Air Cleaner Guide: What Is a MERV Rating?

February 27th, 2015

It’s estimated that over 40 million people suffer from allergies in the US. Allergies aren’t just a problem in the outdoors; indoor allergies are also a serious problem, particularly for people who are specifically allergic to dust and pet dander. One of the best ways to clean your indoor air and alleviate a great deal of suffering from indoor allergies is to employ the use of a mechanical air filter, also known as an air cleaner. However, not all mechanical air filters work alike. How do you know which air cleaner will work best for your Oregon City home? A great first step is reviewing MERV ratings with an indoor air quality expert from Clean Air Act.

What Is MERV?

The acronym MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value” and it acts as a scale. This scale was created in the 1940s, along with HEPA filters, as scientists tested nuclear bomb materials and needed high-grade filters to remove harmful particles from the air. The MERV scale runs from 1 to 20 and indicates how efficient a particular air cleaner will filter the air; the higher the MERV number, the better the air filter. However, just because the MERV scale reaches 20 doesn’t mean you should install a mechanical filter with the highest number. In fact, the highest-rated air filter a homeowner should purchase typically has a MERV of 12; this is because filters with ratings between 13-20 are HEPA filters, and these filters are so strong that they can restrict the air flow in your system, which is not a good thing. If you feel you need a HEPA filter for your home, consult with an expert first.

MERV Ranges

Wondering which MERV level may be right for your home? You should always work with a professional to pinpoint this, but here is a quick overview of the scale:

  • MERV 1-4 – these MERV ratings correlate to very low capture rate, and are typically the MERV rating of the standard air filter that comes with your HVAC system.
  • MERV 5-8 – at this MERV level, the filter can capture some mold and mildew spores, pet dander, a good amount of dust particles and some dust mite debris.
  • MERV 9-12 – this level MERV is excellent for allergy sufferers, as filters at this level can capture quite small particles of all the allergens listed above, and even some biological materials.

Adding an air cleaner to your home in Oregon City can be great for your indoor air quality, but always work with an expert for installation, repair, maintenance and replacement of an air filter. Need help? Call the IAQ professionals at Clean Air Act today!

What Is an Air Handler and Why Is It Important?

February 21st, 2015

Your HVAC system works by pushing cool or warm air, depending on the season, through your ductwork. Your HVAC is able to do this thanks to a unit called the air handler. Sometimes the air handler unit can wear out before other parts of your system, or you choose to upgrade your system and will need to install an air handler that matches the new unit. The experts at Clean Air Act bring years of air handler installation to every customer in Portland, so if you are having issues with your air handler, call us today!

What Is the Air Handler?

The air handler, also known as the blower, is the large indoor fan that blows the air generated by your furnace and/or air conditioner into your home’s ductwork for delivery into your home’s living spaces. There are two main components of the air handler, known as the blower assembly: the blower (fan), and the motor. Other important parts include the motor capacitors, the fan belt and the limit switch. Each plays an important role in the proper operation of your HVAC system.

Why Replace an Air Handler?

There are a couple of common reasons why you may need a new air handler installation. Sometimes the air handler unit can break down prematurely from aging or damage; with situations like these, it isn’t necessary to replace your entire HVAC system, just the blower assembly. In cases like these, your technician will match your new air handler as closely as possible to your current one. Other times, you may be upgrading your HVAC system, and it may be necessary to install an air handler that better matches your new system. Having an air handler that can properly handle the volume of air you need delivered to your living spaces is critical to the energy efficiency of your system and home and your personal comfort.

Not a DIY Kind of Job

Replacing your air handler is not a good choice for a DIY job. Poor installation of a new air handler can lead to numerous problems with both your air delivery and your HVAC system.

Call one of the experts from Clean Air Act and schedule an appointment for air handler installation for your Portland, OR, home.

Lupercalia: The Origin of St. Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2015

Many people may think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday essentially created by card and gift companies, but the truth is that the holiday has long-standing roots going back to the Roman Empire. The name “Lupercalia” has its origins in the word “lupus”, which means wolf, and the reason for this is that according to Roman pagan religion, the she-wolf Lupa nursed the two orphaned infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

 

The Festival

The Festival of Lupercalia spanned two days each February, from February 13th to 15th. The festival was about fertility and was led by Luperci priests, known as “brothers of the wolf”. The festival was serious with intention (fertility) but was executed as quite a romp for both the priests and citizens of Rome. The process was this: two male goats and a dog were sacrificed at the beginning of the festival by the priests; two young Luperci were then anointed with the blood from the animals, and the hides of the animals were cut into straps. As food and drink flowed, the male priests would run around the city wearing nothing but thongs made from the animal skins, and they also carried a strap from one of the sacrificed animals. The strap was used to strike the palms of Roman women waiting for the priests in the city, as it was believed that being hit with the strap could help with infertility issues and a safe, healthy labor for women who were pregnant.

 

The Transition to St. Valentine’s Day

The Christian influence of the holiday came around the 5th century. The Roman Empire was still strong, but Christianity was rapidly taking hold throughout the world. It is believed that to try and remove the paganism from the holiday, the deaths of two men, supposedly both named Valentine, were added into the mix. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, a law created by Claudius II forbade young men eligible for military service to marry, because Rome wanted a strong army. The two men named Valentine were priests, and married young couples in secret. Both were found out and executed on February 14th, although in separate years. The Church made Valentine a saint (they chose one), and Lupercalia became St. Valentine’s Day.

 

Here’s wishing you and your loved one a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Reasons to Conduct Radon Testing

February 5th, 2015

Radon is one of those terms you hear in conjunction with homes, particularly when buying and selling, but you may not understand why. The reason you hear about radon in conjunction with homes is that radon can be a serious problem. The EPA estimates that 1 in 15 homes has unhealthy radon levels. Radon infiltration isn’t specific to a geographic area, type of home, or climate. So how do you know if your home is safe? Call Clean Air Act and make an appointment for radon testing in Troutdale.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a natural byproduct of uranium breakdown in soil, rocks and water. It is an invisible odorless and radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the number two reason why people contract lung cancer; cigarette smoking is number one. Radon is found mostly in air but it can also be found in water.

Where Is It Located?

Radon can be located just about everywhere: large buildings, small buildings, old buildings, new buildings – basically anywhere you can find rocks, water and/or soil. The problem with radon in buildings is that it can get trapped inside, and once it is trapped it can become concentrated. The good news is that there are safe levels and radon, and most people’s properties do fall into the safe category. Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L), and to be considered safe, your home should not have a radon rating of more than 4 pCi/L. If it does, you will need to hire professionals to perform radon mitigation.

How Does Radon Get Into Homes?

These are the ways radon can enter your home:

  • Empty spaces in walls
  • Flooring cracks (in solid flooring)
  • Your water
  • Gaps between floors
  • Wall cracks
  • Joints

Mitigation

If radon is found in your home or in your water supply, the radon can be treated successfully. With water issues, point-of-use or point-of-entry devices can be used to filter out the radon from your water. Treatments for radon found in the air can vary, but one of the most common treatments is to use a vent pipe and a large fan, commonly known as a soil suction radon reduction system. This type of system pulls radon from beneath your home and expels it to the outside air. Other treatments include sealing cracks, creating better ventilation and using suction in other areas of your home.

Radon can be a serious problem. If you haven’t had a radon test, or have and need radon mitigation for your Troutdale home, call the trained professionals who can help: Clean Air Act.

Do I Need a Professional for Infrared Space Heating Installation

January 29th, 2015

Even if the majority of rooms in your home are heated by a central heating system such as a furnace or radiant heat source, there’s still a chance that some rooms are lacking the heating power necessary to take full advantage of them during the cold winter months. If you need to heat a small space like a detached garage, workshop, enclosed patio, or warehouse, connecting radiant heat piping or forced-air ductwork to the space can be costly, and since a lot of heat can escape from these often-uninsulated areas, you’ll end up paying a lot more every month as well.

Infrared heaters work by heating individual objects and people in the room. Invisible infrared light is absorbed into the skin. As long as the infrared rays can reach you, you’ll feel warm, which is why these heaters work best in small spaces. Infrared heaters can run on different heat sources; while most run on electricity, you may be able to purchase a natural gas model instead. Some use infrared light and heat exchangers to blow warm air into the room, while others just emit light into the room. In any case, it may seem as though installation would be fairly simple. So why would you choose a professional for infrared space heating installation in Beaverton?

The Professional Difference

One of the main reasons to choose a professional for installation is to ensure the proper size. Any heating system will suffer if it’s not sized properly for the space to be heated. An oversized heating system will draw more energy than it needs, resulting in higher energy bills. And an undersized space heater may never allow the room to reach the temperatures you desire. Professionals will take many factors into account when sizing your system, including the size of the room, the number of people who use it, and any irregularities in the shape of the room.

Another reason to select professionals is to get a thorough inspection of the system before it begins to run. Technicians can best assess whether the unit uses the proper amount of voltage or fuel, and if the space heater is located in an ideal space for maximum heat.

Call the professional heating technicians at Clean Air Act for your infrared space heating installation in Beaverton for quality service and to safeguard against any potential issues.

Why Is Duct Repair Important for Heating?

January 22nd, 2015

Ducts are one of the most unobtrusive, and vital, parts of your heating system. They serve the same function in your home that your lungs do in your body. Even though your home won’t die if the ducts aren’t working correctly, the quality of life inside will definitely suffer. Most homeowners ignore their ducts, not because of any intentional neglect but because they simply don’t think about them. It’s time to get rid of that kind of attitude and really be aware of the role that your ducts play in your home. Let’s take a look at why duct repair is so important for your heating system.

Duct Construction

The sad fact of the matter is this: ducts are often not very well constructed. The primary needs for a piece of duct to do its job properly are: be light enough to be easily secured in walls and ceilings, be cheap enough to be easily replaced if necessary, and be small enough as to be unobtrusive to the occupants of the home. When these three factors are added up, you get a part of your heating system that is not very sturdy or long lasting. At this point you may be thinking that your ducts work just fine, and they haven’t been touched in years. Well, it may surprise you to know just how in need of repair your ductwork is.

Ductwork Repair Issues

As previously mentioned, ducts are relatively flimsy and vulnerable to damage. Now, because of their location there isn’t much that can actually deal a lot of damage at once to your ducts. Unfortunately, there doesn’t have to be. As the ducts have warm air flowing through them, they expand and contract due to the temperature changes. This causes small leaks to form in the ducts, allowing heat to leak out of the ducts before reaching their destination. An average forced air system can actually lose up to 30% of its total heat output this way, according to the US Department of Energy. This is why duct repair is so important for the efficiency of your heating system.

If you haven’t had your ducts checked in a while, contact Clean Air Act. We provide duct repair throughout Beaverton.

What Are My Options for Heating Installation?

January 15th, 2015

With the massive variety of home heating systems on the market today, many homeowners find themselves at a loss when shopping for a new heater. There are so many different types, each substantially different from every other, that the scope of choice can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at some of your options for a new home heater, along with the pros and cons of each.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are unique among heating systems, in that they move heat from one place to another instead of creating it. They are very energy efficient, as they don’t burn any kind of fuel to create heat. Instead, they use a unit on the outside of the house to siphon thermal energy from the surrounding air. This thermal energy is then sent inside to the rest of the heat pump, where it is released to warm the air being circulated through the house.

Heat pumps are great for people who want to save money on their heating bills every year. However, they do tend to suffer in very cold environments. This is because the air holds very little thermal energy at sub-freezing temperatures, making the heat pump less efficient.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps are just like air source heat pumps, with one big exception. Instead of siphoning thermal energy from the outside air, geothermal systems leech heat from the ground. Once you get around 15 feet underground, the temperature is always at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. A geothermal system uses an underground refrigerant loop to harvest this heat from the ground, and use it to heat the house.

A geothermal system possesses all of the advantages of an air source heat pump, without the disadvantage of losing efficiency in very cold weather. The one disadvantage that geothermal heat pumps possess is that they have a much more involved installation process. For those willing to invest in the system, however, the geothermal heat pump provides a great return on investment.

If you’d like to know more, contact Clean Air Act. We provide heating installation services throughout Clackamas.

3 Common Furnace Repairs

January 12th, 2015

Since furnaces are the most common kind of heating system in the country, they also happen to have the most common heating problems. This isn’t to say that furnaces experience a greater incidence of problems, simply that furnace problems are the most common by virtue of the systems’ popularity. With that popularity in mind, let’s take a look at 3 common furnace repairs.

Faulty Thermocouple

Though more modern furnaces have begun using electric intermittent ignition systems, the traditional gas-powered pilot light is still in widespread use. A gas-powered pilot light is controlled by a part called a “thermocouple,” which regulates when to feed gas to the flame. When the pilot flame is lit, the thermocouple produces an electrical current that opens the gas valve and feeds the flame. When the pilot light goes out, the thermocouple’s electrical current stops and the gas valve closes as a safety measure. A faulty thermocouple is one that has lost the ability to keep the gas valve open, smothering the flame for want of fuel. The usual fix for this is to replace the thermocouple completely.

Short-Cycling

Short-cycling is the name for when your furnace won’t stop turning itself on and off over and over again. It is caused by the furnace’s interaction with a part called the “limit switch.” The limit switch is there to make sure the furnace doesn’t overheat and damage itself. When it detects an internal furnace temperature that is too high, it shuts down the furnace as a safety measure. This doesn’t solve the source of the overheating problem, though, and as soon as the furnace starts up again it will repeat the same cycle. A professional will need to isolate the cause of the overheating problem to solve the short-cycling.

Duct Leaks

Duct leaks are an especially insidious problem, because they are almost impossible for a homeowner to detect but can cause thousands of dollars of wasted energy. Almost 30% of an average furnace’s heat is lost to leaks in the ducts, according to the US Department of Energy. The only way to solve this is to have a professional examine and seal the home’s ductwork.

If you’re having furnace problems, call Clean Air Act. We provide furnace repair throughout Beavercreek.

What Is a High Efficiency System?

January 5th, 2015

One of the broad goals in the development of home comfort systems is to heighten energy efficiency. Heat pumps, air conditioners, and furnaces have all advanced in the amount of fuel they consume compared to the levels of heating and cooling they generate. This technology began to increase rapidly during the 1970s because of the energy crisis: this was a time when furnaces moved from 60% efficiency, which was standard for decades, to 90% for high efficiency condensing furnaces.

One of the best types of high efficiency comfort systems available when it comes to heat pumps is the high efficiency small ductwork system. The Clean Air Act Inc. specializes in installing and servicing these units for better cooling and heating in Portland, OR. Contact one of our experts today to learn more about these heat pumps and how they can help you achieve a combination of better comfort and higher energy savings for your home.

How High Efficiency Small Ductwork Systems Work

In most ways, these units work similar to standard heat pumps. The difference is in how their conditioned air is distributed through a home. The air handler of the heat pump sends out air at high speed through extremely narrow gauge ducts that are much smaller than traditional flexible and sheet metal ducts (usually a third the size). The air then enters rooms at around 200 ft. per second.

The reason that this process results in superior energy efficiency is that there is far less heat loss or gain through the ducts because of the reduction of surface area. The speed at which the air is forced through the ducts also reduces the loss or gain of heat before the conditioned air reaches the rooms. The custom gasket fittings on small ductwork are also less likely to leak air.

These systems also achieve better efficiency by the way they send conditioned air through rooms. The high velocity of the air from the vents creates currents inside rooms means the heating or cooling rapidly reaches all parts of a space. You will need to run the heat pump less often because of how quickly the high velocity air creates the temperature you want.

Aside from energy savings, there is another major benefit to consider when it comes to high efficiency small ductwork systems: space savings. If you live in an older home without sufficient room to add traditional ducts, you can have a high velocity system put in instead and enjoy central heating and cooling that you wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise.

We Offer High Efficiency Systems

A High efficiency small ductwork system requires custom fitting for a house, so you must contact skilled professionals with years of experience to install one for your home. We offer small ductwork cooling and heating, as well as other kinds of comfort systems. We will locate the ideal heat pump for your home and make sure that you enjoy year-round pleasant indoor temperatures combined with energy-saving performance. To schedule your heating service in Portland, call The Clean Air Act Inc. today!

When New Year’s Day Was Not on January 1st

January 1st, 2015

Some holidays fall on shifting calendar days for every year, such as Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon to occur on or after March 21). Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, are fixed. No holiday has a more solid calendar date attached to it than New Year’s Day. It has to fall on January 1st because it celebrates the first day of a new year. That only makes sense…

…except that, like most things that at first appear obvious, there is a bit more to the story. The beginning of the year was not always on the first of January. As with an enormous numbers of traditions in the Western World, the establishment of January 1st as the inaugural day of a new year goes back to the ancient Romans.

The modern solar calendar is derived from the Roman model, but the earliest Roman calendars did not have 365 days in a year spread over 12 months. Instead, there were 304 days spread over 10 months. The Romans believed this calendar originated with the mythical founder of the city, Romulus. If Romulus were a real person, we can credit him with a poor understanding of the seasons, as this abbreviated calendar soon got out of sync with Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Numa, one of the Kings of Rome (probably also fictional) receives credit for creating a longer year with two added months, Ianuarius and Februarius, bringing the number of days in the year to 355. The new month of Ianuarius, named after Ianus (Janus in contemporary spelling), the god of beginnings, would eventually be known in English as January. But when this new calendar was instituted, January was not the first month. March, named after the god of war, remained the first month, and March 1st was New Year’s Day.

This extended calendar still did not keep in synch with the seasons. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar instituted reforms to align the calendar correctly according to calculations of astronomers, with an additional 10 days distributed across the year. January also became set as the first month, and offerings to the god Janus on this day started the tradition we now know as New Year’s. The date still fluctuated during the ensuing centuries, with a number of Western European holy days treated as the beginning of the year instead. It wasn’t until the next calendar reform in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar, that the date of the New Year was fixed at January 1st.

However you choose to celebrate the beginning of the current calendar, everyone here at The Clean Air Act hopes you have a wonderful 2015!