Archive for December, 2014

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from Clean Air Act!

Does Your Home Need to be Tested for Radon?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Safety is the number one priority in your home, but you may accidentally skip over some of the key services that help protect your family and your home from dangerous toxins. Unfortunately, the air in your home may not be as clean as you think it is. Radon is a gas that seeps into your home even if you believe your air is well-protected from contaminants. And the consequences can be deadly: according to the U.S. surgeon general’s office, radon poisoning is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

But My Home Is Very Well-Sealed

You may believe that your home is well-filtered or sealed up tightly enough to inhibit such gases from invading your home. However, radon infiltrates your home in ways that you may not expect. It can enter through the soil surrounding a home, because it generally appears as uranium decays, which happens naturally in soils over time. While the home’s building material itself may sometimes contribute to allowing radon gas to enter, it’s more often due to cracks in the walls or floors or even, in some cases, the water supply.

Won’t I Notice Radon Gas in the Home?

You may believe that you would notice a gaseous intruder in your home. But radon is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Simply put, it’s time to stop making excuses and test your home for the potential presence of radon today. Experts are already equipped with the tools and expertise for the job, and know what to do to correct any areas in which leaking occurs.

If your home is found to contain high levels of radon, experts can help you to determine the source and mitigate the problem as soon as possible. At Clean Air Act, we’ll perform a thorough test, take the steps to find poorly sealed areas of the structure, and recommend services to help keep your home safe in the future. Don’t neglect this vital service for your health and safety. Schedule radon testing in Portland with our skilled technicians and get peace of mind that your family is safe from harm.

Why Isn’t My Air Handler Blowing?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

For those who do not know, the air handler is the device responsible for actually circulating air throughout your house. It consists of a motor, a fan, sound dampers and, in the case of a heat pump, the heating coil. If you turn on your heater and you don’t hear the fan, it’s a good sign that your air handler is broken. Here, we’ll take a look at what can go wrong with your air handler, and what you should do about it.

Broken Fan Belt

The fan belt is a rubber loop that connects the motor to the fan itself. When the motor turns on, it rotates the fan belt, which rotates the fan and begins blowing air. The fan belt is crucial to the operation of the entire air handler. Over time, however, the fan belt can stretch and develop cracks from the stress of regular use. Eventually, the belt will break. This renders the motor unable to turn the fan and circulate air throughout the house. If you turn on your heater and you can hear the motor, but air isn’t circulating, it is possible that the fan belt has snapped.

Burned Out Motor

The motor is the device that supplies power and motion to the blower part of the air handler. A burned out motor is often caused by dust or debris entering the system from the ductwork. This is why having a clean air filter is so important. Even with a working air filter, however, the parts inside the motor will accumulate dust over time. The worst place in a motor for dust to build up is on the bearings, which are responsible for keeping friction down and allowing the motor to run efficiently. If the bearings get dirty enough, they lose the ability to lubricate the motor. When this happens, the motor eventually burns out. If you turn on your heater and air isn’t blowing, check to see if the heater is actually on, and whether you can hear the motor. If the heater is on, but you can’t hear the motor, you’ll probably need to replace it.

If you are having issues with your heating system, call Clean Air Act. Our HVAC technicians offer reliable heating service throughout all of Portland.

What Is a Furnace Limit Switch?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

There are many parts of a furnace whose roles are pretty well known. Most homeowners already know what a pilot light does, or a heat exchanger, or an air filter. The furnace limit switch is rarely regarded as a major part of how the furnace operates. However, the limit switch serves a vital role in proper furnace operation. Let’s examine what the furnace limit switch is, what it does, and what can happen when it malfunctions.

What is the Limit Switch?

The furnace limit switch is a control circuit that determines whether to turn the furnace fan on or off. It is also responsible for turning off the burners. When the heat is turned on, the limit switch is the object that actually starts the fan in the furnace to that air can begin circulating. When the thermostat determines that the target temperature has been reached, it tells the limit switch to shut off the fan and the burners.

The limit switch is also attached to a separate thermostat, which measures the internal temperature of the furnace. The switch usually doesn’t turn the furnace fan on right away. Instead, it waits until the internal furnace temperature gets warm enough to begin heating the home. If the furnace’s internal temperature rises too high, the limit switch will shut off the furnace to prevent overheating. This brings us to the major issue that can occur with furnace limit switches.


Short-cycling is the name for when your furnace turns itself on and off rapidly and repeatedly throughout the day. This is caused by the limit switch registering an internal furnace temperature that is too high. When that happens, the switch shuts the furnace down to prevent overheating damage. After the furnace cools off, however, it starts up again and the cycle goes on indefinitely. This causes quite a bit of damage to the furnace, and should not be allowed to continue for any length of time. You’ll need a professional to determine whether the limit switch or the furnace is responsible for the short-cycling.

If you need to schedule service for your furnace in the Portland area, call Clean Air Act. We offer heating services throughout Portland, OR.