Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

by Nick Gromicko 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

Facts and Figures

  • 480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.
Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:
  • furnaces;
  • stoves and ovens;
  • water heaters;
  • dryers;
  • room and space heaters;
  • fireplaces and wood stoves;
  • charcoal grills;
  • automobiles;
  • clogged chimneys or flues;
  • space heaters;
  • power tools that run on fuel;
  • gas and charcoal grills;
  • certain types of swimming pool heaters; and
  • boat engines.

PPM

% CO
in air

Health Effects in Healthy Adults

Source/Comments

0

0%

no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance

35

0.0035%

maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

50

0.005%

maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift

              OSHA

100

0.01%

slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath,
errors in judgment

125

0.0125%

 

workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)

200

0.02%

headache, fatigue,
nausea, dizziness

400

0.04%

severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure

evacuate area immediately

800

0.08%

convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours

evacuate area immediately

12,000

1.2%

nearly instant death

CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:

  • directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
  • within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
  • within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
  • in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
  • in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
  • in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Do place CO detectors:

  • within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
  • on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
  • near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
  • near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
  • on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.

In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the requirements of the new UL standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety standards.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by an InterNACHI inspector and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space, such as a garage, house or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate un-vented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
  • Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes and get so excited about using their gas-powered generator that they don’t pay attention to where it is placed. The owner’s manual should explain how far the generator should be from the home.
  • Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes.  Hire a chimney sweep annually.
  • Check vents. Regularly inspect your home’s external vents to ensure they are not obscured by debris, dirt or snow.
In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.

Advantages of Solar Energy

Advantages of Solar Energy
by Nick Gromicko

Solar energy offers considerable advantages over conventional energy systems by nullifying flaws in those systems long considered to be unchangeable. Solar power for home energy production has its flaws, too, which are outlined in another article, but they’re dwarfed by the advantages listed below.

Solar energy is a great choice
The following are advantages of solar energy:

Raw materials are renewable and unlimited. The amount of available solar energy is staggering — roughly 10,000 times that currently required by humans — and it’s constantly replaced. A mere 0.02% of incoming sunlight, if captured correctly, would be sufficient to replace every other fuel source currently used.

Granted, the Earth does need much of this solar energy to drive its weather, so let’s look only at the unused portion of sunlight that is reflected back into space, known as the albedo. Earth’s average albedo is around 30%, meaning that roughly 52 petawatts of energy is reflected by the Earth and lost into space every year. Compare this number with global energy-consumption statistics. Annually, the energy lost to space is the combined equivalent of 400 hurricanes, 1 million Hoover Dams, Great Britain’s energy requirement for 250,000 years, worldwide oil, gas and coal production for 387 years, 75 million cars, and 50 million 747s running perpetually for one year (not to mention 1 million fictional DeLorean time machines!).

Solar power is low-emission. Solar panels produce no pollution, although they impose environmental costs through manufacture and construction. These environmental tolls are negligible, however, when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources: the burning of fossil fuels releases roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. It may come as a surprise to city-dwellers but, according to Home Power Magazine, as of 2006, 180,000 houses in the United States were off-grid, and that figure is likely considerably higher today. California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have long been refuges for such energy rebels, though people live off the grid in every state. While many of these people shun the grid on principle, owing to politics and environmental concerns, few of the world’s 1.8 billion off-the-gridders have any choice in the matter. Solar energy can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people who live in the dark, especially in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 90% of the rural population lacks access to electricity. People in these areas must rely on fuel-based lighting, which inflicts significant social and environmental costs, from jeopardized health through Rural, off-grid homes are excellent applications for solar powercontamination of indoor air, to limited overall productivity.

Solar power provides green jobs. Production of solar panels for domestic use is becoming a growing source of employment in research, manufacture, sales and installation.

Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. Wind turbines, by contrast, require noisy gearboxes and blades.

In the long run, solar power is economical. Solar panels and installation involve high initial expenses, but this cost is soon offset by savings on energy bills. Eventually, they may even produce a profit on their use.

Solar power takes advantage of net metering, which is the practice of crediting homeowners for electricity they produce and return to the power grid. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, public electric utilities are required to make available, upon request, net metering to their Manhattan, and much of the northeast USA, goes dark in August, 2003customers. This practice offers an advantage for homeowners who use solar panels (or wind turbines or fuel cells) that may, at times, produce more energy than their homes require. If net metering is not an option, excess energy may be stored in batteries.

Solar power can mean government tax credits. U.S. federal subsidies credit up to 30% of system costs, and each state offers its own incentives. California, blessed with abundant sunshine and plagued by high electric rates and an over-taxed grid, was the first state to offer generous renewable-energy incentives for homes and businesses.

Solar power is reliable. Many homeowners favor solar energy because it is virtually immune to potential failings of utility companies, mainly in the form of political or economic turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters, or brownouts due to overuse. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 unplugged 55 million people across two countries, while rolling blackouts are a part of regular life in some South Asian countries, and occasionally in California and Texas.

Solar power conserves foreign energy expenditures. In many countries, a large percentage of earnings is used to pay for imported oil for power generation. The United States alone spends $13 million per hour on oil, much of which comes from Persian Gulf nations. As oil supplies dwindle and prices rise in this politically unstable region, these problems continue to catalyze the expansion of solar power and other alternative-energy systems.

In summary, solar energy offers advantages to conventional fossil fuels and other renewable energy systems.

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Garage Fire Hazards in North Port

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at InterNACHI, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an InterNACHI inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

  • Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.
  • Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
  • Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.
  • Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

  • If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.
  • The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An InterNACHI inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.
  • The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially  flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
  • Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

  • Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.
  • Does the door have a window? An InterNACHI inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.
  • The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.
  • Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

  • Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.
  • Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an InterNACHI inspector.

Elements of an Energy Efficient House

Designing and building an energy-efficient home that conforms to the many considerations faced by home builders can be a challenge.  However, at InterNACHI, we believe that any house style can be made to require relatively minimal amounts of energy to heat and cool, and be comfortable. It’s easier now to get your architect and builder to use improved designs and construction methods. Even though there are many different design options available, they all have several things in common: a high R-value; a tightly sealed thermal envelope; controlled ventilation; and lower heating and cooling bills.

Some designs are more expensive to build than others, but none of them needs to be extremely expensive to construct. Recent technological improvements in building components and construction home-inspector-port-charlotte techniques, and heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems, allow most modern energy0saving ideas to be seamlessly integrated into any type of house design without sacrificing comfort, health or aesthetics. The following is a discussion of the major elements of energy-efficient home design and construction systems.
 
The Thermal Envelope

A “thermal envelope” is everything about the house that serves to shield the living space from the outdoors. It includes the wall and roof assemblies, insulation, windows, doors, finishes, weather-stripping, and air/vapor-retarders. Specific items to consider in these areas are described below.
 
Wall and Roof Assemblies

There are several alternatives to the conventional “stick” (wood-stud) framed wall and roof construction now available, and they’re growing in popularity. They include:

  • Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)
    This is a method of using wood only where it does the most work, thus reducing costly wood use and saving space for insulation. However, workmanship must be of the highest order since, there is very little room for construction errors.
  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIP)
    These are generally plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheets laminated to a core of foam board. The foam may be 4 to 8 inches thick. Since the SIP acts as both the framing and the insulation, construction is much faster than OVE or its older counterpart, “stick-framing.” The quality of construction is often superior, too, since there are fewer places for workers to make mistakes.
  • Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF)
    These often consist of two layers of extruded foam board (one inside the house and one outside the house) that act as the form for a steel-reinforced concrete center. This is the fastest and least likely technique to have construction mistakes. Such buildings are also very strong and easily exceed code requirements for tornado- and hurricane-prone areas.
 
Insulation

An energy-efficient house has much higher insulation R-values than required by most local building codes. For example, a typical house in New York state might contain haphazardly installed R-11 fiberglass insulation in the exterior walls and R-19 in the ceiling, while the floors and foundation walls may not be insulated at all. A similar but well-designed and constructed house’s insulation levels would be in the range of R-20 to R-30 in the walls (including the foundation) and R-50 and R-70 in the ceilings. Carefully applied fiberglass batt or roll, wet-spray cellulose, or foam insulation will fill wall cavities completely.
 
Air / Vapor Retarders

These are two things that sometimes can do the same job. How to design and install them depend a great deal on the climate and what method of construction is chosen. No matter where you are building, water-vapor condensation is a major threat to the structure of a house. In cold climates, pressure differences can drive warm, moist indoor air into exterior walls and attics. It condenses as it cools. The same can be said for southern climates, just in reverse. As the humid outdoor air enters the walls to find cooler wall cavities, it condenses into liquid water. This is the main reason that some of the old buildings in the South that have been retrofitted with air conditioners now have mold and rotten wood problems.
 
Regardless of your climate, it is important to minimize water vapor migration by using a carefully designed thermal envelope and sound construction practices. Any water vapor that does manage to get into the walls or attics must be allowed to get out again. Some construction methods and climates lend themselves to allowing the vapor to flow towards the outdoors. Others are better suited to letting it flow towards the interior so that the house ventilation system can deal with it.
 
The “airtight drywall approach” and the “simple CS” system are other methods to control air and water-vapor movement in a residential building. These systems rely on the nearly airtight installation of sheet materials, such as drywall and gypsum board, on the interior as the main barrier, and carefully sealed foam board and/or plywood on the exterior.
 
Foundations and Slabs

Foundation walls and slabs should be at least as well-insulated as the living space walls. Uninsulated foundations have a negative impact on home energy use and comfort, especially if the family uses the lower parts of the house as living space. Also, appliances that supply heat as a by-product, such as domestic hot water heaters, washers, dryers and freezers, are often located in basements. By carefully insulating the foundation walls and floor of the basement, these appliances can assist in the heating of the house.
 
Windows

The typical home loses over 25% of its heat through windows. Since even modern windows insulate less than a wall, in general, an energy-efficient home in heating-dominated climates should have few windows on the north, east, and west exposures. A rule-of-thumb is that window area should not exceed 8% to 9% of the floor area, unless your designer is experienced in passive solar techniques. If this is the case, then increasing window area on the southern side of the house to about 12% of the floor area is recommended. In cooling-dominated climates, it’s important to select east-, west- and south-facing windows with low solar heat-gain coefficients (these block solar heat gain). A properly designed roof overhang for south-facing windows is important to avoid overheating in the summer in most areas of the continental United States. At the very least, Energy Star-rated windows (or their equivalents) should be specified according to the Energy Star Regional Climatic Guidelines.
 
In general, the best-sealing windows are awning and casement styles, since these often close tighter than sliding types. Metal window frames should be avoided, especially in cold climates. Always seal the wall air/vapor diffusion-retarder tightly around the edges of the window frame to prevent air and water vapor from entering the wall cavities.
 
Air-Sealing

A well-constructed thermal envelope requires that insulating and sealing be precise and thorough. Sealing air leaks everywhere in the thermal envelope reduces energy loss significantly. Good air-sealing alone may reduce utility costs by as much as 50% when compared to other houses of the same type and age. Homes built in this way are so energy-efficient that specifying the correct sizing heating/cooling system can be tricky. Rules-of-thumb system-sizing is often inaccurate, resulting in oversizing and wasteful operation.
 
Controlled Ventilation

Since an energy-efficient home is tightly sealed, it’s also important and fairly simple to deliberately ventilate the building in a controlled way. Controlled, mechanical ventilation of the building reduces air moisture infiltration and thus the health risks from indoor air pollutants. This also promotes a more comfortable atmosphere, and reduces the likelihood of structural damage from excessive moisture accumulation.
 
A carefully engineered ventilation system is important for other reasons, too. Since devices such as furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, and bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans exhaust air from the house, it’s easier to depressurize a tight house, if all else is ignored. Natural-draft appliances, such as water heaters, wood stoves and furnaces may be “back-drafted” by exhaust fans, which can lead to a lethal build-up of toxic gases in the house. For this reason, it’s a good idea to only use “sealed-combustion” heating appliances wherever possible, and provide make-up air for all other appliances that can pull air out of the building.
 
Heat-recovery ventilators (HRV) or energy-recovery ventilators (ERV) are growing in use for controlled ventilation in tight homes. These devices salvage about 80% of the energy from the stale exhaust air, and then deliver that energy to the entering fresh air by way of a heat exchanger inside the device. They are generally attached to the central forced-air system, but they may have their own duct system.
 
Other ventilation devices, such as through-the-wall and/or “trickle” vents may be used in conjunction with an exhaust fan. They are, however, more expensive to operate and possibly more uncomfortable to use, since they have no energy-recovery features to pre-condition the incoming air. Uncomfortable incoming air can be a serious problem if the house is in a northern climate, and it can create moisture problems in humid climates. This sort of ventilation strategy is recommended only for very mild to low-humidity climates.
 
Heating and Cooling Requirements

Houses incorporating the above elements should require relatively small heating systems (typically, less than 50,000 BTUs per hour, even for very cold climates). Some have nothing more than sunshine as the primary source of heat energy. Common choices for auxiliary heating include radiant in-floor heating from a standard gas-fired water heater, a small boiler, furnace, or electric heat pump. Also, any common appliance that gives off “waste” heat can contribute significantly to the heating requirements for such houses. Masonry, pellet and wood stoves are also options, but they must be operated carefully to avoid back-drafting.
 
If an air conditioner is required, a small (6,000 BTUs per hour) unit can be sufficient. Some designs use only a large fan and the cooler evening air to cool down the house. In the morning, the house is closed up and it stays comfortable until the next evening.
 
Beginning a Project

Houses incorporating the above features have many advantages. They feel more comfortable, since the additional insulation keeps the interior wall temperatures more stable. The indoor humidity is better controlled, and drafts are reduced. A tightly sealed air/vapor retarder reduces the likelihood of moisture and air seeping through the walls. Such houses are also very quiet because of the extra insulation and tight construction.
 
There are some potential drawbacks. They may cost more and take longer to build than a conventional home, especially if your builder and the contractors are not familiar with these energy-saving features. Even though the structure may differ only slightly from a conventional home, your builder and the contractors may be unwilling to deviate from what they’ve always done before. They may need education and training if they have no experience with these systems. Because some systems have thicker walls than a typical home, they may require a larger foundation to provide the same floor space.

Before beginning a home-building project, carefully evaluate the site and its climate to determine the optimum design and orientation. You may want to take the time to learn how to use some of the energy-related software programs that are available to assist you. Prepare a design that accommodates appropriate insulation levels, moisture dynamics, and aesthetics. Decisions regarding appropriate windows, doors, and HVAC appliances are central to an efficient design. Also evaluate the cost, ease of construction, the builder’s limitations, and building code-compliance. Some schemes are simple to construct, while others can be extremely complex and thus more expensive.
 
An increasing number of builders are participating in the federal government’s Building America and Energy Star Homes Programs, which promote energy-efficient houses. Many builders participate so that they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Construction costs can vary significantly, depending on the materials, construction techniques, contractor profit margin, experience, and the type of HVAC chosen. However, the biggest benefits from designing and building an energy-efficient home are its superior comfort level and lower operating costs. This relates directly to an increase in its real-estate market value.

Air Conditioning System Inspections

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London
A building’s central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.home-inspection-north-port
 
Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components
The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the building that is designed to push heat from the inside of the building to the outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal “fins” that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat. Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner components — after turning off power to the unit!
  • Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air flow.
  • Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.
  • Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.
  • Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
  • Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a year.  When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.
Inspect the Condensate Drain Line
Condensate drain lines collect condensed water and drain it away from the unit.  They are located on the side of the inside fan unit. Sometimes there are two drain lines—a primary drain line that’s built into the unit, and a secondary drain line that can drain if the first line becomes blocked. Homeowners can inspect the drain line by using the following tips, which take very little time and require no specialized tools:
  • Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris. If the line becomes blocked, water will back up into the drain pan and overflow, potentially causing a safety hazard or water damage to your home.
  • Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.
Clean the Air Filter
sarasota-home-inspector
Air filters remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise circulate indoors. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 20 inches by 16 inches, and about 1 inch thick. They slide into the main ductwork near the inside fan unit. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will not only degrade indoor air quality, but it will also strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency. The filter should be replaced monthly during heavy use during the cooling seasons. You may need to change the filter more often if the air conditioner is in constant use, if building occupants have respiratory problems,if  you have pets with fur, or if dusty conditions are present.
 
Cover the Exterior Unit

When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit, which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it.

Close the Air-Distribution Registers
Air-distribution registers are duct openings in ceilings, walls and floors where cold air enters the room. They should be closed after the cooling season ends in order to keep warm air from back-flowing out of the room during the warming season. Pests and dust will also be unable to enter the ducts during the winter if the registers are closed. These vents typically can be opened or closed with an adjacent lever or wheel.  Remember to open the registers in the spring before the cooling season starts.  Also, make sure they are not blocked by drapes, carpeting or furniture.
In addition, homeowners should practice the following strategies in order to keep their central air conditioning systems running properly:
  • Have the air-conditioning system inspected by a professional each year before the start of the cooling season.
  • Reduce stress on the air conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for instance, which produce less heat.
In summary, any homeowner can perform periodic inspections and maintenance to their home’s central air-conditioning system.

Prevent Mold For Healthier Indoor Air

You may not believe that of mold actually does serve an important purpose outdoors. Molds play a key role in the breakdown of leaves and other plant debris. Unfortunately indoor mold can play a key role in making a room, or in severe cases, a home uninhabitable. Mold create tiny spores to reproduce and when spores are released and become Airborne they can settle on inside surfaces. If the inside surface is damp the spore can begin to grow and multiply. In addition to moisture, unfortunately for homeowners, mold spores are particularly fond of cloth, wood, wallboard, and insulation. (In reality mold can grow on almost anything. Lack of water or moisture is the key factor in limiting mold growth).

It is important to prevent mold growth because of its potential to cause health problems. Mold produce substances considered allergens (particles that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions including symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eye, and skin rash. Mold can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.

While there is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors, indoor mold growth can be controlled by controlling moisture. It is best to identify and eliminate leaks in walls or the roof, to keep mold from taking hold on drywall or other interior surfaces. Ways to do this include;

  • Making sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water can’t enter or collect around the foundation.
  • Keeping indoor humidity low. If you’re not sure of the indoor humidity, it can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter, found for around $20.00 at most hardware stores.
  • Preventing condensation by adding insulation around cold surfaces such as windows, piping, exterior walls, roof and floors.
  • Increasing indoor ventilation by opening doors and windows, and using a fan or dehumidifier as needed.
  • Venting appliances that produce moisture (such as the dryer or stove) outside.
  • Running the bathroom fan or opening the window when bathing and showering, and using the exhaust fan or opening windows when cooking, or running the dishwasher.
  • Inspecting, cleaning and repairing roof gutters regularly.
If condensation or moisture does collect on floors, walls are pipes, the surfaces should be died immediately to eliminate any moisture collection. The source of water should then be located and repaired.
In general, if wet materials are thoroughly dried within 48 hours of a water leak, in most cases, mold will not grow.