mold in air ducts

The Hidden Dangers Lurking In Your Air Ducts

Are you a neat freak? Do you clean the house on a regular basis?

Keep at it—that’s actually a great thing! After all, dust and debris can easily trigger coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms.

Don’t just clean the floors and call it a day, though—there are other areas that you be cleaning as well. Take the air ducts, for instance, allergens can easily build up, which can make you sick.

Mold in air ducts is an issue as well. As you can imagine, that can significantly impact your health in various ways.

But wait, how can you tell if your ducts need cleaning? Want to know? Then be sure to read the rest of the post—we’ll be going over everything that you need to know below!

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Ducts?

As a general rule, you should clean your air ducts every three to five years. Why? That’s how long it takes for the ducts to fill up with grime after a thorough cleaning.

Keep in mind, however, that this time frame does not apply to everyone. How often you need air duct cleaning will depend on various factors such as how often you use the HVAC system and where you live.

Do you or someone else in the house have asthma or allergies? If so, that’s another reason why you should clean the vents more frequently.

How Can You Tell If Your Air Duct Needs Cleaning?

You can tell whether or not your ducts need cleaning by looking at them. Is there any noticeable debris on the outside? Are there “poofs” of dust near the vents?

If so, you’re probably overdue for a cleaning.

It’s also a good idea to clean them if you notice a vermin infestation. After all, the critters may be entering and exiting through the ductwork.

Mold in Air Ducts: Why It’s a Problem

Mold is a common issue with air ducts. This makes sense when you think about it—after all, condensation easily forms along the vents (more on this later).

As it is, this poses a major health risk. For one thing, it can lead to various symptoms such as sneezing, cough, and watery eyes.

There’s also toxic black mold to worry about. As implied by its name, this variety releases toxic spores that can be detrimental to our health. In severe cases, it can cause nausea, vomiting, chronic fatigue, and persistent headaches.

The worst part is that the spores can easily spread to other areas of the home via the ducts!

What Causes Mold to Form in the Air Vents?

It’s not uncommon for mold to grow in your HVAC system. After all, there’s plenty of moisture and condensation.

For instance, water vapor from the air conditioning can easily make its way inside the vents. Assuming that humidity levels are high, the moisture will not be able to evaporate—instead, it will stay in the ducts.

As you can imagine, that would facilitate mold growth. Over time, the colony will grow bigger and bigger as it feeds off organic materials.

How to Tell If There’s Mold In the Air Ducts

Assuming that there’s mold in your air ducts, the first thing that you’ll probably notice is a pungent odor—something that resembles old gym clothes. It’s hard to miss!

You can also tell by checking for visual signs. Grab a flashlight and peer inside the vents. Do you notice any irregular splotches? If so, it’s probably mold.

In severe cases, mold can grow outside the ducts and onto the wall. If that’s the case, call a professional right away as the problem may be too difficult for you to handle yourself!

Last but not least, examine the vents for standing water. Remember, mold thrives on humidity—if there’s moisture in the ducts, chances are, there’s mold somewhere.

What to Do If You Suspect Mold

It can be quite challenging to remove mold from air vents. For one thing, you can easily inhale the spores when you’re doing the cleaning!

Given that the infestation is mild, however, it is possible to remove the mold yourself. Most of the products that you’ll need can be found at your local home improvement store.

Generally speaking, however, it’s much better to just call in a professional—they’ll be able to remove the mold from your home quickly and safely.

Other Contaminants in Air Ducts

Aside from mold, other contaminants can build up in your ductwork. Take dust and dirt, for instance—these particles can easily become airborne. In other words, there’s a great chance that they can get sucked into the ducts!

Another thing that can accumulate is dander. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a material that’s shed from the body of humans and animals. In large amounts, it can exacerbate allergies and other respiratory conditions.

There’s also a chance of pests in air ducts. After all, the vents are a conduit for warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer—that makes them the perfect nesting spot for critters!

Keeping Your Air Ducts Clean

Hopefully, that gives you a better idea as to why mold in air ducts is an issue.

When in doubt, call in a pro—they’ll be able to identify and solve the problem for you! Remember, your health is worth it.

Need some help in the Oakland area? Feel free to contact us for a free quote!

radiant barrier

Radiant Barrier: Is it Right for Your Home?

You live in a warm climate and your cooling costs are outrageous.

Did you know that the sun is the primary source of heat in your attic space?

Did you know that a radiant barrier can keep your attic cooler and reduce your cost to cool the whole house?

Not sure what a radiant barrier is? No problem. Keep reading to learn if a radiant barrier is the right choice for your home.

What is Radiant Barrier Insulation?

A radiant barrier is a type of insulation specifically designed for attics in warm to hot climates. The barrier is made from a highly reflective material.

Types of Radiant Barriers

Radiant barriers come in a few different options. It is always a reflective material, usually aluminum foil, adhered to a backing material for support. This stiffer material may be cardboard, plastic, OSB, or sometimes kraft paper.

You can find reinforced radiant barriers for increased durability. Fiber-reinforced backing is easier to handle during installation.  

Radiant barriers may be installed as part of your attic’s insulation system. 

Perforated vs Non-Perforated Barriers

You can find both perforated and non-perforated radiant barriers.

A non-perforated barrier does not allow water vapor to pass through it. It is a solid piece of reflective material.

Depending on your HVAC system and house ventilation, this may not be good. It can cause dampness in the attic. If moisture from the house cannot find another way out, it can condense in the attic space and damage your home.

A perforated barrier has tiny holes that allow for better airflow. This reduces the risk of condensation forming. 

How Does a Radiant Barrier Work?

Radiant barriers physically reflect the sun’s heat, called radiant heat. By doing this, they don’t allow the attic infrastructure to absorb the heat.  This is the reflectivity of the barrier. 

It keeps the joists and ductwork from getting hotter. Think of it as moving your home from the direct sun into the shade.

They also keep the air in the attic space from heating up. This is the emissivity of the barrier. Essentially, the hot air from the outside is not able to emit heat to the cooler air on the inside.

What are the Benefits of Radiant Barriers?

In a nutshell, radiant barriers reduce heat gain from the sun and reduce cooling costs.

By reducing the amount of heat your home absorbs, you can significantly cut down on cooling costs. If you aren’t running your HVAC system at its max, you will likely also save money in the long-run. You will reduce maintenance and repair costs for the system.

The hotter it gets, the better your radiant barrier will work. This means that in the worst part of the hot months, you will reduce your cooling costs the most. 

A radiant barrier allows your attic space to be converted into a living space. You can keep the attic a comfortable temperature all year long. 

You can finally convert that unused space into your dream home office or guest room!

Radiant barriers may also help you qualify for Energy Star certifications for your home. This helps with resale value. 

How is Radiant Barrier Installed?

A professional should install the radiant barrier.  

It is generally installed during construction of a new home. However, if you are re-roofing your home, or you have an unfinished attic with open rafters, you can retrofit the attic with radiant barrier.

The foil is draped between roof rafters. This can be accomplished before the roof goes on, or by stapling the material to the bottom of the rafters after-the-fact. 

It’s important to allow the material to droop between the rafters. There should be about 1″ of air space between the radiant barrier and the bottom of the roof. 

Things to Watch Out For During Installation

A radiant barrier’s effectiveness depends on proper installation. Using a certified installer is your best bet because there are some precautions to be taken during installation. 

Aluminum foil conducts electricity. The installer needs to make sure that the foil does not contact bare wiring or other sources of electricity. 

The barrier should not be installed on top of the attic floor insulation. Foil on the floor will accumulate dust. It may also trap moisture in the thermal insulation. Both reduce the effectiveness of the radiant barrier and can cause other expensive damage to your home. 

The radiant barrier requires the right spacing to function properly. If the foil is pulled tight between rafters, or is sandwiched between pieces of insulation, the foil will become a conductor of heat. 

The air space is what makes the foil work as a radiant barrier. No air space means that the barrier will actually be working against your insulation system. It will reduce your thermal insulation’s effectiveness. 

Is a Radiant Barrier Worth the Cost?

The value of a radiant barrier in your home depends on your climate and current insulation system. You benefit the most when:

Your Attic is Poorly Insulated

If your attic is already very well insulated, you won’t notice the difference of the radiant barrier.

The older your home, or the worse the condition of your current insulation, the more difference you will see. It may be more cost effective to upgrade your insulation with radiant barrier than remove and replace all of your insulation. 

Your Roof Gets Direct Sunlight

A radiant barrier reduces the heat gained from the sun. If your home is in the shade consistently, the radiant barrier won’t be as effective. 

A south-facing roof will see the most benefit from the installation of a radiant barrier. 

Outbuildings with metal roofs would also see a huge difference in radiant heat absorption. If you have a garage, barn, shed, or other outdoor workspaces, you can cut the summer swelter by adding a radiant barrier. 

There is Ductwork in Your Attic

Most older homes have ductwork that runs through the attic. A poorly insulated attic means that the hot ducts warm the air as it passes through the attic into your living spaces.

This makes your air conditioning system less effective. 

Adding a radiant barrier to your attic will reduce the heat absorbed by the ductwork. It reduces the load on your HVAC and A/C systems. 

Installing a radiant barrier is cheaper and easier than insulating the entire ductwork system. 

Get Ready to Cut Your Cooling Costs

Living in a warm climate should not mean you have to break the bank to keep your home cool. 

A radiant barrier may be the perfect solution to keeping your home and wallet more comfortable in the heat. 

Think that a radiant barrier is the right move for your home? Contact us today for a free estimate. 

attic insulation cost

Why an Attic Insulation Cost Is an Investment in Energy Savings

Ready to start saving up to 50% of your home’s power bill? It could be as easy as outfitting your attic with insulation.

To get started, you need to look at the attic insulation cost and how it compares to your potential savings. Those in warm climates will save when keeping their home cool while those in colder climates will save when keeping their home warm.

Insulation stops the flow of heat and air through your attic. Ready to learn more about how you can save by investing in insulation today? Then keep reading!

Get an Energy Audit

Before you decide whether or not you need insulation, get an audit. This will give you a good idea as to where your home stands when it comes to energy efficiency.

Signs You Need Insulation

Even before your audit, if you see these signs then you most likely need insulation in your attic. The first of these signs would be ice dams.

Ice Dams

Ice dams happen to homes that are in colder climates. You’ll see ice building up on your home’s eaves in winter. This ice will damage your shingles and roof.

These ice dams happen because you are heating your home and that hot air escapes through the roof. The hot air melts the snow, and the melted snow runs down the roof. This water then refreezes into those ice dams.

Temperature Changes

You have the air or heat running, yet you notice the temperature changing as you walk from room to room, this is a sign that your attic is not properly insulated.

You are spending too much money trying to evenly heat or cool your home. If you insulated your attic, then your whole system will get a break.

Drafts

If there are drafts in your home, that’s likely cold air from your attic. You need insulation to stop this movement of air.

High Energy Bills

Talk to your neighbors and ask them what their average energy bill is. If you find that yours is significantly higher, you may have an insulation problem.

R-value

When buying insulation, you’ll see that it is rated with an R-value. This is the material’s ability to prevent the flow of heat.

The higher the rating, the better the material is at preventing the flow of heat. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a double layer of insulation means double the R-value.

It doesn’t work this way. The insulation needs to be a single layer for it to effectively work as intended.

You need to use the climate zone map to know what R-value level you should aim for when you buy insulation. For example, if you’re in the warm climate of zone 1 then you can use insulated rated as low as R30 for your attic.

While if you are in a cold climate in zone 7, for example, then you’ll want insulation rated as high as R60 for your attic.

Types of Insulation

There are three main types of insulation for you to choose from that will be effective in insulating your attic.

Batt or Blanket Insulation

This is the insulation that people typically think of when they talk about insulation. It consists of large rolls of fibers that are held together with a paper backing.

These are best used when your attic is large. It doesn’t work so well in tight spaces. If your joists and studs are a standard distance apart, then you’ll be able to unroll these into the spaces with no problems

R-Value

Insulation batts come in four main types of materials: fiberglass, cellulose, mineral wool, and cotton. You’ll find that the R-values range from 2.9 to 4.3 per inch.

Loose Fill or Blown-in Insulation

This type of insulation either comes in large bags of loose fill to be spread around or a professional installer “blows” it in by a machine. This is perfect for filling small or unusual spaces.

You’ll find it in the same variety of materials of batts including fiberglass, cellulose, and mineral wool fiber. This should be your first choice if your attic is older and already has insulation or is an awkward space.

R-Value

The R-value varies depending on which type of material you choose. It will generally range from 2.2 to 3.8 per inch.

Spray Foam Insulation

There are two types of spray foam to choose from: open and closed cell. The open type is the cheaper option but doesn’t provide a barrier to vapor. The closed cell option is more expensive and denser.

The great thing about spray foam is that when your installer sprays it, it sticks to whatever surface it is aimed at. This is a perfect solution for the ceiling of the attic.

R-Value

This type of insulation has the highest R-value ranging from 5 to 6 per inch. This is an important consideration if you live in a more extreme climate.

Attic Insulation Cost

The cost of your insulation installation entirely depends on the size of your attic, the amount of material needed, and the type of insulation you choose. As a general guideline, pricing can range from $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot.

If you decide to have a professional install the insulation, you’ll also need to factor in the cost for their services.

Start Saving Money on Your Home Heating and Cooling

If you are looking to save money on your energy costs you need to give your attic a check. If you see that you either have no insulation or it’s old, then it’s time give your attic an insulation update.

Don’t let yourself be deterred thinking that attic insulation cost is too high. Investing in the insulation now will translate to a more comfortable home and big savings on your bill.

Contact us today to get a quote for insulation removal and replacement in your attic today.