Should You Get Your Heating Ducts Cleaned?

A hot air furnace heats and distributes air through its ducting system.The ducts are usually made of sheet metal and are most obvious in your basement, where they hang from the floor joists.The return, or cold air, ducts bring air to the furnace, usually collecting it centrally in the house. The return air trunk duct is the big rectangular duct along the basement ceiling that enters the bottom of the furnace. The supply, or warm air, ducting usually exits from the top of the furnace. It starts with a trunk duct on the basement ceiling.The individual supply ducts, in round or smaller rectangular sheet metal, branch off the trunk duct and go to each room, where they terminate in a floor or wall register. Over time, dust and debris will collect in these ducts, particularly in the return air ducts.You may be wondering whether it would be worthwhile to have these ducts cleaned.

Duct cleaning is a major industry. As a homeowner, you may be regularly solicited to have your heating ducts cleaned on a regular basis. Claims are made that duct cleaning will:

  • provide you with better indoor air quality (or IAQ),
  • reduce the presence of house molds and allergens,
  • get rid of house dust,
  • result in more airflow and better delivery of warm air, and/or
  • reduce energy costs.

If you expect duct cleaning to make these improvements, you may be disappointed. It is difficult to find objective and independent research which substantiates these claims.  You may want to find out more at the CMHC web site

Are your ducts leaking?

Sealed Duct LeaksDuct Sealing

In houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the house. In a typical house, however, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system can be lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. For this reason alone, Gold Seal Homes seals the entire HVAC (heat, ventilation & air conditioning) system.  The result is lower utility bills and a more comfortable house, no matter how the thermostat is set.

If your home was not sealed in this way, How do you know that your home has poorly performing ducts?

  • you have high summer and winter utility bills;
  • you have rooms that are difficult to heat and cool;
  • you have stuffy rooms that never seem to feel comfortable;
  • your ducts are located in an attic, crawl space, or the garage;
  • you find tangled or kinked flexible ducts in your system.

Benefits of Duct Sealing

A duct system that is well-designed and properly sealed can make your home more comfortable, energy-efficient, and safer.

Learn more about the Benefits of Duct Sealing.

Simple Steps to Improving Duct Performance

Because ducts are often concealed in walls, ceiling, attics, and basements, repairing them can be difficult. But there are things that you can do to improve duct performance in your house.

Some homeowners choose to take on duct sealing as a do-it-yourself project. Energy Star has a great brochure on this topic. Start by sealing air leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Never use duct tape, as it is not long-lasting. Also, make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.

Many homeowners choose to work with a professional contractor for duct improvement projects. Most heating and cooling equipment contractors also repair ductwork.

GREEN GAS smells good to me!

Gold Seal Homes is excited to partner once again with Bullfrog Power as a source for our renewable energy needs.  Since 2008, Gold Seal has been purchasing ‘green’ power through Bullfrog, and we have now contracted to purchase renewable natural gas through this ground-breaking company.

According to Gary Fredrich-Dunne (Sales & Marketing Manager at Bullfrog Inc.) “Renewable natural gas is sourced from organic material decomposing in landfills and commercial composting facilities.  As it decomposes, it releases methane (natural gas) as part of the natural carbon cycle.  By capturing this “bio-genic methane” you are using a fuel source that is part of the natural carbon cycle, rather than using conventional natural gas, which releases carbon that has long been sequestered underground.  It is for this reason that renewable natural gas is considered ‘net-zero emissions’.”

You can find more detail on the product and process here, or if you have any questions about it.

How to clean up MOLD on Household surfaces

How to clean up mold problems

“Small areas” of mold can be cleaned with a detergent solution.  Wear a mask, safety goggles and rubber gloves.  Seek professional help if there is a lot of mold or if mold comes back after cleaning.  Bleach is NOT recommended, as the presence of organic (humic) materials, the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water, the surface material and contact time affect the effectiveness of bleach for disinfection. Since these factors are not generally controlled, bleach cannot be relied upon for disinfection. The most compelling reason for advising against bleach is that fumes are harmful but in addition, overuse of bleach will result in increased releases of chlorinated effluents which can be harmful to the environment.

“Small area” clean-up

You can clean up “small areas” of mold (fewer than three patches, each smaller than a square meter) yourself. The minimum protective wear needed are:

  • safety glasses or goggles;
  • a disposable dust mask (3M 8210 or equivalent); and
  • household rubber gloves.

Infants and other family members with asthma, allergies or other health problems should not be in the work area or adjacent room during the cleaning.

Washable surfaces:

Scrub with an unscented detergent solution; then sponge with a clean, wet rag and dry quickly.  Using an unscented detergent will make it easier for you to detect residual moldy odours.

Moldy drywall:

Clean the surface with a damp rag using baking soda or a bit of detergent. Do not allow the drywall to get too wet.  Mold that comes back after cleaning is usually an indication that a source of moisture has not been removed. Seek professional help from a trained Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) investigator. ( Gold Seal Homes recommends Darrel Paul from Qualistat )

“Moderate area” clean-up

  • Clean “moderate areas” of mold, but wear proper protective equipment and follow precautions.
  • Seek professional help if there is a lot of mold or if mold comes back after cleaning.

If you follow the proper procedures and use the proper protective equipment, you can clean up “moderate areas” of mold. “Moderate” means more than 3 patches of mold, each smaller than one square meter, or one or more isolated patches larger than one square meter but smaller than 3 square meters (size of a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood).

Safety precautions

  • Wear a disposable dust mask (for example, 3M 8210 or equivalent), glasses or safety goggles and household rubber gloves.
  • Isolate the area to be cleaned with plastic sheeting, taped to walls and ceiling.
  • Infants and other family members suffering from asthma, allergies or other health problems should not be in the work area or adjacent room during the cleaning.

A small clean up should take minutes (not hours) to finish. When the clean up takes hours to a day to finish, it is suggested that you upgrade to a better filter, such as a half-face respirator with charcoal cartridges. An exhaust fan installed in a window in the room being cleaned would prevent contamination of other areas of the house as well as provide ventilation.

General cleaning

Vacuum surfaces with a vacuum cleaner which has a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter or is externally exhausted. Scrub or brush the moldy area with a mild unscented detergent solution. Rinse by sponging with a clean, wet rag. Repeat. Dry quickly. HEPA vacuum the surfaces that were cleaned as well as surrounding areas.

Cleaning wood surfaces

Vacuum loose mold from wood surfaces using a HEPA or externally exhausted vacuum. Try cleaning the surface of the wood with detergent and water. Rinse with a clean, damp rag and dry quickly. If the staining does not come off, sand and vacuum the surface of the wood with a vacuum/sander combination. It is important to vacuum at the same time to prevent mold spores from being dispersed into the air. Note that wood affected by rot may need to be replaced.

Cleaning concrete surfaces

Vacuum the concrete surfaces to be cleaned with a HEPA or externally exhausted vacuum cleaner. Clean up surfaces with detergent and water. If the surfaces are still visibly moldy, use TSP (trisodium phosphate). Dissolve one cup of TSP in two gallons of warm water. Stir for two minutes. Note: TSP must not be allowed to come in contact with skin or eyes. Saturate the moldy concrete surface with the TSP solution using a sponge or rag. Keep the surface wetted for at least 15 minutes. Rinse the concrete surface twice with clean water. Dry thoroughly, as quickly as possible.

Moldy drywall

The paper facings of gypsum wallboard (drywall) grow mold when they get wet or repeatedly wet and don’t dry quickly. Cleaning with water containing detergent not only add moisture to the paper but also can eventually damage the facing. If the mold is located only on top of the painted surface, remove it by general cleaning (see above). If the mold is underneath the paint, the moldy patch and other moldy material behind it are best cut out and the surrounding areas also cleaned. This should be done by a mold clean-up contractor. New materials may become moldy if the moisture entry has not been stopped. If this is the case, replacement of the materials should be deferred until the source of the moisture is corrected. The affected areas should be temporarily covered with plastic sheeting and sealed at the edges.  Any areas that show new patches of mold should be cleaned promptly.

Article credit: CMHC

MOLD: Residential contruction’s 4 letter word

Moisture that created mold under the insulation was discovered during our friend’s recent renovation.

A friend of ours called me over the weekend after they found mold in the home they have been living in for five years.  She was very concerned for the health of her family, and rightly so.  In past blogs I have covered the topic of moisture on windows and in attics, but what happens if the siding installer has not detailed the windows and door properly when installing flashings and weather seals. It appears that after some hail damage repairs a few years ago, due to improper siding details, moisture has been finding its way into the wall cavity in the basement below a north facing door.

     We talked about the repair process.  Step 1.: Locate the source of the moisture and repair the siding to prevent further moisture infiltration.  Step 2.: Dry up the wall cavity. Step 3.: Clean the area affected by mold.  This is where some care and attention should be paid.  There is a health risk during the clean up process, so I have included a terrific article posted on the CMHC website on the issue of MOLD.

Molds are part of a group of microorganisms called fungi that also include mushrooms and yeasts. Molds are familiar to most people as food spoilers on items such as bread or fruit. Molds are nature’s decomposers in the food chain. If allowed to grow inside your house, mold can be a problem.

Mold Problems

Mold can cause:

  • unsightly stains;
  • damage to paints, wood, drywall, ceiling tiles and fabrics;
  • damage to personal items;
  • allergies; and
  • illness.

Some Symptoms

  • discolouration on surfaces such as walls, ceilings, or furnishings
  • stains on carpets
  • mold on drapes and backs of furniture
  • stains on personal items close to affected areas such as storage boxes and clothing
  • musty smells
  • rotting wood

Prevention

Mold requires high humidity levels to grow. Some molds require condensation to start growing.  To avoid most mold problems, keep materials dry.  If mold is present, clean the affected area as soon as possible, and identify the source of moisture that allowed the mold to grow in that location.

Clean-up Methods

You can clean small areas of mold yourself using an unscented detergent and water. The mold area is considered “small” if there are fewer than three patches, each patch smaller than one (1) square meter. If you have more than three patches or the areas are larger, you need a trained professional to assess your house. You may also need a trained contractor to clean extensive areas of mold.

When cleaning:

  • use household rubber gloves;
  • use a mask, rated N95, capable of filtering fine particles;
  • use protective glasses;
  • rinse well with a clean, wet rag;
  • dry.

Moldy ceiling tiles and carpets should be removed and discarded. Drywall that remains stained after cleaning with detergent and water may need to be removed. Try washing fabrics. If the mold odour or stain persists, discard.  The proper cleaning procedure involves removing the mold. Chemicals, such as bleach and fungicides are not recommended. It is important to remove all mold residues as they can cause allergies or illness.

Window and Door Renovations

Windows and exterior doors are subject to the wear and tear that comes from constant use and exposure to the weather. Over time, weatherstripping, hardware and the door and frame materials can deteriorate or fail. Homeowners can either repair or replace window or door units. Repairs can be inexpensive, but may not give good long-term results. Replacement is generally costly, but will provide cost savings in energy use, make your house more comfortable and add to the resale value.

Common Situations

There are a number of factors to consider before making the decision about whether your windows or doors need to be replaced or whether they can simply be repaired.

Some important areas that you will want to consider include:

  • Style and design — your existing windows and doors may not fit the style of your house or give you the features that you want. There may not be enough glass area to provide adequate natural lighting to the living space.
  • Components and hardware — the components of windows and doors wear out over time. Failed seals on thermal pane window units, poorly operating windows or doors, damaged screens or hardware and air leaks are common problems. Older door and window hardware may not offer much protection against forced entry.
  • Structural problems — there may be structural problems that are affecting the operation of doors and windows. Installation of larger units or units in new locations will probably also require structural changes.
  • Moisture — windows and doors often deteriorate due to moisture problems, which will not necessarily go away if you install new units. In fact, moisture may even get worse, due to reduced air leakage.
  • Heating and ventilation — the glass area of windows and doors accounts for a high degree of heat loss at night or heat gain when the sun is shining. Energy efficient glazing can reduce heat loss. Heating system modifications or some type of shading may be needed to improve comfort near large window areas.

Healthy Housing™

Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier for you, the community and the environment. When assessing your renovation project, be sure to consider the five essentials of Healthy Housing™.

House as a System

A house is much more than just four walls and a roof — it’s an interactive system made up of many components including the basic structure, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, the external environment and the occupants. Each component influences the performance of the entire system. A renovation provides an opportunity to improve how your house performs.

Tighter and more energy efficient windows and doors will reduce the heating load on your house, reduce heating costs and improve occupant comfort. Energy efficient glazing can also reduce condensation problems that damage finishes and lead to mold growth. Increased house airtightness can improve energy efficiency, but may also lead to a greater need for mechanical ventilation. A sufficient air supply may also be needed to prevent combustion appliances from backdrafting.

Avoid Surprises

There are many choices available to homeowners who want to upgrade or make changes to the windows or doors in their homes. Taking the time to examine your needs and the options that are available is the right way to start to plan for your renovation or repair job. Here are some of the likely situations that people encounter.

For more information consult the CMHC website or our partners: All Weather Windows website. & Gienow Windows & Doors.