Author Archives: Tom Ruse

Hire a Navy SEAL to Capture and Kill the Nastiest Invaders in your Home! Allergens!

Capturing and killing public enemy #1. Job well done!

If you’re fighting allergies right now, you might want to install a Model 5000 Electronic Air Cleaner – The Navy SEAL of all air cleaners!

It can capture and kill the nastiest of home terrorists like dust mite feces, pollen, pet dander and more…..And we’ll release the photo! Here it is:

Navy Seal Aprilaire Model 5000

Lover Is No Cat-Lover

I love the comments in this blog

A woman has to get advice to choose between moving in with her boyfriend of 6 months or keeping her cat.  (you see, boyfriend is allergic to cats). The advice is hysterical. One comment says ‘lose the cat, a good man is hard to find’. The other says ‘kitty will be a loyal pet forever but who knows how quick before the boyfriend bolts’. Funny stuff.

Annette, the blogger, and professional advice-giver, (she must be, the blog’s called, ‘Ask Annette’) has more practical advice, including compromises, long term objectives, using high-efficiency filters, etc.

I think she misses on one critical point, though. The woman mentions that the boyfriend doesn’t like cats and is allergic and yet when at her house doesn’t seem to be bothered by the cat. So which is it, boyfriend? If you just don’t like cats, don’t make up this crap about allergies. Or is LYING your idea of a good basis for building on a strong relationship?

Gee, this is so good, I might just comment on Annette’s blog!

This Blog Blows – And So Does My HVAC System

I was sitting in a meeting yesterday and the subject of uneven heating and cooling in the home came up . Oh, yes it did!  I obviously have no life to speak of (so why would you be interested in my blog, you might ask? Not a bad question, really).

Anyway, the point of the conversation was that several of us have experienced first hand,  that running your HVAC system blower more often than just when there is a call for heat or cool can help even out the temperature differences throughout the house. You know, it works!

I’ve even found this to help when I have a roaring fire in the fireplace, which I know sucks all the heat out of the house and results in huge swings in temperature from one room to the next. If I run the blower constantly, this uncomfortable, energy-sucking effect is minimized to a degree.

Don’t get me wrong, running the blower is not a great solution to an energy-hogging fireplace. But if doing so helps even out temperature swings a bit, it’s better than NOT doing it. And if you’re not using a fireplace, the idea of running your blower more often is even more effective in giving your system a helping hand to keep you comfortable.

This works especially well in older homes like mine with undersized ductwork, inadequate return ducts, and one system trying to heat or cool two stories. Running the fan more often circulates the air more which not only evens out the temperature throughout the house, but it also cleans the air more often.

Whenever you are circulating the air you are also circulating the airborne dust and pollutants that are floating in the air. It circulates back through your return ducts and is trapped in your furnace filter – or if you have an air cleaner instead of your standard furnace filter, you’re trapping a helluvalot more contaminants before the air is returned to your system to be heated or cooled and put back into your house.

I was told that this blog was going to have the capability of adding mp3. If I had figured out how to do this, I would have inserted the Rolling Stones’ ‘She’s So Cold’ into this blog post.

Health Benefits of Air Cleaning

Good point about keeping the carpet clean. Another tip is to keep your system blower fan running shortly before, during and after you vacuum or clean that nasty carpet so air is circulating more often and any crap that is kicked up can be sucked into air ducts and trapped in the air cleaner.

Health Benefits of Air Cleaning

Indoor Air Quality
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Carpet Cleaning State College
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2-24-2011 12:10 AM
The carpet is actually the biggest "air filter" in your home. This is good, as the carpets hold pollutants which would, on a hard surface, be stirred up by people walking or by ventilation. This carpet "filter" needs to be vacuumed frequently with a HEPA vacuum. Even with a HEPA vacuum, it is best not to vacuum when young children are in the room. The carpets should also be professionally cleaned every 12 months.

Health Benefits of Air Cleaning

Our friends at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) have a nice website that among other things, explores air filters. It correctly communicates that the HEALTH benefits of using an air cleaner are of a dubious nature; that there are conflicting viewpoints and studies out there. But then, the website goes on to quote that the EPA recommends air filtration.
It also compares various methods for air cleaning. In particular, an air cleaner installed with the heating and cooling system has the advantages of using: 

" the great force with which air will pass through the filter. And it eliminates a space-consuming appliance and an additional sound in your home. On the other hand, the filters may be more expensive and more difficult to handle; and they may need to be changed more often. Consult your doctor and your heating service on this alternative to a portable system. Applying the already-existing fan"

One note to clarify; these whole-house systems, once installed,  are typically LESS difficult to handle and need to be changed LESS often than portable room air cleaners. And yes, the filters are more expensive than 1" filters you buy at the hardware store. But you only change them once every 1 or 2 years. You can get two of them for about sixty bucks online. So its $15 – $30 a year for a filter.

They also provide the added benefits of keeping your expensive heating/cooling system cleaner and running more efficiently.

Back to the HEALTH benefit – it’s totally true that the jury is still out on that as it relates to air cleaners. It’s also totally true that high efficiency air cleaners installed in your HVAC system capture alot more crap than any portable device or regular furnace filter. Just look at a dirty filter coming out of one some time. All that crap is airborne before it’s trapped in the filter.

It’s also totally true that I know allergy sufferers who swear by them.

Humidifier Maintenance

I just got an email from the senior home editor for Popular Mechanics asking for some guidance. It’s worthy and timely with the season, so I am including his question and my answer here:

His question:

A reader has emailed me with a couple of humidifier questions. He just
bought a home with an AprilAire humidifier and wants to know what to do with
it in the summer. Aside from the obvious (shut it off and perhaps switch the
damper lever on the duct to the summer setting) what else can I tell him?

He also describes a component that sounds like it’s the humidifier water
panel evaporator. He’s suspicious of the white/gray crust on the panel and
mentions that it’s crumbling. First, can you tell me what the material on
the panel is? Second, I would assume that it’s best to replace the panel, if
not in the spring, then before the next heating season.

I’d welcome any help that Aprilaire can lend in answering this reader’s
questions. Given that this is for the May issue, time is of the essence.

My answer:

Hi Roy, Happy to help.

It’s difficult to say all of the things to look for without knowing the model. For example, the damper "summer" setting would assume the reader has a bypass humidifier. If so, you are correct. And make sure to emphasize to change this every season so he is properly humidifying in winter, and not wasting air conditioning energy in summer.
But if it is a power unit, the model 700, there is no damper lever.
Besides that, however, you are correct. The water panel evaporator should be changed once a year; before the heating season.
 If there is white/gray "crust" on the panel that is crumbling, then it is probably deposit build-up and that’s the sign of a panel that needs to be replaced. Make sure he purchases Aprilaire brand. There are cheap knock-offs. He can buy them online or from his HVAC contractor.
Note, however, that a brand new water panel will come with the metal mesh already covered in a white slurry. This is sometimes confused with a panel that is dirty, but this is actually a slurry that is added in the manufacturing process to help the water cling to the panel and therefore aid in the evaporation process.
The reader should also make sure the drain lines are clear. If they’re not, they should be flushed or replaced. The water tube going from the water line into the humidifier should also be checked to be sure it is clear of deposits.
I would also instruct this reader that since he has purchased an existing home, he should have his heating and cooling professional check out his entire system, which he should do at least yearly anyway. At that time, the service tech can inspect the humidifier and make sure it’s all up to snuff. Likely, he can do all of the above maintenance I mentioned for a very small part of the service call.
This would also be a good time to see if there are any new upgrades that he might be interested in. For example, we’ve recently added automatic digital control to our units which are more accurate and eliminates the need for the homeowner to keep changing the humidistat setting based on changes in outdoor temperature.
If he needs to find an Aprilaire dealer near his location, he can go to  and type in his zip code in the FIND A DEALER box. He’ll also find alot of FAQ’s there and a 1-800 number where he can call in and get a live, Wisconsin body to answer his question!
Hope that helps.

Winter Freezing and Thawing – Those Damn Jams

Last winter my wife and I blew in some additional attic insulation to help reduce two things; 1.  our footprint on the environment and 2. the utility company’s footprint on our checking account;  not necessarily in that order of priority.

We spend a good chunk of the weekend doing this messy, back-breaking job ourselves in order to reduce a 3rd thing;  a contractor’s footprint on the same checking account.

In doing so, we may have created another problem; lack of ventilation in the attic. Last year we had an inordinate amount of freezing and thawing patterns with lots of rain, ice and snow. More than usual, even for Wisconsin. The roof developed huge ice jams. (or ice dams, I’ve never known which was correct. Google finds both).

I’m not completely sure whether the problem is a result of our efforts in the attic. My wife is convinced we improperly covered up the vents in the soffits, which caused the ice jams. Could be.

I do know that many other houses in the area looked as ours did, so there is a possibility that the crazier-than-normal thaw-freeze cycles we experienced made the damn jam phenomenon just that much worse.

Regardless, I’m pretty sure we have another weekend in store for us crawling around on our knees in the attic to find and/or fix the problem.