Reduce Allergy Symptoms with the Help of HVAC System
Ever moved into a new home and immediately started experiencing weird allergy symptoms? Or have you been sneezing or coughing a lot more than usual, especially when at home? You’re not alone. At least 50 million US residents have allergies.
The good news is that you can help prevent allergen infestation with simple upgrades to your current HVAC system. This article focuses on a few of these tips. But let us start with a list of common household allergens.
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Allergens to Watch Out For
There are plenty of indoor airborne pollutants that could trigger allergic reactions. They include:
» Dust and Dust Mite
Dust is among the stubbornest villains of allergies in both residential and commercial settings. It will always be present regardless of frequent cleaning and vacuuming.
Dust mites are close relatives of spiders and ticks and are invisible to the naked eye. They thrive in humid, dry environments, feeding on human skin cells in the dust. You will commonly find them in carpeting, upholstered furniture, and bedding.
Dust mite allergy manifests in symptoms similar to those of mold allergy, including runny nose and sneezing.
» Mold and Mildew
The terms mold and mildew are used interchangeably, although mildew is a specific type of mold. Mold thrives under humid conditions such as water leaks and humid atmosphere.
Mold spores trigger allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and itchy mouth.
If you live in an area bursting with vegetation, pollen grains can enter your home through the doors and windows and embed in your upholstery and furniture.
Suppose any of your family members are sensitive to pollen. In that case, their immune system identifies the harmless grains as harmful intruders and initiates a fight mechanism that manifests in various allergy symptoms. You can use your HVAC system to filter out airborne pollen grains.
» Pet Allergens
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 30% of allergy victims exhibit allergic reactions to dogs and cats. Their immune systems react to proteins in the pet’s allergens, including dander (dead skin cells), saliva, and urine.
Pet allergens do not lose strength for months and can cling to walls, furniture, and clothes. Note that pet hair is not an allergen itself but can collect pollutants such as dust, pollen, and pet allergens mentioned earlier.
Pet allergy symptoms include itchy eyes and a stuffy nose. Severe symptoms include wheezing and breathing difficulties.
Although your home may not be as vulnerable to chemical allergens as many workplaces, certain household items can be sneaky villains of allergy symptoms.
Gasoline, paints, cleaning supplies, carpets, and pesticides emit formaldehyde, ethylene, xylene, and other VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Short-term VOC exposure can cause coughing, sneezing, headaches, nausea, brain fog, and watery, reddened, and itchy eyes. Long-term exposure can trigger asthma flares.
Improve Your HVAC System for Allergy Relief
Find below ways to improve your HVAC system for allergy relief.
1. Check Your Filters First
HVAC filters require periodic cleaning or replacing. This helps keep the air in your home clean and healthy.
Clogged filters are a sure recipe for allergen overload in your home. Not only that, but they also restrict airflow, forcing your heating and cooling system to work harder to achieve the desired indoor temperature. With lower system efficiency comes higher energy bills, not forgetting constant repair calls and expensive equipment replacement. That makes filter replacement an integral part of HVAC maintenance.
We recommend changing your HVAC system filter every 1-3 months. However, if you have pets or are undertaking some construction in your home, you will need to replace your filter more often.
Filter quality matters. Standard versions keep your HVAC system operating in top shape but are not enough to beat seasonal allergies. For optimal filtration and improved indoor air quality, invest in a HEPA-rated air filter. These models have a minimum MERV rating of 17, enabling them to trap 99.97% of air particles ranging between 0.3-1.0 microns. Other HVAC high-efficiency filters are rated between 13-16 MERV, but they are not as effective as their HEPA counterparts.
MERV (minimum efficiency recording value) denotes a filter’s effectiveness and ranges between one and twenty.
Not all HVAC systems are compatible with the dense HEPA filters. So, consult with an experienced local HVAC technician to determine the right filter for your heating and cooling units.
2. Consider Adding an Air Purifier
An air purifier is an excellent tool to upgrade your HVAC for allergy relief. This gadget improves indoor air by trapping allergens and airborne immune irritants that your HVAC filter cannot eliminate alone. The targeted contaminants include mold, mildew, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Whole-house air purifiers, built into the HVAC system, use two main types of filters: media filters and electrostatic filters.
Media filters provide a physical barrier against particles. Electrostatic filters, also known as electrostatic precipitators, leverage static electricity to trap airborne particulate matter. Some purifiers combine both filters.
Also available are activated carbon air purifiers which help remove gasses, fumes, smoke, chemicals, and odors from the air.
If you are concerned about viruses and bacteria, consider a UV air purifier. It uses ultraviolet light to break the molecular bonds in the pathogen’s DNA, rendering them incapable of multiplying and spreading disease.
3. Check the Humidity Levels
High humidity levels encourage dust mites and mold growth, triggering allergy symptoms.
But again, do not keep your indoor air too dry as this can inflame your skin, nasal passage, and throat tissues. Still, mold, bacteria, and dust mites can dry out and become airborne, increasing the risk for respiratory allergies.
A dehumidifier provides the much-needed humidity balance. The appliance keeps the air moisture levels between 40%and 50%, warding off dust mites and mold growth. That helps reduce the possibility of allergy flares.
But the question is, how does a dehumidifier work? Here is a breakdown of the process:
- a. The dehumidifier’s fan draws humid air, which flows over cooling coils.
- b. The moisture in the air condenses during cooling
- c. Resulting water collects in a drip pan
- d. The heat recovery system heats the air
- e. The unit disperses warmer air back into the room
- f. The dehumidifier switches off upon achieving the desired humidity level.
Air conditioners act as natural dehumidifiers and may be enough for less humid areas. They work by separating water from the air during the cooling process, pumping cooler, dryer air into your home through the ducts.
Humid climates can be brutal on individuals susceptible to respiratory allergies. If you have a clean HVAC filter and rightly-sized AC but still struggle with high humidity, then invest in a whole-home dehumidifier. It goes a step further to cut the burden for your AC, offering additional energy savings.
Competent HVAC technicians at Conejo Valley Heating and Air can help determine the appropriate dehumidifier for your home and integrate it with your existing HVAC system.
4. Clean Your Ducts
An essential part of HVAC maintenance, duct cleaning can help alleviate seasonal allergies.
Over time, allergens can build up in the ducts and find their way into the vents and eventually into the air you breathe.
The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends cleaning ducts every five years. But allergic persons can benefit from more frequent cleanings, ideally every three years.
Duct cleaning frequency depends on various factors, including HVAC use and prevailing climate.
Signs that you may need to clean your ducts sooner include:
- » Mold growth: Poor duct ventilation causes a warm or humid atmosphere, leading to mold growth. Wet/moldy duct insulation needs replacing as cleaning will less likely resolve the mold issue. Also, duct cleaning will not provide long-term results if you do not address the conditions causing mold growth.
- » Infestation: Critters can penetrate your ducts through faulty seals and air vents. Their urine, hair, and feces can trigger allergy symptoms.
- » Recent renovation: Renovation works can generate a ton of dust and debris that can accumulate in the ducts, affecting your system’s performance and health as well.
Duct cleaning is typically not something you want to undertake yourself. Dislodging dust and debris from ducts requires specialized tools such as rotary brushes and a high-powered vacuum that you may easily access. Still, some associated activities can be too demanding for a DIY enthusiast. These are just a few reasons to consider professional duct cleaning, whose costs depend on:
- Contamination level
- System accessibility
- Climatic region
- Size of the system to be cleaned
Use Your HVAC to Reduce Allergies with Conejo Valley Heating and Air
Do not allow allergens to compromise the comfort of your living space. Why not consult with a qualified HVAC contractor like Conejo Valley Heating and Air to determine the proper steps to prevent allergens from invading your home?
Here, we take HVAC maintenance seriously. We liken our tune-ups to medical checkups, which allow your doctor to catch medical issues before they escalate into dangerous conditions or give you the confidence that you are healthy. We leverage our experience in heating and cooling and indoor air quality to examine, analyze, service, and clean your HVAC components, leaving you to enjoy a comfortable and allergen-free atmosphere.
If you need assistance alleviating allergy symptoms or keeping your HVAC system running smoothly all year round, call us today at 805-499-0448 for more information or a quick consultation.