Better Indoor Living: Give Your Home a Comfort Makeover this Winter
Even with today’s hectic pace, Americans still spend more than 50 percent of each day in their homes. In a recent Honeywell survey, consumers ranked their top-three homeowner pet peeves that impact home comfort and livability: particles in the air (especially dust, pet hair and allergens), uneven temperatures and high utility bills.
Taking those concerns into consideration, here are some home comfort makeover solutions that can help you improve your home’s livability.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Remember the last time you saw sun beaming through a window? The visible particles that dance in a sunbeam represent only one percent of all the particles actually present in home indoor air. That means 99 percent of airborne particles - everything from pollens, pet dander and mold spores to bacteria - are too small to be seen with an unaided eye.
A standard 1-inch furnace filter, the most common form of home air filtration, removes less than three percent of these particles.
What can you do to help improve indoor air quality? Consider a whole-house solution - installed in your home’s central heating and air conditioning system - to zap, trap, moisturize and ventilate.
Zap. Mold and bacteria often blow through the air when a heating and cooling system’s fan runs. For many years, hospitals, pharmacies and commercial kitchens have used ultraviolet (UV) light to “zap” or kill airborne particles like mold and bacteria. Now homeowners can benefit from UV technology, too.
Mounted in the return-air duct of a home's heating and cooling system, a UV system emits energy that can kill a high percentage of airborne pollutants passing by the light. UV systems can also prevent mold growth on moist air conditioning coils.
Trap. A standard 1-inch furnace filter removes some of the larger contaminants that would otherwise enter your furnace and circulate throughout your home. And it removes a very small percentage of dust, pollens, pet dander, plant spores, fungi, bacteria, tobacco smoke and other small particles that can cause harm.
A top-performing whole-house electronic air cleaner, installed into new or existing forced-air heating/cooling systems, can trap more than 90 percent of fungi and ragweed pollen, and more than 70 percent of certain bacteria that passes through it.
Moisturize. During the winter in cold climates, the relative humidity inside an average home is 15 percent. People generally are most comfortable when the relative humidity is approximately 40 percent. Indoor air that’s too dry can take a toll on your family, and your home suffers, too.
A whole-house humidifier combats uncomfortable conditions that can contribute to dry skin, out-of-tune pianos and damage to hardwood floors by automatically regulating the humidity levels in your home.
As an added benefit, homeowners can reduce heating bills because people feel more comfortable at a lower temperature setting if humidity is at a proper level.
Ventilate. According to the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute, your home should have new, fresh air every three hours. In drafty older homes, built before the emphasis on energy conservation, fresh air exchange occurs naturally as stale air seeps out and fresh outside air is drawn in.
But in a home that is tightly weatherized, it can take as long as 10 hours to bring in new air.
Choose a ventilation or air exchanger that fits the climate where you live. When renovating or improving your home its important to look at your whole house ventilation.
Choosing the right ventilation and air exchanger for your house is just as important for the comfort of your home as choosing high quality bathroom decor, fixtures and home furnishings.
Whole-house air exchangers for cool climates helps reduce excess moisture problems -- like condensation on windows -- that contribute to mold growth, a problem that people usually think only happens in the bathroom. It's the same principle as using your bathroom exhaust fan to remove moisture created by running the shower.
Systems for warm climates help guard against too much humidity entering the home from outside.
Too Warm or Too Cold?
Humans are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations. We’re able to detect a temperature change of just two degrees. One of the most frequent homeowner complaints today is uneven temperature from one room to the next.
Temperature zoning - or managing temperature control room-by-room - is one way to fix that problem. Just as we don’t use a single light switch to control lighting throughout the house, it’s inefficient to use a single thermostat to control an entire home. In a zoned home, you install multiple thermostats and customize the climate in each room or area.
Whether you want to keep the bedrooms cooler at night, adjust your living room temperature to account for large windows, or help control the temperature difference between floors, how you customize your home’s temperature is up to you.
Programmable Thermostats Save Money
This winter, experts are forecasting sharply higher home heating bills because of natural gas shortages. In the Midwest, for example, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates the average residential winter heating bill could increase 19 percent, sending the average heating bill to $915 for November through March.
A recent Honeywell study found 91 percent of homeowners turn off lights to save energy. That’s a good idea, but managing temperature settings is a far more effective way to save money.
Heating and cooling account for nearly 60 percent of home utility costs, while lighting represents just 10 to 15 percent of annual costs.
Homeowners could save up to 33 percent in annual energy costs by correctly using programmable thermostats that adjust the temperature to preset, lower-cost levels at specified times.
Programmable thermostat studies by Honeywell estimate energy reductions based on adjustments of 10 degrees - typically overnight or when the house is unoccupied during the day.
Actual energy use depends on the amount of temperature adjustment, the duration of the adjustment, a home’s energy efficiency, and the weather conditions in a given region of the country.
For more information on improving home indoor livability by managing air quality, comfort level and energy use, visit http://www.honeywell.com/yourhome.
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