Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Which Return Air Filter Should I Buy?

We frequently get asked, “Which Return Air Filter Should I Buy?” from our heating and air conditioning customers. They want to know which filters are the best at stopping dust, smells, allergens, etc.

It is a very confusing subject for many customers because of the many, many choices available and the hyped-up advertising associated with the filters.

MERV ratings are used to rate the ability of removing dust from the air as it passes through the filter.  MERV is a standard used to measure the overall efficiency of a filter.  The higher the MERV rating means the fewer dust particles and other airborne contaminants that are able to pass through the filter.  MERV ratings range from 1-16.

Please Google the filter or brand of filter you are thinking about purchasing to get the MERV rating information. There are too many different filters and options to mention here.

The important thing to remember is to buy a filter that will give you the most filtration for your money and that will not harm your system. If you buy a filter that has too much air resistance; it will cause your system to work much harder than it was designed for.

This can cause premature blower motor, heat exchanger, and or compressor failure. Your utility bills will also rise and the comfort level of your house will decrease because of this situation caused by the “wrong” filter for your system. This is a bit scary.

All duct work is unfortunately not designed well and by installing an incorrect filter for “your” system can cause serious issues mentioned above.

The simplest way to choose a filter that will not cause harm to your heating and air conditioning system is to pick the filter/s you want to install and:

1)     Turn on your heating and air condition system’s indoor fan motor (Fan “ON” position from auto)
2)     Remove all return air filters and refasten the grille doors. (Air goes in)
3)     Go to two or three different supply air registers (Air comes out) and feel the amount/force of air that is coming out of these registers. (You can also measure with a tape measure and a tissue the distance the air travels between the register and the tissue as you go away from the register until the tissue doesn’t move.)
4)     Now install the new return filter/s and repeat the #3 process.

*** With the air filter of your choice in place and with the indoor fan on; if the air flow feels about the same – you are probably “good –to-go” with that choice of filter.

**** With your choice of filter/s in place; you noticeably feel LESS air; this filter/s will not be a wise choice for your system and may cause harm to your system as discussed above.

Bottom Line: Purchase the best filter you can afford that will pass the above simple test and you should be fine.

Note: You may find that only the very inexpensive blue filters that you can buy anywhere is all your system can tolerate due to your duct work design. If this is the case; you can purchase a can of Endust and spray it on the air entering side of the filter only and improve the efficiency of that filter by up to 10 times. There are no chemical smells to be concerned with. The spray improves the “static cling” only.

We hope this helps answer which return air filter should you purchase.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at allseasonshvac@cox.net or (757) 421-9790.  We are here to serve you with quality and integrity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Static Pressure-Why it Matters!

We get asked by many customers, "Why does your company/technicians perform static air test measurements?"

Our technicians measure the amount of static air pressure in the duct work on both the supply air side and the return air side. We have our technicians record the static air test reading on service and precision tune up calls and record the measurement of the invoice. 

The static air pressure measurement can advise the technician to any possible problems with the airflow.  When the total static airflow is too high (over .5WC total pressure reading), the technician will look at which “side” has an issue(s) or if both the supply air and return air side has issues.
Without getting too technical, what this means to you as a homeowner, is:
  • Too high a reading on the return side can indicate that not enough air is being brought into the system. This can be caused by the return duct being too small, another return duct may be needed, or a duct may be crushed or pinched.
  • Too low a reading on the return side can indicate that there is a disconnected duct or that the duct is too large.
  • Too high a reading on the supply air side, can indicate a poor duct design (usually the case) and/or crushed or pinched duct work or even excessive duct runs.
  • Too low a reading on the supply air side can indicate that a duct could be disconnected.
The good news is that once a problem is found it can and should be repaired to help keep you comfortable.

If the problems are not taken care of, several things can happen:
  • Your home will not be as comfortable as it should.
  • Your equipment life can be shortened from the added stress that improper air flow can cause.
  • Your utility bills will be higher because your system is running more to keep up with the added stress that improper air flow causes.
This gives you a quick overview as to why taking static air pressure tests are an important part of any heating and cooling precision tune up and service work.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids.  The excitement of costumes and trick or treating for goodies has children excited.  Halloween is just around the corner less than a week away.  Kids are excited and ready for all the candy and goodies they will receive.  Homeowners are heading to their local stores for candy for the kids and anticipating the unique costumes. 

To help keep the children safe on the trick or treating escapades; here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

If you are an old pro at this and have children already trick or treating, there may be a few tips you forgot or if you are new to this, definitely read below.

•Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
•Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
•Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
•When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
•If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
•Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
•Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
•Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

•Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
•Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
•Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

•To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
•Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
•Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
•Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

•A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
•If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
•Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
•Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
•Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
•Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
•Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
•If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
•Never cut across yards or use alleys.
•Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
•Don't assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will!
•Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

•A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
•Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
•Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
•Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

Have a safe and Fun Halloween!

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 23-29, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW), October 23-29, 2011 to raise awareness of lead poisoning in children. For children, even low levels of exposure to lead can cause a host of developmental effects such as learning disabilities, decreased intelligence and speech, language, and behavioral problems, which can affect children for a lifetime.

"Lead poisoning can have life-altering health effects, especially on our children. But it is entirely preventable if we take the right steps to protect our children in all the places where they live, learn and play," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. "National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week gives us the opportunity to strengthen our awareness and prevention efforts and ensure parents have the tools they need to protect their children against lead exposure every day of the year."

Major sources of lead exposure among children are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings. Lead most commonly occurs in the environment as a result of improper repair or renovation of pre-1978 homes. Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is entirely preventable.

This year's NLPPW theme, Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future, underscores the importance of testing your home and your child, and getting the facts about how to prevent serious health effects.

Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your children:

- Get your home tested. Have your home inspected if you live in a home built before 1978.
- Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor to test them for lead.
- Get the facts. Visit leadfreekids.org or call 1-800-424-LEAD.
More information on lead poisoning prevention: http://www.leadfreekids.org/ or http://www.epa.gov/lead In Espanol: http://www.leadfreekids.org/espanol

Monday, October 24, 2011

Smart Cooling Rewards-Demand Control "Smart" Switch Programs

We have had a few customers ask us about the Dominion Program, “Smart Cooling Rewards” and the effect it would have on their comfort, system and wallet.

Dominion Virginia Power will install an A/C Cycling or "smart" switch on your outdoor air-conditioning unit or heat pump system. During periods of high demand, Dominion Power will cycle your air conditioner or heat pump compressor on and off for short periods. The fan will stay on circulating already cooled air.  Virginia Dominion Power expresses that this will occur during the summer season between June and September. Typically cycling will occur for about four hours per event, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and will not occur on weekends or holidays.

Dominion Virginia Power will provide the equipment and the installation is free and since the work is performed on your outdoor unit, you don't even need to be home during installation.  Qualifying homeowners will receive $40 following each summer season they participate.  (Click here for more information on the Dominion Virginia Power Program.

The following is our opinion (All Seasons Heating and Cooling Service Company):

The program is good as far as saving a little money on your electric bill, but your comfort will most likely be compromised. When "peak time" (periods of high demand) is in effect, your equipment will not function during those periods. We usually get a few service calls each cooling season because they do not have AC due to a program similar such as Demand Control. Some devices isolate one "leg"of your 230 VAC circuit so the compressor and water heater cannot operate during this "peak" period and this program from Dominion Virginia Power disrupts the "Y" compressor low voltage circuit to stop the compressor from operating.

If the outdoor temperature is 85 degrees or higher and your AC system is off for a period of 4 hours; the heat and humidity level in your house may rise to unacceptable levels during that time. When the power is restored and the AC system is allowed to operate again, it will have to run awhile (possibly hours) to overcome that heat and humidity load.

It depends on your schedule and your families' schedule if this may become an issue. If no one is home during these hours and for a while afterwards, it may not present a problem. If someone is usually home during this time; it most likely will present some comfort issues.

The indoor unit is not affected by their program. You should have your indoor fan set to auto in the humid months. If you set it to run continuously, there will be humidity issues. The AC's job is to cool your home and to remove humidity. When the indoor fan is set to run and the outdoor unit turns off; it just blows the moisture right off the indoor coil back into the air stream it just removed the moisture from, increasing the humidity again.

We do not believe it will harm your equipment as long as there are no power surges during the power restore period. A surge protection device can be installed if needed for added protection. Your equipment has factory installed time delay devices to protect the compressors from short cycling.

Another idea instead of the program from Dominion Virginia Power is installing and using programmable thermostats.  You can easily program your own schedules and temperatures to save money without having "Big Brother" do it for you at possibly the expense of your comfort.

The savings from using a programmable thermostat may well exceed the $40.00 incentive that Dominion Virginia Power is offering to send you at the end of each summer that you use their "smart" switch and you will not have to sacrifice your comfort.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Excessive Dust in the Home

We are often asked what can be done about excessive dust in the home. To answer this question, we have to ask several questions.

1. How often do you have to clean to keep up with the dust or is this an impossible feat? (Everyday might be considered excessive.)
2. Where is the dust accumulating? Is it all over or just in specific rooms?
3. What is the house’s social life like? Are there children and pets coming and going in and outside constantly? Is the outside yard dusty or near a dusty source?
4. Is your house built on a crawl space and does it have an attic?
5. What year was your house built and have you had any improvements or changes made to the house?

With the above questions answered; we can narrow down the source and then suggest solutions to end your excessive dust issue permanently. Sounds good, right?

If you feel as though you must dust several times a day during the heating and cooling seasons; your duct work may be at fault. If your duct work is located in an attic or crawl space and is leaky, you may notice dust after each heating or cooling cycle. You may see little particles of insulation or dirt on shelves or your TV screens and furniture. Leaking duct work is one of the most overlooked and common causes for excessive dust.

Solution: Have your heating and cooling expert inspect your duct work for air leaks and then seal the leaks with mastic and or mastic tape. This will drastically reduce your dust, improve your indoor air quality, and reduce you utility bills, and improve your comfort.

If your ducts are not part of your problem and are sealed correctly; the house envelope is the next most likely source of dust.  Your house envelope consists of its walls, windows, doors, ceilings, foundation, and roof. A home’s envelope can be tested for tightness by using an instrument called an infiltrometer or “blower door”. This instrument measures the amount of air infiltration and exfiltration in your house. The leakier your house, the more dust you are likely to experience among other serious issues.
Solution: Have your house professionally tested by a Building Analyst using an infiltrometer. The analyst will be able to pin-point your sources of air leaks and give you solid solutions on how to permanently reduce the leakage.

While the whole-house testing is the correct method to use in determining your dust issues among other house related concerns and All Seasons Heating and Cooling Service Company has a certified building analyst on staff. Please call 757-421-9790 for more information or to schedule your testing appointment.

If you would like to tighten your house by weather stripping/weatherizing it yourself; here a few suggestions at places to start that the average DIY person can tackle and get good results.

• Be sure your exterior doors (including a garage access door) are tight and have weather stripping on all edges and a “sweeper” plate.
• Install outlet and light switch gaskets on all outlets and light switches to help reduce air leakage.
• Seal plumbing drain and water pipes under the sinks or anywhere they go through a wall with expand-a foam or silicone. (Silicone caulking works best for small cracks and holes, the foam can be very messy and hard to clean if you are not very careful!)
• Be sure to weather-strip your attic access openings and to insulate the panels or doors.
• If you feel air by your windows, inspect the space around the window (take off a piece of trim to inspect it for any gaps) and caulk it to seal it.
• Recessed (canned) ceiling lights are an area to be concerned with concerning air leaks. There are kits you can purchase at the “Big Box” or hardware stores to help seal out air leaks safely if you have older style recessed lights. The newer style lights are air tight.
• Be sure your exhaust fans exit outside of the house, not in a wall or attic or crawl space. (Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and dryer vents.)

These are only a few suggestions on where you can seal your home’s air leaks to help reduce dust and lower utility bills. There are many more areas that should be inspected and you can find some at the energy star web site

See you next time! As always, please contact us with any topics you want answers to.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

With Fall Comes the Turning on of Your Heating System. Are You Prepared?

As the days become shorter and we begin to see the changing of the foliage we all realize that fall is here.  With fall comes the turning on of your heating system.  Are you prepared?


When the temperature inside your house drops below the setting on the thermostat, fuel is delivered to the burners, ignited inside the combustion chamber. The flame is verified electronically and after a few minutes, the furnace blower fan turns on, pushing air through the cold air return vents.  This air is pulled through the furnace filter and past the furnace’s heat exchanger to warm it.  Then it’s circulated through the heating ducts into all part of your home.

Meanwhile, the toxic combustion by-products are vented out of your house through the furnace vent connector and vent.

When the temperature inside the house reaches the setting on the thermostat, the furnace shuts off automatically.  This process goes on and on throughout the heating season.

Your furnace is designed so the combustion by-products never enter the circulating air that warms your home.  The portion of the heating system through which this circulating heated air travels is entirely separate from the portion of the heating system in which the combustion process takes place and the combustion toxic by-products are vented from your home.

It is very important to make sure your furnace is safe to operate and is operating at its peak efficiency.

**** Hire a licensed qualified gas contractor to perform a tune-up of your furnace. ****

A professional tune-up is needed each heating season. This is not a DIY project! Most homeowners do not have the knowledge or specialized equipment to thoroughly test a furnace for correct operation.

Your furnace has built-in safety devices to prevent ignition if problems may occur. These safety devices are called limits. Modern furnaces have self-diagnostic electronic boards that help the service technician pin-point the trouble areas which lends to a quicker and correct repair.

Natural and liquid petroleum gases have odorants built in so you can smell a gas leak.  If you strongly smell gas, get out of the house and then call 911 to reach the fire department. Do not call from within your house because any spark could cause an explosion. They will come out or send out the gas company to shut off the gas.

If you know what appliance the gas is leaking from and the smell is faint, (for example; your furnace) cut off the gas supply to the furnace or appliance and call your contractor to come out and find and repair the leak. Open a few windows to ventilate the house.        

Each year carbon monoxide is suspected to cause 500 accidental deaths and over 15,000 Emergency Room visits each year.  At high levels, it can kill in just minutes. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer.  Its symptoms often masquerade as other illnesses, like the flu.  Unless suspected, physicians are likely to overlook carbon monoxide as the source of the patient’s woes until it is too late.

If you own any fossil burning appliances, you should have carbon monoxide monitors installed. A low-level monitor that starts detecting CO at 5 PPM (part per million) and alarms you is highly recomended. A UL (Underwriters Laboratory) approved monitor detects CO at levels starting at 70 PPM for 4 hours of duration. This can be too much exposure for small children and older adults or people with sensitive immune systems.  The UL approved monitors (such as Kiddie) are sold at the big box stores and almost anywhere. They unfortunately do not give you the protection needed if you are in the categories above. They are far better than nothing and may keep you from dying, but not from becoming very ill in some cases.  You should have one monitor for each floor of your house. 

A quick note: If your house is all electric, but you have an attached garage, you should also by code have a CO monitor in your home. Many people start their cars in the garage and then walk away and let them run to warm up and that can release a lot of CO and toxic fumes in your home. (Most doors and garages are not air tight.)

All Seasons Heating and Cooling installs Low Level Carbon Monoxide Monitors.  Call us today, 757- 421-9790, to have your monitor installed. Please do not put this off, your health and safety will be at risk.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but instead of using heat found in the outside air, they rely on the stable, even heat of the earth to provide heating, air conditioning and, in some cases, hot water.

Many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes.  A few feet below the earth’s surface the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature.  Although the temperatures vary according to the latitude, at six feet underground, temperatures range from 45 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ever been inside a cave in the summer?  The cave is at a cooler temperature than the air outside because the air underground is constant.  During the winter, that same constant cave temperature is warmer than the air outside.  This is the idea behind geothermal heat pumps.  In the winter, they move the heat from the earth into your house.  In the summer, they pull the heat from your home and discharge it into the ground.

Studies have shown that approximately 70 percent of the energy used in a geothermal heat pump system is renewable energy from the ground. The earth's constant temperature is what makes geothermal heat pumps one of the most efficient, comfortable, and quiet heating and cooling technologies available today. While they may be more costly to install initially than regular heat pumps, they can produce lower energy bills - 30 percent to 40 percent lower, according to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who now includes geothermal heat pumps in the types of products rated in the EnergyStar® program. Because they are mechanically simple and outside parts of the system are below ground and protected from the weather, maintenance costs are often lower as well.

As an added benefit, systems can be equipped with a device called a "desuperheater" that can heat household water, which circulates into the regular water heater tank. In the summer, heat that is taken from the house and would be expelled into the loop is used to heat the water for free. In the winter, the desuperheater can reduce water-heating costs by about half, while a conventional water heater meets the rest of the household's needs. In the spring and fall when temperatures are mild the heat pump may not be operating at all, the regular water heater provides hot water.

Remember, a geothermal heat pump doesn't create heat by burning fuel, like a traditional furnace does. Instead, in the winter it collects the Earth's natural heat through a series of pipes, called a loop, installed below the surface of the ground or submersed in a pond or lake. Fluid circulates through the loop and carries the heat to the house. There, an electrically driven compressor and a heat exchanger concentrate the Earth's energy and release it inside the home at a higher temperature. Ductwork distributes the heat to different rooms.

In the summer, the process is reversed. The underground loop draws excess heat from the house and allows it to be absorbed by the Earth. The system cools your home in the same way that a refrigerator keeps your food cool - by drawing heat from the interior, not by blowing in cold air.

The geothermal loop that is buried underground is typically made of high-density polyethylene, a tough plastic that is extraordinarily durable but which allows heat to pass through efficiently. When installers connect sections of pipe, they heat fuse the joints, making the connections stronger than the pipe itself. The fluid in the loop is water or an environmentally safe antifreeze solution that circulates through the pipes in a closed system.  The wells can be vertical when outdoor space is limited or in a horizontal plane when there is more outdoor area.

Another type of geothermal system uses a loop of copper piping placed underground. When refrigerant is pumped through the loop, heat is transferred directly through the copper to the earth.  This is not common in Hampton Roads.

Surveys taken by utility companies have found that homeowners using geothermal heat pumps rate them highly when compared to conventional systems.  Figures indicate that more than 95 percent of all geothermal heat pump owners would recommend a similar system to their friends and family.

Geothermal heat pumps are durable and require little maintenance. They have fewer mechanical components than other systems, and most of those components are underground, sheltered from the weather. The underground piping used in the system is often guaranteed to last 25 to 50 years and is virtually worry-free. The components inside the house are small and accessible for maintenance. Warm and cool air is distributed through ductwork, just as in a regular forced-air system.

Since geothermal systems have no outside condensing units like air conditioners, they are quieter to operate.

Many people think geothermal is new technology which can make many people reluctant to use it or even consider it.  Reality is that geothermal is an idea that is more than 150 years old.  (It has been documented in history that during ancient Roman times they used Geothermal for heating and bathing.)

• Efficient and eco-friendly. Geothermal heat pump systems transfer heat instead of creating it, so they don’t rely on fossil fuels. Geothermal heat pumps get high ratings from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
• Durable. Underground loops are protected from external elements such as inclement weather and vandalism, and they rank high in safety with no open flame, flammable fuel or fuel storage tanks; no combustion is involved. Pipes are fusion-welded to prevent leaks. The pipes have a life expectancy of 50 years or more.
• Inexpensive to operate. With fewer mechanical operating components, Geothermal heat pumps require less service than conventional heating and cooling systems and have a high reliability rating, keeping maintenance costs low.
• Space-saving. Hardware for Geothermal heat pumps is smaller than conventional heating and cooling systems and requires a smaller mechanical room, which frees up floor space for other uses. This depends on application.
• Comfortable. Geothermal heat pump systems maintain humidity at a constant comfort level.
• Quiet. Geothermal heat pump systems have no outside compressors, which eliminates exterior noise.

• Expensive initial investment. Installation costs can be several times higher than comparable conventional systems. (There are tax advantages such as a tax credit of 30% of the total cost of a new Geothermal heat pump, includes existing homes and new construction—both principal residences and second homes qualify.)
• Difficult to repair. Repairs to underground pipes, though seldom necessary, can be difficult and expensive.
• Require backup. In extreme climates and rural areas, the systems may require an emergency backup heat system.
• There is a water pump. All Geothermal systems require a water pump to circulate the water throughout the condensing part of the system. Some pumps are larger than others and are noisier. Most are very quiet in closed loop applications. The open loop water pumps applications are noisier, but are usually located in a garage.

Department of Energy(
Environmental Protection Agency(
Energy Star (
Consumer Energy Center (
Natural Home and Garden (
Geothermal Energy Association (

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 Hurricane Season Preparedness

If you have lived in or currently live in an area that is subject to hurricanes, then you should be aware of the precautions to take BEFORE a hurricane will affect your area. If you are new to this, please read carefully and take the precautions suggested.
A hurricane is a severe tropical cyclone having winds greater than 64 knots (119 km/hr or 74 mph) originating in the equatorial regions, traveling north, northwest, or northeast from its point of origin and usually involves heavy rains. The combination of the wind and rain can be devastating.
The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is ongoing and is forecast to have above-average activity. The season officially started on June 1 and will end on November 30. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. Based on the average over the last 150 years of storms, the Atlantic Hurricane season ramps up in August.

The following names will be used for named storms that form in the North Atlantic in 2011.
·       Arlene- June 29-July 1st-Tropical Storm-affected Central America, Yucatan Peninsula, Florida, Mexica (Veracruz), Texas
·       Bret-July 17-July 22-Tropical Storm-affected United States East Coast, The Bahamas, Bermuda
·       Cindy-July 20-July 23-Tropical Storm-affected areas None
·       Don-July 23-July 30-Tropical Storm-affected Lesser Antilles, Greater Antilles, Yucatan Peninsula, South Texas, Northeastern Mexico, Southwestern United States
·       Emily-August 1-August 7-Tropical Storm-affected Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Turks, and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas, South Florida
·       Franklin
·       Gert
·       Harvey
·       Irene
·       Jose
·       Katia
·       Lee
·       Maria
·       Nate
·       Opehlia
·       Philippe
·       Rina
·       Sean
·       Tammy
·       Vince
·       Whitney
Despite living along the coast, and even after major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008, a 2009 survey revealed that most residents are not prepared for a hurricane. The U.S. Government's National Hurricane Center advises the following actions for hurricane disaster preparation.
1.     First, get important papers and special photos in order and secured in plastic. Identification is difficult and time-consuming to replace: so be sure to include social security cards, birth certificates, high school diplomas or GED certificates, titles or deeds to property, as well as your hurricane insurance policy. Photos of special occasions or loved ones cannot be replaced, so including these is important as well.
2.     Think ahead and take video or photos of your property before you leave. This will help later on with any insurance checklist claims for damage that may need to be filed.
3.     If you are advised to evacuate – DO IT! Be sure to turn off the power, water, and gas to your house before leaving. Lock your doors and take your essential valuables, paperwork, and photos and pets with you.
4.     If staying with relatives is not an option, consider booking a room in a hotel or motel in another nearby town or state. Make sure to get directions and put them in the car ahead of time. It is easy to forget that piece of paper in the rush out the door. A cheaper route might be to find temporary hurricane shelters. Usually nearby towns not in the direct path of the hurricane will provide these for people in need.
5.     Unfortunately, it is unlikely that your pet will have a place in a motel or hotel. Keep this in mind, and try to find alternate housing like pet friendly hotels and motels or dog boarding kennels in areas out of the path of the storm until it is safe to return home.
6.     Designate a spot, in the hall closet, to keep a bag of clothes for each person in the household. Make sure to include sleeping gear if you plan on going to a temporary shelter. 
7.     Along with overnight clothes, consider stocking your Hurricane Kit with the following: extra cash, generator, batteries, flash lights, battery operated radio/television, bottled water, toilet paper, non-perishable foods such as cereal or crackers, canned goods, a can opener, a small cooler, candles, prescription medicines and any over-the-counter remedies you use regularly; and if you have small children—diapers, baby wipes, formula, baby food.
8.     Count on the power being out for at least a day or two. Remember that ATM's will be non-operating, so have at least some hard cash in your Hurricane Kit (see no. 6, above) to see you through the storm. 
When TV and computer games no longer operate, board games or a deck of cards come in handy! Arts and crafts, crayons and downloadable coloring pages are always great distractions for the kids - so make sure you've stored some of these supplies in a tote bag or in the car trunk.
9.     If you decide to tough out the storm, stay downwind in your home. This means if the wind is hitting the living room windows, go to the room opposite the living room. It is best to stay away from any windows because debris can fly through at any given time.
10.  Plywood is a 'hot' commodity for those of who decide to stay. Boarding up windows that will take the brunt of the wind and rain is a wise decision. If board is not available, help protect your windows from the wind by criss-crossing them with layers of duct or packing tape. This will not be much protection, but may help keep some glass from being spread. Learn how to build and install plywood hurricane shutters is your best bet. If you can afford it, metal hurricane shutter are available and can be installed by a professional.
11.  Finally, STAY INSIDE. However tempting it may be to videotape or take photos of the storm, be sure to shoot from indoors - where it's safer, and dry!
More disaster information, evacuation routes, and preparedness literature can be found at the following sites.
Virginia Hurricane Preparedness: www.vaemergency.com
National Weather Service: www.weather.gov
National Hurricane Center (U.S.): www.nhc.noaa.gov
Red Cross: www.redcross.org
NewsChannel 3, WTKR: www.wtkr.com
WAVY-TV 10:  www.wavy.com
13 News, WVEC: www.wvec.com
43 Fox: www.fox43tv.com

**Informational list and knowledge for this blog on Hurricane Preparedness was prepared using all of the above referenced websites.**

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Indoor Air Quality Issues

In the past 20 years, an emerging and expanding body of evidence has shown that indoor air quality has tremendous impact on human health. Americans-especially infants, the elderly, and persons with chronic diseases-typically spend 90% of their time indoors where they can be exposed to very high levels of air pollutants.
—American Lung Association® report

Are you aware that the air inside your home may not be healthy to breathe? There are many factors that can contribute to poor indoor air quality in our homes. A few unhealthy air sources examples can be found at different sources such as:

  • Laundry room chemicals
  • Garage items
  • Car exhaust in the garage
  • In your attic
  • In your crawl space
  • From your pets
  • Your carpet
  • Something you may cook
  • Your cleaning items
  • Outdoor air coming in that has pollen and many other contaminates
  • Bathroom humidity and items such as hair spray etc.
Indoor air pollutants are all around us. They include pollen, molds, fungal spores, viruses, bacteria, smoke, gas combustion by-products, out-gassing from carpets, furniture, plywood and drywall, cleaning supplies, personal care items, pet dander, dust mites including their feces and body fragments, cockroach body parts, and more. Disgusting!

Wow! What can you do about it???

While there are many products on the market, most don’t perform as claimed (unless you live in a controlled laboratory.)  Some products might be helpful, but none can do it all and all are limited. Listed below are a few solutions that could be of some help to you and your family.

  • Hardwood floors or tile are better than carpet. There is little to no off-gassing and the floors do not hide and store contaminates like carpet or rugs.
  • Have your duct work sealed to reduce unhealthy air from coming in through the ducts that may be located in your attic or crawl spaces. Use mastic, 181, pastes, or tape to do the sealing.
  • If you have cats or other animals that use a litter box; try using the most dust free litter available.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner that has a Hepa Filter in it to keep the dirty air from recalculating back into the room.
  • Vacuum, mop, and dust often. (Don’t forget the fan blades if you have ceiling fans.)
  • Try not to back your vehicles in the garage where the exhaust is going into the house directly and then pull the vehicles out of the garage ASAP.
  • Have your garage professionally sealed to help prevent carbon monoxide and other chemicals from entering your home. A CO monitor is a good idea so you know if there is a dangerous level in your house.
  • Be sure your bathroom has operating exhaust fans that exhaust the humidity and fumes to the outdoors (Not just back into the attic.)
  • Schedule an appointment with a company that offers infiltrometer (“Blower Door”) and infrared scanning and testing to locate your hidden air leaks and to find any construction issues with your house that may cause health or energy concerns, and to have solutions to solve these issues.
  • Try to use a quality return filter/s in your home and change or clean them every month. Be sure to choose a filter that is compatible with your HVAC system. A simple way to determine if a new filter will work with your HVAC system is to turn the AC fan to the “ON” position and take out your return air filters. Next measure the air flow strength coming out of a couple of different supply air registers. You can just feel the air strength or you can take a tape measure and a paper towel or tissue and measure how far away from the register you can get and still feel the air or see the tissue move. Now put in the filter/s of choice in all of the return air grilles. Take your measurements again. If the air strength is about the same; great, use can use that filter. If the air strength is noticeably less or reduced; do not use that filter. With less air coming out of the registers there will be more resistance in the ducts which will harm the HVAC system over time and cause you higher energy bills.
  • Ultra violet lights placed correctly in your duct work may help with killing odors caused by different types of bacteria.
  • Electronic whole house air cleaners may also help in reducing small and light air borne particles when the system is operating. Room air cleaners can also help and can operate continuously and collect particles closer to the floor.
  • Be mindful of where you store your household chemicals. If there is a return air filter nearby; the chemicals may be drawn into your HVAC system and ten distributed throughout your house. Not a good thing.
There are no perfect or complete solutions to air quality, but the suggestions above may help reduce unhealthy air in your home. If you locate and remove the source; you can improve your air quality. For more information, please visit: www.epa.gov. or Google "clean air in your house".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tips On Keeping Your Home Burglar Free While Away On Vacation

Keep your home burglar free.
Going on vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but every time you go away, most people can’t help but wonder what state is my home going to be in when I get back. Did I remember to turn off the coffee pot (the answer there is almost always no!), did I close the garage door, did I lock the back door? Will someone break in while I’m gone? These questions can make your vacation more stress-filled than stress-relieving. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you how to remember to turn off the coffee maker before leaving for an extended period of time, but here are a few things you can do to make your empty home less attractive to potential burglars.
  • Leave interior and exterior lights on, or put them on a timer.
  • Have someone you trust pick up mail, newspaper, and any packages you might receive while you’re gone.
  • Disable automatic garage doors.
  • Leave the radio or TV on to create noise in the home.  This makes it difficult for a burglar to determine if someone is home.  Leaving a TV on can lead to higher electric costs.  Consider using a battery operated radio to help conserve energy or in the event of a power outage.
  • Turn the ringer on your home phone down or put it on silent while you are away.  Criminals will roam the streets listening for loud rings that are not picked up, since this is a sure sign that no one is home.  Also, be careful not to leave a voice mail message advising that you are on vacation.
  • Make sure you shut and lock all windows and doors.
  • Shut the shades or drapes you normally close. Make it more difficult for someone to look in, but not so much the house looks closed.
  • Don’t hide a spare key, criminals prey on our fears of being locked out and will look around for that spare hide a key that you left.
  • Park in the driveway.  It gives the appearance that someone is home.
  • Take your laptops and cameras with you. If you don’t; consider marking them with a number (such as car registration numbers or a driver’s license number), this will make it easier for police to return them to you if they are stolen.  Keep a record of marked objects incase something happens.
  • Try to lock up important papers and valuables in a safe or bank deposit lock box.
  • Do not use Facebook, My Space, Twiiter, etc. to let your online friends know you are going on vacation or that you are having a great time while you are gone. Save this for when you get back and are at home. No sense advertising you are away.
  • If you have an agency for security, be sure they have your contact numbers (they most likely do) in the event of a break in.
  • If you have a do it yourself security surveillance system, be sure you have a tape in the machine and all is operating correctly.
The ultimate goal is to give your home the appearance that someone is there, or will be home soon. Don’t forget - you can always ask your neighborhood watch (of you have one) and your neighbors to keep an eye on your house and let you know if anything out of the ordinary happens.

Have a peace-of mind and enjoy your trip!