Breathe Easy with These 5 Houseplants for Better IAQ

You may be surprised to find that the air inside your home is often more polluted than outdoor air. There are a variety of toxins that can accumulate inside your home over time, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethane. These make their way into your house through different chemicals that are often found in furniture, chemical cleaners, and common household materials such as grocery bags or paper towels.

You may be even more surprised to find out that you can use houseplants to help filter out these chemicals, which can lead to a variety of allergic reactions and other medical conditions. Read on to find out the best houseplants for improving your indoor air quality.

Best Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Want to improve your IAQ? Try using introducing these houseplants into your home. They work to filter out toxins and leave your home air cleaner and easier to breathe.

  1. Peace Lily

The Peace Lily (or Spathiphyllum) is not only a beautiful plant, but it can also help to remove airborne volatile organic compounds. This includes formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. The best part about this plant is that it’s easy to care for and does not require direct sunlight.

  1. Flamingo Lily

The flamingo lily (or Anthurium andraeanum) is another beautiful plant that can also help improve your indoor air quality. This plant is effective at removing airborne ammonia, xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde in your home. This plant needs a little more care and attention than some other houseplants and works best in high-humidity environments.

  1. Weeping Fig

The Weeping Fig (or Ficus benjamina) is commonly known as the Ficus tree. This popular houseplant is great at filtering out certain toxins from your home, including airborne formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene. This plant is also a great low-maintenance plant for homeowners that don’t quite have a green thumb.

  1. English Ivy

Hedera helix, better known as English Ivy or European Ivy, is another great houseplant for helping to purify your indoor air. This plant effectively filters benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from your home’s indoor air. What’s more is that this plant has also been known to reduce mold growth in your home, which can impact IAQ. This plant is pretty easy to take care of with generous watering and a little direct sunlight.

  1. Snake Plant

Sansevieria trifasciata is also known as the Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s tongue. This is an evergreen perennial plant that can help improve your indoor air quality by absorbing airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, nitrogen oxide, xylene, and trichloroethylene. Though this plant can endure low amounts of light, it does best in areas with plenty of bright light and requires very little water. You may want to avoid this plant if you have pets as it can be toxic when ingested.

If you’re still concerned about your IAQ, contact the experts at Cardinal Heating & AC. We offer indoor air quality services to homeowners living in the Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, and Redmond areas. Our team can help ensure that your home has proper ventilation and provide ongoing air quality maintenance. Call today: (425) 296-2097.

How Mold Affects the Air You Breathe & What You Can Do About It

Most homeowners are terrified by the thought of having mold growing in their homes. And for good reason! Mold in your home is not only unsightly and unpleasant to smell, but it can also be hazardous to your health and have serious negative impacts on the structural integrity of your home. Mold affects the quality of the air that you and your family breathe in, so it is important to take preventative measures to keep mold from growing in your home.

How to Prevent Mold in Your Home

It is important to understand how mold can affect your home air quality and how to prevent mold in your home in order to keep your family happy and healthy. Fortunately, there are a few measures that you can take to improve air quality, keep moisture from building up, and prevent mold from growing in your home.

How Mold Affects the Air You Breathe

Breathing in mold or mildew can trigger allergy symptoms and asthma attacks, and in some severe cases may even cause allergies or asthma to develop in those who did not have these conditions prior to exposure. These conditions can cause trouble breathing, headaches, fatigue, coughing and sneezing fits, as well as nausea. Mold and mildew in the air can also cause respiratory infections and skin irritation.

Certain types of mold produce mycotoxins, which can suppress immune system health while also potentially causing cancer, liver damage, and damage to the nervous system. Mycotoxins are typically present outside where there is dead plant matter and organic waste, but they can also be present indoors where the home has been damaged by moisture from high humidity levels or leaking pipes.

What You Can Do to Prevent Mold

Since mold needs moisture to grow, the key to mold prevention is monitoring and controlling moisture in your home. Here are some ways you can do just that:

  • Ensure that your home has proper ventilation in your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, and other areas where there are often high moisture levels.
  • Monitor indoor humidity levels, keeping them between 30 to 60 percent.
  • Improve airflow throughout your home by letting fresh air in, using ceiling fans to circulate air in the room, keeping furniture away from the walls, and opening doors to closets and rooms.
  • Check your household plants to ensure that there is no mold growth that may spread to other areas of your home.
  • Clean or repair roof gutters to prevent causing any damage to your roof, which can result in leaks.
  • Dry any wet areas in your home from leaks or flooding as soon as possible.

If you want to improve your air quality and ensure that your home is not a breeding ground for mold, it may be time to call in the HVAC experts. Contact us today to discuss your HVAC options for helping reduce moisture buildup and keep your family safe and healthy by preventing mold growth.

Is Asbestos In Your Home Something You Should Worry About?

Asbestos In Home Duct Systems

Asbestos was a popular construction material due to its fire retardant and insulating properties, but the dangers of this substance weren’t fully understood until recently. Asbestos particles can cause several health problems, including mesothelioma—a condition that causes lung cancer.

Aside from its use as insulation and fireproofing material, asbestos can be found in several other areas of homes, including floor and ceiling tiles, textured paints, and roofing and siding. As a homeowner, you may be wondering if your home poses a health risk for containing any measure of asbestos, especially if you own an older property.

Asbestos’ Effects On The Body

The reason asbestos causes lung problems is the fibers of the substance. When aspirated, these fibers collect in the lungs. Repeated exposure causes these deposits to grow and eventually cause lung inflammation. Over time, this inflammation leads to serious health issues such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.

Asbestosis is a condition characterized by lung inflammation, shortness of breath, severe coughing, and permanent damage to the lungs. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membranes that line the chest and abdomen and is the most common cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Additionally, some studies have linked asbestos exposure to gastrointestinal, colorectal, throat, kidney, esophageal, and gallbladder cancers.

Assess Your Risk of Asbestos in the Home

Homes built before 1980 more than likely contain some amount of asbestos. While this may sound scary, the truth is that the people most at risk for asbestos-related illnesses are those who work with asbestos. Employees of asbestos-producing companies in mines and mills are at high risk for exposure to harmful asbestos particles. Handlers of products and building materials that contain asbestos, such as pipefitters, construction workers, mechanics, and shipbuilders, also risk exposure.

There are millions of homes in the United States that contain some form of asbestos, and almost everyone encounters it at some point. The National Cancer Institute reminds people who worry about asbestos exposure that the only individuals who develop asbestos-related illnesses are those who work with it or are exposed to it on a regular basis.

The most dangerous risk factor of developing an asbestos-related illness is the rate of exposure. A consistent dose of asbestos in regular intervals will undoubtedly have serious ramifications. Personal health also plays a role—smokers and individuals with pre-existing lung disorders or diseases are at an elevated risk for developing serious health issues. Smokers in particular face an elevated risk of developing lung cancer.

What To Do About Asbestos In Your Home

After considering the effects asbestos can have on an individual’s health, you may be concerned if you know that your house was built prior to 1980—or if you know for certain that your home has insulation or duct work that contains asbestos. The most important thing to remember is that these substances can only harm you if you disturb them.

Asbestos is only dangerous once the fibers become airborne. Therefore, try your best not to move or shift any asbestos insulation or similar structures. You can also seek professional assistance to remove and replace the asbestos-containing insulation or ducts or have the areas encapsulated to prevent fibers from escaping into your home.

If you’re unsure about the safety of the asbestos in your home, consult with the professionals at Cardinal Heating & AC, Inc. Reach out to our team for expert advice about the air quality in your home and any renovations you require to ensure your family’s health and safety.

How Extreme Weather Could Be Affecting Your Home’s Air Quality

Extreme weather is becoming more and more normal, from more severe hurricanes to droughts, floods, heat waves, and serious cold spells. No matter where you live, chances are you are experiencing more extreme weather events, and they could be changing the quality of the air you and your family breathe in your home.

Pollen, Mold, Allergens

Changing weather events and an overall warming of the climate is affecting the level of certain allergens in the air. Higher temperatures mean more pollen outdoors and indoors. Certain types of weather also bring more moisture. If you are in a location that is seeing more rain, or even flooding, you may start to see mold growing in your HVAC system and in other locations in your home.

Weatherization Changes Air Quality

As the weather changes, many of us will take steps to weatherize our homes and make them more efficient: more insulation, attempts to seal air leaks, better windows. These steps are great for saving money on energy bills, but they also mean that you get no circulation from outside air. This means that any indoor allergens, mold, dust, even contaminants like radon or carbon monoxide gets trapped in the house with you.

Power Outages and Toxic Air

With extreme weather many of us are experiencing more power outages. More people are buying portable generators, but these produce a lot of carbon monoxide, an odorless toxic gas. Generators are never supposed to be used indoors, but not everyone knows that.

How to Keep Indoor Air Healthy

Extreme weather doesn’t have to reduce the quality of your indoor air or put your or your family at risk of allergies, mold, or toxic gases. There are things you can do to protect your home from extreme weather while keeping your air healthy.

Test Your Air Quality

With just a simple air quality test you can find out if you have any issues going on that need to be remedied to keep your family safe.

Use and Change Filters Regularly

Filters on your furnace and air conditioner are important for taking contaminants out of the air. They need to be changed regularly to ensure that they keep working.

Check for Moisture and Mold

Mold can be a serious health problem, so be aware of anywhere your home might be letting in moisture. Check the basement, foundations, windows, and the roof regularly and take care of any leaks.

Use a Carbon Monoxide Detector

This gas is sinister and deadly. You can’t see it or smell it, so protect your family by using a detector in one or more places throughout your home.

Let our professionals here at Cardinal heating and Air Conditioning help you figure out if your air quality is suffering from severe weather and come up with solutions to keep you and your family healthy.

Benefits of Controlling Indoor Air Quality

The average person spends about 90 percent of their time breathing indoor air, so it is critical to make sure that your indoor air quality (IAQ) is high. Installing an indoor air quality monitor can help to ensure that the air you breathe won’t damage your health or your home, and can even help your HVAC system to work more efficiently.

Factors Contributing to Unhealthy Indoor Air

There are a variety of factors that can lead to poor (IAQ) and the negative consequences that can result from bad indoor air. These factors include:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Airborne chemicals
  • Formaldehyde (CH2O)
  • Poor temperature and humidity control
  • Ozone emissions from photocopiers and printers
  • Large quantities of total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs)
  • Outside pollutants, such as vehicle emissions

All of these IAQ problems can cause short-term discomfort for individuals in the environment, and some have the potential to cause long-term health damage. Poor IAQ can also cause damage to building interiors and furniture, such as cracks in wood flooring.

Health Effects From Poor Air Quality

Exposure to poor air quality can cause short-term symptoms such as upper respiratory congestion, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or skin. Long-term exposure can eventually contribute to the development of very serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer, while acute exposure to pollutants like carbon monoxide can result in death.

Air quality monitoring instruments can detect a large number of compounds that may pose a health risk to building occupants, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, methane, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone. These instruments can also detect unsuitable humidity and temperature levels , which can contribute to occupant discomfort and symptoms.

Good IAQ Can Help Business Productivity

Poor IAQ can be a major concern for businesses. Businesses with poor air quality may encounter a phenomenon known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), in which a large number of people experience serious discomfort related to indoor air quality. SBS can negatively impact the health and comfort of employees, which reduces overall productivity. As a resulting, addressing the issue of poor air quality makes financial as well as ethical sense for business owners.

Using IAQ to Measure HVAC Efficiency

The sensor results from IAQ monitoring systems can provide greater insight into the overall efficiency of your HVAC system. These systems will detect insufficient ventilation, but can also let you know when a building is over-ventilated and producing excessive carbon dioxide emissions. IAQ monitors help to ensure that the right amount of energy is being used in the right areas, and can actually save you money in the long term.

Many people fail to recognize the importance of air quality management. However, the benefits of ensuring that your home or business has good indoor air quality include fewer health risks, improved productivity and greater energy efficiency.

Thank you for reading, and please follow our blog for more information about air quality management and HVAC efficiency.

Why Controlling Dry Air in Your Home is a Good Idea

Have you noticed the air inside your home has become very dry? If so it would not be surprising, since the cold temperatures of winter tend to suck all the moisture out of the surrounding atmosphere. The same problem also occurs in arid climates where rainfall is absent much of the time.

Overly dry air is bothersome and a flat-out pain to deal with. But its actual effects on people, as well as the physical environment, may be worse than you ever noticed, realized or suspected.

Dry Air and You

There are no two ways about it—dry air isn’t good for you. If the air inside your home is excessively dry—and stays that way for an extended period—you will feel its effects whether you make the connection or not.

Dry air can negatively impact your health by:

  • Making you susceptible to viruses, including those that cause colds or influenza.
  • Causing lingering respiratory infections that can develop into pneumonia.
  • Making the symptoms of asthma worse, or possibly even causing asthma in those who never had it before.
  • Drying out your skin so much it may crack or split.
  • Leaving your throat so dry and raw you develop laryngitis.
  • Making your eyes itchy, red and chronically sore.

Frequent static shocks are another result of overly dry air, and believe it or not these snappy electrical discharges are actually capable of shorting out electronic devices. This doesn’t happen often but it does happen on occasion.

Even your house can suffer if the air is too dry. Woodwork of all types can begin to crack and paint can peel off walls when humidity drops to miniscule levels. Dry homes are also cold homes, forcing you to turn up your thermostat (and spend extra money) in conditions that would normally leave you feeling toasty and warm.

The Whole-Home Humidifier Solution

To moisturize arid indoor air you can buy and install a whole-home humidifier, which will do an outstanding job of eliminating your dry air problem.

A whole-home humidifier is a powerful and effective piece of climate management equipment. If you install one it will use your existing ductwork to dispense re-humidified air to every room in the house, until the dryness is gone and your home’s air is as moist as you want it. If you add a digital management system to turn it on and off your whole-home humidifier should hit its desired humidity target every single time, and you can make adjustments as needed.

Buying a whole-home humidifier will require an extra investment, but this will be money well spent if the unpleasant side effects of dry indoor air can be eliminated from your life.

Dry Air is Bad Air

You probably never realized dry indoor air could be responsible for so much trouble. Its effects are often too subtle to notice unless you know what to look for. But now that you do know you don’t have any excuses left to prevent you from taking action.
Dry air can be exiled if you’re willing to take the initiative to make it happen, and if you do we can guarantee you won’t regret it.

Be sure to follow the Cardinal Heating & A/C blog as we study smart strategies for savvy home climate management.

What Is IAQ (Indoor Air Quality)?

Indoor air quality, also known as IAQ, refers to the presence or absence of airborne contaminants inside a structure. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a variety of health problems, including fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating and irritation of the lungs, throat, nose and eyes.

The Environmental Protection Agency has conducted numerous studies regarding indoor air quality in homes and the results are alarming. In-home tests reveal that the average household harbors as much as five times the pollutants found in the air outdoors. Ninety-six percent of all homes contained pollutants responsible for decreased air quality, including pollen, viruses, dust, and harmful gases and chemicals. The potentially harmful chemicals found in a variety of solvents, pesticides, paints, personal care products and cleaning agents also have an effect on IAQ. Inhaling the chemicals found in these products can cause nausea, dizziness, allergic reactions and even cancer.

Formaldehyde is another common contaminant found in homes and office buildings. This chemical is used in the manufacture of particle board, plywood paneling, upholstery and carpets.Exposure to formaldehyde released into the air can cause dizziness, headaches, skin rashes, watery eyes, trouble breathing and coughing.

Biological pollutants spread through a building by heating, ventilation and cooling systems are thought to be a major cause of people missing school or work due to health problems. These pollutants include bacteria, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and molds.

Installing a dehumidifier and improving the air circulation in areas of the home subject to high humidity can prevent mold growth. These areas include basements, kitchens and bathrooms. Emptying the water and regular cleaning of the dehumidifier will prevent mildew growth.

A properly designed, installed and maintained HVAC system can go a long way toward ensuring the indoor air quality of a home, office building, school, or any other structure is good enough to prevent health problems for the building’s occupants. Preventive maintenance is crucial for maintaining indoor air quality and has a positive effect on occupant health while saving the property owner money on unnecessary repairs and premature replacement of equipment.

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IAQ: Facts You Need To Know

In many people’s minds, air pollution is associated with smoke emanating from industrial chimneys. Though this is an evident example, what most don’t know is that the worst air quality they experience is most likely located in their houses. When air becomes trapped due to poor ventilation, it may stagnate to create a toxic cloud in the house. There are other facts that one needs to know about indoor air quality (IAQ).


IAQ is a top Health Hazard

Indoor air quality is ranked as a top 5 environmental hazard to public health. This is because indoor pollutants are typically 2-5 times greater than outdoor pollution levels. In extreme cases, it could even be a hundred times greater. This is attributed to poor ventilation, use of air fresheners and chemical-laden cleaners, and burning toxic candles.


Toxins in Air Fresheners and Furniture

Most air fresheners have been found to contain chemicals that disrupt hormonal functions in young children. Scented candles aren’t any better, as they’re made with paraffin wax which is known to contain carcinogens. Furniture made before 2006 contains toxic chemicals used in flame retardants which could leak into indoor air. Even the replacement chemicals have been found to contain toxins as well. Inhalation of these is usually the primary exposure route.


Schools Have the Worst Quality Air

Such institutions accommodate about 4 times the number of occupants as similar office buildings whose floor space is of a similar size. In such closed spaces, allergens and germs can spread quickly. This is worsened by the fact that children breathe in more air relative to their weight than grown adults.


Poor IAQ Aggravates Asthma

The occurrence of asthma has been on the rise since the early 80’s. This is a huge epidemic which has a disastrous impact on the quality of life. The rise in prevalence can somewhat be attributed to the corresponding dip in indoor air quality.


The Elderly are at a Higher Risk

Such people typically spend most of their days indoors, whether in care centers or their own homes. In some cases, they may spend as much as 20 hours a day. Studies indicate that patients in elderly care centers are exposed to high fungi concentration which negatively affects their respiratory health.


Further Damage

Indoor air pollutants are mostly particulate matter which easily passes into the bloodstream when inhaled. Common symptoms include headaches, fatigue, nasal congestion and nausea. Further problems caused by exposure include lung infections and asthma. Some particles could even cause depression and stroke in adults while children are prone to immune dysfunction and neural distress.


Wood Smoke Slackens Immune Response

Regular inhalation inhibits immune function and activity. While this would be more of a concern for those who use wood as fuel, anyone burning wood indoors needs to be aware of the health risks it poses. The particles found in wood smoke usually collect and gather in dust even after the fire is extinguished.


Improving Indoor Air Quality

Due to the many impurities in indoor spaces, one needs to take measures to purify the indoor air. One needs to improve ventilation, get rid of things containing air contaminants and clean the air using appropriate filters. It’s also advisable to go outdoors often. Follow us for more great articles on heating, air conditioning and home needs.

Does Insulation Really Help Keep Your Home Cool?

During the hottest season of the year, energy bills rise when the HVAC system must work harder to keep the home comfortable. This is particularly the case in homes that feature an ineffective system. Homeowners have numerous opportunities to achieve energy efficiency and comfort in summer months, but insulation is one strategy that is often overlooked. Many homeowners can benefit from understanding the role insulation might play in obtaining affordable comfort.


Barrier to Heat Exchange

Understanding the role of home insulation begins with the principle of heat exchange, in which heat moves from warm spaces to cool spaces. On cold days, the heat tries to move to cool areas outside. On hot days, the heat tries to reach cool places inside the home. To keep a structure cool on summer days, one task is to create a barrier to the transfer of heat. Insulation serves as the critical barrier that prevents this exchange from taking place.


Sufficient Insulation

Something many homeowners discover is that even if a home has insulation, it might not be in sufficient quantities to be effective as a barrier to heat exchanges. If the insulation does prove to be inadequate, adding more is a good way to boost the effectiveness of the HVAC system. If insulation is sufficient but the energy bills are unusually high, an energy audit of the home will help to troubleshoot the performance of the system as a whole.


Energy Audit

An audit of the home can help to pinpoint the causes of HVAC inefficiencies and other factors that cause energy bills to soar. The results may uncover any number of reasons for energy waste and poor performance. Leaky ducts, poor maintenance and insufficient equipment are frequent culprits. Unsealed drafts and faulty thermostats are other possible sources of unsatisfactory performance.

Poor performance is not, however, always the result of a single problem. Sometimes, an audit reveals several issues that contribute to an efficient system and high energy costs. If any of the issues involve home insulation, though, an HVAC professional can provide guidance on correcting that concern. Follow us for more great articles on heating, air conditioning and home needs.

Refrigerant Leaks And Health Issues

Refrigerant is a name for a group of chemicals called CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, meaning that they contain fluorine, chlorine, hydrogen, and carbon. It is mainly used in air conditioning and refrigeration. It absorbs heat, thereby allowing for cool air to circulate throughout the AC’s ductwork. However, discovery of its harmful effects forced manufacturers to develop more effective and safer refrigerant compounds. Homeowners should, therefore, understand the relationship between refrigerant and health, and take the necessary precautionary measures.

The widespread use of Refrigerant, however, raises some serious concerns about exposure to Refrigerant and health. Generally, it comes in the form of colorless, non–flammable gases and liquids, mostly used in air conditioning, refrigeration and the manufacture of fluorocarbon resins and lubricants.

Refrigerant and Health

People who are exposed to Refrigerant should understand that it poses some health risks. Therefore, anyone who is regularly exposed should have regular checkups. This is because Refrigerant can affect the heart. People who have heart problems, in particular, need to be extremely careful because Refrigerant can cause cardiac arrhythmia.

Anyone who is exposed to a high concentration of refrigerant gases can experience loss of concentration and coordination, asphyxia, and dizziness. The gases may also cause dermatitis, skin rashes, and other skin irritations. Fortunately, refrigerant does not pose long–term health problems. It is not a carcinogen, teratogen, or mutagen, and it does not harm the liver.

Exposure on Kids and Pets

Refrigerant is three to four times heavier than air, which means that it settles close to the floor. Therefore, the closer one is to the floor, the more chemical one is likely to inhale. Kids and pets are, therefore, much more exposed to the effects of this chemical. Homeowners who notice a Refrigerant leak should open all doors and windows immediately and use a fan to blow out the chemical. They should also take their kids and pets outside and seek a qualified technician to repair the leak.

Refrigerant is one of the most significant environmental pollutants. Its chemical compounds cause a depletion of the ozone layer, which increases ultraviolet radiation results in serious risk to human health. This is the reason why the government phased out the use of Refrigerant. Follow our blog for more great HVAC information.