How to Combat Dry Indoor Air

You know that sticky, uncomfortable humidity we suffer through during the summer months? Well, this time of year when temps drop and heating systems start up, we sure could use a little. Dry indoor air, a common consequence of forced air heating systems, can make your life downright miserable. Dry, itchy skin, lifeless hair, dry sinuses, and static electricity are just some of the problems dry air can cause. And yet winter after winter, countless homeowners just grin and bear it.  Sure, an extra layer of moisturizing lotion and a few squirts of saline nasal spray remove some of the misery, but wouldn’t you prefer a better solution?

Here are just a handful of simple remedies you can employ to combat dry indoor air.

  • Stock up on household plants that are known for adding moisture to the air, such as the rubber plant, English ivy, and Boston fern.
  • Turn down the water temperature during your shower as hot water tends to dry skin out. And consider cutting the length of your shower by a few minutes.
  • Apply a moisturizing lotion while your body is still damp from a shower or bath and allow your skin to air dry.
  • Instead of using the heated dry setting on your dishwasher, open the door as soon as the cycle is complete. The steam and warmth will flood your kitchen and you’ll save a few bucks on utility costs, too.
  • Hang clothing up to dry on portable dryer racks instead of using the clothes dryer. Again, you’ll save a bit on utility costs.
  • Place a few small bowls filled with water near floor registers or vents. As the water heats up, it will release moisture into the the air.

A Better Solution from Relief Heating and Cooling

While each of the above will provide some relief, nothing can match the effectiveness of a whole-house humidifier professionally installed by Relief Heating and Cooling. We have multiple options available and will help you choose the right one for your household’s total comfort needs.

In addition to softer skin, healthier hair, and fewer sinus problems, a whole-house humidifier will deliver the following benefits:

Greater comfort at lower thermostat settings. The more humidity in the air, the more comfortable you’ll feel. And that means you can turn down the temperature on the thermostat by a couple degrees, reducing wear and tear on your system and reducing monthly heating costs.

Protect wood floors, doors, and furnishings. Dry air sucks the moisture from anything made of wood, especially delicate pieces such as wood instruments, This causes the wood to warp and crack over time.

A better night’s sleep. It’s hard to fall asleep and stay asleep when you’re tossing and turning due to congestion, dry cough, headaches, and dry, itchy skin.  A little added humidity can help you get the restful sleep you need.

Reduced static electricity. Static electricity causes clothing and blankets to stick together and delivers a painful shock when you touch a metal surface like a doorknob. However, when air has the proper amount of humidity, static electricity eases up.

Ready to stop suffering needlessly with dry indoor air once and for all? Contact the home comfort experts at Relief Heating and Cooling today for more information and a free new system quote.

The Link Between Temperature & Sleep

If you’ve ever suffered through a heat wave with no air conditioning or a cold January while your heating system was on the fritz, you know how extreme temperatures can make getting a restful night’s sleep nearly impossible. But the truth is, we don’t need to go to extremes – even a small fluctuation can ruin bedtime. According to the Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for sleeping soundly is approximately 65 degrees F, give or take a couple degrees. If you have an infant at home, adjust the temperature to around 68 degrees F. Their smaller bodies are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations. The goal is not to be cold and shivering but rather to lower your body’s core temperature which aids in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.

Follow these simple tips and start getting the sleep you’ve been dreaming of.

Keep Cool and Comfortable

The ideal nighttime temperature in your bedroom should hover around the mid-60s, though this may take some trial and error. Play around with the thermostat to get the temp just right or supplement with a fan or space heater.

Take a Shower or Bath

A couple hours before you normally fall asleep, enjoy a relaxing shower or bath. The warm water will raise the temperature of your skin, causing your core to shed heat and cool you down.

Don’t Get Cold Feet

If your feet get cold at night, wear socks to bed. Your feet contain many blood vessels which affect the temperature of the rest of your body.  Wearing socks made of breathable materials like cotton or wool will warm your skin and bring blood flow and heat to its surface. The heat dissipates into the air and cools your core.

Add Layers

Keep an extra sheet, blanket, or comforter on or near your bed so you can adjust your bedding accordingly should you feel too hot or too cold. Choose natural, breathable fibers like cotton or linen.

Rethink Your HVAC System

If you haven’t yet, install a smart thermostat that can automatically cool things down for you during the night based on your preferences. Place your main living area on one zone and bedrooms on another so you’re not paying to keep or cool the entire house.  Or if your home’s layout or existing HVAC system isn’t getting the job done, consider installing a ductless mini-split in your primary bedroom for the ultimate in fine-tuned, sleep promoting comfort.

At Relief Heating and Cooling, we can help you and everyone in your home sleep better night after night. From annual preventive maintenance and heating or air conditioning repair, to new system installation, our team of home comfort specialists is ready to get to work for you.

6 Tips to Transform Your Empty Nest

Through the years, our lives, needs, and circumstances change. And so does what we want to get out of our homes. You may have purchased your home while your children were little, or maybe before you had children. But now, the kids are grown and on their own, and your home is an empty nest. And the home you needed when they were growing up no longer fits this next season of your life.

If you’re dreaming of making changes to your kid-free home but don’t know where to start, here are 6 tips to get you on your way.

1. Set a budget. Decide what you’re willing and able to spend, remembering to include a contingency fund for all those little surprises that are bound to pop up. If a major remodel is in your future, get a few quotes from reputable contractors and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. For example, are permits included? Do they bring in a team of electricians, tile installers, and HVAC technicians or do you have to hire your own?

2. Fix problems first. If there are underlying problems with your home, like old, drafty windows, an aging, energy-hogging heating or cooling system, or an unsafe, rotting deck, tackle them first. They may not be as fun as say getting the kitchen of your dreams, but they’ll make your home a safer, more comfortable place to live.

3. Futureproof your home. You might be able to move about your home with ease now, but what about in 15 – 20 years ? Consider projects that make your home more accessible for those of all ages. If you’re planning a bathroom renovation, consider installing a walk-in shower. Finishing the basement? Add a half bath to eliminate the need to run up and down the stairs when nature calls. And swap doorknobs for handles which are easier for arthritic hands to use.

4. Rethink your space. Whether you’re undergoing a full remodel or simply putting a now-empty bedroom to good use, don’t be afraid to rethink how you’ll use your space. Consider combining an adjoining bedroom with your master bedroom to make a luxurious en-suite. Or maybe you know longer need that mudroom with cubbies but instead could benefit from a large, main level laundry room. No matter how minor or ambitious the renovation, it’s worth rethinking the current layout of your home and how it might be improved.

5. Buy the best you can afford. When selecting new flooring, cabinets, furniture, and appliances, buy the best you can reasonably afford. This is the time to invest in quality materials that will stand the test of time, without fear of scratches from hard plastic toys and stains from sticky fingers.

6. Don’t downsize too much. Have a space where the kids can comfortably stay when they visit and remember that they may eventually be visiting with families of their own. Equip a rec room or spare bedroom with a sleeper sofa, daybed with trundle, or a murphy bed so guests have a place to crash.

If a finished attic, room addition, or a more open main floor are in your plans, will your current HVAC system will keep up? Contact Relief Heating & Cooling for workable ideas on how to maximize any space for the ultimate in indoor comfort now and for years to come.

How to Prepare Your AC for Fall

As the dog days of summer wind down and we look forward to the cooler weather ahead, it’s time to thank our trusty central air conditioning system for a job well done and give it some well-earned time off. But that doesn’t mean simply switching the thermostat to off until next summer.  In fact, giving it the TLC it needs now helps ensure it’s prepared for the the change of season and ready to keep you cool and comfortable once summer rolls back around.

Here are 5 proven ways to prepare your AC system for fall.

1. Clean or replace the air filter. Much like the air filter in your car that keeps things running smoothly, your AC filter works non-stop to keep dirt, dust, allergens, and other pollutants out of the air inside your home. A filter that is dirty and clogged makes your central air system work harder than it should to keep you cool, leading to increased wear and tear, premature repairs, and shortened equipment life.

2. Check the thermostat. Make sure the thermostat responds to settings and keeps your home at the desired temperature. Still have one of those old mechanical-style thermostats? Now’s the perfect time to upgrade to a programmable model or a WiFi-enabled smart thermostat. Either option means no more cooling (or heating) an empty house; just program the system to raise or lower the temp to your liking so it’s perfectly comfortable upon your return.

3. Keep the area around the outside unit clean. The condenser – the outside component of an AC system – needs to have plenty of room to ” breathe” in order to operate effectively and efficiently. Keep shrubs, trees, and other plantings about three feet away from the unit and periodically inspect the area for any sticks, leaves, and debris that may accumulate.

4. Clean interior vents. Avoid covering vents and registers with furniture, area rugs, toys, or any other obstructions to maximize air flow and improve overall air quality inside your home. Take this time to dust or vacuum vents so they don’t send dust back into your living space once you turn the heat back on for the first time.

5. Schedule preventative maintenance. We get it – you kept meaning to have your AC system inspected but life managed to get in the way. Might as well wait until next spring, right? Wrong! You still have plenty of time to have this important service performed – as long as the outdoor temp is above 60 degrees F for a minimum of three consecutive days. Preventive system maintenance catches minor issues before they become costly emergency repairs, helps your system operate at max efficiency, and extends equipment life.

For annual preventive maintenance or any heating or cooling need, contact the pros at Relief Heating and Cooling. In and around Piedmont Triad, no one is better suited to keep your home comfort systems operating smoothly and to your complete satisfaction.

Pros and Cons of an Open Floor Plan

There’s no right or wrong way to design a home floor plan. Very persuasive arguments can be made for open or cordoned spaces alike.

With an open floor plan, for example, you’ll enjoy these and other advantages:

  • Interconnected space
  • More natural light
  • More family togetherness
  • Enhanced child safety with more open sight lines
  • With fewer walls, you have more usable space
  • Better suited to entertaining large groups of people
  • More flexibility when it comes time to remodel

Pretty compelling, don’t you think?

But what about those aspects of an open floor plan that aren’t so tantalizing? You should at least consider them before making your final decision.

Higher Construction Costs

Because they lack interior support walls, open concept homes require heavier wood or steel beams.

Less Privacy

It’s hard to escape for some peace and quiet when the entire main living area is within everyone else’s sight line.

A View to a Meal

If you prefer prepping a meal in private to eliminate the distractions and confine the mess, an open kitchen design might not be for you.

Odors Have Nowhere to Stop

No matter how amazing that simmering sauce might smell, you may not want the odor settling into your upholstered furniture and drapery.

Less Efficient Cooking

Open concept kitchens are typically less efficient for cooking. The sprawling design makes the cook take more steps to get from the fridge to the food prep area, and more again from the prep area to the stove, which means that cooking becomes a little more difficult and time-consuming.

Beware of the Kitchen

There’s no escaping clutter while it is easier for parents to keep an eye on their children while cooking in an open concept kitchen, the design also makes kitchen hazards, like scalding-hot water, hot pots and pans, and sharp objects more accessible.

Hard to Get Cozy

Some open floor plan designs can make a house feel less like a home and more like a gymnasium or public room.

“Can You Turn That Down, Please!”

Something must give when one person is trying to unwind with a glass of wine and a good book while another family member is taking a call or helping a child with their homework.

Less Energy Efficient

Large, open spaces generally cost more to heat and cool, especially homes with vaulted or cathedral ceilings. Plus, you can’t split an open area into HVAC zones, so you end up heating and cooling the entire space vs. only those currently occupied.

Since heating and cooling lead the way in home energy costs, Relief Heating & Cooling before deciding on sweeping changes for your new or remodeled home.  We’ll give you workable ideas on how to maximize your space without over-paying for the ultimate in indoor comfort.

Do I need to Replace My AC Compressor?

Few things are as frustrating on a hot summer day – or night – than realizing your central air isn’t performing as it should. If it’s a quick, easy fix, consider yourself lucky. But if the compressor is failing, a replacement can set you back a pretty penny. If your AC is pushing the limits of its expected lifespan, you may be better off replacing the entire system instead of pumping more money into an old, inefficient system. On the other hand, replacing the compressor may give your AC many more years of cooling comfort.

What Is an AC Compressor?

As the heart of an AC system, the compressor pumps liquid refrigerant through the appliance’s coils and condensing unit. The refrigerant draws heat out of warm air, thereby cooling the air which the fan then blows throughout your home. Many factors can cause a compressor to begin to fail, such as faulty electrical components, compressor motor failure, leaking refrigerant, or insufficient refrigerant levels.

Do I Need a New Compressor?

The only way to know if you need a new compressor is to have the AC unit inspected by a licensed Relief Heating & Cooling professional. However, there are some warning signs that can indicate a problem may be brewing. Here are the most common to watch for.

  • Excessive Cycling – Is your AC cycling off only to kick back on a few minutes later? The culprit can be as simple as an open window or a leak in the ductwork allowing warm air in, or a more serious issue like a compressor ready for the recycling heap.
  • Temperature Inconsistencies – A compressor that isn’t running as it should be is unable to sufficiently cool areas of the house farthest from the AC unit, resulting in inconsistent indoor temps.
  • Excessive Noise – It’s common to hear a low humming noise while your AC is running. But rattling, knocking, or clanking could signify a problem with the compressor.
  • Reduced Air Flow – A struggling compressor is unable to produce sufficient cool air, resulting in prolonged cycling and inconsistent temperatures in different areas of the home. In fact, an AC unit may not cycle off for hours if the compressor is operating at a deficient level.
  • Refrigerant Leak – A refrigerant leak can cause frequent cycling, insufficient airflow, a lack of cool air, and more. If the leak is due to a worn out compressor, replacement will be necessary.

Relief has two surefire remedies – one for an AC system that isn’t operating up to par, and another for one that is. First, if you’re just not getting the comfortable distribution of cool indoor air you once did, contact us for expert system analysis and a guaranteed price quote on what needs to be done to make matters right. Or, if you’d rather not wait for a problem to jump up and bite you, contact us for a very thorough tune-up and inspection, especially if it’s been a year or more since your system was last professionally maintained. When it comes to home heating and cooling issues, Relief is right around the corner.

How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality | Ductless Air Conditioning

Don’t take out your crying towel yet – in fact, you may not need it, even after learning this bit of a shocker – on average, indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

Which means, whether you show symptoms or not, chances are you’re not doing your body any good by routinely inhaling dust, dirt, pesticides, bacteria, and all sorts of known indoor air pollutants. For those who suffer from allergies or asthma, cleaner air can spell immense relief.

That’s the bad news – but you already knew that. Now for some good news. There’s plenty you can do on your own to clean up your indoor air with very little effort or expense. Let’s examine a few of the more common ways to achieve that goal.

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality | Ductless Air Conditioning

Dust and Vacuum Frequently

One of the most common indoor air pollutants is dust. Once it settles on surfaces and the floor, it recirculates into the air – over time, dust can cause or aggravate allergy problems. Dusting with microfiber cloths is more effective than using a feather duster. Also, vacuum your floors twice a week using a machine with a HEPA filter.

Buy and Nurture Houseplants to Filter out Contaminants

NASA conducted a study in 1989 that proved certain house plants effectively remove bacteria and other toxins from the air. These plants thrive on the very pollutants that can make you ill. Spider plants, Boston ferns, and peace lilies are particularly effective air cleaners.

Take Care When Selecting Cleaning Products

Many retail cleaning products contain harsh, unhealthy chemicals. To play it safe, make your own organic cleaning products using common household ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.

Use Vent Fans

The ventilation fans in your house are there for a reason. In the kitchen, they remove fumes and moisture created by cooking. In the bathroom, they reduce shower-generated humidity.

Clean and Replace Your HVAC Filters

Furnace and air conditioning filters are designed to trap dust, dirt, and other airborne pollutants. By cleaning or and replacing them (as needed) every six to eight weeks, you can substantially improve air quality.

A Whole-House Air Cleaning Solution – from Relief Heating & Air Conditioning

While every little bit helps, nothing helps improve air quality than a whole-house air filtration system from Relief. Installed inside your ductwork, our systems trap more than 99% of dust, dirt, bacteria, VOCs, and other pollutants that move through your air ducts when your furnace or AC fan is engaged. That makes for cleaner air, and that makes for a healthier you.

Contact Relief Heating & Cooling today to schedule a free new system proposal. While we’re at it, we’ll tell you more about other indoor air quality products that might suit you better.