We are firmly ensconced in winter; spring is at least nine weeks away. Most likely, if you’re in Michigan, your windows will be closed and you’ll be relying on your furnace (or boiler) to provide comfort. There are three things you should be aware of with regards to your furnace at this time of year.
There’s No “CO” in Danger (But there should be!)
Gas-burning systems create CO (carbon monoxide) a colorless, odorless gas that in sufficient quantities can be deadly to people (and pets!). Your home can fill up with CO from a damaged, improperly installed, or poorly maintained furnace. Yes, an annual inspection might cost you money, but are you able to determine if your furnace is spilling carbon monoxide into your home? It’s best to get a professional inspection once a year.
Just so you know, the first symptoms of CO poisoning are flu-like, but long-term exposure is deadly. Infants, children, and individuals with chronic health problems are most at risk.
A CO detector (at least one) in your home (with charged batteries) will also help in-between inspections if any problem arises.
As a general rule, change the batteries once a year, and change out your detector(s) around every ten years.
Is It Dry in here or Is It just Me?
Winter brings a lower humidity which can mean fun with static electricity.
As annoying as that is, low humidity creates problems ranging from dry skin to respiratory illness. Think about dry nasal passages and you’ll want a proper balance of humidity in your home.
Unfortunately, lack of humidity affects the wood in your home, too. Floors and furniture can crack just from a lower amount of atmospheric moisture.
The upside of a balanced humidity level not only brings health benefits and prolongs the life of wood products, but you can save money: with a lower evaporation point, the air seems warmer; you’ll be able to turn down the thermostat a degree or two, thus saving money and energy. Not to mention the lack of static sparks you’ll be generating.
If your furnace does not have a built-in humidifier, you might want to think about using room humidifiers.
Filtered or Unfiltered?
An easy fix for better air quality in your home is to make sure that the furnace filter is changed out when it should be. That can depend on the kind of filter your furnace uses–a range from one to six months is normal. If it looks dirty, change it now, rather than wait for it’s “expiration date.”
A clean filter can mean fewer headaches, allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and illnesses associated with air quality issues.
It’s a DIY action that can mean a lot for your family. However, be aware that the higher efficiency rating of a filter (which has nothing to do with energy savings) means a higher cost. If no one in your family has allergies, there is no reason to be purchasing a filter with a MERV rating of higher than 7. If a family member does suffer from allergies, don’t go higher than MERV 11. By the way, MERV stands for Minimun Efficiency Reporting Value. It’s a measurement scale from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to rate the filtration efficiency of filters. The higher the number the more particles the filter will hold.
If you tend to stay indoors more during the winter, you’re going to want to maximize the cleanliness of the air you and your family breathe. Keep the CO to a minimum, provide the right humidity, and use clean filtration as often as possible. Everyone will be that much happier when you binge watch shows or play games while the “weather outside is frightful…”