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What every Homeowner needs to know about Furnace Filters

Air Filter Maintenance Guide


Keep Your Air Filter Working Like New with Advice from Our Experts

Forced-air heating is the most popular method in the United States for keeping a home warm. An essential component of forced-air heating is the air filter. Originally, the purpose of air filters was to keep large dust particles from damaging the heating and cooling equipment. Today, however, air filters have tighter weaves designed to trap much smaller contaminants. The result is cleaner indoor air, fewer allergy issues, and healthier occupants.

Change the Filter Regularly

For optimal system health, remember to change your filter regularly. If you have central air conditioning, keep in mind that the same blower motor and ductwork circulate air in the summer, meaning you need to remember to change the air filter all year round. Usually, that means checking the filter monthly and changing it every six months or when the seasons change. Pet owners may also see a need to change the filter more frequent.

When choosing a filter your best bet is to pick a mid-range filter no higher than MERV 8, which can trap particles as small as 3 microns—such as hair spray, pudding mix, dusting aids, and mold spores. Remember though, if your furnace came with a MERV 1 to 4 filter, the equipment may require some modifications to perform well with a higher efficiency filter. Only a licensed HVAC contractor should perform such modifications.

Filter Efficiency

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) established a standardized method for testing air filter efficiency back in 1987 called Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). All air conditioning and heater filters today are given a rating on the MERV scale, which ranges from 1 to 16. Technically, filters can also rate 17-20, but these are High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and are not designed for use in residential heater and air conditioning systems.

Filters are rated on their ability to trap smaller and smaller particles. Different types of filters have different MERV ratings:

  • Electrostatic filters: MERV 1-4
  • Throwaway filters: MERV 1-8
  • Cartridge filters: MERV 5-8
  • Pleated filters: MERV 5-8
  • Box filters: MERV 9-16
  • Bag filters: MERV 9-16

Your Home and Office, A Breath of fresh air?

Adults breathe in something like 35 gallons of air a day, taking some 20,000 breaths in a 24hr day, most of them in our home. While there are numerous agencies out there attempting to regulate the quality of outdoor air, and to some extent our air in the office, the health of the air in our home has been pretty much left up to the homeowner. Common sources of indoor air pollutants in the home such as dust and mold, but also VOCs-volatile organic compounds-in paints, household cleaners, as well as pesticides, lead dust or asbestos particles in older homes, and any number of other less obvious culprits -- like air fresheners, scented candles and, well, your clothing. Products stored in garages and basements often attribute to higher VOCs.

Seattle Indoor Air Issues Mold issues, Allergies and Asthma

  • About 400,000 Washington adults – one in ten women and one in fourteen men – currently have asthma
  • About 120,000 Washington youth are currently affected by asthma 
  • The percentage of our state population with asthma is steadily increasing - the prevalence of asthma has increased significantly for adults and households with children between 1999 and 2003 
  • Washington’s asthma prevalence has been identified by CDC as one of the highest in the nation – both adult and youth prevalence are significantly greater than national averages  
  • About 9% of adults have asthma, between 7-10% of middle/high school-aged children have asthma, and one in ten households with children of any age have a child with asthma. 

What's the 2nd Leading Cause of Lung Cancer in the US?

Smoking rightfully takes the spotlight as the most menacing cause of lung cancer—160,000 Americans die because of it every year. But there's another under-publicized threat that also tragically contributes to the lung cancer death toll. So what's the culprit?

It's radon—a naturally occurring colorless, odorless gas, and it's responsible for 20,000 deaths every year, according to the EPA. It's harder to hate radon: there are no big tobacco companies behind it and no addictive product that creates it. In fact, radon can be found in some hot springs and spring water naturally. And the worst part is that the only way to tell if radon's a problem in your home is to specifically have it tested with a home test kit or by hiring a specialist.

Doing radon tests can reveal whether your home has abnormally high levels, which is important because your house is the primary place where the gas collects. But don't worry? there are proven methods of reducing radon levels in your home. Just check in with the EPA, which has a reliable list of radon resources, and contacts to agencies that can test or fix your home.

Check out the Radon Map for areas with recent testing data.

Washington State and Mold Laws

Under Washington State Law the landlord must maintain the building 

"Landlords must Maintain the structural components including, but not limited to, the roofs, floors, walls, chimneys, fireplaces, foundations, and all other structural components, in reasonably good repair so as to be usable;"

in the notes, the State says," "The legislature finds that residents of the state face preventable exposures to mold in their homes, apartments, and schools. Exposure to mold, and the toxins they produce have been found to have adverse health effects, including loss of memory and impairment of the ability to think coherently and function in a job, and may cause fatigue, nausea, and headaches."

According to the Tenants Union of Washington State

"Other than a requirement to provide written information (RCW 59.18.060), there are no state laws governing landlords’ responsibilities regarding mold removal. State law does give residential tenants the right to vacate their units and move if the landlord is not making necessary repairs. It will depend on whether the landlord attempts to fix the problem causing the mold to grow. The mold itself may not be cause enough to break the lease, but if the landlord fails to fix the leaky pipe causing the moisture that created the mold growth, then the tenant can follow the repair process to eventually break the lease. Thorough documentation is vital if you’d like to use this legal remedy, and there are some risks associated with this course of action."

 

Finding—2005 c 465: "The legislature finds that residents of the state face preventable exposures to mold in their homes, apartments, and schools. Exposure to mold and the toxins they produce have been found to have adverse health effects, including loss of memory and impairment of the ability to think coherently and function in a job, and may cause fatigue, nausea, and headaches.
As steps can be taken by landlords and tenants to minimize exposure to indoor mold, and as the reduction of exposure to mold in buildings could reduce the rising number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies and increase the availability of coverage, the legislature supports providing tenants and landlords with information designed to minimize the public's exposure to mold."

 

 

 

Pacific Northwest Inspections Group can perform a through building condition survey that will help the tenant understand the extend of the condition which they are exposed to. Our mold experts will map out, sample and report all areas of the tenant's space.

Call us to schedule a Property Conditions Survey 425.608.9553

 

Tacoma Smelter Plume Soil Sampling in Seattle

 

King County offers FREE soil testing

Soil testing involves digging small holes in your yard’s soil, removing small amounts of soil, and refilling the holes. It usually takes a few hours. The soil samples will then be sent to a lab for analyzing.

Before we can test the soil, the property owner must sign the Property Access Agreement and Survey form that gives us permission to access the yard and do the work.

If you are a renter and would like free home soil testing of the yard, you must contact your property owner. The property owner must sign the form to give us permission to access the yard and do the work. The form must be returned to us before any testing can be done.

The results will be mailed in approximately two weeks to property owners. For results that are below the yard cleanup levels, we will mail or email sample results and include tips on reducing your contact to lead and arsenic. Learn more about what you can do to protect your family with simple healthy actions.

We will contact you directly if the test results show you have higher levels of arsenic and lead in your soil to provide you with more information.

Learn how to test your own soil at home

Tacoma Smelter contamination is unpredictable from property to property. There is tremendous variation from one property to another, and even across parts of the same property. The only way to know for sure if your property is contaminated is to test the soil.

Whether or not you live outside of the TSP soil safety program service area, you can choose to do your own soil testing.

Attic Mold What every Homeowner needs to know.

Attic ventilation is a critical component to maintaining even temperatures in your attic all year long. In the summer it saves on the life of your shingles by keeping the boards cooler and decreases your cooling costs in the winter weather by diminishing the temperature difference which in turn prevents moisture build up in the form of condensation. Did you know that having a proper amount of attic ventilation is even required to enforce the warranty of most shingle manufacturers?? When it comes to mold the most import ventilation concerns occur in the winter. In the winter during the coldest months as we run our furnaces, hot air escapes into the cold unheated attic space. When the escaping hot air emerges into the cold attic it rises as heat always does. It seeks out the highest portions of the attic where it then coalesces against the cold boards of the roof. This hot- air-mass-meets-cold-surface phenomena results in a condition known as dew point, which creates moisture in the form of water droplets and ice crystals. The nails themselves also will contribute to this moisture problem as iron is a good conductor of temperature and will readily convey the biting chill of cold winter air directly inside the attic. The evidence of this, can be seen in the form of drips and of drip spots underneath the nails themselves.

Bathroom fans vented directly into the attic or Soffit areas rather than straight through the roof are also to blame for exacerbated moisture problems which lead to mold, wood- rot and health problems. The more adults showering in the house and the longer the showers the more moisture will enter an attic. In fact in some families the bathroom fans alone are the sole culprit responsible for major mold infestations! Use your fans for 20min or longer after use!

If you want to eliminate attic mold permanently you NEED to get EQUAL amounts of Intake Air and Exhaust or Out-take Air into your Attic!

Building scientists have proven that using a balanced ventilation system that utilizes equal amounts incoming and out going air. Incoming air comes in from under the eves through vents cut in the underside of the roof overhangs which are called soffets. Proper soffet ventilation is essential to large amounts of incoming air needed for intake. Many attics were originally vented properly but have become packed with insulation along the way by an over-zealous insulation contractor or homeowner, in an attempt to actually stop air from coming in, sadly a common mistake. This mistake was very common in the 80's and 90's. There are two basic types of Soffit vents: either a contiguous vent or a individual vents which come in round and square varieties. I generally prefer to use 6 inch by 12 inch square vents because of the ease of installation and the low material cost. They work surprisingly well and offer a lot of surface area. They can be purchased easily in brown white and silver to match virtually any siding.

Out-take air, exhaust air ventilation can take 4 basic forms: Gable end vents, ridge vents, box/hat vents or power vents. Of the four the ridge vent is to be preferred, due to its location at the highest point of the attic, namely the ridge. Because heat always rises it is passively efficient at exhausting large amounts of heated air without the use of electricity. Be sure to select a ridge vent without a complicated filter which can become clogged; I prefer the simple metal designs for their simplistic efficient design and operation. Box vents while older and more dated can be efficient if there is a sufficient number of them located across the surface. If your attic already has square, can, or box type vents but not enough of them, it can be a less expensive solution to an inadequate exhaust air problem. The reason is simple they are cheap and easy to install and like the square intake vents can be easily purchased in several colors to match any shingle. If you have a hip roof there may be insufficient ridge length to allow for sufficient out-take; box vents can be an ideal solution for this problem. Powered vents work well, but are dependent upon electricity for operation. This both costs money and is subject to wear and tear of moving parts. Additionally in the event of power outages can leave the attic over heated, for these reasons the author does not recommend them.

Beware of mixing two different kinds of ventilation!!!

By far one of the most common, and the most troubling ventilation mistakes is the mixed use of two completely different ventilation systems. For example mixing a ridge vent with a box vent or a previously installed power vent or gable end vents. What goes wrong is this: air always follows the path of least resistance and looks for the nearest opening , often the ridge will draft air from the box vents and short circuit the entire exhaust air systems, eliminating any chance of correcting the water/moisture issues. It can also bring unwanted weather snow debris etc into the attic because box vents and gable end vents were not meant to be intake vents, which can cause tremendous damage! So remember don't mix two ventilation systems pick one and stick with it ensuring there is enough of whatever vent system you choose. Most builder today do not follow this GOLDEN rule!

Is correcting my ventilation a cure for a mold problem in my attic?

NO!! it is not a cure for mold but just for ventilation problems which create moisture issues. No matter who installs your ventilation system in the winter if you are running supplemental heat in your home your attic will be subject to some moisture from time to time during the coldest days. For this reason and several others it is a must to actually treat the mold with a system designed to remove it completely without leaving behind mold or poisonous heavy metals paints and chemicals that can make your family sick. Even dead mold can still affect your health and make your family sick. It is also a good idea to hire a mold contractor with a ventilation expert on staff, because hiring a roofing contractor and a mold contractor is always more expensive

Removing the moisture

Hot air rises. Without air sealing your attic you are allowing warm air to escape from your home carrying with it your hard earned winter heating money.  Most people just add insulation to their attic - this will not stop the escaping warm air. The EPA estimates that the typical American home has enough leaks, holes and gaps to be equal to an open window every day of the year. That is significant. We need to seal the air in our conditioned living space from the unconditioned attic space. Every attic needs proper ventilation. We are not stopping the proper air exchange in the attic - we are only stopping the exchange between the house and the attic.

 

Before You Begin The Repairs

You get one chance to take indoor air and attic lift samples this needs done before the job starts for correcting issue having a  baseline of air quality lets you understand what is expected on completion if after work your family begins have allergy symptoms there not data show cause may be without control sample test a income blower door duct needs performed. This test will show the tightness of the building envelope and also give the data need to show the work performed was justified.

Did you know most contractors use toxic chemicals to kill mold which may contains carcinogens which are cancer causing agents?

It is best to deal with the mold on the sheathing when the roof needs replaced next. Replacing the sheathing is our only recommended option. Meanwhile until the roof does need replacement, correct all other issues. Attic mold does not pose any indoor conditioned space IAQ issues so it is causing no harm waiting. 

 

 Contact us for any questions -  info@pnwig.com or 425.608.9553