actually, these filters may be a bigger deal than you might think.

Let’s pose a question: How well would you be able to breathe with a mouthful of dirt?

This question may sound a bit silly, but if you were to take a close look at the intake area of your heating and cooling unit, you’d see where we’re going with this.

In order to heat or cool your building, HVAC units draw air in from the outside, warm it or cool it, then release it back into your work or living space at the temperature you dialed on the thermostat. But what happens when the flow of fresh, outside air gets partially (or significantly) blocked? Well, lots of things; none of which are good for you, your system, or your wallet.

Let’s explore…

The fact is, the ability for your system to circulate fresh air is one of the most essential elements to proper overall functioning. When the air filters become clogged with dust and debris, it is effectively like making your system have to breathe through a straw. Or, to keep with the original analogy, like breathing through a mouthful of dirt. Not pretty.

When the airflow gets blocked, it puts excessive strain on the blowers and mechanisms responsible for moving air through the system. This yields a number of significant issues. Here are a few of the most common:

• Reduced Efficiency

When airflow gets restrained, the overall volume of conditioned air gets reduced, leading to the system having to work for longer periods of time to produce the same effects. The end result of this is increased energy usage and a big, fat sting to your wallet. We get it, nobody wants to spend their hard-earned money on an air filter. There are about 1,000 things more exciting to purchase. But, look at it from the bright side, with all that money you’ll be saving by controlling your utility bills, you can afford to go out and treat yourself!

• Allergens (Ah…Choo!)

Imagine air moving through an old, dirty air filter literally caked with allergy-inducing contaminants, then being pumped through ductwork into your home or workspace. If this doesn’t tickle your nostrils like a turkey feather, then you’re either one of the rare individuals with absolutely zero allergy issues, or an alien. The worst part of this, is that when allergens start to work their way through your first line of defense, (a.k.a. Mr. Air Filter) they can begin to backup and accumulate in your ducts. Once this happens, they can literally end up getting pulled into the air you breathe for months as they slowly, but surely release themselves.

• Short-Cycling

A good quality system is designed to cycle on and off periodically throughout the day. However, when an air filter becomes clogged, and the performance of the unit is compromised, these cycles start occurring at a more rapid pace. This is not only annoying, but puts extra strain on the system, creates more temperature fluctuations, and uses excess energy.

• Reduced longevity and costly service and/or replacement

Your heating and cooling system will last a lot longer if you pay attention to maintaining it. Air filters stop dust and dirt from building up on your unit’s internal components. When they are neglected, they cause a lot of additional and unnecessary wear and tear that can lead your unit to fail. Now, instead of swinging by the hardware store during your morning errands, you’re calling a service technician out for a costly repair or replacement.

• Uneven Heating or Cooling

Just like your car would sputter or stall with poor fuel or air supply, so will your HVAC unit if gets all plugged up. When air cannot move properly through the system, areas within your building or home can begin to feel uneven, leading to a less than optimal level of comfort.

So, as you begin to prepare for fall cleanup and winterization over these next few weeks, you may want to add “install new air filters” to your to-do list. It’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive action item that will pay dividends in the future.

Better yet, give us a shout at Suburban Companies and schedule your annual maintenance appointment. Taking a proactive approach to keeping your HVAC system up to snuff is the best way to make sure it’s operatiing at an optimal rate – stretching the life of the technology and the money in your wallet.

Meet Us at Westwood Day and Win the New Carrier® Côr™ Thermostat!

West Wood Day

Join us on Saturday, September 29th for Westwood Day which takes place from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM at Westwood High School. This year we’re proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the event and will have a booth setup to meet up and chat with any of our fellow community members about your HVAC needs, and, of course, we’ll be glad to collaboratively talk through what’s going on with the Patriots…

We’re of the belief that local businesses should support the community and serve and participate in local activities such as Westwood Day, so we’ll be flying our communal colors all day long. There’s so much to look forward to including (but not limited to):

  • 5K Road Race
  • 1 Mile Fun Run
  • K9 Demonstrations
  • Fire Department Demonstrations
  • Car Show & Touch a Truck Event
  • Animals Rides and Petting
  • Face Painting
  • Sports Events
  • Crafting Stations
  • Inflatable Bounce House Activities
  • Roaming Railroad
  • Food Vendors
  • Music / Dancing
  • And so much more…

What do we at Suburban Companies have in store?

Well, we enjoy meeting people, understanding your needs, and engaging in community minded environments. Our how is Westwood, thus we’re proud to support and share a day with our hometown. Visit us at our booth where we will be conducting a raffle that will occur live several times during the event (at 11:30, 1:00, and 2:30 respectively). We’ll be giving away the new Carrier® Côr™ Thermostat with professional installation and training on how to use. Anyone that visits the booth and registers for the drawing will receive a free gift just for entering. We will also have HVAC service and install incentives at the booth in conjunction with sales and technical people to answer any questions.

Many people don’t understand that they can be more comfortable in their own home. Our expert staff will be available to answer your questions in person. Comfort, reliability or energy savings – these all things to consider and all things you can achieve. Let’s talk about it at Westwood Day! We can’t wait!

For more information click here.

The Ins and Outs of smart Buildings

The Ins and Outs of smart Buildings

You may be noticing a growing number of buildings toting the claim of being “green” more and more these days. In response to increasing pressure from a variety of civic and municipal groups, many companies are choosing to make the extra investment in building structures that can be certified environmentally friendly by organizations like the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design (LEED) or BREEAM, which stands for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. While this trend has skyrocketed in the last few years, the movement to construct more “sustainable” buildings has actually been around for over 20 years. However, as advances in technology continue to grow exponentially, we are beginning to see a new trend within the trend, “smart buildings.”

So what is a “smart building” exactly?

The term smart building has come into place to describe buildings that employ the use of automated, high-tech controls to monitor and manage many of the interior components that contribute to a building’s overall performance. The consumer market is now flooded with an assortment of sensors, monitors, and dashboard units designed to integrate with a building’s lighting, heating, cooling, and water systems. Many of these dashboard platforms offer users the convenience of monitoring and controlling their buildings right from their smartphone.

Temperature a little warm in meeting room C?

No problem.

A couple quick commands from a smartphone dashboard and problem solved. Even things like window blinds, gas fireplaces, and drop down video screens can be controlled with these devices. What used to fall into the realm of futuristic imagination has now become a reality.

However, beyond just offering convenience, or appeasing the younger tech-savvy (and tech infatuated) millennial generation now entering the workplace full-force, these smart controls offer another key contribution: they can dramatically impact the “greenness” of a building.

Let’s zoom in and look at one application of this…

As changes in the climate pair with increasing world population, effective water management is becoming a hot topic in sustainability. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), commercial buildings consume roughly 17% of the public water supply annually. According to a paper published by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, total U.S. public water use in 2018 was 322 billion gallons per day. We don’t even need to do the math to know that 17% of that is a very big number.

Now, there’s a common saying that is highly relevant here:

“If you’re not measuring it, you’re not managing it.”

That’s where smart controls come in. These new monitoring technologies allow building occupants and managers to set up cloud-based sub-metering systems that show water consumption on an almost minute-to-minute basis, allowing for detailed analysis of where water is being used, how much is being used, and when it is being used. From this specific data, intelligent, informed choices can be made on how to implement practices to conserve and eliminate unnecessary waste.

It’s clear then, that smart controls can have a real place in LEED and other sustainable buildings, moving the sustainability movement far beyond the focus on a building’s materials, durability, and insulation compliance, by integrating sustainability into the interior components, monitoring the precious resources the building and its occupants consume on a daily basis.

Another huge opportunity here, is the use of smart controls with heating and ventilation. Take a look at this statistic:

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about 48% of a building’s total energy use is consumed by heating and cooling.

In mid-size and large commercial buildings, this can mean substantial energy use. Of course, this also opens up a huge opportunity for energy savings. Just as sub-metering systems can help analyze and significantly reduce water consumption, smart controls on heating and ventilation systems can do the same.

Here’s a quick example: Say it was an especially cold day, and one of your clients came in for a meeting chilled to the bone. To make them more comfortable, you turn up the temperature in the meeting room a few degrees. The meeting concludes, and you pack up and head home for the day. Once you get home, you realize that you forgot to turn the heat back down. With a traditional thermostat, your choices are either to drive all the way back to the office, or just let it go until you (hopefully) remember to turn it down the next day. With smart controls however, correcting the issue can be done right from the comfort of home, in less time than it might take to check your email.

In conclusion, in addition to having a high-performance, professionally maintained heating, ventilation and cooling system, consider implementing one of the many smart control products on the market to reduce your monthly energy bills and to do your part to help us all get a little more “green.”

Questions? Comments? Contact a Suburban Companies today and Take Comfort.

 

 

How Polluted is Your Home?

How Polluted is Your Home?

Here’s an interesting question: Did you know that formaldehyde is one of the most prevalent indoor air pollutants?

If you just did a double-take, you’re not alone.

Many of our customers are shocked when they discover that this notoriously toxic compound can be found in the air they breathe within their own homes. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that homeowners and heating and air professionals can work together to reduce levels of this harmful substance and improve indoor air quality.

Let’s explore some of these strategies so that you can protect your home and loved ones from this silent danger!

But first, let’s take a look at what exactly formaldehyde is and how it can enter the home.

Formaldehyde is an aldehyde, belonging to a class of substances commonly referred to as VOCs or volatile organic compounds. At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless, yet strong smelling gas, that was proven through studies in the 2011 National Toxicology Program to be a known human carcinogen. Formaldehyde exposure has also been linked to a range of other health issues. Short-term exposure symptoms include inflammation of the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract, as well as headaches. More long-term exposure can affect memory and cognition, skin lesions, asthma, and cancers of the nose and throat.

So, with all the known dangers of this compound, how does it make its way into our homes?

Although dangerous to our health, formaldehyde does have some remarkably useful properties when it comes to industrial use. One application is in the production of resins and adhesives that are used to manufacture pressed wood building products such as plywood and particleboard. Other popular uses of formaldehyde-based resins are in polyurethane, carpeting adhesives, insulation, pre-finished flooring, and even to add strength to common household items such as paper towels.

Due to its prevalence in this wide assortment of home materials, formaldehyde gets introduced to the home during any construction project, whether it’s a new build, or a remodeling project. Additionally, formaldehyde can continue to make its way into the home even after any building projects are complete, such as, when we vacuum the carpet (thereby releasing trapped gases), use certain cleaning products or paints that contain the substance, or use printers and copiers that release ozone, which can react with other VOCs to produce formaldehyde.

Now that we know a bit more about what formaldehyde is and how it gets into our homes, let’s talk about what we can do to keep ourselves safe.

Take Steps Towards Prevention

Like the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Now that you are informed about the potential dangers of building materials containing formaldehyde, you can do your due diligence to select products that are free of the harmful chemical. To start:

  • Look for building or remodeling supplies that are labeled to meet safety standards as issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the California Air Resources Board Airborne Toxic Control Measure (CARB ATCM).
  • Use outside agencies like Greenguard, a division of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), that help homeowners identify products and materials that have low chemical emissions.
  • Select paints and finishes that are labeled “no-VOC.”
  • Use insulation that is free of UF foam.
  • Let any materials that may still contain small amounts of formaldehyde to sit outside for a number of days to “off-gas” before installation.
  • Carefully read the label of cleaning supplies and other household products. Generally, formaldehyde will not be spelled out clearly, but if you see the ingredients imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, or diazolidinyl urea, that is a clue that they contain the compound and should be avoided.

Ensure That You Have the Right Ventilation

Making sure that your home has the proper air-circulation, ventilation, and temperature and moisture control is a critical part of managing indoor air quality. Let’s look at some of these in more detail:

  • Stay cool. When the temperature in your home gets too high, VOCs like formaldehyde become even more volatile. Having a high-quality home air conditioning system installed and serviced by a professional is a key component of air safety.
  • Use a high-quality air filtration system. Many home filtration systems are designed only to remove particulate matter from the air. However, there are systems that additionally target gaseous compounds. Seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable, well-trained heating and ventilation specialist will help you select a system that is right for you.
  • Check your appliances. Proper ventilation also includes making sure that your appliances are ventilated properly. Combustion, whether it is from a wood stove, gas or propane cooking appliance, or even a gas dryer in the laundry room, is a prime source of formaldehyde and other toxic air pollutants. It is a good idea to have a professional check the ductwork and ventilation systems on all the appliances in your home that use combustion.
  • Manage moisture. High humidity levels in your home can exacerbate issues with formaldehyde. Especially in areas like the bathroom and kitchen, your home should be equipped with high quality ventilation to remove the high amounts of moisture from cooking and showering. To really maximize this, consider speaking to a professional about some of the latest systems that include built-in moisture sensors. These systems will provide maximum performance, and can also provide the convenience of automatic operation, as well as energy savings by shutting off when they are not needed.

Go Green – Literally

One simple, tried-and-true strategy for reducing the effects of VOCs is plants. Beyond absorbing CO2, plants can help absorb formaldehyde and other noxious compounds from the air in your home. According to research, mums, Boston ferns, spider plants, philodendron, and golden pothos ivy are species that are particularly helpful to have around.

According to Bill Wolverton, a NASA scientist that studied the effect of house plants on indoor air quality, the magic number of plants seems to be about two “good size” plants per each 100 square feet of living space.

As an added bonus, you’ll have some nice scenery to go with that sharp new HVAC system.

Formaldehyde and indoor pollution can mean serious and scary business. But now that you know a thing or two about what causes this pollutant and how to prevent it, you’re on your way to building and maintaining a living space for you and your family that is fresh, healthy, and vibrant.

If you have any questions and/or concerns about the air in your home or office, feel free to contact Suburban Companies today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bolstering Your Home’s Insulation Practices

Bolstering Your Home’s Insulation Practices

You know what’s curious? People often think about the insulation in their home when winter is coming and they’re looking to keep as much heat in their home as they possibly can. But what about summer? Here we are in the throes of it and we hardly hear folks talking about how they need to keep things tight in order to keep the cool air in…

It’s a juxtaposition, that, in essence is solved by thinking about the air in your house as a solo entity. Whether you’re looking to keep it warm in the winter, or cool in the summer, the idea is to keep both of those uniquely treated environments in the home. Thus, you’re looking to achieve the same goal.

That said, let’s talk insulation. You can have the latest and greatest heating and cooling solution at the core of your home, but if your house isn’t bundled up and sealed tight, all that energy is flushing right out of the walls and into the ether. Not only are you losing money on your utility bills that you could allocate elsewhere, you’re also taxing that expensive HVAC unit. When it works harder, it degrades and dies younger.

Think insulation.

This goes beyond the pink rolls of insulation that immediately come to mind.

Yes, those walls are important. But so is:

  • The attic
  • Your windows
  • The doors
  • Chimneys (active or inactive)
  • The floors
  • Any nook, cranny, or crevice that air can escape from – if it’s a question, it’s a concern

A well-insulated home can literally save you 30%+ on your energy bills –not only in the winter months, but year-round.

There are benefits outside of merely saving money on utility costs of course. Proper insulation also:

  • Prevents moisture condensation
  • Reduces capacity and size of new mechanical equipment
  • Enhances process performance
  • Reduces emissions of pollutants
  • Increases safety and protection of elements
  • Increases acoustical performance: reduces noise levels
  • Maximizes return on investment (ROI)
  • Can improve appearance

We at Suburban are first-and-foremost concerned with your comfort and saving you some green, so consider proper insulation which achieves both. And if you need someone to help point you in the right direction, give us a call today!

Combating Coil Corrosion

Combating Coil Corrosion

A recent study put together by Carrier showcases an alarming bit of evidence with regard to coil corrosion within HVAC systems in homes or office buildings. There are two basic kinds of corrosion that coils experience. The first is pitting corrosion, which is often caused by exposure to fluoride or chloride.

Fluoride can find its way into the fold via municipal water supplies while chloride on the other hand is found in such “everyday” products as snowmelt, detergents, cleaners, carpeting, and assorted fabrics. Pitting corrosion occurs when chloride or fluoride ions find their way to the metal of the coil through condensate. These chloride and fluoride ions literally attack the metal tubing of the coils which can form pits that lead to pinholes which causes the system to leak refrigerant – a serious issue from a few different vantage points…

Formicary corrosion, which can also cause pinholes, is generally caused by exposure to acetic or formic acids which are present in (again) such “everyday” products as cleaning solvents, insulation, aerosol sprays, wallpaper, adhesives, cosmetics, disinfectants and deodorizers, tobacco and wood smoke, paints, plywood, and many other pretty basic materials around the house. Formicary corrosion appears as multiple pinhole leaks at the surface of the metal (copper tubing) that are NOT visible to the naked eye.

As stated in the study; “While the potential sources of agents that can cause pitting corrosion in indoor coils are numerous, there is increasing evidence showing the home environment to be a primary contributor to coil corrosion. The trend in home construction is to improve energy efficiency by making homes “tighter.” This decreased ventilation results in higher concentration levels of indoor contaminants. In addition, environmental refrigerant mandates now heighten the awareness that all leaks be located and repaired.”

This is an issue.

There are three conditions required for formicary corrosion to occur:

  • The presence of oxygen
  • The presence of a chemically corrosive agent (organic acid)
  • The presence of moisture

So how are companies looking to combat corrosion in the coils of their HVAC related products?

There are four common coil “coating” materials that wrap the tubing and protect against negative environmental stimuli. This include:

  • Polyurethane
  • Epoxy
  • Flouropolymers
  • Silane

Another proposed remedial effort is to increase the thickness of the copper coil pipes.

All of these have unique problem sets.

Carrier has found and proven that the best combative material that protects against coil corrosion is tin plating. Extensive Carrier testing has proven that tin plating is effective against corrosion. Simply thickening the pipe only prolongs the saturation and deterioration served by corrosive agents. The tin plating barrier called ArmorCoat prevents the attack from occurring by providing a legitimate, proven barrier against the corrosive agents – making your HVAC system stronger, safer, and more efficient.

If you have questions or think your antiquated equipment may be suffering from the ill effects of corroded coils, contact Suburban Companies today.

Six Common Problems Trigger the Need for AC Maintenance

AC Repair MA

Comfort is important in the summertime. Not only are we trying to control the temperature around us, we’re also trying to combat the actual quality of the air, which is typically full of fluctuating humidity levels, and vast allergens – especially here in the greater Boston area. That said, if you experience any of the following misfortunes, contact Suburban HVAC today to get you through to the other side of discomfort, which, of course, is absolute comfort…

Have you ever asked yourself?:

Why Won’t My AC Turn On?  

This is the obvious one. If your air conditioner won’t turn on, no comfort can be achieved. It’s either a minor or major problem. There’s typically no in-between once your unit has reached that point. First, be sure that your thermostat isn’t set for a temperature that your home or office is currently at. If that’s not the case, check for a blown fuse. ACs pull a solid amount of power to kick on, and sometimes hiccups happen in that process. If you don’t have a blown fuse, call a professional – we’ll come and figure out what’s going on under the hood…

Why Isn’t the AC Cooling this Place?

We’ve all been here. It happens. You got your AC fired up, you’re looking for some semi-quick relief, and the only thing that comes is more sweat. The culprits of such an injustice may include closed vents, which block cooled air from entering into the room, leakage around the refrigerant lines, clogged filters, antiquated/worn out components, and more… Who you gonna call? Suburban. We’ll send one of our qualified, award winning technicians to assess the problem and cool you down (and your property). Sound good?

What is that Noise?

Ah, yes, the old “strange noise coming from the appliance” gag. Sometimes it’s not a gag at all, though. With regard to air conditioning, HVAC units can produce certain sounds during their uptick and normal operations, and, quite frankly, we all get used to these creeks, moans, and sounds over time. However, if you hear a strange sound coming from your AC that you’ve never heard before, turn the unit off and call for help. You don’t want to do more harm by “pushing it.”

Is this Thing Low on Refrigerant?  

Probably not a question the general consumer asks, but hey, you never know…. This may be a remedial solution to the question you asked yourself above about why the sweat is increasing on your brow after you’ve fired up the AC. If you have reason to suspect that your unit isn’t working the way it should, it’s quite possible that the unit has low refrigerant levels. That said, you shouldn’t be the one that addresses this issue. Leave it to a tried and true professional. Leave it to Suburban – and take comfort. (Yes, we say that a lot… And it’s because we care.)

What are These Puddles Doing Here?

We’ll see your question and raise you one… Is your unit draining properly? If it isn’t, you’re doing a massive disservice to your comfort and to your equipment. Disjointed drainage can damage the working components of your HVAC system as well as potentially cause issues with your property. The only way to really make sure that your cooling solution is draining properly is to have it maintained by a professional who will take a close look and make sure everything is operating at an optimal level, saving you pocket loads of money from myriad vantage points, as well as, you know, keeping you, the family, and/or your coworkers cool and comfortable.

*Bonus Question!

Is My HVAC Contractor Doing What They Claim to be Doing?

Fair question! Poor Maintenance leads to poor performance. Poor performance leads to poor comfort. Poor comfort leads to unhappy customers. Unhappy customers lead to… (you see where we’re going here…)

The theory here is simple: To keep your heating and cooling units operating up to and above standard operative levels, you need to have them professionally maintained on an annual basis, and before the heat starts hitting you prompting a reactive response (as opposed to a proactive one…). Failing to get professional maintenance service can result to unnecessary costly repair bills, and lofty energy bills as well. All that said, how do you know you can trust your chosen HVAC contractor? If you live in Massachusetts, and primarily in the greater Boston region, the answer is easy: Suburban Companies. We’ve won 7 consecutive Carrier President’s Awards which is literal proof of the effort we put in to the quality work we do in our industry. Your comfort is our comfort – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stay cool this summer, and, looking ahead, keep warm when winter begins to set in. Contact Suburban today for all your HVAC needs – from new and restored equipment to scheduled annual maintenance plans.