How Your HVAC System Alleviate Allergies in Your Home
Alleviating Allergies at Home with a High Performing HVAC System
Seasonal allergies, the reaction of our bodies to (mostly) airborne irritants, are unique to each individual sufferer. For instance, Spring tree pollen, mown grass, or mold spores do not seem to faze me; but there is a particular yellow weed that blooms in the Fall that gets me every time. Oh yeah, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, and body aches.
No matter what time of year your allergies come, your home can be an oasis from the irritants that aggravate seasonal allergies. Your home has several systems to help; a little knowledge will help you use them best for your unique allergies. We will also suggest improvements that can enhance existing systems if you need further help.
Use Ventilation to Your Advantage
Most homes are sealed to a significant degree, so most irritants come through doors and windows and not through gaps in the housing envelop. Once pollen comes in through the door, they are trapped inside until removed. A good seal house can contain 3 to 5 times more contaminants than outdoor air. One solution to eliminate irritants is opening doors and windows strategically.
If Oak pollen is your Kryptonite, make sure to keep doors and windows closed as much as possible for the two weeks are so that Oak pollen is active. If you have “Hay Fever” each time the lawn is mowed, keep those irritants outdoors while mowing.
Once the particular pollen or spore has passed, exchange the indoor air with outdoor air to remove trapped contaminants. Opening a couple of windows or doors for 15 to 30 minutes is enough time to completely exchange the indoor air with outdoor air.
Balance this need with the need to keep indoor air cool or warm as the season changes.
Clean Your Home Thoroughly
While this might be stating the obvious, dusting, mopping, and vacuuming weekly, more often if necessary, is a crucial step to remove contaminants from your home. Use products that trap dust with static electricity. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible.
Understand Air Filters
Year-round your HVAC system’s air filter is the most efficient tool to remove dust, pollen, mold, mildew, and pet dander from your indoor air. The more you know about how the air filter works the better you can prepare to improve indoor air quality.
Your HVAC system moves all of the air inside of your house several times per day as long as the blower is running. It pulls air through air returns, strategically placed throughout your home, filters the air, heats or cools/dehumidifies it, and sends it back through supply ducts. Filtration takes particles out of the air prior to conditioning the air, keeping sensitive electrical equipment clean.
Traditional air filters are made of composite materials (paper/fiber mix) thin enough for good airflow. Filters are rated on a MERV scale, from 1 to 16—the higher the MERV rating the better. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are a step up, considered between 17 and 20 on the scale. Use the best filter available for the cleanest air.
Make sure to change your air filter as often as needed. Change the filter at least every three months—consider changing the filter every month during your allergy season.
Maintain Proper Humidity
Your HVAC system not only cleans the air but also removes humidity to keep your home’s humidity at an ideal 30 to 50% humidity.
Air conditioners remove moisture from the air to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, common allergens.
Winter air is already drier and heated, warm, dry air can irritate sinuses. If your home or climate is very dry, consider a humidifier for the heating season. While humidifiers are useful to keep your nose and throat from drying out, overuse can lead to mold or mildew: monitor humidity to keep it between 30 to 50%. Make sure to keep the water and parts clean to prevent growth at the source.
Natural ventilation and air filtration by the HVAC system provide the first and best defense from indoor allergens, removing as much as 99% of airborne particles. But your home and family are unique and might need additional help. Here are a couple of options you might consider.
Ultraviolet lights. UV is the part of sunlight that damages your skin in a sunburn. Matter of fact, UV kills microorganisms, including pollen and mold spores, yeast, bacteria, and viruses. Typically, UV lights are installed inside return air ducts; the neutralized cells are easier to trap in the air filter.
Air purifiers. Room air purifiers are mobile devices with a multiple-stage filtration system. Often air purifier filters use activated charcoal, which pulls gases/odors from the air. They are small, quiet, and affordable. Whole-home purifiers are also available. They connect to the central HVAC system for seamless operation.
Do houseplants help?
The answer to the question is yes, but . . . not enough. You do not depend on a few houseplants to produce all of the oxygen needed in the home and the same plants cannot absorb all of the carbon dioxide produced in your home. To achieve such dependence, entire rooms would need to be filled with houseplants in a careful balance.
The same is true concerning the absorption of volatile organic compounds, harmful gaseous chemicals found in every home. Houseplants absorb 1% of the number of contaminants that the HVAC system handles. Consider houseplants to be great decorations and accessories, but they will not replace your HVAC system.
In summary, you have tools in your home to help eliminate most seasonal allergens. Contact All Cool to determine which options might best enhance your home’s system.
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