10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is alerting consumers to possible health hazards resulting from dirty room humidifiers. The CPSC has found that bacteria and fungi often grow in the tanks of portable and console room humidifiers and can be released in the mist. Breathing dirty mist may cause lung problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to serious infection. This information is of special concern to allergy or asthma sufferers whose symptoms may be increased. Film or scum appearing on the water surface, on the sides or bottom of the tank, or on exposed motor parts may indicate that the humidifier tank contains bacteria or fungi. A crusty deposit or scale may also form within the tank or on parts in the water. This scale is composed of minerals that have settled out of the water creating a surface on which bacteria or fungi may grow. Minerals can also be released in the mist and settle as fine white dust. This white dust may contain particles that are small enough to enter the lungs. The health effects from inhaling this humidifier dust are not clear, any impact on human health will depend upon the types and amounts of minerals found in the water used. To reduce the possibility of health hazards from dirty room humidifiers, the staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you take the following precautions: Do not allow film and scale to develop in your humidifier. If possible, change the water in your room humidifier daily. Empty the tank before you fill it. If the tank is not removable, clean it often according to manufacturer’s instructions. Use distilled or demineralized water in your room humidifier to reduce the buildup of scale and the release of dust. Do not use tap water because it contains more minerals. Use demineralization cartridges or filters if supplied or recommended for use with your humidifier. Drain and clean the tank of your room humidifier before you store it. Clean it after summer storage. Remove dust on the outside of your unit. Clean your room humidifier well and often during the heating season. Be sure to unplug the humidifier before cleaning. Follow the manufacturer’s suggested cleaning methods. If chlorine bleach or other cleaning product or disinfectant is used, make sure to rinse the tank well to avoid breathing harmful chemicals. Use a brush or other scrubber to clean the tank. Be careful not to damage the motor or to scratch the inner surface. Clean or replace sponge filters or belts when needed. Maintain the relative humidity in your home between 30% and 50% if possible. Humidity levels above 60% may allow moisture to build up indoors and condense on surfaces, where bacteria and fungi can settle and grow. You can measure humidity with an instrument called a hygrometer, available at your local hardware store.
July 21, 2015
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10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor

 

  1. Study up — Find out about license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state. And before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also make note of any uncomfortable rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your heating needs.
  2. Ask for referrals — Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. You can also contact local trade organizations for names of members in your area.
  3. Call references — Ask contractors for customer references and call them. Ask about the contractor’s installation or service performance, and if the job was completed on time and within budget.
  4. Find special offers — A heating and cooling system is one of the largest purchases you’ll make as a homeowner. Keep your costs down by checking around for available rebates on energy-efficient ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment.
  5. Look for ENERGY STAR — ENERGY STAR qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer significant long-term energy savings. Contractors should be able to show you calculations of savings for ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment.
  6. Expect a home evaluation — The contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. A bigger system isn’t always better; a contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your house, level of insulation, and windows. A good contractor will inspect your duct system (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation and measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturers specifications.
  7. Get written, itemized estimates — When comparing contractors’ proposals (bids), be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency and warranties. A lowest price may not be the best deal if it’s not the most efficient because your energy costs will be higher.
  8. Get it in ink — Sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started. It’ll protect you by specifying project costs, model numbers, job schedule and warranty information.
  9. Pass it on — Tell friends and family about ENERGY STAR. Almost one-quarter of households knowingly purchased at least one qualified product last year, and 71% of those consumers say they would recommend ENERGY STAR to a friend. Spread the word, and we can all make a big difference.
  10. Get the ENERGY STAR Guide — For complete information on keeping your home comfortable year-round, read the ENERGY STAR