Air Quality: Unsafe Conditions due to Wildfires

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Wildfires are projected to burn more land as temperatures continue to increase. Unfortunately this past weekend a big event called the IronMan that was going to take placed in Lake Tahoe was canceled due to unsafe conditions. The decision to cancel this event was brought to the attention of the State of California and Placer County health officials. The particulate matter were high and unsafe for athletes and all those who were going to participate in the event. When the air becomes unhealthy due to a wildfire it is sometimes because of fire behavior and wind patterns change significantly. Since wildfire smoke contains particulate matter it is best to cancel events and not be outdoors when there is a wildfire.

Wildfire Smoke Contains Particulate Matter like:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Organic Compounds that may be carcinogenic

Air Pollution Greatly Affects

  • Those with lung or heart disease
  • Older Adults
  • Children
  • Adults who are active outdoors

A great tip to know whether smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy is if there is less than 5 miles of visibility.Your lungs will also let you know because it feels uncomfortable.Knowing the facts about how wildfires can affects the air quality and indoor air quality can help you avoid any discomfort. Your plans may not go planned when they are outdoors and there is a high risk of fire. Always check airnow.gov for any updates on the air quality. Fortunately,  for the athletes at IronMan were safe from any discomfort that they might have felt if they would have been doing activities outdoors when a near by fire was occurring. If you have any question regarding how to improve your indoor air quality give us a call and we can set up an appointment. The indoor air quality is as important as the air quality outdoors, especially when a wildfire is present.

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Restaurant Fires are Preventable–Clean Your Ducts!

Have you ever lived above a restaurant? I have, twice. One was a lovely experience (espresso and cookies downstairs); the other, not so much (dishwashing water backing up into my bathroom sink every Sunday night like clockwork, blech!).

When I was a small child we had a kitchen fire in my house. I mostly remember the firefighters’ muddy footprints and the black walls and ceiling afterwards, but I know my father was hurt trying to put it out himself before it got too big to handle. Restaurant kitchens are even more prone to fire than home kitchens because of the volume of food they put out in a short time.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, a vast majority of restaurant fires are caused by cooking equipment and a significant amount of damage by those fires flaring up into dirty stove vents and ducts.

How often should commercial kitchen ducts be cleaned?

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Proper maintenance of kitchen ductwork is essential in preventing fires from doing damage to restaurants and other tenants in a restaurant building.

Don’t take any chances in your restaurant! AirTek’s goal: clean and help protect your valuable asset from the threat of fire in your kitchen exhaust system. We clean the hood, plenum, duct risers, filtration system and filters, grease boxes, kitchen equipment, exhaust fans, washable ceilings, floors, commercial kitchens, ductwork, and rooftop.

We are here to help your restaurant thrive and prosper and prevent the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars of damage even a short-lived fire can wreak.

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek and our parent company, Alliance Environmental Group, which offers residential and commercial cleaning, pest control, demolition, structural pasteurization and many other environmental challenges. She is very happy to blog, post and Tweet for Alliance and AirTek and celebrates her three year anniversary with them on September 29th!

Several Orange County Schools Without Air Conditioners

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Many parts in California have been feeling a heat wave for many days.Summer will be sticking around with us longer than we had expected. During this time it is important to seek areas that will keep you cool and provide air conditioning when possible. Yesterday was the final day of a three-day excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service, but several students in Orange County were sitting in classes without an air conditioner.

Sitting in one place without air conditioner for a couple of minutes is uncomfortable when it is hot and humid. This issue brought a lot of attention in finding a long term solution, which is to install air conditioning systems throughout schools in Orange County. The district’s board of trustees has authorized a survey or poll to see what the community think about installing air conditioning systems. I think it is important to invest in the educational school system. Although many schools in the O.C don’t have air conditioner teachers and schools were doing their best to keep cool. The American Environmental Group offers advice on keeping cool:

  • Stay in the shade or in a ventilated, air-conditioned area during the hottest  part of the day.
  • Rest as often as possible.
  • Water, water, water.  Stay hydrated.
  • If you see someone who do not look well seek for help to make sure they are not suffering from heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
  • Cooling centers are open across Southern California for people without air conditioning. In Los Angeles, people are directed to call 311, while people in many other areas are told to call 211.

Keep cool and keep yourself and others hydrated! You may visit the National Weather Service website to be updated on the latest news for the weather and for any new alerts in your area. If you are a resident in Orange County voters will be able to complete a poll about installing air conditioning systems in several schools. Most importantly at this time,keep cool and keep yourself and others hydrated!

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National Pollution Prevention Week

It may feel like it’s National Heatwave Week here in Southern California, but it is actually National Pollution Prevention Week. Pollution affects our water, our food supply, our climate and our air quality every week, not just the third week of September.

What can we do to prevent pollution right now–this very day?

Conserve Energy–Emissions from power plants add a huge amount of pollution to the air. The less energy we use, the less pollution we produce as a society. It’s easy to think about how much running the air conditioner at a low temperature costs on our electric bill, but how much is it costing our planet and our health?

Recycle–Plastic does not degrade. Putting in the trash is putting it in a landfill or the ocean. There’s an island of plastic the size of the State of Texas out in the Pacific ocean. Don’t add to it, recycle everything you can.

Use Greener Products–The chemicals you use to clean your house go down the drain and into the environment. Phosphate-free has been the rule for many years, but there are still ingredients in our cleaning products that harm the environment. There are alternatives–give them a try.

Clean up after your dog–Back when “pooper-scooper” laws were new, you really had to think ahead. Now many cities provide waste bags in public spaces so you have no excuse at the park or on the bike path. Be considerate of your neighbors, too, and use biodegradable bags.

Don’t let your car leak fluids–Do you see a patch of oil or other fluid where you typically park your car? Those fluids are going down the storm drains and into the environment. Fix any leaks promptly.

Put in Native Plants–Grass lawns are water hogs. Research the plants native to your area and use them for landscaping to save water and storm runoff.

Go to the Car Wash–Rather than wash the car yourself in the driveway, use a commercial car wash. It’s more expensive in cash up front, but saves lots of water and the environment from soap.

Drive less–Walk, bike, take public transportation. Cars make pollution, full stop.

We’re having a hard time turning off the air conditioning this week, but the weather is supposed to break tonight. I’m going to try turning up the thermostat and make dinner in the crock pot instead of the oven. How about you?

2014 Fall Technical Conference

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One of the best ways to be up to date with the industry and network with other professionals is to attend conferences. The biggest event in the industry is the 2014 Fall Technical Conference provided by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).The Conference is only two days away and will offer the opportunity for individuals to attend training and certification on all aspects of HVAC inspection, maintenance and restoration. The conference will also be focusing on expanding information about the all new Dryer Exhaust Duct Performance standards. During the dates of September 19-20 those who have registered can participate in educational classroom training, general sessions and hands- on training.

During the conference all those who are attending will be able to have the opportunity to see an assortment of products, equipments and services that will be displayed in exhibits. This year, NADCA will also offer the Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician exam on September 18. It is an optional activity hosted by NADCA but managed by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. It is a great opportunity for all those who are involved in the industry to network and become educated on all levels to help not only your employees and company but to educate consumers. Will you be attending the conference this year? Let us know if you will. For more information on the conference visit NADCA’s website and send us a tweet if you are attending the conference!

Source:NADCA

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Ozone Alerts–Are You Paying Attention?

Today marks the 8th Spare the Air Alert this summer in the Bay Area. That means ozone pollution is particularly high and residents are being asked to limit driving and other activities that result in ozone-producing pollutant emissions.

“In the Bay Area, the summer Spare the Air season generally runs from April through October when clear skies, hot temperatures, lighter than usual winds, and strong temperature inversions combine to create smoggy conditions.  Spare the Air Alerts are declared for days forecast to have ozone concentrations that exceed federal health-based standards.” SparetheAir.org

Potential Health Effects of Ozone

  • Children – Kids’ lungs are still developing and they are more likely than adults to have asthma. Ozone can trigger asthma attacks and bring on asthma in healthy children.
  • Seniors – Adults, especially those with breathing issues or smokers, can be especially sensitive to ozone. It can make bronchitis and emphysema worse.
  • For even healthy people ozone can:

Make it harder to take deep breaths when you exercise

Cause sore throats and coughing

Create scarring in lungs and air passages

Damage lungs even when there are no symptoms

Ozone has also been linked to deaths from heart attacks that might have been survivable on days with better air quality.

Ozone is highest on hot, sunny days between April and October. If you are sensitive to ozone or have lung problems, you should check on your air quality before exercising outdoors. Today, for example, is not a good day for someone with asthma or other lung sensitivities to do outdoor activities in the Bay Area.

You can check your local air quality at AirNow.gov and know the best–and the worst–days to breathe deep outdoors.

And if you need help improving the air quality indoors, AirTek offers duct cleaning, HVAC maintenance and many other services to improve the indoor air quality where you live.

Electronic Air Cleaner: Air Cleaner Device

Air cleaner devices can be part of your indoor air quality management plan. There are several air pollutants that can be harmful for our indoor environments. Indoor air pollutants can fall into two categories. Some pollutants are particulate matter and others are gaseous pollutants. Particle matter includes dust, pollen, tobacco smoke, molds, bacteria, and viruses. Gaseous Pollutants include vehicle exhaust, gas from cooking stoves, paints, pesticides, cleaning products and adhesives. There are several ways to remove these particles from the air.

One way to remove these particles from the air is by using air cleaner devices.There are three different types of air filters but today we will focus on electrical air cleaners. Electrical air cleaners can be in the high efficiency particulate air filter category. Electronic air cleaners are designed to filter particles and contaminants from an enclosed area. The Indoor Air Quality Association Inc made a video explaining more about electronic air cleaners. If you have any questions regarding indoor air quality or other ways to make your environment healthy and clean contact us today to set up an appointment. AirTek has been creating healthier, cleaner and more energy efficient indoor environments for over 25 years.

 

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There’s More Than Gas in Your Car–There’s Bacteria!

I know, your car is clean. There’s no trash on the floor of the back seat, you don’t let the kids eat french fries in the carseats and coffee has never sullied your carpets. But there still could be bacteria lurking in your car.

The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ Disease can be a deadly threat. They are found in water systems and spread via water vapor. It’s easy to imagine being exposed to legionella bacteria from the water system on a cruise ship, like the one on which Legionnaires’ Disease was first discovered. It is also commonly found in swimming pools and hot tubs and power plant cooling towers have been implicated as well.

In an article in the Washington Post, however, a new potential location for legionella bactera was found by Arizona State University researchers: the windshield washer fluid reservoir in your car.

Yeah.

Just the other day, I used the washer fluid with my side window down. I thought, oh, wait, I might get some in the car, but it didn’t come in. Still…droplets which could be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria are a bigger deal!

The scientists took samples of washer fluids which contained methanol and fluids that did not contain methanol–methanol kills bacteria but it is used in washer fluid to keep it from freezing, not needed in a warm climate like Arizona or California, typically. Legionella bacteria thrived in the methanol-free washer fluid.

All the samples were taken from school buses. Yeah, again.

As they said in the Washington Post, “Microbes are everywhere.” But there are places where it’s way too easy for those microbes to invade our bodies. I’d hate to think I could have given myself Legionnaires’ Disease the other day. I’d better go see what kind of washer fluid my mom put in the car before she sent it out here. At least it gets cold where she lives!

 

The Heart of the HVAC System: Air Handler

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We hope everyone had a great weekend! Today we wanted to focus on the heart of any HVAC system, the air handler. Look at it this way, the air handler is in charge of moving and the air with a fan, can clean the air with a filter and conditions the air by heating or cooling the air. If air handlers stop working properly then the whole system begins to deteriorate. Air handlers can be very big like the ones that shopping malls and offices have to smaller ones. Since duct work is attached to air handlers, the whole system will be cleaned according to NADCA standards. There are certain ways that you can clean the whole system but today we will focus on the different options of cleaning air handlers:

  • Cleaning or replacing filters on a regular basis will help keep the air from returning and becoming contaminated.
  • Proper cleaning of coils will help keep debris away from the coils and ensure the desired temperature be met quickly.
  • Contact vacuuming which is the most popular way of cleaning an air handler will clean all components mention above.
  • Air washing and high pressure air can be used to clean air handlers to collect and control dirt and debris.
  • When using a pressure washer you may use this to clean the air handler but make sure all electrical components are protected.

You want to mainly clean and get rid of any debris and dirt from the air handler system. It is an important part of the whole HVAC system. As we have said,it is the heart of the HVAC system and will help the entire system work efficiently and can improve indoor air quality. AirTek provides commercial air duct cleaning and indoor air quality services for many industries. If you would like to set up an appointment with us to clean your entire HVAC system contact us. If you have any further questions you may contact us directly or send us a message via our social media sites that include Facebook and Twitter.

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Air Quality at School Affects Outcomes

School districts all over the US have started classes in the last couple of weeks and parents are hoping this year will be one where their students are given as much support to succeed as possible. A fundamental part of that support is their environment and air quality is its most essential ingredient.

What affects the air quality at school?

Poor ventilation keeps many contaminants in the air at school, including:

  • Mold from moisture and water damage that goes unrepaired for too long (mold growth can begin in as little as 24 hours)
  • Animal dander from classroom pets
  • Dirt or water in HVAC systems, which can spread bacteria which cause disease
  • Formaldehyde and other VOC’s in building materials, cleaning products, and school supplies
  • Allergenic chemicals, like those found in air fresheners and hand sanitizers
  • Pesticides
  • Pollutants from outdoors that cannot escape including vehicle exhaust from cars and buses

What are the results of poor indoor air quality at school?

Poor air quality reduces teacher effectiveness and student test scores.

Contaminated air increases rates of illness, asthma attacks, and allergic reactions

Absenteeism in both students and teachers leads to lower performance

Making an investment in the air quality at school is something we can do every day to improve the performance of teachers and students alike. Keeping ventilation systems, including ducts and coils, clean and well maintained is essential to healthy air quality in schools. Read more about how teachers and parents can improve the air quality at school on the AirTek blog!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek and our parent company, Alliance Environmental Group, which offers residential and commercial cleaning, pest control, demolition, structural pasteurization and many other environmental challenges. She has a Middle Schooler and a High School Sophomore. 

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