Thursday, October 1, 2020

Saving Energy During a Pandemic

As working from home and schooling from home continues to be the norm, a side effect can be higher energy usage and bills. Having two, three, ten computers running, every light in the home plus increased pressure on the HVAC system can quickly add up. Here are a few tips to keep the energy usage down.

Use LED Lights
With an increased need for lighting, it is even more critical that the most energy efficient types of bulbs be used. LED bulbs are over 75% more efficient than standard bulbs. Stop and think how many and how long your lights are on during a day, then think about how much you can save if they were LEDs. While switching to LED bulbs is a huge savings, turning off lights is even better.

Location, Location, Location
Typically you hear this term in the real estate business, but it holds very true when working and schooling from home. If possible choose a location in your home that has plenty of natural light. This will allow you to turn off the lights as we mentioned above. Another consideration is with many families converting spaces into offices or schoolrooms, it is important to be strategic on placement. Make sure not to cover up HVAC vents or returns that would cause the system to have to work harder. Shared spaces can be difficult, especially if interactive meetings are taking place. If possible, having everyone in one room can save energy by only needing to condition and light one room rather that multiple rooms throughout the home.

Use Portable Fans
In many cases, all that is needed to keep the room comfortable is either a portable fan in the warmer months or a portable heater in the cooler months. These use a fraction of the electricity that your HVAC unit needs. Air King and Lasko offer a wide range of residential and light commercial options.

Turn Items Off
If you have children, then you have probably at one point in your life (or every 10 minutes) walked into an empty room that has every light in that room turned on. No matter how many times you tell them to turn the lights off when they leave the room, there it is – every light still turned on. For sanity sake, just accept the fact that your job as a parent is to follow them around and turn the lights off. Turing lights off however are just one way to keep the energy usage down. Turning off other items such as computer and monitors when not in use can have a positive effect also. Most electronics nowadays have some sort of energy savings mode (sleep mode) but even in these modes, they are still using energy. Turing electronics completely off when not in use is the best way to save. Another consideration is once the workday or school day is complete, turn everything off and get away from them. This will save energy and give your eyes and body a break. How many times have you or your children finished a full day of online school or work meetings just to leave the computer and go right to the TV to binge watch the new series. Try going for a walk or having a cup of coffee outside (making sure to turn the lights off before you leave).

Washing
Being home most of the day can lead to some habits that could be costing you in energy usage. Things like doing laundry can have a large effect. There might be the temptation to do a small load of laundry each day instead of waiting for a full load. We absolutely get it that doing laundry for most people is not on the top ten list of enjoyable activities in the home. Doing smaller loads throughout the week instead of one big laundry day might be preferred but it will more than likely come at a cost of using a noticeably more amount of energy. Air-drying clothes will save a significant amount of energy. It will also get you out of the house and away from the screen. If you turn off the lights when you leave, you now have hit on multiple energy saving tips with one activity! Washing dishes is similar to clothes. A dishwasher’s energy efficiency is predicated on running full loads. Avoiding the temptation of running the dishwasher after every meal will save energy.

For more tips on how to save energy within the home visit www.airkinglimited.com or the ENERGY STAR® website at www.energystar.gov

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

What is a Net Zero Home

A trend in the building industry is towards Net Zero homes. The goal of a Net Zero home is to be able to provide all the energy needed for the home without using outside sources. An older term many used was “living off the grid”. When people hear that term, the mind can race to a picture of living in a tent in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness needing to forage for your food everyday. While that might sound like a fun adventure for a few days, for most of us we like the comforts we have. The good news is that Net Zero homes are designed to still give you all the modern day comforts just more energy conscience.

 

There are multiple components to a Net Zero home that are all designed to reduce the energy usage down to a level that can be sustained using alternative energy such as solar power. Net Zero homes look to be about 80% more efficient than a traditionally built home. To get there takes a total home approach – looking at every aspect of the build, inside and out.

 

Generally these homes are going to have solar panels as the main source of electrical supply. The next largest area of concentration is what is called the building envelope. This includes doors, windows, roof, and the walls. Properly and even over insulating the walls and making sure air does not leak out cracks and gaps is a key component. The goal is to maximize the energy usage of the home and not have any of it wasted by leaving the home.

 

The next largest area of energy usage is the HVAC and appliances. When a high efficiency HVAC system is used in parallel with a well insulated building envelope, it will greatly decrease how long it will need to run. Some homes will also incorporate a GeoThermal system that uses the ground temperature to regulate the home’s temperature. Net Zero homes are going to use energy efficient appliances throughout the home – washer, dryer, fridge, cooktop, etc. These will also be almost exclusively electric so as not to have to depend on gas.

 

The ventilation system of these homes is a very important element. With a sealed building envelope (also referred to as a tight house), the natural exchange of indoor and outdoor air is by nature greatly reduced or non-existent. This means that a mechanical solution needs to be added. Most homes are going to utilize either a HRV (heat recovery ventilator) or an ERV (energy recovery ventilator) depending on what part of the country you live in. The function of these units it to exchange the stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air with as minimum of an impact as possible on the temperature of the indoor air.

 

Other features of a Net Zero home are items such as LED lighting, low flow water fixtures, smart – programmable thermostat and even things like shingles that reduce the amount of heat absorbed through the roof.

 

Many would be asking right now why all homes are not being built as Net Zero homes. The answer comes down to cost. A Net Zero home is going to cost 10% to 15% higher than if you build the same home without all the focus on energy efficiency. If you are planning to say in the home for a long time, the energy savings will be more than the initial cost, but that can take between 10 to 20 years depending on where you live, size of the home and many other factors.

 

For more information regarding ventilation solutions, visit ww.airkinglimited.com. To learn more about Net Zero building and to see a project in process visit SYMBI Duplex One.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Sound Perception


We are constantly surrounded by sound. It is all around us. We also have ways to measure sounds. Some people might be familiar with the term Sones. In a previous post we went into depth on sones (What in the world is a Sone – how loud is my exhaust fan?). More people are probably familiar with the term decibel but might not know what it really is. The book definition of a decibel is a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound or the power level of an electrical signal by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale. With these sound measurements we can get an idea of how loud or quiet a product will be. For instance, it would be logical to think that a fan that is 3 sones will be significantly louder that one that is 1 sone. Generally that would be true, but there are more factors involved. We are going to take a look at a couple main ones.

What environment is the fan installed?

Most exhaust fans are going to be placed in bathrooms. Generally bathrooms are going to have a large amount of area tiled or have hard surfaces. There is very little noise absorption in a bathroom. This is going to cause the fan to sound louder than if it was installed into say a living room that has wall-to-wall carpet with fabric couches and chairs. A great way to demonstrate this is to play music through your cell phone holding it at arms length. Now take an empty plastic bucket and put your phone inside it. Did you notice any difference in sound? The volume did not change, but the perception of sound did. Now do the same thing but this time put a towel inside the bucket first – any difference?

 

Ambient Sounds

We perceive noise differently depending on the amount of ambient sound around us. When an exhaust fan is installed into a bathroom that is isolated from the rest of the home, any sounds inside the room are going to be heard more easily. Here is another comparison for you. When you are walking on a busy city street, the sounds of cars running, even honking sort-of blends in. Now think about walking on a back road and the sound of the same car is going to be perceived as louder – especially if it honks it’s horn.

 

So what do we do with all this?

Having this knowledge will hopefully help when it comes to purchasing your next exhaust fan. Take into consideration how your bathroom is laid out, what materials are being used, is there anything in the room to absorb sound, etc. If your bathroom is going to be floor to ceiling tile, with a glass enclosed shower, the perceived sound is going to be more than if that same fan is installed into a bathroom with tile only in the shower area, large bath mats and a cloth curtain. To get the same perceived sound level, you will need to chose a fan that is considerably quieter.

 

The good news is that quiet – actually almost silent exhaust fans are readily available and Air King has the solution waiting for you. To learn about available quiet exhaust fans visit www.airkinglimited.com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Indoor Air Quality When Staying at Home

We are living in a very unique time in history. Now more than ever, indoor air quality (IAQ) along with fresh air has become a topic of much discussion. We have dedicated many blog posts to the importance of a properly ventilated home. In light of our current time we thought it would be good to re-visit these and highlight some benefits.

Before we get started we want to make one thing clear. Exhaust fans or fresh air do not kill viruses. Even a filter is not going to kill a virus. The information we are providing is to help you evaluate and think about the air you are breathing.

In times when we are being asked to shelter in place and not leave our homes, it can have some unintended side effects. One of them being our indoor air quality. When living indoors during a time of a pandemic there are some air quality issues to think about.

First is the overall quality of the air we are breathing. With many people working from home, staying home, and so forth, it is producing more pollutants inside the home. It is just simple math. The more you are in your home breathing, cooking, working – the more pollutants’ you will generate. If you do not have a plan to mitigate those pollutants there could be longer-term negative effects. A great way to mitigate is using natural as well as mechanical ventilation.

Natural ventilation is simply opening a window and letting fresh air come in. This will dilute the pollutants in the air and if you have a cross breeze will take the stale air out. Mechanical ventilation are items such as exhaust fans and especially range hoods. Sometimes opening a window is not an option, so making sure your range hood is running while cooking or your exhaust fan is running while in the bathroom is of utmost importance.

Second is dealing with spreading a virus. Historically, proper ventilation has been an effective way to lessen the impact of a virus. A 2019 study on tuberculosis showed a significant reduction in transmission just from making changes to the ventilation in hospitals. You can read the study here. The CDC and many state departments are also recommending opening windows and bringing in fresh air to reduce the spread. Stephen Morse, an infectious disease researcher and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health says: “Changing the room air is a widely used measure for infection prevention and control. It replaces any virus-contaminated air with clean air. Opening windows is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to encourage this type of air turnover.”

Great, everyone open your windows and there is nothing to worry about – right. We really wish it was that easy, but as you probably guessed it is not. As we stated before, fresh air will not kill the virus. What is does is dilutes it to a point where it is not as contagious. There are ongoing studies to try and figure out at what point that is.

According to Erik Peper, a professor in the College of Health and Social Sciences at San Francisco State University. “People keep their windows closed to conserve heat and reduce heating-bill costs, but the lack of fresh-air circulation increases the viral density…. By increasing the fresh outside air circulation, you dilute the virus concentration that maybe shed by an infected asymptomatic or sick person,” Peper explains.

Again, fresh air and ventilation are unfortunately not the magic pill we are searching for and they need to be used properly. Here are a few considerations.
1.     If you do have someone in the house that either has a virus or thinks they might, give consideration of how the air is moving. For instance, if you have a fan in the room they are quarantined in, make sure it is pointing outside and not into the living area. Pushing the air towards the rest of the home could have the exact opposite effect and spread the virus, especially if you do not have enough fresh air coming into the home to dilute it.
2.    Understand where the fresh air is coming from. The outdoor air might be worse than the indoor air so using some type of air filter or air purifier will help. This is especially true in large city settings.
3.    There is also a concern about bringing virus-contaminated air into the home. Professor Morse says the risks of this sort of home invasion are probably minimal — with a few exceptions. “I think the possibility would be vanishingly small of a virus coming in through a window situated well above the ground,” he says. But if you have a ground-floor or basement window that looks out onto a sidewalk or some other pedestrian-trafficked area, it may be possible — albeit unlikely — for a virus to enter your home via a sick passerby, he adds.

While no one wants to be in the situation we are in, it does give us an opportunity to evaluate and learn. When it comes to our indoor air quality, there are items we can do right now as well as things we can do moving forward. What is your IAQ plan? What changes can you make now and in the future to improve?

To learn more about indoor air quality, ventilation options, and fresh air intake visit www.airkinglimited.com

Sources:




Friday, May 1, 2020

Is the Code Enough? Part 3

Over the past few blog posts we have been looking at code compliance and the difference between meeting the code and exceeding the code. In this post we are going to look at the ASHRAE 62.2 ventilation standard. In past blog posts we have described aspects of the standard such as local ventilation and continuous ventilation. In short ASHRAE 62.2 is a national ventilation code to promote air exchanges in your home to better the indoor air quality (IAQ). The basics of the code are to have an exhaust fan running continuously at a low speed, then using other fans throughout the house to take care of higher ventilation needs like cooking or when the shower is in use. Meeting the code means that you have an exhaust fan installed in a centrally located area of your home.

Great, that sounds fairly easy and for the most part it is. A popular way to solve for this is to install a two-speed exhaust fan in the bathroom. This is a fan that runs constantly on low speed at an almost silent sound level then when more ventilation is needed boosts to high speed. This can be done by a switch, humidity sensor, or motion sensor that is integrated into the fan.

So far so good; I think we have it covered. Code met, let’s move on to the next item. Here’s the thing (okay, you didn’t really think we would end it there did you?), while to the letter of the code, this installation might meet it, we need to look at it a little closer. First we need to think a little about how air travels and where contaminates are located in the home. Generally, the kitchen cooking area is going to be the location of the largest amount of contaminants generated in the home. If you are installing the continuous running exhaust fan in a bathroom, it is generally going to be on the other side of the home as the kitchen. This means that the exhaust is going to be pulling air from the kitchen throughout the home and through the living spaces. Not exactly an ideal solution. Here is another issue. What happens when the bathroom door is closed? Now you have either cut off or severely restricted the airflow. Let’s take it one step further. If the fan is installed in a master bathroom, that typically means two closed doors to navigate through.

Some installers will place the fan in the living room or a hallway. This is better as you won’t have to deal with the closed-door issue as much, but you are still drawing air that you want to exhaust through living areas. So I guess we are doomed. Can’t install it in the bathroom, can’t install it in a living area, where then?

There is a solution that takes all these issues into account. Place the continuous ventilation in the kitchen. There are reasons the kitchen is called the heart of the home. Typically the kitchen will be in a central location of the home or at least open to the rest of the home. This makes it a perfect location. There are now range hoods available that have multiple speeds. They have a continuous operation speed that will solve for, as the name states – continuous airflow. The sound level at this speed is barely detectable. When the cooktop is being used, they have higher speeds to take care of the additional airflow needed to properly ventilate while cooking. Now you have the ventilation placed at the source of one of the largest contaminators of the home. The added benefit is that the continuous speed will take care of the residual contaminants in the air after the cooking is done. While we would like to think everyone is properly using their range hood, we also know that is not always the case. These range hoods install the same as traditional range hoods, so if you are installing one anyway, why not solve two things at once. The only consideration is that they are going to cost more than an entry-level basic range hood. The counter to that is if you go the bathroom route, a two-speed exhaust fan is also going to cost more than a standard exhaust fan also. Another point is that you will also have a much quieter operating range hood.

When it comes to solving for ASHRAE 62.2 continuous ventilation, there are options. Some designed to meet the code, some designed to exceed the code. Hopefully this gives you some things to consider. For more information about continuous operation range hoods or ASHRAE 62.2 solutions visit www.airkinglimited.com

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Is the Code Enough? Part 2

In our last post we highlighted codes around exhaust fan performance. In this post, we are going to look at kitchen ventilation, specifically range hoods. The codes pertaining to kitchen ventilation have a bit more “gray” area then with bathroom exhaust and in some areas a range hood might not even be required. We’ll start there. This is where you will definitely want to exceed the code. We have spent a good amount of time in previous posts detailing the benefits of a range hood, so going without one in our opinion is just not an option. One reason that could be given for not requiring a range hood is because of other exhaust in a kitchen. While having an exhaust fan anywhere in the kitchen is better than nothing, unless the fan is located right at the source of contamination, it just won’t be effective. Think about this, if the exhaust fan is in the center of the kitchen and you are cooking, where are the contaminates going? Yep, you are standing in the direct line of airflow that has all the contaminates in it.

Another popular code states that you need at least 100 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) of airflow. At least now you are exhausting air, so that is getting us closer to where we want to be. Unfortunately, 100 CFM is not a lot of power for over a cooking surface. A lot will be determined by your cooking habits. If you are just warming up some soup or using one burner to cook some eggs – 100 CFM might be fine. If you have two or three burners going, you will need more power. There is also a considerable jump in needed airflow from using a gas cooktop from electric. Just the nature of gas burning is going to produce more harmful contaminates that need to be exhausted.

Some people at this point might jump to the conclusion that to be safe, I am going to get the most powerful range hood on the market and suck every last bit of air out of the kitchen. While this would solve the issue of any contaminates staying in the air, it also has some negative effects. There is a balance between exhausting enough air and exhausting too much air. In some states if you go beyond a certain CFM level you need to introduce make-up air. Simply put, you need to replace the amount of air you are taking out of the home with fresh outdoor air. You will hear it called air balancing. The CFM level that cannot be exceeded is usually in the 300 CFM to 500 CFM range.

Here is the good part. Most range hoods have two or more speeds so you get at least two chances at getting the CFM right. Think about how you cook, what size cooktop you have, does it have anything like a griddle or grill top? Then you can make a better determination on what kind of power you need. Look to match your “everyday” cooking habits with a lower speed then have those higher speeds for times when you need it. As always, we suggest consulting with a professional who knows the codes in your area before making any decisions.

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 range hoods visit www.airkinglimited.com.

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.