Stop Winter Allergens in Your Home

Stop Winter Allergens in Your Home

When it comes to seasonal allergies, most people know the ins and outs of the Spring and Fall allergy seasons. People may not know, however, that those irritable symptoms in the winter can be caused by concentrated allergens in your home or workplace.

Is it possible to have winter allergies?

Yes. Believe it or not, there are irritants brought on by the cold weather and enclosed living conditions. Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and dust are some of the most common irritants during the winter months. Without the ability to open your windows and let some fresh air inside, all of these air pollutants build up in your air ducts and filters.

Are you suffering from indoor allergens?

Side effects of winter allergies can often mirror the common cold. However, the common cold should only last around 10 days, so if your symptoms are continuous you might be suffering from indoor allergies. Coughing, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, runny noses, dry nasal passages, bloody noses, and dry skin conditions can all be related to indoor irritants.

What can I do to lessen my allergy symptoms?

There are many things that you can do in your own home to decrease those winter blues. Simple things you can do to stay proactive are dust, change your bedding and vacuum frequently. This cuts downs on dirt, dust, dander and dust mites. The next step is to make sure your house has a whole home humidifier to keep the climate from getting too dry. Most humidifiers today include an automatic humidifier control that will automatically adjust to outdoor temperatures to maintain optimal levels of relative humidity indoors. If you suffer from dry skin a whole house humidifying system can really help regulate the climate more efficiently in your home.

Air ducts can capture dust and pollutants that blow through the vents and travel throughout your home. Households that deal with seasonal allergies should look into getting whole house filtration systems. There are many high-efficiency filtration products available today. See your SMART Contractor for more information.

Finally, remember to contact your SMART provider to perform regular maintenance on your heating system and air filters. A simple system check and/or cleaning can do wonders for your home!

For more information on the services we offer, read more here.
AC Over Time

The Advancement of AC Over Time

Do you ever think about a time before air conditioning?

It’s tough – we know. Fathomable or not, there was once a time when this glorious invention didn’t exist.

So, what creative approaches did people take to stay cool back in the day? Thanks to a few handy sources, we’ve found some very interesting past solutions to beat the heat and the interesting development of AC over time.

Our ancestors used to:

  • Have their homes built on hilltops to catch the breeze.
  • Strategically place their windows on opposite ends of each other with a door between them to produce a steady flow of cool wind.
  • Use ice water-soaked sheets and have air blown over them to create cold air.
  • Sleep on their porch at night.
  • Have attic fans installed. (The most effective approach of them all, right?)

Here are some more interesting approaches specifically for homes:

  • Trees. We often think of trees as just shade for outdoors, but that wasn’t the case in earlier days. People would strategically plant trees on the east or west side of their home, (this being where the sun rises and falls), to block out the sun.
  • Transom and Double-Hung Windows. Transom windows sit above doors, which allow hot air to rise upstairs. Double-hung windows allow you to let heat out from the top opening during the day and let cool air in from the bottom opening at night.
  • Reflective Roofs. Using light colored, reflective material to build rooftops made for a significant decrease in the heat absorbed into the home.

Have an expert cool your home.

And lastly, here are some notable breakthroughs in air conditioning:

  • In 1904, mechanical cooling was used to cool the World Fair’s Missouri State Building.
  • In 1922, the first well-designed cooling unit, using a technology called centrifugal cooling, was installed in movie theaters.
  • In 1929, a smaller cooling unit was produced but was modified between 1930 and 1931 to create a self-contained room cooler.
  • By the 1960s, new homes were built with air conditioning.
  • As of present day, air conditioning is now found in over 87% of homes.

From strategically placed homes and windows, to cooling units being available in establishments, to now being available anywhere, air conditioning is here to stay. We project that the industry will continue to shift towards greener HVAC solutions, and we’ll be analyzing this trend every step of the way.

Learn more about your modern day air conditioning solutions – give us a try.

Chris James' Ironman Triathlon

Apprentice by Day, Triathlete by Night


“I’m in love with helping people, especially with raising money for breast cancer research.”

It’s not every day that you meet some like Chris James. A dedicated apprentice, an experienced athlete, and a caretaker for breast cancer.

Meet Chris.

Chris James' Ironman Triathlon

This fall, Chris will compete in the very prestigious triathlon, the Ironman. His run will support the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation. The triathlon will take place on September 25.

Explore Chris’ incredible journey through this video.

About Chris
Chris is a fourth-year apprentice with SMART. He made his way to us after being a welder for the Marine Corps. He was intrigued by Local 265 union, the camaraderie, and the benefits that came with being a part of a great organization. He also found a connection to our values of quality and integrity, as he appreciates the quality five-year apprenticeship he’s a part of and carries integrity everywhere he goes, just as the Marines have instilled in him. Thanks to these factors, SMART was the perfect fit for Chris and he’s dedicated himself to SMART and the union ever since.

Chris was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but spent most of his life in Illinois and Georgia. When he’s not training for the Ironman triathlon, he spends his spare time with his fiancé (who he says he wouldn’t be able to train and do this triathlon without), dogs, and performing gigs.

Chris’ Journey to the Ironman Triathlon

Though this is Chris’ first time competing in a triathlon, he’s an experienced athlete who has participated in everything from 5ks to 100 mile runs, including an extensive Olympic triathlon. His influence to compete in the Ironman derived from seeing it firsthand. He supported his friend during his entire Ironman in Louisville. By being exposed to the triathlon and the amazing spirits of the triathletes, he was completely won over. He says the community even reminded him of SMART.

As Chris began his Ironman search, there were some key things that stuck out to him, making it clear that he was meant to do the triathlon. First, he found that Chattanooga was one of the locations. Being that this is hometown, this alone sold him. Unfortunately, as he went to sign up, the Chattanooga triathlon was full. But this didn’t stop Chris.

The Ironman also allows people to fundraise for organizations. The organization that stuck out to Chris was the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation. Choosing this foundation meant more to him than just a means to enter the triathlon, but as a way to support a cause that was near to his heart. His grandmother passed away from breast cancer, and Team Edith was the perfect way for Chris to help the breast cancer community.

Supporting a foundation for the triathlon comes with a huge commitment. The typical registration fee for the Ironman is $700. However, to support a foundation, you’re obligated to raise money for it. Chris’ goal is to raise $5,000, and he must hit a minimum of at least $3,500. So far, he has raised money through music gigs and support from his family and friends. Check out his donation page.

More About the Ironman

This triathlon is prestigious because it is the biggest and most rigorous triathlon of its kind. It consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 22.6-mile run. The triathlon runs from 7:30 a.m. to midnight of the following day, giving the triathletes a total of 16.5 hours to complete the competition.

Chris has an equally intense training schedule as the triathlon, as he’s been thoroughly preparing for the Ironman on a daily basis. For nutrition, Chris consumes 3,000-4,000 calories a day. He currently trains 11-13 hours of a week, but will increase to 16+ hours a week as the triathlon nears. To break down his weekly schedule:

  • Monday: Swim
  • Tuesday: Bike
  • Wednesday: Swim
  • Thursday: Bike and Short Distance Run
  • Saturday: Swim and Long Distance Run
  • Sunday: Long Distance Bike & Short Distance Run

Chris gives himself Friday off to take a break.

Chris also has a swim coach, who helps him greatly with water-based athletic training, as it was not something he practiced competitively until this past winter.

Inspiration for Aspiring Triathletes

For those that are aspiring to become triathletes, Chris says, “It takes discipline and the will to live a healthy lifestyle. First, get the right gear (don’t just go cheap.) Also, pay attention to what you eat and be sure to get your nutrients and stay hydrated. Step out your comfort zone, start small, and listen to your body.”

Lastly, he says to “respect the distance”, so be sure to train consistently and keep a great support system.

Quotes That Have Inspired Chris

“Make yourself stronger than your excuses.”

“7-minute mile or 14-minute mile – it’s still a mile.”

Chris & SMART

Chris’ goal is to be able to combine Edith Sanford and I Want Smart to bring awareness to breast cancer and shed new light on the union. Chris says that he wouldn’t have been able to do the race without the help of SMART, as we have been able to support him mentally and financially through his journey. He reached out to SMART for help with fundraising and we were pleased to lend a hand. We’re extremely proud of Chris’ story and journey to the Ironman. Now we’re on a mission to share his story with the world.

We look forward to following Chris’ journey, and we encourage you to follow with us. To support Chris, visit his donation page. To stay updated, follow our Facebook page.

Updates – 8/18/2016

– Chris has reached his $3,500 minimum. Help him reach his goal of $5,000 on his donation page.
– His training has increased to 15 hours a week and has remained injury free!
– He will taper in the next few weeks, meaning that he will decrease his workout load to allow his body to recover and rest in preparation for race day.
– He has completed his nutrition and consumption plan for race day.

Best of luck Chris! September 25 will be here before you know it!

Air Quality

8 Easy Steps to Improve Your Air Quality

Fun Fact:

You breathe 3,400 gallons of air a day on average.

Indoor air quality is a topic most people pass right over, as they probably assume their air is as clean as they keep their home. However, you’d be surprised what hidden threats lie within it.

Your Bathroom
Dampness and humidity from your shower can cause mold.

Your Bedroom
If you have a ceiling fan in your bedroom, or anywhere else in your home, the dust and allergens that collect on the blades can sprinkle on furniture.

Carpets and Furniture
Dust mites love to roam around furniture and carpets.

Carbon monoxide can be produced from leaks and exhaust from your appliances.

Wall and Floor Openings
Radon can be produced from wall and floor openings that are in contact with the ground.

Now, take a breather. (Pun intended.)

Utilize these 8 very simple ways to ensure that your air quality is in top-notch shape.

1. Dust Your Home Regularly
This is key, as it will prevent the buildup of dust and allergens.

2. Change Your Filters
Not only should you replace your filters regularly, but make sure you choose an effective one. You want a filter that catches at least 85% of large air pollutants.

3. Wash and Vacuum
Cut down on dust buildup by washing your bedding and vacuuming your carpet on a weekly basis.

4. Ventilate
Kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans rid the air of pollution.

5. Maintain Humidity
Keep your humidity between 30% to 50%.

6. Radon Testing
Make sure your home is gas-free with a radon test kit.

7. Carbon Monoxide Testing
Have a carbon monoxide alarm installed and regularly test your home for this toxin.

8. Open Your Windows and Doors
The easiest step of all! Get some fresh air circulating through your home to increase your air quality.

Get the professionals to clean and maintain your HVAC units the right way. Get in touch today.

SMART Customer Appreciation

SMART Customer Appreciation

We pride ourselves on being able to serve our customers with the best value, service, and knowledge.

We are able to provide great value through our rebate program, which gives discounts for your heating and cooling needs. Through our partnerships with SMACNA Greater Chicago Chapter and SMART Local 265 union, as well as providing our contractors with continuing education programs, we ensure that you are given the most knowledgeable contractors and quality service.

We appreciate our customers greatly, and we’re pleased to find that they appreciate us just as much.

In honor of our amazing customers, we’d like to showcase a few of the wonderful letters we have received.

“Dear Friends,

Please forgive the lateness in sending this letter to you. Thank you for the rebate I received when purchasing my new air conditioning system in late Fall last year. I’m so very grateful – you folks don’t HAVE to offer rebates and yet you did. It was a nice surprise when determining the cost. The rebate saved me a lot of money.

Thank you not only for the rebate but for all that the Sheet Metal Workers do. The workers who installed my air conditioning system were professional, courteous, and knowledgeable. They definitely knew what they were doing and offered advice that wasn’t intended to get more money out of me – simply trying to help me get the most out of my system. Their set up and clean up was perfect, and they took the time to explain the new features without my having to read the manual immediately.

My dad is a union carpenter and I appreciate how hard tradesmen work. The Sheet Metal Workers 265 must be proud of their history. As far as I’m concerned, with men such as the ones that helped me, the future is strong, too.

To the office staff there in Carol Stream and to the workers out in the field… I thank you for your dedication and hard work and for doing it with kindness.”


I received your check #38408 dated 1-15-2016 for a rebate on utilizing union labor. What a nice way to remind people of the benefits of using trained union labor to receive quality work. Thanks very much.”

“Thank you for the excellent service! It was great having David do the work!”

Thank you to our wonderful customers for taking the time to write such thoughtful letters. Also, thank you to our contractors for always putting the best interests of our customers first, never cutting corners in providing knowledgeable advice and professional service, and always showcasing how much they truly enjoy their careers.

We look forward to showing more customer appreciation through even more rebates in the future!

Heating your home during these bitterly cold days is crucial

When trouble hits and it will, you’ll hear unwelcome phrases like; Cracked Heat Exchanger, bad board, dangerous fumes, possible fire, your furnace needs to be replaced and all you can think is – What will this cost me and can I trust you…

Finally, the best trained professionals in the industry who bring you Value, Quality and Trust can all be found in one spot, I Want

The industry experts at I Want Smart dot com not only provide you with fast, accurate heating repairs, they are known for their integrity and building relationships that last a lifetime.

Find a SMART Contractor this season (Click HERE)

Listen to our newest Radio spot below.

Thermostat – Save money on your Heating Bill

You can save money on your heating and cooling bills by simply resetting your thermostat when you are asleep or away from home. You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.

Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn on the heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.

General Thermostat Operation

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates.

In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning. Check out our home heating infographic to learn more about how heating systems and thermostats interact.

Limitations for Homes With Heat Pumps, Electric Resistance Heating, Steam Heat, and Radiant Floor Heating

Programmable thermostats are generally not recommended for heat pumps. In its cooling mode, a heat pump operates like an air conditioner, so turning up the thermostat (either manually or with a programmable thermostat) will save energy and money. But when a heat pump is in its heating mode, setting back its thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently, thereby canceling out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting. Maintaining a moderate setting is the most cost-effective practice. Recently, however, some companies have begun selling specially designed programmable thermostats for heat pumps, which make setting back the thermostat cost-effective. These thermostats typically use special algorithms to minimize the use of backup electric resistance heat systems.

Electric resistance systems, such as electric baseboard heating, require thermostats capable of directly controlling 120-volt or 240-volt circuits. Only a few companies manufacture line-voltage programmable thermostats.

The slow response time — up to several hours — of steam heating and radiant floor heating systems leads some people to suggest that setback is inappropriate for these systems. However, some manufacturers now offer thermostats that track the performance of your heating system to determine when to turn it on in order to achieve comfortable temperatures at your programmed time.

Alternately, a normal programmable thermostat can be set to begin its cool down well before you leave or go to bed and return to its regular temperature two or three hours before you wake up or return home. This may require some guesswork at first, but with a little trial and error you can still save energy while maintaining a comfortable home.

Choosing and Programming a Programmable Thermostat

Most programmable thermostats are either digital, electromechanical, or some mixture of the two. Digital thermostats offer the most features in terms of multiple setback settings, overrides, and adjustments for daylight savings time, but may be difficult for some people to program. Electromechanical systems often involve pegs or sliding bars and are relatively simple to program.

When programming your thermostat, consider when you normally go to sleep and wake up. If you prefer to sleep at a cooler temperature during the winter, you might want to start the temperature setback a bit ahead of the time you actually go to bed. Also consider the schedules of everyone in the household. If there is a time during the day when the house is unoccupied for four hours or more, it makes sense to adjust the temperature during those periods.

Other Considerations

The location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency. Read the manufacturer’s installation instructions to prevent “ghost readings” or unnecessary furnace or air conditioner cycling. To operate properly, a thermostat must be on an interior wall away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights, and windows. It should be located where natural room air currents–warm air rising, cool air sinking–occur. Furniture will block natural air movement, so do not place pieces in front of or below your thermostat. Also make sure your thermostat is conveniently located for programming.

Find a Smart Contractor Now

Source: December 15, 2014  Article from U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENErgy’S WEBSITE

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips for Chimney and Furnace Season

Winter is here. And while you’ve probably fired up the furnace plenty, and stocked up on firewood, have you studied up on carbon monoxide safety?

A common output of malfunctioning or improperly used appliances, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that’s nicknamed the “silent killer” because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it. Furnaces, stoves, ovens, water heaters and blocked chimney vents can all be potential sources of carbon monoxide, or CO.

So how do you protect yourself? Here are some important safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration that can help keep you safe from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.

Furnace and Chimney Safety Precautions

  • Have fuel-burning heating equipment and chimneys  inspected annually by a licensed professional. This includes your furnace, water heater, wood stove and any portable heaters.
  • Make sure the damper is opened and clear of debris before using a fireplace.
  • Never use your oven or stove to heat your home.
  • When purchasing new appliances, look for products that have been tested and are labeled by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside and is kept clear and unblocked.
  • Damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney, moisture around the windows and walls near a furnace, and excessive rust on vent pipes or the outside of appliances can all be signs of a potential CO problem. Call in a professional if you spot these signs.

CO Alarm Testing and Replacement

  • Run a test on your CO alarms at least once a month, and      replace them if they aren’t responding correctly. Sensors in carbon      monoxide alarms have a limited life.
  • A CO alarm isn’t a substitute for a smoke alarm, and      vice-versa. You should familiarize yourself with the different sounds each      alarm makes.
  • If the carbon monoxide detector is beeping, go outside and immediately call 911 or the fire      department.

Proper ventilation, a solid cleaning, and a working early-CO-detection alarm are your biggest allies when it comes to preventing a carbon monoxide buildup this winter.

Source: By Frank Rivera, ADT, January 31, 2013

6 Ways To Cut Home Energy Costs

By Melissa King, Contributor

Utility bills can make up a significant portion of a family’s monthly budget. With a little planning, research, and work, you can cut your home’s energy consumption by a substantial amount. With Earth Day next week, here are 6 ways to get the job done.

Improve your HVAC’s Efficiency

HVAC systems account for half or more of your utility bills. There are several steps you can take to improve the efficiency of your home’s system. They include replacing filters regularly and keeping thermostats set at a constant level.

You’ll also want to make sure all windows and doors fit correctly, are properly installed, and sealed to reduce air leakage to the outside. The goal is to keep heated air inside in the winter, and air conditioned air inside your home during the summer. Which brings me to my next point…

Check Your Insulation

This helps by reducing loss of heated/cooled air and reduces strain on your system. There are several options for upgrading insulation in existing structures. You can either pay a professional to do blown-in insulation or do it yourself. But be sure to wear proper gloves and a mask if you do the latter.

Team Clark staff member Joel Larsgaard recently did it himself at his new house. He got free rental of an insulation blower with the purchase of 20 bags of insulation ($11 a bag) at a local big-box home improvement store. Then he grabbed a friend to help him.

Joel got a reimbursement from his local power company. So they covered half of his $274 total bill for the job! Visit (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) to see similar incentives that may be available where you live.

Know Your Appliances and Their Use Patterns

Energy used by major appliances also makes up a large portion of the monthly energy bills. When you replace your older appliances, consider upgrading to high efficiency models. The initial extra expense will be offset over time by the reduced energy costs.

Timing the use of your appliances can also be a factor. Try to do laundry either in the early morning or at night. These hours are considered ‘off peak’ hours and power is actually less expensive at these times.

Some usage patterns are easier to control than others. For example, you should allow adequate space for the cool air to circulate around food in both your refrigerator and freezer. That’s easy to do.

Finally, consider using the microwave oven instead of conventional oven or stovetop when cooking or reheating your food.

Avoiding Chills and High Bills

By — Valerie Finholm

The autumn chill feels a bit ominous this year. Halloween has passed, but energy prices have us spooked. We consulted some experts about inexpensive ways to winterize our homes (besides buying everyone in the family down booties and a warm comforter to wear inside the house.) Here are some suggestions (for more ideas, see “Hints From Heloise” below):

* Reduce drafts and save up to 30 percent on your heating bill by replacing cracked or broken windows and caulking gaps between windows and window frames and between doors and the floor. Use weather stripping on moveable window and door parts. Draft blockers (those things that look like snakes) also keep out drafts.

* Make sure your attic is well insulated. If you don’t have insulation in your attic, put down rugs or carpets to keep the heat in the house.

* Vacuum register grills and radiators and make sure they are not blocked with furniture or drapes.

* Install a programmable thermostat. If you don’t have one, turn down the thermostat when you go to work and to sleep at night to save energy. (Consult your plumber about how far you can safely turn down your thermostat without freezing your pipes.)

* Have a professional clean and tune your furnace for better energy efficiency. While the plumber is there, ask him or her to make sure your water heater is set at 120 degrees.

* Close the doors to unused rooms. The Department of Energy calculates that by closing the vents to one spare bedroom in a five-room house, you can cut your heating bills by as much as 20 percent.

* Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. Let the dishes in your dishwasher air dry.