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Stay Healthy This Winter With a Little Help from Your Indoor Air Quality Experts!

portable humidifier

If you are new to Canada's notorious winter weather, you may be understandably taken aback the first time a real winter cold front rolls in.

According to the Government of Canada, Canada can dish out extreme weather—to the level at which it takes some deliberate actions on the part of newcomers to adjust successfully.

But even if you are a veteran of Canada winters, it is always good to take a fresh look at your preparations. Are you doing enough to winterize your home to stay healthy and save as much as possible on heating costs? Is the indoor air you are breathing as germ- and toxin-free as it can possibly be?

In this article, we share two vital indoor air quality tips to help you stay healthy this winter.

Hydrate for Respiratory Health

When the weather here in Ontario gets warm, it usually isn’t a problem to stay hydrated. This is because it is often also quite humid during the warm season here.

Humidity can easily reach 60 percent or greater, which keeps your skin, tissues, and respiratory passages nice and moist to trap and repel airborne pollen and germs.

But in winter, as the temperature plunges, the humidity level typically does the same. This is actually one of the main reasons why winter has become synonymous with "cold and flu season."

Without sufficient moisture in the air to keep your nasal and respiratory passages moist and lubricated with mucus, your body is less well able to fight off germs. In winter, it is not uncommon for humidity levels to drop to 20 percent or lower. Running your heater will dry out your indoor air even further, leaving you prey to all kinds of health issues.

Here, your goal will be to keep winter humidity levels inside your home between 30 and 50 percent to keep your body hydrated. To do this, you will need to add back moisture to your indoor air.

Here are five methods that can work well to accomplish this, depending on your budget and the size of your space:

  1. Don't use your exhaust vent when you shower or take a bath. If you allow the humidity to build up and then open the door as soon as you have finished bathing, this will allow the steam to infuse your indoor air and raise the humidity levels.

  2. Boil a pot of water on the stove. Not only will a pot of boiling water release steam into the air, but if you add a cinnamon stick or some citrus peel, your home will smell lovely naturally!

  3. Place a heat-safe bowl filled with water on top of your radiator. This has an effect similar to boiling water on the stove. The heat from the radiator unit will vaporize the water and disperse humidity into the air in that room.

  4. Use a portable humidifier. If anyone in your family struggles with allergies or asthma, using a portable humidifier in that person's bedroom and/or in general living areas can help reduce symptoms.

  5. Install a whole home humidifier. A whole home humidifier can work with your furnace system to balance indoor winter humidity levels. A dehumidifier can do the same in summer.

Ventilate to Oxygenate Your Body

Oxygen is vital for every cell in your body. With each exhale, you release your body's main by-product, carbon dioxide, back into the air. In an airtight, enclosed space, this will shift the balance in the air from oxygen-rich to carbon dioxide-rich.

Common symptoms of oxygen-poor indoor air include headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, sweating, a rise in heart rate, irritability, fatigue and anxiety, among others. These symptoms, in turn, activate your immune system, which in time will become fatigued battling a problem (oxygen deprivation) it cannot hope to correct.

This leaves your body more vulnerable to airborne germs and allergens, which for many of us ends predictably with a bout of winter cold and/or flu.

Oxygen-poor indoor air is a particular issue in winter, since most people don't even consider opening doors or windows when the weather outside is cold, rainy or snowy. As well, you will likely be more inclined to stay indoors, where you will continue depleting the same indoor air of oxygen.

Here are four of the best methods to re-oxygenate through ventilation this winter, depending on your budget and the size of your space:

  1. Close the door to one room and then open a window. Select a windowed room. Close the door and the air register. Then open the window and set a timer for 30 minutes. After that time, close the window and then open the door to let the fresh, oxygen-rich outside air filter into your home.

  2. Continue to run your fans, but in reverse mode. Ceiling fans generally have a switch that reverses the blades in winter. This serves to pull the cool air up and push the warm air down to even out the temperature. But its more important function is to keep the air moving throughout your home so no one room becomes too depleted of oxygen.

  3. Add houseplants to your indoor space. Plants "breathe" carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen as their waste product. This makes plants the perfect addition to keep your home oxygenated!

  4. Install a heat or energy recovery ventilator to provide whole home ventilation. As Natural Resources Canada explains, a heat/energy recovery ventilator (HRV/ERV) is a useful appliance for keeping your indoor air fresh and oxygenated year-round. If your home isn't ducted, you can even install separate ducting to run your HRV!

Give Us a Call

Need help staying healthy this winter? Give us a call at 877.885.3403!

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Save On Your Hot Water Costs & Save the Planet Too!

hot water heat recovery

If you have never heard of drain water heat recovery (DWHR) until now, you are in for a treat! We love this energy-saving, water-saving, cash-saving way to get more out of every drop of hot water you use.

Let's say you turn your faucet to the hot water setting. The moment the heated water starts to come out, you use what you need and then turn the tap off again. But in that simple, brief time, much of the hot water coming out of your faucet has actually gone right down the drain unused!

The U.S. Department of Energy explains how anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of the energy draw to heat your water disappears with the unused portion of your hot water. What a waste of perfectly good (and not cheap) extra heat energy!

With a drain water heat recovery system, you can put that otherwise wasted heat energy to good secondary use—preheating cold water for future hot water needs. Keep reading to learn more about how this innovative energy and cash saving system works!

What is Drain Water?

There are three different types of water: white, grey, and black. White water is fresh tap water that has not yet been used for any purpose. Black water is, essentially, toilet water.

Grey water comes from sinks, tubs, showers, and washing machines. So this water may contain a bit of other matter, such as soap residue, hair, skin flakes, cooking oil, and washing or cleaning products.

Drain water is grey water. Essentially, grey water is "gently used" water that can still be re-purposed for a variety of energy-saving uses. For our purposes here, this water will be reused for its remaining heat content.

The way that this energy is captured for re-use will depend on what type of hot water heater system you have, so that is what we will look at next.

Re-Using Water Heat With Your Hot Water Heater

There are two basic types of hot water heaters: storage and non-storage (otherwise known as on demand).

Storage hot water heaters will use the remaining heat energy from your home's grey water to preheat the stored water for future uses.

Non-storage hot water heaters will use the remaining heat energy to preheat the water that flows out to meet immediate hot water demands.

What is important to know here is that both types of hot water heater systems can make use of this otherwise wasted heat energy.

As well, both types of systems use a heat exchange coil to capture and reuse the heat energy. The placement of this coil is just different depending on what type of system you use.

How the Heat Exchange Process Works

Different systems may have slightly different names for their heat exchange technology. Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, we work with a wonderful company called RenewABILITY Energy. Their system is called the Power-Pipe® DWHR.

The Power-Pipe® is a patented system that harnesses grey water heat energy through a process called Falling Film Heat Exchange.

Here is a brief step-by-step of how this system works:

  • Unused hot water falls from the tap down the drain.

  • The 1 mm wide wall of fast free-falling hot water hits the sides of the drain pipe.

  • As it falls, this water hits a section of special copper drain pipe surrounded by coils of copper wire (this section is added to your drain pipe system during Power-Pipe® installation).

  • When the water enters the Power-Pipe® section of copper drain pipe, an energy hand-off occurs when the water transfers its remaining unused heat to the surrounding external copper coils.

  • The copper coils, in turn, are full of fresh incoming cold water, which receives the transferred heat and begins to warm up in advance of any future hot water demands.

  • Current estimates indicate that incoming cold water can increase by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit before the water even enters the water heater unit itself, which is an energy draw savings of up to 25 percent of what your hot water heater normally requires to function.

This system is what is called a Double Wall Heat Exchanger. The "double wall" is what ensures the incoming cold white water and the still-heated draining grey water never meet and mix. Rather, the combination of copper-on-copper permits safe transfer of the unused, re-usable heat energy while keeping the two water sources completely separate.

Who Can Use a Drain Water Heat Recovery System?

Here is the best news of all—the reason why we are so passionate about introducing our clients to the Power-Pipe® system of heat energy re-use: This system can be used safely, effectively, and affordably in ANY type of structure!

Single-family homes, multi-unit residences, commercial businesses, factories, and industrial warehouses are all good candidates to harness this otherwise wasted source of heat energy to save money and help conserve our planet's dwindling freshwater resources.

What Type of Savings Are We Talking About Here?

How much you save on hot water heating-related energy costs annually will depend on how much hot water you use. The Power-Pipe® system is designed to help you save up to 40 percent on your hot water heating costs annually.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it will take anywhere from 2.5 to 7 years following installation to recoup your investment. Here, of course, the price of the initial installation as well as your average hot water usage both impact this estimate.

For commercial entities, installation of a drain water heat recovery system comes with additional payoffs, including smoothing the path to obtaining and maintaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) sustainable building design certification.

Give Us a Call

It is simple and quick to install a drain water heat recovery system and the system itself is quite affordable given your return on investment.

Give us a call at 877-885-3403 or visit us online to schedule your initial consultation!

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5 Reasons You Need a Home Standby Generator Now

backup generater

A home standby generator, otherwise known as a home backup generator, is no longer an optional appliance for many homeowners today.

With its unprecedented thunderstorms, tornado activity, flooding, and outdated water control infrastructure, the entire Muskoka district has been subjected to intense and unusual weather activity over the past several months.

Ongoing climate change is contributing to ever-warming temperatures across Canada, which is thought to be fueling this strange and severe weather activity.

In light of these occurrences, if you have been considering adding a home standby generator to your family home safety toolkit, there has never been a better time than now!

What Is a Standby Generator?

A standby generator is like a power guard. While you have power, the generator will just sit quietly in its place. It won’t draw any power or cost you any money.

This is how the standby generator earned its nickname of “home backup” generator. You will quickly see why, the moment the power to your home goes out.

The instant you lose power to your home, your home backup generator will sense it. It will then switch on and supply all the power you need until your central power is restored.

The moment central power is restored, your generator will sense it once again and turn itself off. Then it will sit quietly until the next moment it is needed.

Features of Standby Generators

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric, we are proud distributors of the Generac brand of generators.

Generac’s line of standby generators offers you a compact, space-saving design packed full of cutting-edge, cost-saving features such as these:

  • Mobile-link technology permits you to check on your generator when you are away from home.

  • Fuel choice lets you choose from on-grid and off-grid generators powered by natural gas, liquid propane and diesel, and all offer fuel-efficient operation.

  • Certain generators offer an intuitive remote control device with multiple language options.

  • Standby generators can tap right into the central electrical panel so you don’t have to deal with extension cords.

  • Certain generators come code-ready for installation and can be placed as close to the house as 18 inches!

  • These “smart” generators auto-sense a power outage and kick into gear, whether they are routed for whole-home power restoration or simply protection of sensitive appliances and electronics.

  • With different power levels, you can select the generator with the right capacity for your home’s average power draw.

5 Reasons to Invest in a Home Backup Generator

In today’s uncertain climate, a better question might be, “Why not?” Still, a generator, like any other home improvement decision, can represent a significant investment.

So let’s take a quick look at some of the many reasons homeowners tell us they are ready to add a home backup generator to their home safety toolkit:

  1. Temperature control. It is one thing to lose power in the spring or fall when temperature is typically temperate and manageable. But imagine if the power failed in winter when the temperature outside was a mind-numbing -26 degrees Celsius!

  2. Safeguarding perishables. For a single person who is used to eating out, a loss of power probably won’t do much damage in terms of food perishables. But once you have a family, there can easily be several hundred dollars’ worth of refrigerated and frozen food at stake if the power goes out.

  3. Hot water. No one likes stone-cold showers, even if it is brutally hot outside. And just try to imagine waking up without your morning coffee or tea… that is usually all it takes to convince caffeine addicts of the value of having a standby generator during a power outage!

  4. Basement flooding. In some homes, the sump pump stops working when the electricity goes out. The easiest fix for this is to equip the sump pump with a backup battery. But another equally easy fix is to invest in a standby generator, which can do a lot more for you during an outage than just run your sump pump.

  5. Resale value. When it comes time to sell your home, the presence of a standby generator can add to its resale value and appeal.

How to Choose a Standby Generator

There are two basic kinds of generators: portable and stationary.

Portable generator

The portable generator is what most people are most familiar with—typically, this is a compact, lightweight generator that needs to be manually plugged in before it will power on and work. It usually powers only one or two essential appliances at a time.

Stationary generator

The stationary generator typically needs to be installed by an electrical professional and will hook into the central power source to automatically power on and off during power outages. It usually is able to power several essential appliances at a time, or in some cases, an entire household.

Then there are two basic models of standby generators: a managed generator and a whole house generator.

Managed generator

A managed generator will power a suite of essential items, such as a sump pump, refrigerator/freezer, security system, garage door opener, and furnace fan. You can choose which items your standby generator powers, but you won’t be able to power your whole home all at once with this type of generator.

Whole house generator

A whole house generator can “act as if” your regular power source has been restored, powering any and every appliance and gadget in your home at the same time.

Clearly, you will need to invest more to power your whole house versus choosing to power only certain essentials during a power outage.

Give Us a Call

Need help selecting and installing a standby generator? Call us at 877-885-3403 or contact us online!

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Where There Is Fire, There is Smoke: Safeguarding Your Indoor Air Quality

wildfire smoke indoor air quality

According to weather experts, 2017 was not supposed to be a "wildfire year" for Canada.

But as it turned out, when you mix climate change leading to record-setting high temperatures, lightening strikes and dry air, this creates "perfect storm-like" conditions for wildfires to develop.

To further worsen the situation, many Western areas throughout North America, including both Canada and the United States, are burning, and the smoke that the combined wildfires are producing can be seen from space. As the smoke intensifies, airborne toxins spread farther and across the continent, affecting those who live hundreds or thousands of miles from the source.

With more than 500 wildfires reported just in British Columbia thus far, it is now clear this is one of the worst seasons for wildfires in recent history. In this article, we outline how to ensure your indoor air quality remains safe and healthy for you and your family during this dangerous time!

What Is In Airborne Smoke?

Smoke doesn't seem that threatening visually. It turns the air white or grey and often carries dust and fine debris.

Unfortunately, smoke and the debris it produces represent a toxic blend of airborne gases and particulate matter, including some of the deadliest known to science today.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of a study in Critical Reviews in Toxicology that named the major toxins present in airborne smoke as follows:

  • Carbon monoxide

  • Hydrogen cyanide

  • Nitrogen

  • Halogens (inorganic chemical acids)

  • Ethanol

To further complicate matters, fire is a voracious consumer of oxygen, which leaves the resulting air very oxygen-poor. Instead of breathing in oxygen, you are now breathing in the toxic chemicals listed here plus copious quantities of carbon dioxide, which further depletes your body's oxygen reserves.

The combination of elevated smoke/fire-related airborne toxins plus the resultant oxygen depletion can reach fatal levels 10 percent faster than the presence of either danger on its own.

Health Dangers of Airborne Smoke

According to Air Now, a partnership between agencies throughout North America, smoke is a potent source of air pollution. While it may smell good when coming from your holiday fireplace or someone’s campfire outside, your lungs and heart are not enjoying it nearly as much as the rest of you.

And when the smoke is coming from what is now said to be one of the largest continuously burning banks of wildfires in recent history, the potential health impacts can range from mild to catastrophic.

Proximity and pre-existing health conditions combine to indicate who bears the greatest health risk from breathing in smoke-filled air.

If you or a loved one has any of these health conditions, it is critically important to ensure you have a continuous smoke-free source of indoor air to breathe:

  • Heart condition

  • Lung condition

  • Asthma

  • Allergies

  • Diabetes

  • Trying to conceive or currently pregnant

Also, very young and elderly individuals are more at-risk of experiencing more serious side effects from breathing in smoke-filled air.

The most commonly reported side effects arising from breathing in smoke-filled air include:

  • Respiratory symptoms: watering or itching eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, wheezing, phlegm, breathing issues, increased asthma attacks.

  • Cardiovascular symptoms: heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, fatigue, inability to breathe deeply.

How to Clean Your Indoor Air

The best time to clean your indoor air is before wildfire season even arrives. This preventative step ensures the least health impact from either airborne smoke-related toxins or oxygen depletion or both.

Happily, indoor air quality (IAQ) technology has made a giant leap forward in recent years, with the result that you have more efficient and more affordable IAQ options to choose from than at any other time in history.

As well, any technology you choose to implement will protect you not just during wildfire season, but year-round.

Here is a list of the major IAQ aids we recommend for our clients:

1. Heat Recovery Ventilator  or Energy Recovery Ventilator

Both HRV and ERV systems ensure that fresh incoming air and stale outgoing air do not meet and mix. Both systems also filter out airborne toxins, boost HVAC and furnace efficiency, and balance humidity in your indoor air systems.

ERVs are generally recommended for warmer and more humid climates, while HRVs work well in more temperate climates with lower humidity.

2. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system

The HEPA filtration system is currently the "gold standard" for indoor air filtration. HEPA filters are often installed in hospital and laboratory settings, but today's HEPA options include residential filters as well. HEPA filters can filter out airborne particulate matter as small as 0.3 microns (the width of a single human hair!).

In addition to using HEPA-rated filters with your existing HVAC unit (if rated at a MERV 16+), you can retrofit any HVAC system with a HEPA whole-house filtration system that filters the air before it enters your ducts.

You can also purchase HEPA-rated vacuum cleaners for use on your floors and carpeting.

3. MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) furnace filters

A MERV-rated furnace filter of 16 or higher is the equivalent grade of a residential HEPA filter and can filter out even very tiny toxic particles in your indoor air.

4. Dehumidifiers and humidifiers

The amount of indoor air humidity can exacerbate or reduce the potential health impact of toxic airborne chemicals, gases, and particulate matter.

The ideal range is 30 to 50 percent humidity, which may mean using a combination of humidification and dehumidification to regulate your indoor air humidity levels.

5. Portable air filters

For homes that are lacking a central duct system, portable air filters with a high CADR (central air delivery rate) rating can achieve a similar effect as the other aids listed here.

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Tips for a Speedy and Seamless Cottage Closing

cottage closing fall

Wow! In just a few weeks, we will be welcoming September and the beginnings of fall! And even though memories of opening your cottage for the warm season are likely still fresh, it will soon be time to close it down again for the return of the cold.

If you have had your seasonal cottage for years, you likely know the drill—perhaps you just need a bit of professional assistance when you are crunched for time.

But if you are new to seasonal cottage upkeep and maintenance, the onset of cottage closing season can be a stressful endeavor.

In this post, we offer our favorite tips for a speedy and seamless cottage closing process. We are also happy to work with you to ensure your cabin is winterized properly before winter actually arrives.

When to Close Your Summer Cottage

As climate change continues to unfold, some of our long-predictable weather patterns are beginning to shift. This can make it more challenging to choose an optimal cottage closing date.

Traditionally, cottage owners have aimed to have a seasonal cottage closed and winterized no later than Thanksgiving weekend, perhaps earlier, if snow is predicted to make an early appearance that year.

Herein, of course, lies the essential seasonal conundrum—close your cottage too early and you miss out on some of the loveliest weather of the whole year. Close too late and every step of the cottage closing process will be harder to complete.

So aim to close down your cottage as soon as your fall schedule no longer feasibly permits you to visit the cottage regularly. This way, you have ample time to attend to each critical item, which is particularly vital if this is your first go-round with fall cottage closing procedures!

Major Cottage Closing Checklist

Some items on your cottage closing checklist are simply too important to be neglected. Forget or skip over these items and you may return to a ghastly and expensive repair job.

1. Drain and wrap your pipes. You want to be sure you guard against pipes freezing and bursting over the winter season. Drain out the water and then shut off the main water valve.

2. Leak-proof your hot water heater. Only by draining and turning off your hot water heater can you be sure it won't spring a damaging mid-winter leak.

3. Defrost your refrigerator/freezer. Unplug it and leave the doors slightly ajar to prevent mould and mildew. Remove all food, even canned items, which may freeze and/or spoil or attract wildlife.

4. Prepare your septic/sump system for winter. What you do can depend on the height of your water table and whether your pipes pump uphill or downhill. Take advice from the manufacturer or an expert on how to winterize your particular system.

5. Wildlife-proof your roof, vents, main cottage, and storage shed areas. Rodents and insects will be eager to enter your cabin to shelter when temperatures drop. Re-seal old caulking, install vent screens, close your fireplace chimney flue, and take other specific precautions as needed to keep out wildlife.

6. Take in and secure all equipment, furniture, docks, vehicles, and gear. Secure these inside your shed to prevent them from becoming damaging missiles during winter's storms. Be SURE you factor in the possibility of rising water in deciding where to store these valuable items.

7. Secure any items to be left outside during winter. If there are items that are too cumbersome or large to be moved easily or for which you simply have no storage space indoors, be sure to secure them in some way—chains and a heavy-duty lock often work well.

8. Make a decision about your main power supply. Some cottage owners leave it on to power security systems or safety lighting. This is a very individual decision—take help from an expert if you need it to make the best decision. If you do unplug completely, make sure to unplug each appliance individually as well.

9. Check to be sure all seasonal vehicle and cottage insurance is up-to-date. Insurance may not be the most fun part of owning a seasonal cottage and seasonal vehicles/recreational gear, but it sure comes in handy when these treasures become damaged, vandalized, or stolen!

Minor Cottage Closing Checklist

Other items on your cottage closing checklist are less critical in terms of cottage safety and security, but doing them will definitely make your life easier when it comes time to reopen your cottage in the spring.

1. Winterize your lawn and garden. Clear out old foliage, mow, weed, and add a layer or two of protective mulch for winter.

2. Clean out and winterize your fireplace. If you have a working fireplace you've been using, any leftover debris will become a winter critter magnet. In addition, cleaning, repairing, and oiling all fireplace and flue mechanisms will make it much easier to reopen it for use in the spring.

3. Give your cottage itself a good pre-winter cleaning. This includes wrapping pillows, mattresses, cushions, and linens in plastic to keep dust mites and other tiny creatures out. You can place fabric softener sheets inside the plastic to act as a further repellant.

4. Place anti-damp packets in each room to guard against excess winter humidity. This will stave off spring issues with mould or mildew and help ease any musty odour.

Give Us a Call

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, our goal is to make your seasonal cottage opening and closing chores as straightforward and simple as possible. If you need guidance on your particular cottage fixtures, we can help. If you would feel more comfortable having a pro close up and winterize your cottage, give us a call at 877-885-3403.

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Letís Talk About Humidity

humidity

Humidity has become a hot-button topic in HVAC circles these days. As it turns out, it’s more than just the reason for “bad hair days” and prescription-strength antiperspirant.

Excessive humidity can also cause significant structural damage to your home or workplace and it has been implicated in many health issues.

However, too much humidity isn’t the sole perpetrator of poor health or home repairs: not enough humidity is just as guilty of causing health symptoms and home damage.

What can you do to balance out the humidity levels inside your home? Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry—it can all seem like too much to manage!

In this article, we will explain how humidity affects you and your home or workplace and steps you can take to ensure year-round optimal humidity levels.

Humidity Defined

So what precisely is “humidity?” According to Canada’s Department of Environmental and Climate Change, humidity is a measure of how much water vapour is present in the air at any given time.

Meteorologists commonly use the term “relative humidity” to express how much humidity is in the air from one day to the next. They do this by comparing the amount of water vapour in the air on that day versus the amount of vapour that would be present if the humidity was at 100 percent.

The closer the percentage of relative humidity gets to 100 percent, the more likely you are to see rain, dew, mist, and/or fog forming. This is caused when the air releases excess water vapour.

Seasonal Humidity Explained

As you have no doubt noticed purely by experience, humidity tends to increase in the hot summer months. It also tends to decrease during the cold winter months.

However, thanks in large part to our increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, this model does not always hold firm.

There can be times, for instance, when the weather is quite hot yet the humidity is very low (if you have ever been to Arizona in the United States, you already know how hot, dry weather can feel!).

And there can be times when winter gets really damp, especially when a cold front hasn’t quite blown through yet and it is raining and sort of muggy. During these times, you might feel like you can never completely dry off or warm up.

However, as the Ontario Lung Association (OLA) points out, there are some guidelines that can help you sort out the humidity levels inside your home, even if you can’t control what is going on outside your four walls.

The recommended range for humidity indoors is between 30 and 50 percent. In the summer, the level will likely hover closer to the 50 percent mark. In the winter, you are more apt to see humidity levels around the 30 percent mark.

But if humidity climbs higher than 50 percent or drops lower than 30 percent, this is when you will see issues begin to crop up on both health and structural levels.

The Dangers of Too Much Humidity

Perhaps the best-known and most publicized danger of too-high humidity levels is mould and mildew growth.

Optimal conditions for mould and mildew growth are warm and damp, but they will propagate quite happily when it is cool and damp as well.

Many homes see mould and mildew growing sporadically in naturally damp, humid rooms such as the bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, or the basement. At humidity levels above 50 percent, however, there is the risk that small mould or mildew colonies will send out spores that will settle and replicate in other areas of your home as well.

Mould and mildew aren’t just expensive to clean up. They are also toxic when you breathe in the spores. Living in very humid conditions can also cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke and increased risk of bacterial and fungal infection and illness.

The Dangers of Too Little Humidity

Of course, just when you are fervently wishing for less humidity, the cold season arrives and the humidity index plunges. Now, instead of too much humidity, you are coping with too little humidity, which brings its own series of dangers with it.

As long as the humidity level in the air is at 30 percent or higher, you are unlikely to experience too much discomfort, especially because even in winter, humidity can fluctuate.

But when the humidity levels plunge lower than 30 percent, you may begin to notice your respiratory health deteriorating as your nasal membranes dry out. Your skin may crack and your lips may chap. If you catch a cold or the flu, you will likely get sicker because there isn’t enough mucus to send the airborne germs packing.

Anything made of wood, from flooring to furniture to cottages, will also experience stress during very low humidity conditions. Cracking, buckling, and separation are all common side effects of too little humidity.

How to Balance Your Indoor Air Humidity

You need three key components to keep your indoor air humidity balanced year-round:

  1. Hygrometer. This simple, affordable device can be found at any local hardware store. It will measure the humidity level in your home.

  2. Humidifier. These fabulous devices will add essential humidity to your indoor air supply during very low humidity conditions to keep your furnishings and your health in optimal condition.

  3. Dehumidifier. These incredible devices will remove excess moisture (water vapour) from your indoor air and keep the humidity level within your desired range.

Give Us a Call

Are you having problems keeping your indoor humidity levels balanced, safe, and healthy? We can help! Give us a call at 705-687-3402 or 877-885-3403 or contact us online.

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Dreaming of Home Renovations? What You Need to Know About Building Permits

home renovations building permits

According to the Financial Post, Canadian homeowners are tackling remodeling projects in record numbers. BNN reports that, as of 2017, nearly half of all Canadian homeowners report that they plan to invest in home renovations this year!

When asked what their biggest remodel-related concerns are, these homeowners replied: project delays, spending too much, and the disruption to their regular home routines.

If you are planning a home remodel in the near future, you can probably relate to these concerns! You may also be worried about the permitting process itself. But Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric can help you! Read on to learn the basics of applying for a building permit and how that process works.

The Hazards of Renovating Without a Permit

While this is not advisable, it is also not uncommon to find homeowners opting to complete small renovation projects without going through the building permit process.

There are four main areas where this strategy can backfire:

  • It can put you in a precarious negotiating position when you want to sell your home. Buyers are often reluctant to take on the responsibility of buying a home that includes unpermitted renovations.

  • If you are turned in, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs or your local municipality can shut down your renovation at any point until you obtain the required permits.

  • You may also have to redo part or all of the work already done to date if it was not done to your municipality's building code specifications.

  • If you work with a contractor and experience project delays or problems with the finished product, you will have little legal recourse without revealing the lack of required permits.

For these reasons and others, it is always best to go through the proper channels to get your building permit before starting a remodel project.

When You Need a Building Permit

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for Ontario, you are required to apply for a permit under these conditions:

  • If you plan to repair or renovate an existing structure.

  • If you plan to add to an existing structure to expand it.

  • If you plan to add a structure (such as a mobile home or a building).

  • If you plan to construct any new building that measures over 10 meters.

  • If you plan to excavate an existing foundation or build a new foundation.

  • If you plan to build a seasonal structure.

  • If you plan to alter, repair, extend or install a sewage system on your property.

If you are ever uncertain whether a proposed repair or remodel project requires a building project, it is always a good idea to ask your municipality.

How to Apply for a Building Permit

In most cases, you can have your permit in-hand in a relatively short amount of time. The average is 10 to 30 days after you submit your application, depending on the type and complexity of your project.

This is the basic process for applying for a building permit:

  • Request a permit application with the appropriate municipal office.

  • Fill out the application completely and add in all requested documentation.

  • Have your building plans reviewed and approved by an entity with a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number) such as Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric.

  • Pay the filing fee at the time you submit your application.

  • Wait for your application to be reviewed.

  • Receive an approval.

  • Post your building permit approval notice in a window or other area of high visibility on your property and make sure to keep a copy of your plans on the premises.

  • Work with building inspectors at each major phase of your project to ensure compliance with your municipality's building code and your building plans.

  • Complete construction.

While this process probably sounds simple enough, there is one possible hitch that may arise. If you submit your initial building plans for permitting and your application is denied, you will have to decide whether to proceed forward and file an appeal.

The most common reasons why a permit application may be denied include these:

  • Your building plans are not complete at the time of submission (for instance, if you plan to demolish part or all of a structure and then remodel or construct a new one, which may require two separate permit applications).

  • The plans were not reviewed and approved by an entity with a BCIN license.

  • The plans contravene your municipality's building code or property use code in some way.

  • If you wish to change the use of your property in a way that is outside current zoning standards in your municipality.

If you decide to appeal, get an attorney familiar with building permit issues involved.

Your Building Permit Is Approved—Now What?

Once your building permit is approved and issued, you are free to begin construction according to the construction timeline you submitted during the application process.

If you alter any part of your building plans during the construction phase, you must first notify the municipality that issued your building permit before proceeding.

As you complete each phase, you must also notify the permitting municipality to send out a building permit inspector to review work-to-date. Once you notify the municipality, the inspector has five days to do the inspection. During this time, you may not do any further work on your project.

Give Us a Call for Help With Building Permits

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, we are very familiar with the intricacies of building permits, municipal codes, technical requirements, and zoning rules and regulations. We hold a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number), which means we are licensed to review and approve your building plans.

If you are planning a building project, we can help streamline the process for you. Give us a call at 705-687-3402 or 877-885-3403 (Canada only).

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Seeking to Lower Your Stress Levels? We Can Help With That!

relaxed at home

Owning a home can be one of the greatest joys in life. It can also be one of the most stressful experiences.

In addition to the stresses every homeowner has in common (property taxes, household pests, utility bills), there can be home-specific stressors. These are usually related to the age and state of large appliances that you inherited from the previous homeowner when you bought your home.

When these major appliances begin to deliver less-reliable performance, life can get stressful pretty quick. It is cold outside but you're never sure whether you will have adequate heating. Then it gets hot outside, but it feels hot inside as well.

Or there is that one fateful morning when you wake up in eager anticipation of a hot shower, only to be surprised with a cold shower instead. Stress! Your aging appliances are letting you down left and right!

We can help you with this. Our comfort and heating maintenance plans can spot small issues before they turn into big issues that are capable of ruining your day, your week, or (worst of all) your bank account. Read on to learn what we can offer to help save you time, money, and stress.

Do You Own These Major Appliances?

The typical homeowner will own at least one major appliance from each of these categories below. Each appliance represents a significant investment, and many are needed year-round.

As you look over this list, you’ll get why it can feel so stressful sometimes to be responsible for maintaining an entire home full of appliances and gadgets, Just one glitch or unexpected outage can eat up an entire day of your time—or longer!

Heating

  • Gas furnace

  • Oil furnace

  • Electric furnace

  • Air source heat pump

  • Geothermal heat pump

  • Heating boiler

  • Fireplace

  • Electrical floor warmer

Cooling

  • HVAC system

  • Air conditioning system (mini-split, ductless, or window)

  • Heat recovery ventilator

Water

  • Hot water heater

  • Tankless hot water heater

  • Sump pump

  • Sewage pump

  • Toilet (Entrada, UltraMax II TOTO, Maxwell, Ascent II)

  • Drain water heat recovery

  • TrojanMax ultraviolet water purification system

Emergency Power

  • Air-cooled Muskoka standby generator.

How Gravenhurst Plumbing Can Help Lower Your Stress

In our more than seven decades serving clients in the Hamilton and surrounding areas, we have observed that most homeowner stress tends to fall into these three categories:

  • Time. Every time anything goes wrong, or any time you even suspect something may be going wrong, you have to drop what you are doing to investigate and maybe even attempt minor repairs. That can add up to a lot of time spent on house maintenance pretty quickly!

  • Money. When something does go wrong with any aspect of your home, it is nearly guaranteed to hit you in the wallet. Even the most careful budgeting can't always control for the costly surprises your home may yet have in store for you.

  • Making choices. If you find you need to make a major repair or replace something, then you are confronted with a list of choices. Should you choose this or that contractor? This or that appliance? This or that material? The sheer number of choices you have to wade through can cause tremendous stress.

We can help you in all three areas through one of our two convenient maintenance plans. By delegating the tasks of inspecting and maintaining your home’s major heating and cooling appliances to us, you get rid of that headache once and for all!

Two Simple and Convenient Maintenance Plans to Choose From

So here, you do have a choice to make. You can select our heating protection maintenance plan or our total comfort maintenance plan.

Heating Protection Plan

This one-year renewable heating-only service and maintenance plan gives you lots of perks while saving you money on your annual inspection and heating maintenance costs.

Here are the highlights:

  • You are in the priority queue for any emergency heating-related service.

  • All labour and parts come with an automatic 30-day warranty.

  • There are NO surprise costs—we will always ask you before performing any repairs outside the scope of the protection plan.

  • There are NO overtime or service call charges for maintenance performed under this plan.

  • If you include two or more appliances under the plan, you score a 10 percent discount.

  • If you opt for the 5-year plan, you score a 20 percent discount.

  • We provide you with timely guidance to save on energy and utilities costs.

To learn more and opt in: Gravenhurst Heating Protection Plan.

Comfort Maintenance Plan

This one-year renewable heating and cooling maintenance plan ensures your HVAC and heating equipment will be inspected, thoroughly cleaned, and well maintained.

It also comes with the following special perks (as applicable to covered equipment):

  • Preventative maintenance kit with oil included with generator maintenance.

  • Nozzle and filter included with oil furnace maintenance.

  • Discounted prices on all parts.

  • You receive a 10 percent discount for two or more covered appliances.

  • You receive a 20 percent discount for choosing the 5-year plan.

To learn more and opt in: Gravenhurst Comfort Maintenance Plan.

Give Us a Call!

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, our primary goal is to provide you with ample time and cost savings, and total peace of mind regarding your heating, cooling, plumbing, and emergency power needs. Give us a call at 877-885-3403 or complete our handy online form to make your inquiry.

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Talking Toilets: How to Choose a New Toilet for Your Home

plumbing toilet

A toilet is something most people take for granted. The topic of toilets generally doesn't come up in casual conversation—unless the household toilet stops working.

When this occurs, suddenly the lowly toilet finds itself in the center of the spotlight at last. At this point, the questions usually revolve around how to fix it, why it still isn't working, and finally, which toilet to replace it with.

If you haven't had to replace a toilet in a long time or ever, there is a good chance you will be surprised by all of your choices. Today there is a toilet for nearly every shape and size of space. There are toilets with low-flow water-saving features. There are toilets in custom colors and styles. And there are toilets at widely varying price points.

This guide will help you sort through your options and pick the right new toilet for your needs.

Common Toilet Purchase Mistakes

Today's culture is all about choices. We have so many choices that sometimes it can feel like we have too many choices for our own good. This is never more true than when it comes to shopping for a new toilet.

The reason for this is simple: nothing is simply "standard" anymore. When you go to pick out a new toilet, you are suddenly faced with a dizzying array of sizes, shapes, heights, colors, configurations and extra features.

But when it comes to selecting home staples like the family toilet, choosing a non-conventional model can end up becoming a costly mistake when your toilet needs repairs or you decide to sell your house.

Here are some of the most common toilet purchase mistakes consumers make today:

1. Making your choice all about the cheapest price

If you can get a great deal, why not go for it? But if you are selecting a toilet based simply on the lowest price and nothing else, you risk getting what you pay for, which can be much more costly in terms of more frequent maintenance and repairs.

2. Purchasing a colorful (non-white) toilet

If you are old enough to remember the seafoam green craze of the 1970s, you already know why basic white is always the wisest choice for a toilet color. Coloured toilets, while making a comeback in some midcentury modern homes, are often dealbreakers for people because they look outdated or like a fad they’ll have to change not long after.

3. Choosing an elongated toilet bowl

While there can be an argument for some that the newer elongated toilet bowls are comfier, the common mistake here is not measuring nearby cabinet drawers, bathroom doors, shower doors, and other permanent fixtures that could become non-functional with an elongated toilet bowl blocking their way.

4. Not checking how the lid closes

Talk about things that go "bump" in the night—you definitely don't want one of them to be your toilet lid slamming shut after each midnight bathroom trip!

5. Not listening to the flusher first

Unless you enjoy the soothing sounds of aircraft taking off at close range, you will want to do a test flush before you make your final selection. Certain high-pressure models are so intent on delivering top-notch, no-clog flushing action they should be issued with earplugs for the user or heart attack meds.

6. Selecting a non-standard shape or sized toilet

While a square, rectangular, or oblong toilet bowl can be super-snazzy looking, it may also end up being difficult or costly to repair, since none of the more common parts will fit.

7. Customizing the toilet seat

So long as you will be using the toilet yourself, there is nothing wrong with customizing the toilet seat. But you don't want to buy a toilet that comes with an unusual toilet seat design, pattern, or color. Buy that feature after-market so you can put the standard toilet seat back on when you get ready to sell the house.

8. Assuming labels like "comfort seat” apply equally to all users

Toilets, like most standard household fixtures, are typically designed to be comfortable to users that fall within the standard height and weight measurements. For example, in Canada, the average male adult is 175.1 cm (5 ft. 9 in.) and the average female adult is 162.3 cm (5 ft. 4 in.). So for users who are shorter or taller than this range, a "comfort seat” might not be very comfortable at all.

9. Picking a complex toilet and bowl design

The more complex the toilet bowl and design, the more difficult it will be to clean and the more time it will take.

10. Buying a toilet with a non-insulated tank that sweats

If the toilet you select has a tank that isn't insulated, it will sweat. Not only will this increase dampness in your bathroom, which can then encourage mould and mildew to grow, but it will also look unattractive.

Two Toilet Options We Think You Will Love

Out of all the toilet brands we could have chosen to recommend, we chose these two for the reasons listed below (as well as for how they address all the mistakes above). We think you will love them both!

Entrada Toilets

The design of Entrada toilets is simple and seamless. Our customers tell us these toilets are very easy to clean. The seats are equipped with SoftClose or Washlet technology—no bumps in the night here!

UltraMax II TOTO Toilets

UltraMax II TOTO toilets are simple and elegant and include the option of an in-wall tank, reducing your cleaning chores even further. If you've ever wished you could get your bathroom space back, now you can!

Give Us a Call

We at Gravenhurst Plumbing have been in the business for 72 wonderful years. If you need help selecting and installing a new toilet for your home or workplace, give us a call!

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Opening Your Cottage for the First Time? We Can Help With That!

opening cottage mist

While your thermometer may not reflect this just yet, we are finally closing in on the end of another long, cold, snowy, rainy winter season.

It feels good to think about spring's imminent arrival!

As Ontario's urban areas become increasingly congested, more Canadians are turning their eyes toward an investment in seasonal housing.

According to Canadian Real Estate magazine, a full three-quarters of seasonal homeowners are buying a cottage for now and later. Now, they want to enjoy cottage life with their kids. Later, they want to enjoy cottage life during their retirement years.

In this post, we share our favorite spring cottage-opening tips for first-timers and seasoned cottage owners alike. If you need assistance with getting your cottage in ship-shape condition for spring's arrival, give us a ring: we're happy to help!

First Things First: Retracing Your Steps

If you are an established cottage owner, you have likely developed a regular routine regarding cottage closings and openings. But if you are new, this may be your very first cottage opening—exciting!

The first and most important step is to remember what you did and didn't do when you closed down your cottage for the winter season.

For example, some cottage owners will turn off the main power source, while others will leave that on to power outside lighting and security and just turn off individual elements instead.

For help jogging your memory, we've created a handy Cottage Closing Checklist you can refer to and use to make notes about what to do when you arrive to re-open your cottage.

What to Do Before You Head for Your Cottage

If you chose to disconnect any of your regular services for the winter season, you will want to call your providers to have these services reconnected before you arrive to re-open your cottage:

  • Electricity

  • Propane

  • Water

  • Phone/internet/television

You will also probably want to assemble some tools and supplies for the re-opening (if you don't already have these at the cottage):

  • Copies of your insurance documents and claim phone numbers (just in case)

  • A ladder and tarp

  • Basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdrivers, etc.)

  • Broom, dustpan, cleaning supplies, and paper towels

  • Batteries (to change out the smoke alarm and other devices)

  • Air filters as needed

  • Snacks for the road and when you arrive

  • The cottage keys!

The Cottage Pre-Opening Walk-About

When you arrive to re-open your cottage, first do an exterior walk-about, paying special attention to any of these (or similar) issues:

  • Fallen tree limbs and debris

  • Hanging power lines or phone lines

  • Cracked windows or missing/torn screens

  • Loose roof shingles or siding

  • Visible holes in roofing or elsewhere

  • Loose boards in the porch or deck

  • Areas of soggy ground or standing water

  • Evidence of wildlife, rodents, or insect pests

  • Missing components to secure your dock

  • Any strange or unpleasant odour

Now you can do the interior walk-about, paying special attention to any of these (or similar) issues:

  • Damp or discolored patches on the ceiling

  • Soggy areas of carpet or pooled water on flooring

  • Evidence of wildlife, rodents, or insect pests

  • Any strange or unpleasant odour

Make notes about anything you will need to return to fix or investigate further later.

Restoring Your Water Supply

Even experienced cottage owners sometimes find it challenging to go through the steps of reconnecting the water pipes, cleaning, and then priming (filling) the water pump, replacing the filter, filling up the hot water tank (as applicable), and restoring water to the cottage.

This is one of the hardest tasks for cottage owners, especially if you have to haul the water to prime the pump by hand. And doing a visual inspection of your water lines, pump, and whole system can be confusing if you're not sure what warning signs to look for!

Another common issue is water pipes that leak or have frozen and cracked/burst during the winter.

Sometimes watching a professional go through the steps of restoring water to your cabin is just what you need to learn how to do this yourself in future years.

As well, if you have noticed signs that there may be a water leak or a pipe has burst, this is a good time to call in the pros.

We are happy to help with restoring water to your cottage and handling well and septic system inspection and cleaning chores.

NOTE: We always recommend that you consider having your well and septic cleaned at the start of the new spring/summer season, for your own safety.

Restoring Power to Your Cottage

Before you restore power to your cottage, first take a look at the central electrical panel and tighten all the fuses. If you see any tripped breakers (in the case that you left the central power on), restore those as well.

Take a look at any exterior and interior power cables or connections to be sure nothing has been damaged.

Uncover the chimney and open the flue, then inspect for any signs of wildlife if you plan to use the fireplace.

If all looks operational, restore power to the central electrical panel, and then power up each individual appliance and test that everything is working as it should.

Here, please do not attempt DIY electrical repairs, for your own safety!

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing

Give us a call at 705-687-3402 or fill out our online form to schedule your service appointment. We are happy to do a full inspection and perform any maintenance or repairs you need to be sure you can re-open your cottage safely. We look forward to hearing from you!

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What You Don't Know About Your Sump Pump Could Cost You

sump pump installation

The sump pump certainly isn't the most glamorous appliance in the average home. Often hidden away in rarely visited areas such as basements, sump pumps can easily get completely forgotten in the flurry of winterizing activities.

What this means is that winter time sump pump failure is more common than most people assume. You might be surprised to learn about all the unique ways a sump pump can fail during the coldest months of the year!

We always hate to get that emergency winter call from a valued client whose sump pump line has frozen or burst and flooded their basement with water. In this post, we share our top tips for winter sump pump maintenance in hopes this will never happen to you (but if it does, remember, we are just a phone call away!).

A Short Sump Pump Tutorial

Many homeowners inherit a sump pump along with a newly purchased home (in fact, according to CBC News, nearly all new construction in the Ontario area includes a basement-area sump pump).

It is important to know what a sump pump is and what it is supposed to do so you can make sure it is well maintained and working properly.

Definition of a sump pump

A sump pump is a smallish pump that is typically installed at the lowest point in your basement or crawlspace area.

Sump pump job description

The sump pump's sole job is to keep your home basement, crawlspace, and foundation moisture-free.

How moisture gets in

Moisture can get in from a number of directions. The most common ways are from groundwater seeping upwards through the water table, moisture falling off the roof and eaves through the downspouts, or backed up foundation drains.

How the sump pump gets the moisture out

A sump pump that has been installed correctly is perfectly situated to catch moisture in its surrounding sump pit and either pump it or use gravity to naturally drain it away from your home and back into the ground.

What happens when the sump pump doesn't work

When the sump pump stops working as it should, there is a risk of flooding in your basement or home and persistent moisture gathering around the home foundation.

What Causes a Sump Pump to Stop Working?

There are infinite possible reasons why a sump pump might stop working. These are some of the most common reasons:

  • The power goes out (the sump pump can't work without power, so unless you have a standby generator, it will stop working during a power outage).

  • The pump mechanism, motor, or other moving parts wear out.

  • The sump pump hose or discharge pipe freezes.

  • The sump pump discharge pipe has come loose from the sump pump itself.

  • The pipe becomes clogged or blocked.

  • The discharge pipe is improperly connected to the sanitary sewer instead of the storm sewer.

  • The check valve (that ensures water flowing out can't flow back in) has malfunctioned or is missing.

  • The water is being improperly discharged and flows back towards the home.

Critical Sump Pump Maintenance

After reading through this list of potential causes for a sump pump failure, you may find yourself eager to schedule a sump pump inspection and maintenance call.

The good news here is, winter is a particularly good time to schedule this type of maintenance with your Gravenhurst Plumbing technician.

Here is what will happen during our inspection and maintenance appointment:

  • First, we will visually inspect the sump pit, sump pump, hose, and discharge hose to make sure everything is set up properly.

  • We will do light cleaning on the exterior of the sump pump itself and in the sump pit to remove debris or excess gravel.

  • Next up is a test run to make sure the whole system is working properly, which we do by pouring water into the sump pit and observing the water removal process.

  • We will also test to be sure the sump discharge line is free and clear of any blockage or clogs.

  • During our inspection we will make recommendations to repair or replace any worn parts.

  • If you do not have a standby generator for backup power, we can also make recommendations for the best approach to keep your sump pump working as it should during a future power outage.

  • Finally, if there is any standing water, visible leaks, or moisture seepage/dampness, we can clean that up and make repairs as needed.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing to Schedule Your Sump Pump Maintenance

Gravenhurst Plumbing first opened its doors back in 1945 and we've been busy ever since. If you need help with installation, troubleshooting, repair, or maintenance for your HVAC, sump pump, or plumbing system, or you are ready to install a standby generator to keep your family safe during a power outage, we are on-call for you.

Contact us at 705-687-3402 or fill out our easy online form to schedule your service appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!

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2 Keys to Winter Indoor Air Quality: Ventilation and Filtration

winter indoor air quality

Canadian winters have a pretty daunting reputation. From heavy snowfall to ice, sleet, and rain, it isn't surprising most Canadians spend so much of the winter season indoors.

But too much time spent indoors can be hazardous to your health in a way you may not realize. Today, the air we breathe indoors is often more toxic than the outside air. Wintertime indoor air can become especially toxic because we don't want to open windows and doors to ventilate.

In this post, learn what to do to freshen and purify your indoor air in winter.

What Makes Your Indoor Air Toxic in Winter?

As any Canadian knows, there isn't anything you can do about winter weather conditions. Storms come and go, snow falls and thaws, and you wait for warmer days to return.

In the meantime, you are running your furnace or stoking your fireplace or woodstove and perhaps using space heaters as well.

You are also likely burning candles, spraying air fresheners, using common cleaning products, and perhaps enjoying a cigarette or two indoors to avoid the cold.

Unfortunately, each of these activities releases toxins into your indoor air supply.

And if you are living or working in a new build, your home or office is built to be airtight. No air gets in or out, which is good for energy efficiency but bad for air quality.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, some of the most common winter toxins found in Canadian homes and offices are these:

  • Toxic gases Ozone, radon, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, particulates, tobacco fumes.

  • Allergens Dust mites, dust-borne lead particles, pet dander, mould spores, pesticides, soot and ash, fungi, bacteria, viruses, pollen.

  • Chemicals Candle scents, air fresheners,  cleaning products, craft glues and adhesives, personal care products.

Here, it is important to understand that this list of chemicals won't change measurably during the other seasons, except when you are no longer using a wood-fired stove or fireplace.

However, it is the decreased amount of two key air purifiers that contributes to the increasing toxicity of winter-time indoor air. These two air purification tools are ventilation and filtration.

Ventilation and Filtration

"Ventilation" is a term that refers to keeping air fresh by continually moving stale indoor air out of the space and replacing it with fresh incoming air.

"Filtration" refers to keeping indoor air fresh by filtering out, or removing, airborne toxins.

Together, ventilation and filtration can work wonders to purify and detoxify indoor air at any time of year and especially during the winter season.

Ventilation Options

Unless you happen to work in the HVAC or air quality industry, you may not realize that just opening a window or turning on a fan isn't the best way to ventilate indoor air. Both of these techniques are good, of course, but neither is particularly likely to happen in winter, when it is freezing outside!

The very best way to ventilate your indoor air during winter (and when it gets very hot outside in summer) is by installing an appliance called a heat recovery (or energy recovery) ventilator.

This appliance is a little miracle device that ensures a steady supply of fresh, oxygenated outdoor air to purify your indoor air at home or work. It can actually precisely calibrate how much new fresh air to pull in based on how frequently you run your heater or furnace.

Best of all, a heat/energy recovery ventilator will use the heat from the outgoing stale air to warm the fresh incoming air, which makes it a model of energy efficiency that can help you save valuable cash on energy bills.

Other options to ventilate your indoor air in winter:

  • Try micro-ventilation. Here, you don't open up a window all the way, but just crack open one window in each room to permit a bit of fresh air to enter.

  • Switch ceiling fans to "winter" mode. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the side of the fan mechanism that reverses the blade direction. This reversal pulls the cold air up and pushes the warm air downwards.

  • Run bathroom and kitchen fans. When showering, run the bathroom fan to avoid excess humidity accumulating and turning into mould and mildew. When cooking, run the kitchen exhaust fan to exhume potentially toxic stove and oven fumes.

Air Filtration Options

The primary goal of any air filter is to clean and purify the air by removing airborne toxins, allergens, and irritants.

This can be accomplished in a number of different ways:

  • Installing MERV- or HEPA-rated central HVAC filters. With ratings between 1 and 20, higher-rated filters will filter more of the smaller particulate matter out of the air.

  • Cleaning or replacing filters regularly. This should be done at least every 30 days.

  • Using non-ozone-producing electric air filters. These filters use an electric charge to filter and clean the air. Be sure the filter you select does NOT produce ozone.

  • Using CADR-rated portable room-size air filters. CADR (clean air delivery rate) filters can filter and clean the air in smaller spaces. These can be good choices if someone in your family is particularly allergic or suffers from asthma.

  • Humidification. Adding a room-sized humidifier in winter can help further.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing for Help

If you notice you are struggling to stay healthy and allergy-free in cold weather, your indoor air could be the culprit.
We can help you design a custom air ventilation and filtration plan to clean and purify your indoor air at home and work. Call us at 877.885.3403 or contact us online.

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