1. Why Is My House So Cold?

    Brrrrrr! It’s not just cold right now—it’s Chicago cold. The Midwestern breeze can slice through the best parka or wool socks, and it can certainly break into your home. But how, exactly, does all that cold air get inside? Why is it that your house always seems cold, even when you’re cranking up the heat?

    In this blog, the Chicago HVAC professionals at Aircor will take a look at steps you can take to keep your house warm. Spoiler alert: you’re probably overlooking at least two thirds of these steps. Take care of these tasks, and your home will become warmer instantly, which will increase your level of comfort and lower your energy bill to boot!

    Step 1 – Check Your Windows & Doors

    If your home was built before 1990, it probably doesn’t have any sort of energy efficient windows or doors—and that could be a big reason why your home is seemingly cold all the time. Doors and windows with poor seals can let cold air in and warm air out, which makes your crank up your heater, and in turn, your energy bill—you’ll need to seal up these areas in order to keep all that hard-earned warm air you paid for inside of your home.

    While a complete window replacement would be the most effective option, replacing the seals on the bottoms of your windows and using thermal curtains will help slow down the rate at which cold air enters your home, and it’ll make sure you don’t have to turn up your heat quite as high when things cool off in the evenings. Be sure to realign your doors and replace their weatherstirpping as well—a drafty door is the most common culprit for air leakage in the home.

    Step 2 – Close Your Fireplace Damper

    Your fireplace damper opens and shuts to direct the flow of air from the inside to the outside—so when you leave it all the way open when you don’t have a fire in your firebox, all of the warm air in your home is literally being pulled up and out of your chimney. Easy solution here: go ahead and shut that damper all the way—but don’t forget to open it back up whenever you’re about to make a fire. Otherwise, you’ll be in for a smoky surprise.

    Step 3 – Change Up Your Ceiling Fans

    What if we told you that you could change the direction of your ceiling fans? Would you believe us? You should—changing the direction of your fans has a direct effect on how heat is dispersed throughout your home. Turn your fans clockwise, and you’ll push your warm air straight up toward the ceiling—not ideal when you’re trying get warm in your bed. But turn that bad boy to counterclockwise, and the blades will push your hot air down exactly where you want it. Mmmm… warm.

    So how do you achieve the magical feat of switching the direction of your ceiling fans? It’s easier than you think: just take a look at the middle of your fan, find the tiny switch, and flip it between clockwise and counterclockwise. Easy AND breezy.

    Step 4 – Install a Whole House Humidifier

    Your home should rest at around 40-45 percent humidity during the winter—but oftentimes, your heating system can suck the moisture out of your indoor air, which can actually make cold temperatures feel even colder. To solve this problem, place humidifiers throughout your home, or even better, have a whole house humidifier installed to make sure your home is perfectly humid in every room.

    That’s it for Part 1 of our series on why your house is so cold. Stay tuned for Part 2, and check out our other blog posts in the meantime!

  2. What Allergens are and How to Keep Them Out of Your Indoor Air


    After a cold, rainy, snowy winter homeowners are more than ready for springtime’s promise: blooming flowers, fresh, green grass, and trees reclaiming their leafy lushness. But along with spring comes allergy season, which continues on into summer. And for those who suffer from seasonal allergies or asthma spring is the most uncomfortable season of all. But here’s the good news. You can control the allergens populating your home with some DIY maintenance, and sometimes a little professional help from an HVAC specialist.

    Allergens and their Reason for Existing

    Allergens are an airborne phenomenon. They infiltrate your home, landing on any and all surfaces. But it’s not just allergens coming from outside; it’s inside too where the air can hold particulate matter from such allergens as:

    • Pet dander
    • Dust mites
    • Mold
    • Cockroach droppings

    This particulate matter suffuses the air in your home, causing difficulty in breathing and the allergy symptoms of:

    • Coughing and sneezing
    • Red and irritated eyes
    • Scratchy throats
    • Runny noses

    How to Deal with Allergens in Your Home

    Maintaining your cooling system is crucial to managing the allergens that may have already been populating the air in your home. This is what you can do to rid yourself of annoying allergens that have invaded your home:

    • To effectively manage the allergens swimming in your indoor air, buy the best-quality heating system filters as your primary line of defense in catching allergen particulate matter. Go for a MERV 8 rating or higher, which will do the best job of capturing particulate matter from the air, decreasing their numbers. Be vigilant in checking the filters on a monthly basis, and change them at a minimum of three months throughout the year. If you allow dirt and dust to build up on your heating system, air filters will stop absorbing the allergens, and decrease the efficiency of your cooling system.
    • Dust and debris can also accumulate around both the indoor and outdoor cooling units. What occurs is the cooling unit draws in air from outdoors through the AC unit, causing the allergen-filled air to spread everywhere in your home. Monitor your indoor and outdoor AC units for the appearance of dust and debris often. Use a broom, vacuum, or dust cloth to clean the area around the AC units to decrease the allergen buildup.
    • It’s not just dust and debris that causes allergies. Mold is also a culprit in the war against allergen invasion, because it takes hold in humid and moisture-filled climates. What is particularly dangerous about mold is beyond causing allergies to worsen; its appearance can lead to serious ailments as well as death. To find mold hiding in your AC examine the ductwork, evaporator coils, air handler, and condensate drip pan and drain. This maintenance task must be performed on a monthly basis to keep on top of mold growth. If mold hasn’t overtaken your cooling system, you can probably handle its removal yourself, but for a significant buildup of mold, it is best to contact an HVAC specialist.
    • Another maintenance task involves dusting the dust registers and return vents on your cooling system. When you’re dusting your home do the registers and return vents first so you don’t overlook them. Necessary to understand is the return vents spread the cooling system’s air. So if the vents are not dust-free neither will your home be dust-free also. Don’t dust with a dry rag. This will only spread the dust mites around and re-populate the air. Use some furniture polish on the rag to keep dust mites from spinning into the air and eventually into allergy and asthma sufferers’ systems.

    Guidelines on How to Choose the Right Air Filter

    A misconception people carry around about ordinary HVAC air filters is they can deal with allergens that fill the air. Not so. HVAC filters only do the job of protecting the cooling system from attracting dust, so the AC can operate efficiently. The air filters may displace some dust, but they are not capable of capturing the particulate matter that contributes to allergy symptoms.

    HVAC air filters are made of paper, an inadequate material to trap particulate matter. Paper filters can only handle larger particle matter such as dust that lands on motors and fans, compromising the AC’s efficiency. What occurs when smaller particulate matter contacts paper filters is they bypass the fibers and spread throughout the ductwork, getting blown out into your air, re-populating it.

    Allergy air filters are made to capture micro-particulate matter. Named high energy particulate air filters (HEPA), they contain many condensed layers of fiberglass material, and are capable of catching nearly 100% of small particulates such as dust, pollen, and smoke to keep the air free of them.

    However, you can’t buy just any HEPA filter and expect to clear your air of allergens. A rating system known as the minimum efficiency reporting system (MERV) has 12 tiers of air filters, the highest of them able to remove the most microscopic particles. According to some experts, opt for a rating of 10 and up in order to do a thorough job of eliminating all the particulate matter that permeates the air, contributing to allergy and asthma symptoms.

    It’s not enough to buy the right HEPA filter. You must also replace them often, at least every two months, particularly when the pollen count is high. You might even need to replace them more frequently if you live in an area that is vulnerable to higher allergen populations. However, using the appropriately-rated HEPA filter provides only 50% of the solution to decreasing allergens swarming the indoor air. You must as well attend to cleaning the other parts of your cooling system where dust and pollen can accumulate on blower fans and ductwork.

    Here’s a tidbit of information you should know about. The air in your home recycles through your cooling system up to seven times a day. Without the use of HEPA filters and maintenance of your cooling system, allergens, dust, and mold become long-term residents in your cooling system, sometimes for years. If this is the case you probably need the professional assistance of an HVAC specialist to check–and if necessary–clean your ductwork. It won’t cost you a penny to have your ductwork inspected. The HVAC specialist during their inspection can show you what dust buildup has occurred, and also if there exists any mold or mildew hiding in your ductwork, aggravating allergy symptoms. Seeing what’s there will surely give you the motivation to keep your cooling system well-maintained and allergens at bay!

  3. How to Deal with Humidity in Summer and Winter Months


    You’ve gratefully left the cold winter months behind you, and are now moving into summer, in which you face a new set of weather challenges, the wilting and leaden heat, drowning you in perspiration. You will look to your AC system to be your best buddy in keeping you comfortable when temperatures soar into the 80s and higher during the day, and remain in the upper 70s during the evening hours. If you live in a humid climate, a surfeit of moisture suspended in the air can make your home feel even hotter than it actually is, affecting the comfort level of your home.

    Because your AC system’s job is to, not only cool the air, but also remove oppressive humidity levels from it, your AC unit is working overtime to provide the comfort you seek, and in the process wearing out its components faster. If your AC system has some years on it, its efficiency has started to wane, and its effectiveness is jeopardized. The result is an increase in your power bills, and a hot, sweaty environment.

    If you’ve purchased an AC system that is not the appropriate size for your living space this also affects the AC unit’s ability to cool your home adequately, including extracting the excess moisture humidity causes from your muggy indoor air.

    Three evident signs that point to humidity as the problem, causing your AC system to function less efficiently are:

    1. A feeling of moisture permeates the air
    1. Your home has a damp or musty odor in certain areas
    1. Your windows are fogging up

    If these symptoms are present your air is holding more humidity than it should for your home’s comfort, and the humidity level must be brought down to bring cooling relief. The best method for dealing with heavy moisture in the air inside your home is to purchase a dehumidifier, which can be attached to your AC system by an AC installation technician. The dehumidifier will partner with your AC unit to draw excessive wetness from the air, pulling it into the air ducts throughout your home. The benefit to having a two-pronged comfort system is the management of temperature and humidity simultaneously within your home.

    Adjunct vs. Stand-Alone Dehumidifiers

    You are not limited to adjunct dehumidifiers; you can also buy an unattachable dehumidifier. The drawback to this choice is you will need to manually adjust the humidity-level device. However, the benefit of an unattachable dehumidifier is the option of only turning it on when it’s necessary to further cool your home.

    With an attachable or unattachable dehumidifier, plus your AC unit, your combined comfort system will gain in efficiency, giving you the perfect level of comfort during scorching and humid summer days, and stifling, hot and sticky nights, permitting you to sleep more comfortably.

    Single-Speed vs. Multiple-Speed AC Systems

    Apart from using a dehumidifier to lessen the humidity of your indoor air, another option exists to deal with the intense heat and humidity of the summer months. And that is purchasing a modulating-speed AC system instead of a fixed-speed AC. A fixed-speed AC unit operates at one speed only. With a modulating-speed AC system there are models manufactured with two or more speed-adjustment levels. A modulating-speed AC system will adjust the temperature levels, according to whether less or more cooling is required at any given moment. A modulating-speed AC unit will also eliminate hot or cold spots in your home.

    Another consideration for thinking about buying a modulating-speed AC system is your comfort during sleep hours. A fixed-speed AC unit, which provides a steady airflow, can create too much cold as it turns on, or too much heat when it shuts off, affecting sleepers’ body temperatures. You find yourself waking to throw off the covers from too much heat, or pulling them back on from too much cold, interrupting a sound night’s sleep.

    Another sleep annoyance is the sound of the AC unit as it cycles on and off. It’s been said the noise from the AC unit can even travel as far as your neighbors’ homes next door. With a modulating-speed AC system the airflow is less strong, and the unit stays on longer, permitting more accurate temperature control. One other advantage of a modulating-speed unit is there are fewer turn-ons and turn-offs, reducing noise pollution.

    Humidity, Mold, and Dehumidifiers

    The clamminess or stickiness of overly-humid air creates the conditions for the appearance of mold. An AC fixed-speed unit can exceed the recommended level of 50% humidity, attaining in some instances humidity levels as high as 60%, increasing the odds of toxic mold growth. Modulating-speed models never exceed 50% humidity levels. And modulating-speed units’ ability to keep temperatures fluctuating, according to the needs of users, and the moisture content low enough to prohibit unsightly mold taking hold within the home, is a strong selling point. If you haven’t guessed already mold is much more than an eye-sore, reflecting on the attractiveness of your home; it also risks the health of people. Too much mold growth can cause serious illness or even death to the sufferer.

    Winter and Humidifiers

    You may be surprised to learn humidity isn’t just a problem during the summer but also during the winter months. The reverse effect of humidity, compared to the hot weather months, is cold air is not capable of retaining enough moisture. As a result when moisture levels are too low, the air can feel much colder than the thermostat indicates. The lower the humidity level the colder the air will feel despite the thermostat’s indicator.

    The problems that come with drier and colder air are the uncomfortable effects of dry, itchy skin and eyes, dehydrated nasal passages, and increased discomfort of the sinuses. Flooring and furniture can also become targets of not enough moisture in the air, developing cracks on their surfaces. Your home’s temperature should range from 70–77 degrees. If you find you need to turn the thermostat even higher than the maximum comfort level that’s a sign the humidity level is very low.

    The dryness and coldness of an atmosphere that is lacking enough humidity requires a humidifier instead of a dehumidifier. A humidifier can also be attached to your heating system to enhance its performance and lessen the need to run it harder and less efficiently. And you will save on your power bill because it won’t be necessary to raise your thermostat too high to compensate for the deficiency of moisture, contributing to the much cooler air lower humidity levels create.

    As you can see humidifiers and dehumidifiers, working in tandem with your cooling and heating units, are essential components to achieving the correct balance of moisture in your air during the hottest and coldest months of the year.  Your home’s comfort level will be enhanced, the health of your family protected, as well as your home’s contents.  Isn’t that reason enough to invest in them?