Air Flows and Lawn Mows
From air vents to outside, we talk about safety and maintenance tips!
Got Sweaty Vents?
Why Do Air Conditioning Vents Sweat?
Air conditioner vents get cold. Water vapor loves cold surfaces. Sometimes it leads to mold, other times it leads to the paint coming off and rust forming on the vent. If you’re lucky, it’s just an occasional nuisance that doesn’t lead to long-term damage to the supply register, indoor air quality issues, or the need for towels on the floor.
One cause, multiple reasons
There are a lot of reasons why this happens, but there’s only one cause. Let’s start with the cause. Condensation occurs only when humid air is in contact with a cold surface. If your air conditioner supply vents are sweating, you have a cold surface (the vent) and near it you have air with water vapor in it. The threshold for condensation to occur is that the temperature of the cold surface has to be below the dew point of the water vapor in the nearby air.
That’s simple, right? Humid air with a dew point above the temperature of the supply vent causes condensation. Now, as for the reasons, we can start with the two big ones. Either the air is too humid (dew point too high) or the supply vent is too cold. That means the fixes are simply reducing the humidity of the air or raising the temperature of the vent, depending on which of the two reasons is causing the problem.
Dew point and the temperature of conditioned air
But how do you tell which is the culprit? Is the dew point too high or the supply vent too cold? The special number here is 55° F. Well, it’s special if you keep your house at or close to the indoor design conditions recommended by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Those conditions are 75° F for the indoor temperature and 50% relative humidity. Those conditions correspond to a dew point of 55° F, our special number.
The starting point of figuring out whether your problem is humidity or supply vent temperature is to measure them. Getting the indoor air temperature and relative humidity isn’t hard, and once you have those you can easily find the dew point. The Dew Point Calculator website: (http://www.dpcalc.org) makes it easy with sliders for the three variables. Once you’ve determined whether humidity or vent temperature is the culprit, you’re in a position to eliminate the problem.
Why the indoor humidity might be too high
In the southeastern United States, the summer dew point is often above 70° F. The more of that high dew point outdoor air that gets into your house, the higher your indoor dew point will be. In some places, like condos on the beach, that outdoor humidity gets into the house because people open the doors and windows while the air conditioner is running. Easy fix: Close the doors and windows.
More likely, the house stays too humid because of unintentional infiltration. Most houses are too leaky. The fix is air sealing. Get a blower door test, seal up as many leakage sites as possible, and the indoor humidity will go down. A house above a vented crawl space is connected to a big source of humidity, especially when it has holes as large as a bathtub drain hole . Encapsulate and condition the crawl space or make the floor above the crawl space airtight.
One way that outdoor air gets inside intentionally is through ventilation. When you turn on a bath fan or a range hood, you exhaust indoor air and cause outdoor air to come in. Clothes dryers do this, too. On the whole-house ventilation front, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) bring in outdoor humidity; energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) also bring in humidity but less than HRVs. (An ERV is not a dehumidifier.) Ventilating dehumidifiers reduce the humidity.
If the house doesn’t have a lot of infiltration and isn’t over-ventilated, look for indoor sources of humidity. Some possibilities are:
- Showering without running the bath fan
- Doing a lot of cooking
- Having a lot of aquariums (You know who you are, afishionados!)
- Steam showers, hot tubs, indoor pools, water features
Why the supply vent might be too cold
If the indoor humidity is OK, the AC vents still can sweat if they get too cold. The two main causes of excessively cold vents are low refrigerant level and low airflow through the system. You’ll need an HVAC company to check the refrigerant level, but you may be able to do something about low airflow. Here are some of the main causes of low airflow:
- Dirty filter
- Excessively restrictive filter
- Return or supply vents blocked by furniture, rugs, or other items
- Dirty cooling coil
- Excessively restrictive duct system
You’ll probably need to hire a pro for the last two, but if you suspect low air flow, the first thing to do is check the filter. Then check to see if all the vents are unblocked and the louvers open.
Tools for Protecting Your Walls
Patch up and fix up your old walls yourself with these helpful, easy tips!
Protect Your Walls from Cracks
Before driving a nail into a plaster wall, place a small piece of tape over the spot you’re working on. This simple prep step will prevent cracking in the plaster.
Patch It Up
To make putty for quick patches, combine a tablespoon of salt with a tablespoon of cornstarch.
Crafty Use for Old Gift Cards
In need of a thin yet sturdy household tool for scraping grout, repairing holes in walls, or filling scratches in wood? Use a used-up gift card (or expired credit card) for the job—any unusable hard plastic card will do. And if you’re anything like us, you have plenty of those!
Wall Hole Solution
You’re moving out of an apartment and need to fill in the holes in the wall caused by nails. Just grab a bar of white soap and rub across the hole until the soap fills it. It’s not a permanent fix, but it will make the walls look clean until they can be repainted.
Another Wall Hole Solution
Before spackling small holes in your wall caused by nails, first cut a Q-tip in half and insert in the hole, stick end first. Then spackle as you normally would. The Q-tip will completely fill the hole and ensure you won’t have to go back for a second pass.
Filling and sanding every hole in the wall before you paint can be enough of a pain, but sometimes it’s hard to find every crack, hole, and imperfection. Make your job easier by turning off the lights in a room, then slowly running a flashlight over the entire surface of the wall. The light will cast different shadows in these areas, making them easier to see than they would have been in the daylight.
Got a Screw Loose?
You’ve just struggled to remove a stripped screw from the wall. Now how do you fix the hole? Use a wooden golf tee! First, squirt some wood glue into the hole, and then insert the tee as far as it will go, tapping it in place with a hammer. Next, use a utility knife to cut the tee flush with the wall. You’ve now made a stable base for the new screw. Drill a pilot hole into the golf tee, and insert your new screw. Problem solved!
Things that Can Land You In the ER
Yard Equipment, More Than Lawn Mowers, Can Land You in ER
It takes a green thumb to excel at yard work and gardening. Unfortunately, those activities can actually lead to you losing your green thumb — or, in rare instances, your life.
Yard Work Injuries by the Numbers
According to our analysis of data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, nearly three-fourths of the lawn and garden injuries from 2010 to 2019 were caused by lawn and garden equipment excluding lawn mowers.
Of the injuries connected to lawn mowers, 95,193 (11.1%) required hospitalization, compared with 169,125 (7.3%) for all other types of lawn and garden equipment.
How to Stay Safe Working in the Yard
Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, offers this advice for staying safe when using power gear in the yard or garden: “Before you use a mower, trimmer, blower, power washer, chainsaw, pruner, portable generator or other piece of outdoor power equipment … it’s important to refresh yourself on handling and safety procedures.”
Furthermore, “you should take the time to do basic maintenance to ensure your equipment operates safely for the season and is ready to get the job done,” Kiser adds.
875 ER Visits Per Day from Yard Work Injuries
LawnStarter’s data analysis shows that in the past decade, U.S. emergency rooms reported an estimated 3,195,333 injuries tied to lawn and gardening equipment. That amounts to an average of 319,533 per year or a little over 875 per day. Injuries include amputations, burns, nerve damage, broken bones, cuts and bruises.
While there’s no way to know for sure, the recent rise in DIY lawn and garden work prompted by the coronavirus pandemic could lead to more injuries in 2020 than in recent years.
Of the nearly 3.2 million injuries in the past decade, 265,704 (8.3%) required hospital stays and 5,964 (0.19%) resulted in death, our 10-year analysis indicates. On an annual basis, that’s equivalent to about 26,679 hospital stays and about 596 deaths.
At 40, Your Yard Equipment Injury Risk Rises
Another finding from the hospital data: You’re at the greatest risk of lawn and garden injuries — everything from burns to broken bones — if you’re 40 or older, and you’re at the greatest risk of death if you’re in your 60s or 70s.
LawnStarter pulled the data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which tracks ER visits for injuries associated with consumer products. We examined data collected from 2010 through 2019 in seven lawn and garden categories:
- Lawn mowers, including walk-behind power mowers, riding mowers and manual mowers
- Lawn and garden equipment, including garden hoses, wheelbarrows and seed spreaders
- Power lawn equipment, such as tillers, garden tractors and leaf blowers
- Non-power tools, such as rakes, shovels and spades.
- Small power tools, such as lawn trimmer and lawn edgers
- Hatchets and axes
How to Avoid Lawn and Garden Injuries
To avoid lawn and garden injuries, follow these five tips:
- Wear proper protective gear
Items you should put on before doing yard or garden work include safety goggles, gloves, a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and closed-toe shoes. Don’t mow your lawn in flip-flops or barefoot, obviously.
- Read the rules
Go over the operator’s manuals for lawn and garden tools and equipment that you’re using.
- Take breaks
Working in the lawn or garden when you’re worn out can lead to mental mistakes that cause injuries, so it’s important to take time out to rest and hydrate.
- Check your surroundings
Before you rev up any power equipment, remove objects such as sticks, glass, metal, wire and rocks from the area where you’re working to avoid causing injuries or damaging equipment.
- Watch the kids
Don’t let a child hop on or operate a garden tractor or riding mower. Also, make sure kids are indoors when outdoor power equipment is in use.
A child should be at least 12 years old before being allowed to operate a walk-behind mower and 16 years old before being permitted to drive a riding mower.
- Let someone else do your yard work
This last tip isn’t from any health care organization or government agency. It’s from us here at LawnStarter.
If you’re older and at higher risk of injury, ask your son or daughter (or grandson or granddaughter) to mow your lawn.
At any age, if you don’t want to run the risk of injury, hire someone else to mow your yard, clean your gutters and prune your trees. Ask a loved one, a family friend or a neighbor to help out in the yard. Or hire a lawn care service.
- Why air conditioning vents sweat: https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/why-do-air-conditioning-vents-sweat
- Tools to protect your walls: https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/house-home/home-repair/7-tools-for-protecting-your-walls
- How to avoid injury while doing yard work: https://www.lawnstarter.com/blog/studies/yard-work-and-lawn-mower-injuries/
~ Thank you to our Interviewer~
Andy Acker – Director of Education – Schulter Systems
A very special thank you to all of our callers! We live to answer your questions, so keep them coming!
Thank you to our Technical Support:
- Danny Bringer – Chief Engineer
- Carol “Remodeling Babe” Carey – Executive Producer
- Sam Reed – Associate Producer
- Rico Figliolini – Digital Master
Thank you for tuning in to Air Flows and Lawn Mows! And check in next week for more cool tips!
“Air Flows and Lawn Mows” Show Notes for On The House with the Carey Brothers aired September 12, 2020.
Missed our live show? Don’t worry! Because we have a podcast of the show. It’s the same thing we aired on the radio, but ready for you whenever and wherever you are! Check it out here.