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Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

Humidifier Cleaning / Getting More Heat to a Second Floor

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am

Q:

Every winter, in an effort to clean my humidifier (AutoFlo), which is attached to my furnace, I encounter a lot of white mineral deposits. This is very difficult to clean, especially the fan portion. Are these deposits dangerous in case they get circulated in the air? What is the usual life of these humidifiers? Perhaps I need a new one. Any suggestions?

A:

You can purchase any one of several humidifier cleaners available at hardware and home centers.

 

All the ones I’ve used contain either hydrochloric acid or phosphoric acid as their main ingredient to cut through and remove the mineral deposits.

Obviously, you should follow the manufacturer’s owner’s guide for cleaning yours or any humidifier. In your case, turn off the water and the humidistat. Open the unit by removing the two screws on the front. You can then lift out the drum and cylinder. If the media pad is heavily corroded with minerals, discard and replace it with a new foam pad. The plastic drum, fan and float assembly can be cleaned with an old 1 to 2-inch paintbrush or plastic brush. The cleaning should be done while you wear a long sleeved shirt, rubber gloves and eye protection. Pour about 2 capfuls of whatever it says on the brand you use in a plastic bucket or laundry tub along with the prescribed amount of warm water (i.e.: 2 capfuls per 1/2 gallon). Allow the solution to work its magic and when your humidifier and parts are clean, rinse them thoroughly. Dispose of the cleaning solution by carefully pouring it down the toilet.

Depending on the hardness of your water, most people can get away with this type of cleaning at the end of the heating season when they turn off the humidifier.

If your water is hard and you get a lot of lime and mineral accumulations, consider adding water treatment products periodically to the inside of your humidifier. They help reduce the lime and scale build-up in the unit.

By the way, if you don’t turn off and clean your humidistat at the end of the heating season you’re looking for trouble.

First, if you have air conditioning, by leaving the humidifier on, you are reducing the efficiency of the air conditioner’s dehumidification. Second, if you don’t turn it off and clean it, the unit will become corroded and useless.

Finally, if neglected, the stagnant water in the reservoir turns into pond scum that is loaded with bacteria that could lead to Legionnaire’s disease.

So you see, it’s important to clean and maintain your humidifier periodically.

A lot of HVAC contractors will try and sell you a new pass-through humidifier. They are healthier since they have no reservoir where water can stand and breed bacteria. There is no reason to replace your system as long as it’s working properly and maintained.

Q:

The second floor of my bungalow is very cold in the winter. My plan is to install a couple of those in-the-ductwork fans to force the air upstairs. What’s your opinion or suggestion?

A:

Your plan, while potentially full of hot air, won’t work. More than likely, the attics above and on the sides of those upstairs rooms need insulation. Inadequate insulation will literally suck any heat right out of the rooms as fast or faster than it can warm the rooms.

The insulation in the attics should be a minimum of R-49, which is usually at least 12-18 inches deep. Another thing to check in the attic is any existing ductwork. The ductwork should also be properly and thoroughly insulated so it won’t lose conditioned air through conduction in the attic before it even gets to the rooms.

I’m not done yet. You should also make sure the upstairs rooms or hallway have enough cold air return ductwork. Inadequate cold air returns could be a factor in not enough heat.

The reason I am cold to your idea of in-duct blower booster fans is that they work great for homes with one room far from the furnace that never gets enough heat. The fan is wired into the furnace blower and when the furnace comes on, the 12-volt booster pulls or re-directs a little more heat from the system to the room that really needs it. In your case, it’s the entire second floor, and if you follow my suggestions, you’ll be cool as a cucumber.

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Attic Mold Problem / Add More Insulation

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2014 at 10:23 am

Q:

I read your article about roof vents. I was planning on buying a house and the inspection showed Cladosporium Mold in the attic area from mold samples taken.  The relocation people are planning to clean up the mold using a remediation company and they advised ventilating the attic. Should I buy this house or not? What is the chance of reoccurrence? Does it come back after cleaning? Please advise me on this.

A:

If the mold is properly removed, cleaned, and/or sealed you should be all right. The key word is “properly”. Properly means “following protocols and thoroughly”. I’ve inspected houses where the workman took short cuts and didn’t remove or seal all the areas and of course the mold started to manifest itself all over the attic.

One of the most common molds is Cladosporium. One place in which this mold can be found is in a place that sustained water damage.  This type of mold can cause allergic and asthmatic symptoms and also some skin and nail infections.

One concern of mine is: has the mold spread down the walls behind the drywall? Was testing done at the completion of the job to verify if the mold was entirely removed? Who did the testing? Was it the same company that did the remediation? If so, that certainly could raise some doubts.

If any insulation was exposed to the mold, was it removed and replaced? If not, the spores could be throughout the insulation and when it gets humid or wet, you’ll experience a déjà vu.

Finally, kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans venting into the attic should be directed to the exterior and make sure you have sufficient ventilation in the attic. It’s a fact that people feel better just venting.

Q:

I live in a 20-year-old Pulte house, and in the attic there is insulation “stuff” that came from a machine. I’m writing in hope of a response, as I’ve found that during the summer and winter, the first floor is always cooler/warmer than the upstairs floor and feel it is due to not enough insulation in the attic. Granted since the heater and AC are in the basement, it is natural for the first floor to be cooler or warmer. I have even closed off and opened vents when needed to accommodate the changes.

With the talk of cost increase with natural gas, I would like to know if putting more insulation in the attic would solve my problem. If you agree, then I would do it myself using the pink bat type insulation. What rating should I use is another question I would like to know, and should I put the paper side on top of the present insulation or have it facing upward toward the roof?

A:

If you’ve never added any insulation, you probably have about R-19. That’s the minimum and generally what builders put in around the time your house was built. The minimum for builders is now R-30. The “R” refers to the insulation’s Resistance to heat and/or cold. The higher the R-value, the more comfortable you will be and the more money you will save.

I’m one of those people who feel the minimum amount should be R-48. I prefer R-60 since utility costs will continue to rise.

Each different type of insulation has its own R-value. For example, it takes only 8-inches of cellulose insulation to give you an additional R-30. Rolls or batts of fiberglass have to be 9-10 inches to equal R-30, but using loose fill fiberglass you’ll need 13 to 14 inches.

If I were you and wanted to do it myself, I’d use 9-inch batts or rolls of un-faced fiberglass. You can easily work with it and don’t need any special equipment. I’d wear a quality respirator, protective goggles, gloves, and a hard hat so you don’t injure yourself with a protruding roofing nail. I would also lay the insulation perpendicular to the joists and butt each section tightly to the adjoining piece of insulation.

Make sure the soffit vents are adequate and not obstructed. You should see light around the edges where the roof boards come down and meet the ceiling. If not, the vents may be inadequate or obstructed.

Check out my website at www.technihouse.com and click on “Insulation – Packing It In” to take you through the process.

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