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Whenever your home is closed up in the winter and the heat is on, or in the summer when the air conditioning is cranking, it is vital to ensure that the air circulating in your home is of the highest quality. Dust, pet hair and bacteria circulating through your home and air ducts contribute to respiratory problems for everyone, especially those with allergies or asthma.
One of the easiest ways to improve your indoor air quality when running the furnace or AC is by changing your furnace filter on a monthly basis with filters that are rated on what is called a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) standard. A good-quality furnace filter is rated at MERV 8 or higher.
While your furnace filter is the first line of defense when it comes to the quality of the air circulating in your home, the next thing you should consider is getting your air-ducts cleaned every seven years by a certified professional who is a member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). Not only can it improve the quality of the air circulating in your home, it can help save energy.
"Even a small amount of dust in the air ducts can reduce the efficiency of your furnace or air conditioner by as much as 25 percent," said Ed Irvin, the manager of indoor air quality at Flame Heating Cooling Electrical, (888) 234-2340, www.flamefurnace.com.
Irvin said the most effective way to clean air ducts is to first insert a rotary brush into the ducts to break up the dust and debris and then using an air snake to flush the dust toward the vacuum hose. He also said today's professionals' use a digital camera inserted into the ducts to show the homeowner before and after photos to see the difference.
"People are always amazed when they see how much dust and debris was in their ducts before we clean them," Irvin said.
Irvin said depending on the size of the home, duct cleaning can range from $600 to as much as $1,200. In addition to Flame Heating, Cooling and Electrical, other NADCA certified duct-cleaning companies in the area include Dalton Environmental, (800) 675-2298; Dusty Ducts, (313) 381-7801; and Safety King, (800) AIR-DUCT.
While changing your furnace filter regularly and getting your ducts cleaned will help improve the quality of the air circulating through your air ducts, many people are also interested in eliminating the bacteria and other containments in the home's air system.
Irvin said one way to do that is to have an air-purification system installed in the air supply duct on your furnace.
Two air-purification products Irvin recommends include the Guardian Air HVAC Cell Advanced Oxidation System from RGF, (800) 842-7771, www.rgf.com, or the Perfect Air Purifier from Bryant, 800-428-4326, www.bryant.com.
Both of these units use an oxidation process to capture and kill viruses, bacteria, mold spores and other allergens in the air supply duct on your furnace before the air is circulated into the home. Irvin said these systems range from $1,600 to $2,000 installed.
While whole-house purification systems provide great indoor air-quality benefits, the cost of having it installed may be prohibitive. A do-it-yourself option from Swordfish, www.swordfishuv.com, (866) 807-8049, installs to your duct work in less than 15 minutes.
Another option from Swordfish if you live in an apartment, a home without forced air heat, or if you just want to purify the air in one room or a small area is the Swordfish UV Room Purifier, www.swordfishuv.com, (866) 807-8049, available for $159.99 at ACE Hardware stores.
The Swordfish attacks the DNA structure of a micro-organism and kills the bacteria that can cause viruses rather than just trapping or filtering it.
While cleaning, filtering and purifying your ducts and air circulation systems will instantly improve your indoor air quality, don't forget about the importance of having the right level of humidity in your home, especially in the winter.
Extremely dry air in a home during the winter can also contribute to serious respiratory problems. So make sure your furnace humidifier is working properly and replace the drum, pad or sponge on your humidifier to make sure that humidified air being pumped through your air ducts is clean.
You can search my website, www.masterhandyman.com, for lots of articles on humidity and humidifiers.
Follow these tips and product suggestions, and you'll breathe easier in your home.
If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege personally, call his on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The "Handyman Show" can be heard on more than 130 radio stations nationwide.
Note: This article was accurate at the date of publication. However, information contained in it may have changed.
If you plan to use the information contained herein for any purpose, verification of its continued accuracy is your responsibility.