Tips For Improving Natural Ventilation in Your Home

A Woman stays warm and enjoys a cup of cocoa in her cozy house

Good Airflow and Better Indoor Air Quality

Natural ventilation plays an important role in helping to keep your home fresh, healthy and clean. Simply stated, natural ventilation is created when fresh outdoor air is allowed to enter living spaces and flow freely. Natural ventilation does not require an air-conditioning unit or fans. Sometimes referred to as passive cooling, this kind of ventilation is completely free and highly effective in keeping any home looking and smelling fresh. Here are a few easy ways to improve natural ventilation in your existing home or even if you plan on building a new home.

Improved Air Movement

For example, choosing furnishings that are made of breathable materials such as wicker or bamboo can help to encourage improved air movement throughout your home. The very nature of this type of furniture allows for good airflow thanks to minimal heat retention and an overall airy construction. While this kind of furniture is frequently used outdoors it can easily be used indoors to create a unique and inviting look while improving overall interior airflow.

Improve Indoors Air Quality

Equally important is to get into the habit of opening windows frequently especially when the weather is nice. Opening windows is a great way to save energy used by electric fans and other types of air conditioning or cooling systems in your home. Keep in mind the fresh airflow can actually substantially improve indoor air quality. Those building a new home will find that proper window orientation can easily improve cross ventilation. This can be as simple as placing windows on north or south facing sides of the home. Smart design when building a home can greatly increase good airflow in all interior spaces.

Design of the Structure

Another great way of improving airflow when considering the design of a new home is to include transitional spaces throughout the design of the structure. This can include adding atriums, courts, balconies, patios and other types of open outdoor spaces that will help to encourage outdoor living and better airflow. Keep in mind that the advantages of maximizing natural ventilation cannot be overstated. Improved indoor air quality, reduced energy usage and a better overall indoor living experience are just some of the benefits of getting it right when it comes to natural ventilation in your residential home. Contact Alpine Heating and Cooling today for the best in Burlington WA HVAC services that get results.

How to Care For Your Residential HVAC System

Heating and Air ConditioningWhile nothing compares to having your HVAC system maintained by a professional HVAC technician, there are some things, you, the homeowner can do between check-ups to keep your system running at peak performance. Best of all, regular HVAC care and maintenance will improve efficiency and even lower energy costs. One example of a great way to keep your system running at its best is to change filters frequently. Remember that a dirty filter will restrict airflow causing a system to work harder.

Check Refrigerant Lines

A clogged filter will also have a direct impact on indoor air quality. Plan to change the filter on your HVAC system every 90 days to gain maximum benefit. At the very least it is a good idea to check filter condition on a monthly basis and change as necessary. Equally important is to check refrigerant lines that run into your home. Look for frost accumulation and any possible leaks. If a leak is detected it is important to call in a qualified Burlington WA HVAC technician as soon as possible.

Keep the Entire Interior of Your Home Clean

Cleaning a system often is also a great way to improve efficiency and to extend the life of that system. In fact, one of the best ways to keep a residential HVAC system in top condition is to simply keep the entire interior of your home clean. A clean home that is free of dust and dirt will result in a cleaner HVAC system. Clean floors and curtains often and especially vents and heat registers. The air handling unit and the outdoor compressor unit should also be the targets of regular and frequent cleaning.

Quick Fix When Dealing with Mold

Finally, mold is a serious issue and must be addressed as soon as discovered. Keep in mind that a mold problem that goes unmanaged can quickly become a major issue for homeowners. Mold spores can spread very quickly and can be transported via airflow through the HVAC system. If you suspect mold in your home have a professional diagnose the problem and take corrective action as soon as possible. A quick fix when dealing with mold is to use household bleach to stop growth until a professional is able to deal with the problem. Contact Alpine Heating & Cooling today for the best in Bellingham HVAC services.

American Standard Heat Pump

American Standard Heat Pump

Saving money is more important today than it has ever been in the past. This is especially true when it comes to improving the efficiency of an existing home heating or cooling system. First it is important to understand that most heating and cooling systems are not created the same. Different systems will produce different results and can have varying levels of efficiency. Simply stated, always make a smart decision when installing an HVAC system in your home as a way to keep utility bills as low as possible without sacrificing comfort.

Heating and Cooling Costs

It is important to note that in most typical residential homes, heating and cooling costs can account for almost half of a total monthly energy bill. Those with units that are older than 10 years old should consider replacing them with an Energy Star compliant system. This simple money saving strategy alone can save a homeowner upwards of 30% or more on annual heating and cooling costs. For the absolute best in seasonal energy efficiency, few other types of HVAC systems can compare ones that are fully Energy Star compliant.

Replacing Equipment

When it comes to replacing a central heating or cooling system here are a few other useful money saving tips worth considering. For example, anytime equipment requires frequent and costly repairs or energy bills are steadily on the rise it may be time to replace your existing system. In addition, when replacing equipment always select energy-efficient systems that meet smart energy saver standard programs or that offer rebate programs or other standard rebates. Many homeowners are surprised to find that this can help offset the cost of replacing an entire HVAC system. While high-efficiency systems can be more expensive initially, the cost will almost always be offset and paid back over time in the form of lower annual energy costs.

Annual Inspections

Finally, regular maintenance can be extremely helpful in preventing future heating and cooling system related problems. Work with an experienced and knowledgeable team of professional HVAC technicians to ensure that your system is properly maintained year-round. Having annual inspections of your system and occasional cleanings can ensure that it lasts longer and performs better. Springtime is the perfect time to check your heating system for possible failure. Contact Alpine Heating And Cooling today to learn more about Mount Vernon Washington heating and cooling services that get results.

Save Energy With These Simple HVAC Tips

skagit_anacortes_mount_vernon_burlington_wa_hvac_heating_air_condition

Even with the summer coming to a close in Skagit County, it is never too late to save money on energy through better HVAC operation. Here are a few simple yet important tips that will save you money on your utility bill without the need to sacrifice comfort. For example, one of the easiest ways to enjoy greater levels of efficiency with your HVAC system is to replace an old outdated air conditioning unit with a newer more efficient model.

Eventually Pay For Itself in Energy-Savings

This is especially true if an older unit has not been maintained in the right way. Consider investing in a new model that will greatly improve efficiency and lower energy bills each month. While initial replacement costs may deter your desire to upgrade to a newer system, in the long run the unit will eventually pay for itself through real energy-savings. When considering a new air conditioning unit only choose one that has the Energy Star label. An Energy Star HVAC unit consumes up to 50% less energy than a unit that is not Energy Star compliant.

Skagit County HVAC Services

Equally important is to change AC or furnace filters frequently. Getting into the habit of changing air filters on a monthly basis can ultimately result in more efficient operation and better system performance overall. Air filters that are dirty or clogged can result in a disruption of airflow and even lead to health related problems. Most importantly, dirty air filters force an HVAC system to work harder. This ultimately can result in a unit wearing out much sooner than would otherwise be the case. Another great way of saving energy is to invest in a programmable thermostat.

Today’s Latest Digital Programmable Thermostats

A thermostat that is fully programmable allows you to more effectively control your HVAC system even when not at home. This type of thermostat can be programmed to fit your schedule and improves efficiency ultimately saving money on energy bills. Exact temperatures can be set while targeting specific rooms for temperature control is even possible when using today’s latest digital programmable thermostats. Finally, have your unit inspected annually by a trained professional as a way to detect problems before they become more costly. Contact Alpine Heating and Cooling today to learn more about Burlington Washington HVAC system maintenance and system care services.

Tips For Reducing Allergens In Your HVAC System

skagit_anacortes_mount_vernon_burlington_wa_hvac_heating_air_condition

Allergens typically cause serious health problems for millions of people each year and frequently result in seasonal allergy conditions. For example, airborne particles such as dust mites and pet dander as well as mold and other particulates can make it difficult to breathe and may result in sneezing and coughing as well as a runny nose and red eyes. The good news is that there are ways to address the issue of allergens in a residential HVAC system.

Using The Right Type of HVAC System Filter

Here are a few ways to properly care for an HVAC system in order to remove allergens and keep air clean and healthy. For example, using the right type of HVAC system filter can make a big difference. In fact, the right type of furnace or AC filter is one of the first lines of defense against poor air quality in most residential homes. When selecting a filter choose one that has at least a MERV 8 rating. This type of filter will in essence be more effective at trapping microscopic particles.

Mt. Vernon Washington HVAC Services

When choosing the right type of filter is combined with the frequent replacement of filters, the end result is cleaner air and better health. Equally important is to remove any debris near the outdoor portion of your HVAC unit. A typical AC system draws air from the outside the home. This air is eventually circulated throughout the home’s interior. As such it is important to keep this area outside clean and free of debris. Regularly inspecting an outdoor unit for surrounding debris can greatly improve efficiency and even lower energy costs. Finally, keeping air-conditioning registers clean is another great way to reduce allergens in your home.

Particulates That Circulate Throughout Your Living Environment

When dusting your home it is important to consider first dusting the returns and registers of your HVAC system. Follow this by dusting the rest of the home as a way to reduce the amount of airborne particulates that circulate throughout the living environment. One of the best ways to dust a home is to make use of the damp rag. This helps to reduce the amount of dust and even dust mites that could be sent airborne by using a dry dust cloth. Contact Alpine Heating and Cooling today for the best in Mount Vernon Washington HVAC system services and care.

Furnace Maintenance…in the Summer?

Summertime in the Skagit Valley

Life doesn’t get much better than this. There is so much to do here in the summer, like the Skagit County Fair in August. The temperatures and humidity are usually in the comfort range. For the times they aren’t, many of us have air conditioning to turn to. With so much to do in the summer, and no cold days or nights, it’s easy to forget about furnace maintenance. Remember, though, the fall and winter will come…

At the time of this writing, late July, it’s as hot as it gets here in the Skagit Valley of Western Washington state. Those of us with air conditioning are probably enjoying it for at least a couple hours most days. If you haven’t had an HVAC professional out since last fall, this is a good time. One service visit can cover both air conditioning and heating maintenance. Therefore, a summer furnace maintenance from Alpine Heating and Cooling can stretch your HVAC maintenance dollar.

HVAC Furnace Maintenance

While it may seem silly to have your furnace maintenance done in the summer, there are several compelling reasons. While we’re there, we can make sure your AC is running at top efficiency, saving you money all summer, and Alpine also has the most flexible scheduling right now.

Don’t wait to schedule furnace maintenance until everyone cranks up their heating system at once in the fall. You might find yourself in a long waiting line to get a technician out to your house.

What Does a Summer Furnace Maintenance Include?

For a comprehensive, point-by-point list of what we do when we perform a furnace maintenance, please refer to our Annual Service page. For a more general overview, please read on. When it’s running smoothly, it might seem like there’s not much going on in your heating system; However, today’s carefully engineered HVAC systems allow numerous adjustments that can improve efficiency, function, and safety. Filters, safety equipment, feedback systems, and more can all be checked and brought into spec.

Visual Inspection of the HVAC System

First, we’ll check over the unit for broken, missing, or incorrect parts, substandard installation, obvious leaks, and code and safety issues. It is astonishing, the number of HVAC systems we see that include massive efficiency and safety problems (often easy to resolve) resulting from poor quality installations. Consequently, we always recommend checking the basics first.

corroded evaporator coils in an HVAC unit

It’s a Good Idea to have a Look Inside your HVAC Unit Regularly!

Clean the HVAC Unit and Change the Filter(s)

Moving from winter into summer is an important time to check the cleanliness of your HVAC unit. After a long winter of closed windows, elevated indoor humidity, and poor ventilation and indoor air quality, your system’s controls, filter(s), and ducting can be layered with dust and debris. Dust buildup on electronic components can cause overheating and premature failure. Plugged filters overwork fans and significantly reduce air movement while providing a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

Depending on your filter’s MERV rating, filters should be changed not less than every six months. A clean furnace filter is inexpensive insurance against poor performance, premature failure, and poor air quality in your home.

Electrical Checks

Checking the safety and integrity of the electrical supply to and throughout your HVAC unit is important. If the supply is inadequate or if safety cutoff equipment, like breakers and fuses, is missing or improperly sized, damage to your HVAC system or even catastrophic failure resulting in fire is possible. Rather than wonder, it’s best to know.

electrical check on an HVAC unit

Summer Is a Great Time to Upgrade Your Furnace

If you’ve been considering upgrading to a more efficient unit, summertime is ideal. The leaps in efficiency and reliability in recent years are incredible. You won’t have to shiver through even one cold night without heat, and you avoid the inconvenience and expense of a system failure in winter.

If your system is old and inefficient, call for a free estimate to replace it. We can even estimate the payback time based on the fuel savings you’re going to enjoy.

nice clean HVAC install

DIY or Call a Professional?

As homeowners, it’s important to many of us to maintain a level of self-reliance. Changing the filter in your HVAC system or installing a carbon monoxide detector are good for homeowners. Turning off the pilot light in your furnace for the summer is useful and safe. We all need to know our limits, so when one of Alpine’s service trucks needs maintenance, we’re not pulling out the furnace tools to give it a shot. So, we head to a professional mechanic!

Not everyone is or even can be an expert on how to maintain their HVAC system. If you are unsure if your system is in good condition or you aren’t trained, call a professional. Alpine Heating and Cooling is fully licensed, insured, and bonded. We have years of experience to keep your HVAC system running right, and we want customers for life. We will work hard to earn your trust.

Call Alpine Heating and Cooling in Burlington, Washington at 360-755-5146 360-293-6210 for a free consultation over the phone or to schedule a furnace maintenance, HVAC repair, or upgrade. We can’t wait to help you!

alpine heating and cooling service vans

When You See This, You’re In Good Hands

Black Mold Problems in Western Washington Homes

black mold growing in the corner of a house

Black Mold Has Significant Negative Health Implications

While the term “toxic mold” isn’t exactly accurate, many molds, including so-called “black mold,” (Stachybotrys spp.) produce toxins that negatively impact human health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.

Molds grow from spores, which are ubiquitous in our indoor and outdoor environments and become active when conditions are right. Persistent moisture is the biggest factor that causes mold to grow and produce more spores and harmful toxins. Since the proliferation of Stachybotrys depends so strongly on moisture, the best place to begin is to figure out where excess moisture in our homes comes from and how we can mitigate its accumulation.

Where Does Problem Moisture Come From?

Any water-using appliance or fixture, especially ones using or producing hot water, are strong sources of indoor moisture.

  • Showers (run the fan!)
  • Washing machines
  • Dishwashers
  • Sinks and tubs
  • Unvented combustion sources (gas stoves and space heaters, typically)
  • Steam irons

Cooking, too, releases moisture into the air, as does human respiration (moisture is expelled from the lungs and through the skin). When you go outside on a cold day and “see your breath,” you are actually seeing the moisture you exhale every time your lungs fill and empty. If you and your whole family are snug in your warm house with the windows and doors shut all winter, you can see how that might become a problem!

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies eleven common sources of moisture-related issues in buildings (see the entire list here on page 54). A complete discussion of them all is beyond the scope of this article, but we will touch on those related to heating and cooling and how they can be mitigated.

The following are excerpted from that list:

  • Plumbing leaks and spills, perhaps resulting from improper design, installation,
    operation or maintenance (e.g. failure to inspect and repair plumbing
    leaks)
  • Infiltration of warm, moist outside air through cracks and holes in the enclosure
    during warm, humid weather – which can cause condensation on materials
    that are cooler, because they are part of the air-conditioning system – have
    been cooled by air-conditioned indoor air or are in cool basements or crawl
    spaces
  • Exfiltration of warm, moist indoor air through cracks and holes in the enclosure
    during cold weather, which can cause condensation in wall and ceiling
    cavities and attic spaces
  • Intentional or accidental vapor barriers in the wrong place, which can lead to
    condensation in the building enclosure
  • Unvented or poorly vented sources, such as swimming pools, spas, aquariums,
    dishwashers, combustion devices, kitchens and baths, from which water
    may condense in the building enclosure or, if indoor humidity levels are high
    enough, on materials in the space itself (e.g. ceilings, walls, furniture, cold water
    pipes or air-conditioning air supply diffusers)
  • Insufficient dehumidification by HVAC systems,
    which may result in levels of interior humidity that are high enough to
    cause mould to grow on furniture, walls, ceilings or air-conditioning supply
    diffusers
  • Poor condensate drainage due to heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
    system deficiencies; condensation from cooling coils may overflow drain pans
    or leak from condensate drain lines

Sources of Excess Moisture Vary by Season

In Skagit county, we have four wonderful seasons. Each is defined by a typical air humidity level and temperature range. Our climate determines how we condition our spaces for both our comfort and health in each season. The winter is typically cold and moist, with temperate summers that can vary from dry to humid depending on the prevailing weather pattern.

Many of the conditions experienced in Skagit county can quickly cause an excess of moisture and mold buildup in the home. Here are some tips to avoid mold buildup.

During (or before!) the heating season:

During the cooling season:

  • Use a standalone dehumidifier when indoor humidity exceeds 50%
  • Ensure careful insulation and encapsulation of cooling lines where they pass through building materials
  • Properly installed and intact (functioning) vapor barrier
  • Maintain the temperature in a small range rather than large warming and cooling cycles
  • Keep condensate drains clear – make sure condensate goes to a sewer drain or outside and away from the building and foundation
  • Use a toilet tank insulator kit or plumb warm water (with a mixing valve) to your toilet tank

All seasons:

  • Avoid large swings in indoor temperature that alter the ability of indoor air to hold moisture
  • Keep indoor humidity under 50% (use an indoor humidity meter (like this one, under $10) to monitor it
  • Make sure that you home has good overall insulation
  • Be sure you have a properly designed, installed, and intact vapor barrier
  • Insulate all exposed or uninsulated cold water pipes – condensation or freeze (and subsequent leak) risk

I’m Feeling Overwhelmed! Help!

This (partial) list of ways that moisture can build up and contribute to harmful black mold growth can be a bit daunting. Sometimes, I feel the same way when I’m struggling with my computer and it just won’t do what I need it to do! I have found the solution, and I think it will help you, too: call a professional.

Alpine Heating and Cooling is not a mold remediation business, but we can come out and take a look at your heating and air conditioning equipment, which is a common source of moisture problems. We’ll make sure it’s properly installed, functioning at top efficiency, and that drains are clear, and lines are insulated. You’ll be ready for whatever mother nature throws at us here in Skagit county.

Give us call or send us an email – we’d love to hear from you.


For even more reading, check out this fantastic publication from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension called, “Winter Home Moisture Problems.”