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Indoor Air Quality 101

There are five basic types of compounds that impact the air quality in our homes: infectious illness, toxic compounds, microbial growth, allergens, and safety gases. Symptoms of these compounds can include: respiratory irritation, infection, congestion, sneezing, coughing, asthma flare ups, illness, fatigue, and much much worse as concentration levels and exposure increase. During colder months these compounds become trapped in the home, worsening our indoor air quality and affecting our health. Fortunately there are many ways to manage these compounds and clean the air we breathe. Air filtration is the first line of defense in improving indoor air quality. Some airborne compounds like radon are extremely small and can pass through traditional filters freely so consider an air filter that is rated to deal with these smaller compounds. 

Ventilating your home is as simple as keeping windows open to circulate indoor and outdoor air, of course we close our windows in the colder months for a reason, it’s cold and losing all that heated air is expensive. The solution, an energy recovery ventilator system or ERV, an ERV vents poor indoor air and draws in fresh outdoor air while keeping your home’s temperature and humidity levels stable. 

Encapsulating your dirt crawl space isolates damp, exposed earth from your home using a durable, reinforced, plastic liner. In addition to preventing mold growth, encapsulated crawl spaces can also provide a clean dry space for extra storage. 

Depressurization is the most effective solution for reducing radon levels in your home, this involves creating a pathway for radon gas to travel away from your living spaces to be vented safely outside, the EPA recommends that homes with radon levels above 4 pCi/L be mitigated, and as the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, all homes should have their radon level tested. 

Another option is a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier can help deal with water vapor and condensation in your basement, reducing musty smells and moisture that mold and dust mites thrive in. A dehumidifier extracts moisture from the surrounding area, and a quality dehumidifier can extract several gallons of moisture from the air each day.

Finally, you can install an indoor air quality unit in your HVAC system. Units like the REME Halo can be installed in your supply air plenum. This unit will positively ionize the fine particles that pass through your air filter causing them to stick to one another, making them large enough to get caught in the filter on the next pass, or to fall to the floor so they can be swept or vacuumed up. These units also have a UV light that kills algae, mold, viruses, and bacteria in the air. Lastly, it produces H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) to sanitize the air. H2O2 is non-toxic and is just as effective at sanitizing the air as ozone (O3) which is known to be toxic. 

The best option is to call an HVAC professional to come assess your home, discuss your current issues, and design a solution that fits your needs best.

Ever wonder how to change the air filter in your HVAC system? Check out our video here.

Or click here to learn more about how your AC works.

How Air Conditioning Works: 11 Things You Need To Know

Have you ever thought to yourself “how do air conditioners work?” Well, you’re not the only one. So today I’ll tell you the eleven things you need to know about how an air conditioner works. Whether you’re a new homeowner, or you’ve been in your home for years, the more you understand about how an air conditioner works the better off you’ll be. We’ve broken your air conditioning down into three main parts: the outdoor unit also known as the condensing unit, the indoor unit (the furnace if it is a gas system, or the air handler if its electric heat or a heat pump) and the living space. Even though looks and styles differ between brands and models, this is more or less how your system will look and basically how an air conditioner works to cool your home. 

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive technical guide to go over all the ins and outs and intricate components of how your air conditioner system works but rather an easy to understand guide for the average person. Now at the outdoor unit you have the fan, condenser coil, compressor, and refrigerant. The indoor unit has a blower motor, evaporator coils, a circuit board and the filter. In the living space you’ll find the thermostat, supply vents and return air vents. So how do air conditioners work? Well there’s a lot of moving parts and pieces, even more than we’ve got time to explain but they all have to be working together in order to get cool air in your home. 

It all starts when the temperature in the room rises, the thermostat sends a signal to the circuit board calling for cold air, the circuit board then turns on the blower motor in the house while turning the compressor and fan on outside, the compressor acts like a pump sending the refrigerant back and forth from the outside condensing coil to the evaporator coils inside, back and forth, back and forth, each time helping to remove warm moist air from the house. Meanwhile air is circulating in the house. The hot air in the room is drawn through the return air vents and blown across the evaporator coils, pay attention because here’s an important step in how an air conditioner works, cold refrigerant is being pumped through lots of little tubes woven through the evaporator coils, remember that compressor outside? As hot air from the house is blown across the evaporator coils the heat and moisture are removed and what you’re left with is cold air. The cold air is blown through the ductwork that runs throughout the house and comes out the supply vents, the air warms up and is drawn back in through the return air vents and the process is repeated until the room is cold enough that the thermostat sends a signal to stop, at least until the room heats up again, and that’s how an air conditioner works.

 Now these eleven things are designed to work together and if even one of them stops working you could experience a variety of problems the end result usually being no cold air and nobody wants that in the middle of summer. To avoid unexpected breakdowns there’s some simple maintenance you can do on your own to keep your air conditioner running as smoothly as possible all summer long. We will discuss maintenance in a future post. 

For more info on residential HVAC check out our video on residential split systems here: https://youtu.be/gM18vFd2I6o

Why Is My Air Conditioner Repair So Expensive?

“I can buy this capacitor on Amazon for $25, but your fee to change it is $185. Why is that?”

We hear this type of objection all the time from homeowners. They don’t understand why we charge what we do when they found a similar part online for so cheap. They tend to think that heating and air conditioning is just over-inflated pricing to gouge the homeowner. I’d like to resolve this misunderstanding here and now.

First, we aren’t part changers. You, as a homeowner, aren’t paying for a part delivery service, you’re paying for a professional diagnostic, repair, and warranty…in essence, you’re paying for peace of mind that your system will work when we leave and your comfort will be restored. 

But this isn’t what determines our pricing. Our pricing is based on several factors, all of which are required for that repair to restore your comfort and peace of mind. Let me break it down for you.

First, you’re paying for the tech, their time, and the vehicle and fuel to get to your location. A qualified and experienced tech (the kind that gives consistent, reliable service to homeowners like yourself) costs at least $50/hr. Then there is the vehicle, insurance, and fuel to get to your location. 

After that, you’re paying for the training we invested into the tech so they can give you the best service possible. Good companies spend money monthly, if not weekly, on training. 

After that you are paying for the part. Rest assured, it costs more than the cheap Chinese version you found on Amazon. Quality parts cost more because the companies that make and sell them back them up with warranties and guarantees, which is why we buy them and not the cheap knock-offs. 

Then, you pay for the full diagnostic, which is the deep dive. Not just looking for what has failed, but asking why it failed. For example, your capacitor failed, which has caused your AC to break down, but why has it failed? If we just swap it out for another one without resolving the underlying issue then the new one will fail as well. 

After that you are paying for our warranty. Every part or service we offer comes with at least a 1-year warranty, whether the manufacturer offers one or not. If it breaks again we replace it at no cost to you, part or labor. 

Next, we charge in order to keep the light’s on. Overhead for an HVAC business includes state licensing, bonding and business insurance (to protect you), and a small percentage for marketing to make sure we continue to have clients to serve. All of which is necessary to run a business and which gets spread around to all customers as a percentage of each job. 

Finally, we budget for a profit. In the HVAC industry this usually runs around 8-10% of gross revenue. This is equal to about $18 of that $185 capacitor from our original example. 

So when we break it down (from a 40,000 foot view) your pricing is based on the costs associated with the tech, vehicle, time, training, part, warranty, overhead, and net profit. We don’t just pull numbers out of the air, and we definitely don’t gouge homeowners, that’s not good business and doesn’t serve anyone.  

But as I said at the beginning of this post, don’t get caught up in the minutia. What you are paying for is the peace of mind that your system has been expertly repaired, the root issue solved, and your comfort restored. 

The backend of our pricing is quite complicated, books have been written on how to do it correctly, but you should know, everything we do is for your comfort and security, and at Prestige Air you’re paying market value, if not less, for a service whose quality far exceeds that of the market.