Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Is the Code Enough? Part 1

There is a commonly used four-letter word in the building industry that typically elicits a range of emotions – code. Building codes are good things. They ensure our homes are built to a standard that will keep us safe and provide a good living environment. For the most part, just using common sense and proper building techniques will meet a lot of the building codes. But, are the codes good enough? Over the course of the next few blogs we are going to take a look at a few specific areas of the home and some of the general ventilation building codes that apply to them.

At the time of this blog, there is a large company using the slogan “just okay is not okay”. We can have this same approach when it comes to code compliance. In general building codes are a minimum standard but sometime we should be looking closer at what that minimum means for our standard of living. Let's take a look at typical exhaust fans. There are a lot of codes across the country in regards to bathroom ventilation. Some codes just say you need a window in the bathroom and you are good. If this is the code in your area, we would highly recommend exceeding the code. In earlier blogs we have gone into detail as to why you need an exhaust fan in your bathroom so we are not going to say much in this blog. Most of the codes will call for an exhaust fan to be installed in the bathroom. This is a good thing, sort of. Something is better than nothing, but it is conceivable that you can meet code but not be effectively ventilating your bathroom.

Here is the scenario. You have a 10ft. x 10ft. bathroom. That is a total of 100 square feet. The minimum sized exhaust fan you will need is 100 CFM (cubic feet per minute). That should meet your building codes, but will it be effective? If you live alone in a mild climate and take short showers, it probably will be very effective. If there are 4 people sharing the same bathroom, who all take hot showers, 100 CFM might not get the job done. Going up an extra 10-50 CFM could be the difference between effectively removing the moisture from the bathroom or not.

Most people do not spend time thinking about their exhaust fan (it’s okay, we don’t take it personally). The fact of the matter is that your exhaust fan is something that is or should be used on a daily basis so it stands to reason it should be effective. Before we go any further we will come right out and say it – yes, generally exceeding the minimum requirements will mean a more expensive exhaust fan. Let's put that into context however. Let's say you need to spend an extra $50 to upgrade your exhaust fan if you are building a new home. The average cost of a new home in 2019 was around $300,000 (varies depending on what source you use). When you add $50 or even $100 to a $300,000 home, it seems like a fairly easy choice.

Okay, what do you get for that extra $50 to $100? We already talked about more effective ventilation depending on your living style but there is also a comfort level to it. Upgrading your ventilation usually includes lowering the sound level and even the power consumption. Meeting the minimum code might include a fan that you will definitely hear running. Exceeding the code opens up options for fans that you can barely hear running.
Building codes are in place to ensure safety and health and we are very thankful that we have men and women working very hard to keep up with them and pushing the industry forward. The next time you hear the phrase “meets code” just stop and think  - is meeting the code all I really want to do? For more information about Air King exhaust fans visit www.airkinglimited.com.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Its Show Time - 2020 International Builders Show

What do you call it when nearly 70,000 of your friends get together for a few days? The 2020 International Builders’ Show. Air King just returned from the International Builders’ Show held in Las Vegas, NV. The show is the largest building industry show in the United States and draws builders, contractors, designers, architects and more from across the globe. Over 1,400 companies attend, showcasing the latest and greatest in the building industry.

In addition to the exhibits inside the convention center, there is an entire village of show homes built in the parking lot. And if that wasn’t enough, the show offered tours of offsite homes including The New American Remodel Home, featuring Air King ventilation products.

With a constant flow of visitors through the Air King booth, the three-day show seemed like it was over in a blink of an eye. Air King featured a Total Home Solution for indoor air quality and demonstrated how placement and usage of ventilation fans can greatly affect IAQ.

Although the show is only open to building professionals, it is truly a spectacle that has something for everyone. Need a new door? How about new cabinets? Want to spruce up that deck – it’s all there in one place. Oh yeah, don’t forget about your ventilation and fresh air needs!

With the 2020 International Builders’ show in the rear view mirror, Air King looks forward to the 2021 show that will be in Orlando, FL. If you are in the building industry and can make it to Orlando, it will definitely be worth the trip.

To learn more about the 2020 Builders’ Show visit www.buildersshow.com

To learn more about The New American Remodel Home visit www.tnarh.com

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Code Game

Across the country builders, contractors, and home improvements professionals have a challenge they have to meet on projects – code compliance.

Let's start with the basics – What is a Code when it refers to the building industry? A code is a set of regulations to ensure items such as the safety of the building, energy efficiency, air quality, comfort or more. A code will have minimum standards that must be met to pass an inspection. There are national codes and local codes and they are just like they sound. National codes must be met across the United States while local codes are specific to a region. For instance, a home built in Florida will have specific codes to prevent damage from hurricanes. A home in say Iowa will not have those same codes as they are a bit less likely to experience a hurricane (according to our research the last hurricane that almost made it to Iowa was Galveston in 1900 and it was only a Tropical Depression by the time it hit).

A challenge building professionals have is that the codes are always changing. As the industry becomes more knowledgeable about things like Indoor Air Quality, efficiency, construction techniques, and so forth codes are updated to incorporate that knowledge. You can see this very clearly by comparing the construction techniques of a home built today versus one built 10, 30, 50 years ago. For instance, one a lot of people are familiar with is knob and tube wiring. Back in the day, this was the building code. Now we know a lot better and have much safer ways to wire homes.

What do you do if your home is not up to code? This depends on what is not up to code. Most codes have a grandfather clause in them and as long as you are not doing a major renovation, you have nothing to worry about. An inspector is not going to come to your home and kick you out because you need another millimeter of insulation to meet the current code. With that being said, there are ones you might want to do. Generally, these are focused on safety or comfort. We were talking about knob and tube wiring before. That is an item that you should consider bringing up to code as there is a real safety aspect to it. Something like the insulation might be a consideration because it will reduce your energy costs and comfort.

At this point you are probably asking, “What are the codes in my area?” That is a great question. Here is where we are going to disappoint you – sorry. There are thousands of codes across the country and without making this blog thousands of pages long, we just can’t put them all in one place. If you search for “Building codes in (put your state or county here)” you can generally find long complicated lists. Really, the best way is to consult a trusted building professional. It is their job to be versed on the latest building codes. Before starting any DIY project, it is a good idea to find out if there are any codes that need to be followed. While you might not have any issues at the time, it could affect the sale of your home if an inspection shows that something was not done to code. Generally, these are bigger items (additions, removing walls, electrical and so forth) and they most of the time require some type of permit to complete. Again, it is best to check with a building professional or the local building inspector just to be safe.

We will mention one national code that most effects building ventilation - ASHRAE 62.2. We have explored this code in one way or another in many of our previous blog posts. ASHREA 62.2 focuses on how and how much ventilation your home needs. There are specifics to the type and duration of exhaust fans as well as bringing fresh outside air into the home. Air King offers an array of exhaust fans, range hoods, and fresh air machines to comply and exceed the ASHREA 62.2 standards.

To learn more about Air King’s solutions visit www.airkinglimited.com. Air King also provides more information about ASHREA 62.2 in the Learning Center area of the website.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Increase the Effectiveness of Your Exhaust Fan

If you are looking to renovate a bathroom or are building a new one, something that can often get overlooked is the exhaust fan placement. While the shiny fixtures and fancy tiles can and probably should get most of the attention, taking a few minutes to determine the best place to install an exhaust fan will have years of benefits – maybe even longer than the shiny things.

First, make sure an exhaust fan is being installed. We have spent plenty of time in our past blogs exploring the benefits of utilizing an exhaust fan and the dangers of not having one. It is critical that one is installed. Having a fan anywhere in the bathroom is miles better than not having one, but we want to concentrate on maximizing its effectiveness.

It sounds simple, but you want to locate the exhaust fan as close to the source of the most contaminates as possible. When we talk about contaminates in a bathroom setting, the biggest one is moisture. While odors are also a concern, moisture is what will cause the most damage if not properly mitigated. With this in mind, the best place for an exhaust fan is generally going to be inside the shower or right over the tub. This puts the exhaust right at the source.

Great – that was easy now we can get back to the shiny things and the fancy tiles. Well not so fast. In order for the exhaust fan to be installed inside a shower or over a tub, it has to be approved for that use. Not all exhaust fans are – especially if you have one that has a heater function to it. You want to make sure the fan says “UL approved for installation over a tub or shower” or “certified for wet locations”. If it is not and water hits the fan, it could cause a short or worse. If you have a fan that is not approved for wet locations, it can still be used, but not directly over the tub or shower. In this case, you want to place the fan as close to the shower as possible so it catches as much of the moisture coming out from the shower as it can. The further away from the shower, the less effective it will be. At that point, you will need to look at using a fan that is actually over powered for the room, which can cause other issues.

So far we have looked at a “typical” bathroom. In some cases, the shower and the toilet are separated – especially in larger bathrooms. In this situation, you might want to look at installing two exhaust fans. A smaller one to handle the toilet and a larger one to handle the moisture. This allows you to place exhaust fans at the two main sources of contaminates in the bathroom and control them independently.

For more information or to see the line of Air King bathroom exhaust fans, visit www.airkinglimited.com

Friday, November 1, 2019

Energy Vampires?!? - Stop the Energy Drain

Halloween might be over but you could still have vampires hanging around your house and they are not looking for candy. We are talking about your electronics that could be draining energy without you really knowing it. They are referred to as energy vampires. These are items that although they are turned “off” still are using energy. Does your microwave have a clock on it? How about your gaming system, TV or your computer? These are all drawing energy even though they are not actively being used.

Identifying energy vampires is fairly easy. Ask: Is it plugged in? Does it have some sort of display (clock, channel number, or any other light on it)? Is it something that charges batteries? Does it have a remote control? If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, it is probably using energy without you realizing it.

Now that we have identified the vampires, how do we combat them? Sorry, garlic and a cross are not going to work in this case but there are some very simple things you can do. First, if you need to replace any of these items, look to see if there is an ENERGY STAR certified version. This will decrease your overall energy usage. Second, for items that are being charged, make sure to unplug them once they are fully charged. Third, unplug items not in use. This is the difficult one as there are some items you just don’t want to unplug completely. If you have a cable box that has to go through a full reboot after you plug it back in, it might not be something you want to do. On the other hand, if you are going away for a week, save the energy and unplug it. There are also smart power strips that allow you to control your appliances remotely.

Okay, this all sounds great but how much can I really save? The US Department of Energy estimates that in an average home about 10% of the energy usage is due to vampire appliances and electronics. That can add up over the course of a year. Here are a few of the top vampires with the average of how much energy they consume in standby mode:

TV – 145 kWh
Stereo System – 128 kWh
Cable Box – 128 kWh
Router – 102 kWh
Printer – 70 kWh
DVD player – 59 kWh
Microwave – 26 kWh

What can you turn off in your home to start saving energy and money? For more tips on energy saving visit energystar.gov or the Air King website at www.airkinglimited.com

Friday, October 4, 2019

Ventilation for Your Laundry Room? YES!

The laundry room can sometimes be a forgotten area of the home when it comes to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Most of the IAQ focus when it comes to ventilation is on the kitchen and bathrooms and rightfully so. However, the laundry room can be a large source of contaminants in your home. Let’s take a closer look at the laundry room.

If we are calling it a laundry room, then by name laundry is being done there which means there is a washer and in most cases a dryer. That means there are chemicals in the room. Off-gassing of cleaning detergents have a negative effect on your IAQ. Have you ever gone into the laundry room and had a smell of chemicals. They might even smell somewhat good – like flowers. Unless you are also growing flowers in your laundry room, that smell is the off-gassing of the cleaning detergents. Then there are the machines themselves. With higher rate spin cycle washers and especially with dryers, their normal operation is going to produce heat and humidity. This can lead to an uncomfortable area to be in temperature-wise and the extra humidity in the room can lead to mold and mildew growth.

So far we have only talked about the washer and dryer in the room. In many homes, the laundry room doubles as a storage room for other cleaners. Many also have a utility sink for cleaning up things like paint, grease and other items that you don’t want to risk damaging the kitchen sink to clean. These just add to the amount of off-gassing happening. Another issue is that typically the laundry room is a smaller room so all these factors are concentrated in a small space.

After all that I am sure you are excitingly looking forward to the next time you need to do the laundry or even just walking through the room. Okay, maybe not. The good news is there are some things you can do to lessen your exposure to these contaminants.
1.     Install and utilize a ventilation fan. This is your best option. This will take contaminates and remove them from the home. You may want to consider a two-speed fan. Two-speed fans run continuously at a very low speed, then at a higher speed when the room is occupied. The low speed would help eliminate any off-gassing from chemicals being stored in the room then the high speed would take care of when laundry is actually being done. You can also look at models that have motion sensors that switch from low to high automatically based on if the room is being used or not. If a two-speed fan is a bit much for you, even a small inexpensive single speed fan will make a world of difference in eliminating contaminates.
2.     Open a window or an outside door. This can also be effective but has its limitations. An open door or window will help when the room is being used but unless you keep it open all the time, any off-gassing will stay in the room until the next time the door or window is opened. This is also not an ideal solution if you live in areas of extreme heat or cold.
3.     Keep the door to the laundry room open. This is the least effective method but is better than nothing – maybe. By keeping the laundry room door open to the rest of the home it will disperse the contaminates. The issue, however, is that it is dispersing them into possibly your main living area, which is not a good situation. If the rest of your home is properly ventilated, it will lessen the effects.
To learn more about Air King’s ventilation solutions, visit www.airkinglimited.com.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Check-In Then Check Your Indoor Air Quality

We have dedicated a lot of posts on this blog talking about how to improve the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of your home. But what about when you are traveling? Whether you need a place to stay for a night or are on a long vacation in one location, you want to make sure you are comfortable.

The IAQ of the accommodations can have a direct effect on your comfort level. While it is certainly harder to control the IAQ of where you are staying compared to your own home, there are steps you can take.

Understand where you are traveling. We talk a lot about outdoor air but that is going to look different depending on where you are traveling. Staying in a large city with a lot of car exhaust and other pollutants compared to staying at a resort in Hawaii with a fresh sea breeze is going to be different. In a city, you will want to limit the amount of air coming into the room, while in the other, you will want to bring as much air in as possible.

Use the ventilation systems in the unit. All the bathrooms should have at least a ventilation fan. Use them. Even when you are not in the bathroom, keep them running for an extended period. This will help to exchange the air in the room/unit. If you are staying in a unit that has a kitchen, use the range hood every time you cook.

Give the place a once over. This is one that is both for the IAQ and your overall comfort. Walkthrough the unit and look for any mold or mildew build-up. Does it look clean, is there a chemical smell, does it fell overly humid? These can all be warning signs of poor ventilation and worst – poor maintenance. If you do find any of these and you have the ability to ask for another room – do so. Sometimes it can be just that room. The harder situation is if the entire facility is like that. Now you have to make a decision on if to stay or if you try to find another place. That can get complicated with deposits, prepaid rooms and so forth.

Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean your comfort and IAQ needs to suffer. Hopefully these ideas will help you stay comfortable and sleep easy at night.
For more information about Indoor Air Quality, visit us at www.airkinglimited.com.