Monthly Archives: March 2013

Houseplants and Your Indoor Air


Photo by raflowers via stock.xchng

It hit 90 degrees where we are last week! It wasn’t even spring! While careening directly from winter to summer, we are beginning to think about the garden and some new plants–it’s time to put in the tomatoes in just a couple of weeks.

Do you have houseplants? Although it is almost time to give them a few months outdoors, we hope you have been using them to improve your indoor air quality all winter. Houseplants not only improve the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance, they also extract pollutants from the air, including:

  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Xylene
  • Toluene
  • Ammonia

None of those things are present in my home, you say? Sorry, but they probably are. Between carpeting, furniture, paint, varnish and cleaning products, these chemicals are present in pretty much every indoor environment.

If you need some more encouragement, here is a video about the Health Benefits of Houseplants:

If cleaning your air ducts, your kitchen exhaust hood or your entire ventilation system would improve the air in your home in California, please contact AirTek and talk to us about the services we offer!

Have a lovely day and open up the windows!

Wendy Stackhouse has been 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 services, since October of 2011. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more updates on indoor air challenges! 

CEO Joe McLean in New Orleans with the NADCA

New Orleans

Image by allergyfre via stock.xchng


Our CEO Joe McLean attended the National Air Duct Cleaners Association 2013 Annual Conference last week in New Orleans, Louisiana and it was a wonderful event!

On the first day there were a golf tournament and training courses in Air Systems Cleaning, Certified Ventilation Inspection, and Ventilation System Mold Remediation–you could even receive certification at the Conference!

AirTek was honored at the Conference for 10 years as Members of the NADCA. Happy decade to us!

Saturday started with the exams for certification and a Members’ Business Meeting. The afternoon featured presentations on Moisture Inside HVAC Systems and one by the Associated Air Balance Council.

On Sunday morning you could learn about How to Make Social Media Work for Your Small Business–a topic near and dear to yours truly! That was followed by some valuable continuing education credit options in Safety Planning, Labor Law and Personal Protective Equipment. The rest of Sunday was spent in the Exhibit Hall but of course they celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day in the evening. They even had a parade! There’s Shaun giving you a wave!

Alliance on Bourbon Street

Meanwhile, if you wanted to experience the real New Orleans, many tour opportunities were offered:

Katrina City Tour – Beginning in the French Quarter, through the Ninth Ward which was so catastrophically affected by the levee breaks after Hurricane Katrina. They then made their way to Lake Pontchartrain and through many famous New Orleans neighborhoods including the Garden District.

Swamp & Bayou Tour – Fantastic nature photography opportunities abounded from a custom built swam boat trip through the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park. Wildlife included: alligators, egrets, racoons, nutria and snakes, among other species.

Laura Plantation Tour – A Creole plantation and sugar farm since 1805, the Laura Plantation is one of the top 25 house tours in the US, according to the American Academy of Architecture and Design. It has also been referred to as “the best history tour in the US.”

Oak Alley Plantation Tour – Possibly the most photographed plantation, Oak Alley has been featured in films such as “Interview with a Vampire” and “Primary Colors” as well as on television in “Days of Our Lives.” The oak trees here are over 250 years old.

There were many Walking Tour options: the French Quarter, the Garden District, Cemeteries & Voodoo. You could also take a steamboat cruise on the Natchez River.

Finally, if you were interested in the nightlife of New Orleans more than the history, you could go on the New Orleans Original Cocktail Walking Tour, featuring tastings of Sazerac, Pimm’s Cup, the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade and other classic cocktails and cuisine.

Doesn’t it sound like fun? The NADCA really knows how to throw a convention! We were happy to experience so much of what New Orleans has to offer, while meeting and getting to know other industry professionals! AirTek and Alliance Environmental Group have been proud Members of the NADCA since 2003.

Hope your weekend is as full of fun and friends as our New Orleans adventure was!

Why Clean Your Ducts?

Exhaust air ducts

Photo by Ayla87 via stock.xchng


Because they get dirty!  See you Thursday!

Just kidding!  You need to know the benefits of having a clean HVAC system!

Energy Savings

As we have discussed on the blog, a dirty system works harder, uses more energy and has a shorter lifespan, needing to be replaced more often.  The Department of Energy tells us that 25-40 percent of heating and cooling energy is wasted!

During normal use, the filters in your HVAC system will eventually fill up with particles and need to be replaced with clean filters that work efficiently.  The cost of clean filters is dwarfed by the cost of energy in today’s market.

Indoor Air Quality

We spend most of our time indoors and the air we breathe there can be much more polluted than the outside air, even in major metropolitan areas.  Buildings are very well insulated and sealed to keep heat and air conditioning in, but it becomes difficult for airborne contaminants to escape.

In addition, the occupants of a building make their own air pollution like dust, dander and chemicals from cleaning products, carpeting and furniture.  Recirculation of all of these contaminants throughout the day causes buildup in the ducts.

Although you may not have a “sick building,” contaminants in your HVAC system may be contributing to allergic reactions, lost productivity and health problems for those with respiratory challenges like asthma.

Having a clean HVAC system is worth the cost—especially since the cost of cleaning is so much less than the extra energy it takes to run a dirty system and the even greater liability for replacing the system when it has reached the end of its working life.  AirTek offers commercial and residential duct cleaning services all over California and we would be very happy to talk to you about cleaning your HVAC system as well as setting up a schedule for routine maintenance!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek Indoor Air Solutions and our affiliate Alliance Environmental Group.  We welcome your comments!  For more news and tips or to ask questions of our experts, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!  For updates on environmental services like mold remediation, lead removal and pest control including bed bugs, Like us at Alliance Environmental  on Facebook or follow Alliance on Twitter!

Congratulations, Matt and Carlos!


Image by dleafy via stock.xchng

Well, the Ronald McDonald House Dinner with Friends is over and it was a huge success!!

Congratulations to Carlos Sanguinetti and Matt Teeter for an amazing event and for their awesome fundraising in support of the Ronald McDonald House of San Diego!

Matt and Carlos have let us know that the totals amount to over $19,000–a 132% increase over the money raised last year–and our CEO Joe McLean has let me know that next year will be BIGGER THAN EVER!

If you would like to stay up-to-date on this event and the many other community activities we support here at AirTek, please Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter! Our communities grow every day and we love to hear from you and talk to you about environmental issues, offer tips on how to deal with challenges in your home or other building, and provide links to helpful news and information. We would love to welcome you into our community!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wendy Stackhouse has been 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 services, since October of 2011. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more updates on indoor air challenges!

Support the Child Guidance Center and Win!

Child Guidance Center logo

We have a great opportunity for you to help some families–and maybe win some money!–coming up and we thought you might like to hear about it!

The Child Guidance Center was founded in 1967 by parents and mental health care professionals to address the needs of kids in Orange County, California. Services for children with emotional and behavioral challenges were provided pro bono by professionals and volunteers in donated office space until the CGC moved into their own facilities in the 1970’s. Since 1999, the CGC’s off-site services have been available as well as in-home and on-campus.

Today, the Child Guidance Center serves over 1200 children and families each week and employs 80+ professional child behavioral health specialists and support staff.

AirTek supports the efforts of the Child Guidance Center and you can, too! Tickets for an amazing raffle are available and we have 5 in our possession! The Child Guidance Center is attempting to raise $10,000 to offset a budget shortfall due to funding delays. Donate $100 and have a 1 in 200 chance to win $1000–better odds than the lottery, huh?

Help a child today! Follow the instructions in this picture and let us know if you win! Of course, in a raffle like this EVERYONE IS A WINNER! Good luck!

Help a Child Raffle Instructions

The Irony of Indoor Air Quality

Window in Italy

Photo by danagouws via stock.xchng

We have made a lot of positive progress on air quality in recent decades:

We no longer use leaded gasoline.

Smog checks and better made cars create less pollution.

Smoking rates continue to decrease.

We have banned smoking in many public indoor spaces, workplaces and even some outdoor common areas, lowering exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Clean Air Act has regulated some emissions from factories and power plants.

But, as we all know, our outdoor air still needs improvement, especially in the area of carbon emissions. However, some of our attempts to solve other environmental challenges have made our indoor air quality worse instead of better.

We have sealed our homes and buildings as much as possible, to save energy and the cost of heating and cooling those indoor environments. We let air in through our ventilation systems, but when that outside air brings in particles and other pollutants, we don’t let those out again. Our indoor air can be as much as 50% more polluted than the outdoor air. The same problem happens with volatile organic compounds contained in cleaning products, paint, adhesives and other chemicals that are off-gassed by furniture and floor coverings. They cannot escape. Air fresheners, sprays, pesticides, you name it, it stays inside. And we spend as much as 90% of our time indoors.

At AirTek we have some recommendations:

When the weather permits, open the windows. Let some new air in!

Change to greener cleaning products with low volatile organic compounds. There are many new cleaners to try and even old standbys like white vinegar can do a lot of the jobs we have gotten accustomed to using harsh chemicals to do.

Be sure to paint in well-ventilated areas and keep the ventilation going, including fans, until fumes have dispersed. Three days after painting is a good rule of thumb.

Leave new furniture unwrapped outside for a couple of days before bringing it in the house to allow formaldehyde and other VOCs to off-gas away from your living space.

Keep your ventilation system clean and well maintained. Your air filters won’t do you any good if they are dirty and clogged. Bacteria can collect and grow in ducts and vents, causing illness and allergies.

Saving energy is important–turn off the heat before you open the windows!–but your health should be as big a consideration as cost!

Like to Grill? Hold Your Breath!

Gas grill

I admit it. I love my grill. We had grilled salmon for dinner just last night. It’s nice to be able to grill year-round in California.

But should I be grilling so often?   I wonder…

A new study by scientists at UC Davis has turned up one of the biggest producers of dangerous particles–the backyard grill.

Anthony Wexler, Director of the Air Quality Research Center at UC Davis, headed up the study which used atmospheric samples to measure the toxicity of various kinds of pollution from particles. Along with professor of pediatrics Kent Pinkerton, the study found that particles from cooking on a grill were as toxic as vehicle and wood-burning emissions.

The main culprit: charcoal briquets.

Whew! I have a gas grill!

Air pollution from cooking is a global problem, causing premature deaths in developed and undeveloped countries alike. If you decide to use a charcoal grill, follow these simple steps to protect your respiratory health:

  • Never grill indoors
  • Close your windows if the grill is near the house
  • Adjust the position of the grill so that you can cook upwind of any smoke
  • Do not overuse lighter fluids
  • Do not store the grill indoors with used charcoal inside

Grilling is fun and easy and a great way to add flavor to meats and vegetables, but be mindful and use the grill safely to protect your health!

Another thing you can do to keep yourself safe when cooking is to keep your kitchen air ducts and exhaust hoods clean and grease-free. Kitchen fires are often caused by volatile materials lurking in ductwork, especially in restaurants. If you need commercial or residential duct cleaning services in California, call on AirTek!