Archive for May, 2012

Consider This Before Going Thermal In Your Home

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

With energy costs rising and supplies dwindling, people are taking much more serious looks at alternatives that in the past have seemed unfeasible and too “weird” to realistically contemplate.  One type of heating and cooling appliance that is gaining popularity in Portland is geothermal heating and cooling.

Plentiful beyond imagination just ten feet below the surface, geothermal is being used to provide more than 30% of Iceland’s electrical needs and it is fast becoming a viable option to provide heat and electricity for your home as well.  Before digging straight down, however, it is important to look around and consider some important points.

Geothermal 101

Thermal energy is a force that is produced from the movement of warm temperature to cooler.  The term “geo” is from the Greek word for Earth.  Geothermal energy is the unlimited resource of power that is the result of the formation of the Earth billions of years ago (20%) and the on-going process of melting rocks nearing the core of that heat (80%).

From harnessing the energy of hot springs in ancient times to technological advances to create electricity today, geothermal has long been considered, but often was ruled out as an expensive and unnecessary alternative to other cheaper forms of energy.  Now that those are harming the environment, more expensive and harder to get, geothermal has grown attractive.

Location, Location, Location

Difficult to retrieve from deep within the Earth, geothermal is most often considered for large production where natural breaks in the crust such as volcanoes, hot springs and faults are close to the surface.  Just ten feet below the surface, however, there is enough temperature difference to make available enough to efficiently supply a home.

Still, it’s not a guarantee of success, however.  The density of the bedrock, the water table and the balance between extreme hot and cold temperatures with the temperatures of the thermal energy are all factors to be considered.

Dollar for Dollar

For new construction, geothermal is a great alternative because after the more expensive installation, the cost from month to month can produce enough savings to quickly pay for the system.  The savings are potentially so significant, there are situations where the cost of replacing an old inefficient conventional system can be neutralized by the savings in just two to ten years.

Beyond cost and feasibility, the comfort level is a major consideration.  One of geothermal energy’s major attractions is that to help save the Earth, it offers a better way to tap into the Earth.

How Does Natural Ventilation Work?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Traditional ventilation systems in Hillsboro require the use of mechanical air handlers and fans to move air between the inside and outside of your home. However, there are alternatives that naturally pull fresh air into your home. Not only are these systems better for the environment because they use less electricity, they create a more natural flow of air that add to the comfort of your heating and air conditioning systems.

How Does Natural Ventilation Work?

There are two primary ways to employ natural ventilation in a building – either stack ventilation or wind driven ventilation. The former uses much lower pressure levels which means most buildings with natural ventilation opt for wind driven ventilation. While there are specific benefits to both systems, the best engineered systems tend to use both for a more even approach to natural ventilation.

Stack ventilation is incredibly simple. The idea is that warm air rises so when air enters a building, it heats up, both because of the people in the building and because of the indoor temperature. As the air rises and exits the building, it creates a vacuum that pulls new air in through vents placed at ground level. Simply opening windows can create this effect.

Wind driven ventilation uses the same concepts of stack ventilation but takes advantage of building design and the landscape to create pressure zones around the home. For example, the pressure on the side of a building that gets buffeted with wind will almost always be higher than the opposite side. Using ventilation based on this concept allows designers to create partial vacuums to draw new air in and expel old air.

What Is Best?

Most buildings today are built using mechanical ventilation because it can be better controlled and because it is more reliable than natural ventilation. That said, there are an increasing number of natural ventilation solutions for indoor air quality using modern technology to control the opening and closing of vents. For a small home, a system that allows you to have the natural ventilation benefits of an open window without losing all the energy you pay so dearly for is fantastic. Just be sure it will fit your specific needs by calling The Clean Air Act.

Radon In Your Home

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Because of its discreet nature it is important that you get your home tested to ensure your safety. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Smoking increasing your risks of lung cancer in addition to high radon levels in the home. Some scientific studies also point to children being more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage. Call Clean Air Act for your residential Radon Testing and protect your family today!

Air Conditioning from Your Smart Phone

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Most Welches residents are getting comfortable playing games and checking emails on the tiny screens of their smart phones.  Some are even watching movies and music videos, and for many, the smart phones have become the camera of choice to record their way in the world.

But have you considered the many practical ways a smart phone can be used to perform valuable functions in your home, greatly reducing energy costs and the size of your carbon footprint? The solution to one of our biggest problems is in your hands.

Smart Homes

New technology is both visible and invisible in many more ways around your home than just your giant TV screen or computer.  New homes today are being configured with wireless technology that does much more than connect you with the World Wide Web.

From the garage door opener that welcomes you to the alarm clock that sends you on your way, improvements are capable of being built-in or retrofitted into every nook and corner of the way you live, all controlled by your fingertips on the screen of your smart phone.  The technology is available and the only impediment today is finding the way to distract average consumers from their entertainment apps to learn how they can utilize the tool to increase their comfort (and give them more time to play).

One Touch Convenience

Instead of a brash buzz from the digital alarm clock on the nightstand, imagine being lured awake by the soft sounds of classical music and the succulent aroma of your favorite coffee brewed freshly to your specification.  From your phone, you can remotely direct this dream into reality.

On a cold winter night without wastefully leaving the heat on all day or risk of burning the house down, you can return from the workplace to a cozy home with a warmth of your heating system.  The oven is pre-heated and ready to roast.  The big screen is poised to play that game you couldn’t watch last night.  Even the car has been warmed up and waiting to comfortably get you on your way.

Cool When You Need to Be

As the reality of climate change sinks in, the wacky weather patterns that are bringing unpredictable heat spells and cold snaps creates unusual inconveniences.  If a sudden cold front rolls in when your air conditioning unit was scheduled to run, you could waste a ton of energy.  But with new wireless thermostat technologies that does not have to occur.  New apps allow you to turn off your air conditioning unit from wherever you are.

From your phone away from home, the new technology enables you to check the temperature inside and out and adjust the thermostat accordingly.

The Best is Yet to Come

The growing awareness of environmental change and our ability to impact it for better or worse is creating a “can-do” attitude amongst inventors, supply-side providers and consumers.  Join the party and put your toy to work!  Call The Clean Air Act today to learn about more interesting ways to save energy and stay efficient.

How Animal Dander Affects Indoor Air Quality

Monday, May 7th, 2012

One of the single most common indoor air quality pollutants in Gladstone is animal dander. The flakes of dead skin, fur or feathers produced by pets and outdoor creatures can be an allergy nightmare for millions of people. Even those without allergies tend to be less comfortable in spaces that have animal dander issues. Here are some things you should know about animal dander and allergies.

What’s the Issue?

Dead skin from dogs and cats is the biggest problem, with 27% of US homes having cats and 32% having dogs. Cats are a much larger allergen producer however. The number of allergy related complaints among cat owners is twice as high as that of dog owners according to the American Lung Association. Male cats are slightly worse than female cats as well. Don’t forget either that fur is not the primary source of dander. Dead skin, dried saliva and even specs of dried feces can contribute to indoor air quality issues. So, short haired cats or dogs are not any better for your home.

Another thing to consider is that pet dander is suspended in the air much longer than any other allergen because of how light it is. We’re talking about days of suspension, after which it settles into carpets, furniture, clothing and anything else with enough surface area to attract the dander.

Health Problems from Dander

For those allergic to animals, pet dander is an instant irritant. Just walking into a home in which a cat or dog is present can have an instant negative effect – including anything from coughing and wheezing to a runny nose or chest constriction.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to remove pet dander is to remove the pet and for severely allergic people, this is usually the only option. For others, however, there are some things you can do. You can remove the allergens themselves with high powered indoor air cleaning or filtration. You can also set aside areas in the house that the pet is not allowed into and take steps to make sure pet dander doesn’t get into the air supply for that room.  For more information about indoor air quality solutions please call The Clean Air Act