What you need to know: Legionella and Your HVAC System
Most of us don’t really consider the indoor heating or cooling system as dangerous. The systems are there to cool or heat the building up and that’s it. Proper maintenance ensures that you can enjoy the heat during winter and cooling during summer. But did you know that your building ventilation systems could make you sick?
If you’re involved in any aspect of a building’s HVAC system, then you need to know about the bacterium known as Legionella.
• Legionella is a bacterium which causes Legionellosis (also known as Legionnaires’ disease). If you don’t know, Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia which is characterized by chills, a high fever, coughing, aches, and other terrible symptoms you don’t want to experience.
The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease is commonly found in cooling towers or commercial-size heating and air systems.
• It thrives in warm, stagnant water. When people inhale the mist or vapor contaminated by the warm air, pushed through the building via the HVAC system, it easily spreads and causes sickness.
Preventive Maintenance is Your First Line of Defense Against Legionella.
• The bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease thrives in stagnant water that has been allowed to grow warm – the ideal temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, its main point of contact in commercial buildings is cooling towers within large, centralized cooling systems. The main way to protect your building’s occupants from Legionnaires’ disease is by keeping up with your HVAC system’s preventative maintenance.
• Scheduling routine, preventative maintenance for your commercial air conditioning systems not only saves you money and extends the life of the system, but it will also save lives. 1 in every 10 cases of Legionnaires’ disease is fatal.
Early Detection Equals Early Remediation.
One of the primary goals of early detection is to allow existing and effective techniques to be implemented as quickly as possible to destroy Legionella bacteria. With airborne Legionella and cooling towers making news headlines, call the HVAC professionals at James River Air Conditioning to discuss testing and treatment options that can identify and handle the problem.
Spring cleaning gets all of the attention this time of year, but spring maintenance is just as important to keep your home working properly, so we’ve created our free Spring Home Maintenance Checklist.
After a long winter, it is a good idea to spend time on preventive measures to help maintain your home and property. Making sure all the elements of your home are in good working order can help keep your family safe and your maintenance expenses lower over the long run.
Do these things now & you’ll be able to spend those summer weekends relaxing!
Service your AC Unit (Yes, this is somewhat self-serving, but it really is important to do.) Before summer arrives, make sure you have a maintenance agreement in place.
Clean out around your outside AC unit by removing leaves, dust, overgrown shrubbery and debris.
Change your interior AC filters now and on a regular basis throughout the warm weather.
Furnace: This is a good time to clean or replace your furnace filter.
Check for signs of water leaks around toilets, under sinks and around the dishwasher.
Check all the caulking in your home around sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets to ensure it is in good condition. Be sure to check that there are no leaks, gaps, seepage or mildew.
Inspect Grout & Joints in bathroom tiles for any discoloration and crumbling. Grout protects flooring, shower enclosures and countertops from water damage, and it costs much less to replace than any of those items.
Check your water heater for leaks and corrosion.
Don’t forget to make sure the sump pump is working properly before spring and summer storms hit.
Check outside hose faucets and their pipes for freeze damage.
Home Safety Devices
Change the batteries in all your smoke detectors and test each one to make sure they are working.
Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Make sure outlets, fuse boxes and extension cords are not overloaded.
Inspect your fire extinguishers, including the hose, nozzle, and other parts, to make sure they are in good condition. Also, check that the pressure gauge is in the “green” range.
Clean out the dryer vent: Dryer lint can build up inside the vent pipe, causing a fire hazard. To clean it, disconnect the vent from the back of the machine and use a dryer vent brush to remove lint. While your back there, clean up all lint, dust, and anything you find behind the dryer. Outside your house, remove the dryer vent cover and use the brush to remove any lint from the other end of the vent line.
Inspect Laundry Room water-supply hoses each spring for cracks.
Vacuum behind the refrigerator: One of the easiest ways to improve the efficiency of a refrigerator is by pulling the refrigerator away from the wall and gently vacuuming behind it to make sure it’s getting enough air circulation and the coils are not running too hot.
Clean your garbage disposal: To remove any food particles left on the blades, simply feed a tray of ice cubes through it while running cold water. To eliminate any bad smells, you can run a mixture of baking soda and vinegar through the disposal.
Windows & Doors
Check seals around windows and doors: Cold weather can cause seals around windows and doors to crack or loosen, letting air leak in and out of your house. Repairing any problems you find can help increase your home’s energy efficiency and reduce your cooling costs.
Check & clean screen doors and windows: Before putting your screens in, be sure to carefully check each one and repair any holes or tears, no matter how small, so bugs can’t get in. You can find screen repair kits at most hardware and home improvement stores.
Attics & Basements
Don’t overlook your attic: Search for signs that indicate insects or animals have made your attic their home. Also, look carefully for mold, which often takes the form of gray or black blotches that look like staining. Proper insulation and good ventilation will deter mold growth in the attic, especially in the heat of the summer.
Roof, Chimney & Gutters
Inspect your roof: Check for damaged shingles, which can make your roof susceptible to leaks.
Examine the exterior of Chimney: While you’re looking at your roof, be sure to check out the exterior of the chimney for signs of damage.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, then have the flue cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep.
Clean and examine gutters: Clean leaves and other debris from your gutters and downspouts to keep water flowing and reduce the possibility of water damage. Multiple freezes and thaws during the winter can result in sags and dips so be sure to check for those and get them fixed so water doesn’t drip onto exterior wood like fascia boards.
Wood, Brick & Patios
Inspect brickwork and stucco: Check for chipping, deteriorated mortar, and unsightly deposits.
Inspect driveways and paths: Freezing and thawing are rough on concrete, asphalt and other hardscaping materials. Take a walk around your property to look for damage to walkways, paths and driveways, and schedule repairs as needed.
Inspect Wood Decks, Railings, Windowsills and Steps: Check the wood around your home for any rot that took hold during the winter months. If boards become soft or splinter, they create an unsafe situation for you and your family.
Probe the Wood Trim: Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings, and decks. Make repairs now before the spring rains do more damage to the exposed wood.
Repair Paint: Keep painted surfaces in good shape by scraping off any chipped and peeling paint and spot painting exposed surfaces. The worst thing you can do is leave wood exposed because that’s when it will begin to rot.
Check Foundation Vents: A house with a crawl space has vents along the foundation walls. The vents provide air circulation that helps dissipate excess moisture and prevent mold growth. The vents have screens that keep critters from taking up residence under your residence. The screens usually are recessed and become blocked with leaves, twigs, and debris.
Trim Overgrowth: Spring is a good time to trim branches of shrubs and trees away from your house. Keep branches 5 to 7 feet away from your house so they can’t conduct moisture onto your roofing and siding. You’ll also help discourage squirrels and raccoons from exploring ways to nest in your attic.
If you’ve found any HVAC, plumbing or electrical issues that you can’t fix yourself, just give us a call at 804-358-9333. Also, don’t forget to call us to have one of our experienced HVAC technicians come out to Inspect and Tune-up your Air Conditioning System before the hot weather hits. Visit JamesRiverAir.com for more information.
If you smell something when your A/C first starts up and / or when your heat pump goes into defrost…
From the Desk of Tom Pugh, Residential Service Manager
Dirty Sock Syndrome is a product of the environment. Where you live can have a lot to do with whether or not you will have Dirty Sock; it is not the equipment’s fault. That being said, we sometimes have clients experience Dirty Sock after installing a new unit. They’ll tell us that they never smelled it with the old unit; it’s just since the new unit was installed. They are correct!
The new evaporator coils are larger and run at a warmer temperature because of government mandates for higher SEER ratings. This 2-3° difference has opened up a new can of worms. It is estimated that up to 2% of all HVAC systems in North America have Dirty Sock Syndrome.
The cure is not always simple. One way to eliminate the problem is to coat the coil with a sealant that will prevent the microbiological growth from adhering to the coil. The sealant makes the coil slick. Another way is to install indoor air quality accessories, like a UV light or bipolar ionization system. These can come with a cost of $1,000-$2,000.
Bottom line: the bacteria / microbiological growth is a nuisance for the homeowner, but can be treated. Contact us today if you’re experiencing Dirty Sock Syndrome – we can help!
One product we like to recommend to our clients is a whole-house dehumidification system. When you’re looking at ways to increase your comfort during the humid summers in Richmond, one of these can make a huge difference.
A well-insulated, tightly-built home, while efficient, can trap moisture, causing a sticky feeling, window condensation, odors, and uncomfortable conditions. A whole-house dehumidification system removes that moisture, and unlike a portable dehumidifier, it doesn’t require manual emptying.
While your air conditioner can bring your home’s temperature down to where you set it, it can’t always remove the humidity down to a comfortable level. Without a dehumidifier, you might find your home is at your desired temperature, but you’re still uncomfortable! On the other hand, with a dehumidifier, you may actually be able to turn your thermostat up and run your air conditioner less, saving on cooling bills, because the dehumidifier costs less to run than the air conditioner.
We install several major brands of dehumidifiers, including Honeywell and AprilAire. They require little maintenance, usually just a filter change once per year.
This is just a reminder that if you use your chimney, you should have it checked out by a qualified chimney service. For your family’s safety, it’s important to make sure it’s free of dangerous creosote deposits and other debris.
In addition, if Santa goes down your chimney and gets all dirty, he’s likely to put you on the naughty list. You don’t want, do you?
James River Air does not provide chimney cleaning services, but we often work with Chimney Saver Solutions and think highly of them!
Allergy season is here, and many of us in Central Virginia are feeling the effects. Here’s an article from WebMD about how to help ease your symptoms. Note that one of them is changing your air conditioner / heat pump filter monthly!
James River Air can be a part of the solution to your allergy issues. We offer duct cleaning services, specialty air filters, and air purification products. Contact us today for more info!
There are more changes coming related to equipment energy standards and the refrigerants that are used in units that provide cooling and heating. Most equipment manufacturers are now working on new designs that may increase the size of the units and change the type of refrigerant needed for their operation. It will be important to have your team educated on these changes so that a plan can be developed and a budget set to address the cost of theses changes. To help pay for these upgrades, you may want to consider an equipment leasing program that, in some cases, will pay for itself with the energy savings. This would also be a good time to evaluate your needs to make sure your equipment meets your current requirements. The best way to do this is to have an equipment asset evaluation performed on your facility.
James River Air Conditioning can provide assistance in evaluating and developing a plan to meet the new standards – just e-mail us or give us a call!
Here’s an especially touching story from our Comfort and Safety program.
Mark, one of our residential service technicians, went out on a service call for Mrs. Harris, who has ALS. He found that her system needed to be replaced and it was going to cost more than she could afford. Mark offered to do the labor for free if James River Air would donate the equipment. Carrier gave James River a discount on the equipment, and James River in turn donated the equipment and materials.
Mrs. Harris and her family were very appreciative. They set up an umbrella for him so he wouldn’t be so hot outside. The daughters also made him fried chicken and a cake!
Mark deserves a big thank you; this was a really kind gesture on his part! It is nice to know that Mrs. Harris will be comfortable now thanks to Mark and James River Air.
We’re pleased to bring you another success story from our Comfort & Safety program!
Here’s the nomination we received for this project:
“I got home this evening just in time to catch your television ad to offer assistance to needy families. There is a husband and wife in my community that live only on social security and are trying to heat their home with space heaters. Their furnace and a/c system stopped working over a year ago. The husband is the only caregiver for his wife who suffers from advanced rheumatoid arthritis as well as cardiomyopathy. To have their heating and air conditioning facilities repaired or replaced would be the nicest thing anyone has done for them in a very long time; they obviously cannot afford ANY repair costs. I’ve been a James River customer for many years, and would appreciate an opportunity to tell you more about this couple.
Due to medical expenses beyond their control they are unable to maintain their home and it is in need of significant repair. First and foremost, this past summer they only had window air conditioning units for cooling and they use space heaters for warmth. It’s my understanding that the furnace blower/fan still functions but they no longer use it since it doesn’t provide heat or cooling”
We visited the couple and realized this was definitely a situation where James River could help. We installed a new outdoor unit, gas furnace, indoor coil, thermostat. Below are some before and after pictures of the system. Thank you to the individual who nominated this couple; we’re glad we could help!