More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, which can affect respiratory function and cause rashes, hives, or excessively dry and itchy eyes or skin. In some instances allergy outbreaks may require medical attention, and even in the best of situations they can cause a great deal of discomfort.
Indoor air pollution is a common trigger of allergy symptoms, which is not surprising since most homes contains a higher density of airborne pollutants than the average city street.
If you or your family suffer from allergies, something as simple as an annual air conditioner tune-up can dramatically reduce your susceptibility to outbreaks. And you can help reduce the risk even further by practicing a little preventive maintenance yourself.
The Shocking Truth about Airborne Allergens in Your Home
Inside the walls of your home, a veritable stew of nasty airborne pollutants may be circulating from one living area to the next at this very moment, wrecking their invisible vengeance on your beleaguered immune system.
Some common indoor pollutants include:
- Mold and mold spores
- Pet dander
- Synthetic carpet fibers
- Insect droppings
- Dust mites
- Chemical traces from building materials
- Volatile organic compounds from cleaning and personal care products
These allergens can accumulate inside ductwork, and when furnaces and air conditioners are turned on they can be distributed far and wide to all the rooms you inhabit.
If furnaces and air conditioners get dirty and wet they may contribute directly to this mixture of toxic contaminants, and that is one good reason why air conditioners must be tuned-up and maintained on a regular basis.
The A-B-Cs of Air Conditioner Maintenance
Before the cooling season arrives, the following steps should be taken to ensure your air conditioner is clean and in good working order and will not make your allergy problems worse:
- Change your air filter. HVAC air filters should always be changed before you use your air conditioner for the first time. For maximum allergy protection and filtering effectiveness, choose a good-quality filter with a MERV rating of between 11 and 17 (anything higher will put too much strain on your AC and cause your utility bills to rise).
- Clean the vents. Dust, dirt, and grime collect in abundance on the outside and inside of intake and outflow vents, and they should be thoroughly cleaned every two weeks to prevent these contaminants from recirculating when your AC is switched on.
- Clean the areas of the air conditioner you can access. Each spring, you should clean your air conditioner’s condenser unit (the part of the AC that sits outside) as thoroughly as you can, to prevent the dust and dirt from getting sucked into the system when the air conditioner is turned on. You should also wipe away moisture anywhere you can find it, since moisture anywhere in the system can promote mold growth.
- Contact your HVAC contractor to arrange a maintenance visit and inspection. This is the most important step in your AC maintenance plan. A trained HVAC technician will examine your entire HVAC system, including the inside and outside of the condenser, to check for dirt and moisture accumulation and any signs of damage. The technician will also inspect your ductwork from one end to the other, and then let you know if it needs to be cleaned or repaired.
Air Conditioner Tune-ups and More from Rheem Pro Partners
In Colorado and Wyoming, Rheem Pro Partners has an unrivaled reputation for quality performance and superior customer service. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for an air conditioner tune-up and maintenance inspection, and within days we will dispatch a technician to your home to check your HVAC system from top to bottom. Cooling season will be here soon, so don’t delay another moment.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the concentration of air pollutants inside the typical American home is two-to-five times greater than what the average American is exposed to outside, and in many homes pollution density is much higher.
The good news is that this problem is solvable, through an expanded use of ventilation.
What is Ventilation and Why is it Important?
Ventilation means air movement, specifically the removal of stale, polluted indoor air and its replacement with cleaner, fresher air from outside.
Indoor living spaces contaminated with dust, dirt, moisture, pet dander, pollen, mold spores, bacteria, smoke, fumes from nearby roads or adjacent garages, chemical traces from cleaning products, bathroom and kitchen odors, and other sources of airborne unpleasantness require frequent ventilation. But if your home is like most, chances are your ventilation is inadequate.
Our homes are a refuge. Nevertheless, maintaining acceptable air quality inside of them is a constant challenge. Without proper ventilation unclean air can fill your lungs and nasal passages, putting you and your family at risk for allergy attacks, asthma, skin problems, bacterial infections, and eye, nose and throat irritations.
Ventilation is preventive medicine, and if you neglect to provide proper ventilation in your living area you can pay a heavy price for your neglect.
Three Types of Home Ventilation and How They Can Work for You
There are three sources of ventilation that can clear your home’s air: natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation, and air infiltration or exfiltration. The first two can be powerful allies, while the latter can help you as well if you give it a little boost.
Windows and doors (especially screen doors) are your natural ventilators, and if they are kept open and unblocked they can do good work. To increase natural venting efficiency, you should keep windows and doors open on opposite sides of the home and on separate floors. This will draw air through and maximize air flow.
To boost flow further, electric fans can be strategically placed near windows to increase the speed of the air’s movement.
If you can’t keep your windows open all year long, you can supplement natural ventilation with one of four mechanical ventilation system options:
- Supply ventilation systems. Supply fans bring fresh air from the outside through intake vents placed at various locations around the home’s perimeter, piping it throughout the home via ductwork. Supply ventilation systems aren’t suitable for cold climates, since they can pressurize indoor air and increase indoor heat loss through air leakage in winter.
- Exhaust ventilation systems. These systems use exhaust fans to expel air through outtake vents, depressurizing indoor spaces and making it easier for fresh air to re-enter the home. Exhaust ventilation systems are not ideal for hot, humid climates, where penetration of outside air can create moisture problems on the interior of the home.
- Balanced ventilation systems. Exhaust and supply fans are both installed and operated in unison, to keep air constantly flowing in and out. Because of their four-season efficiency, balanced ventilation systems work well in any climate.
- Spot ventilation. Exhaust fans placed in bathrooms, kitchens or garages can ventilate specific rooms vulnerable to odors or other types of contamination.
Mechanical ventilation systems must be properly sized to meet the ventilation needs of each individual home, and trained indoor air quality professionals can help assist with that task.
Infiltration and Exfiltration
Infiltration and exfiltration refer to air leakage into and out of your home through cracks, holes, and crevices in walls, floors and ceilings, or under and around doors and windows. This air movement helps but is not sufficient to fully cleanse indoor air, and you should supplement its action by purchasing air cleaners or air purifiers.
Air cleaners use fans to pull in air, which is then passed through a filter to remove microscopic (or larger) particle contaminants before the air is recirculated into the room.
Air purifiers work similarly, and some models use filters. But other models use ultraviolet light (UV) to neutralize living bacteria and other microorganisms, and still other models use an absorbent material (often activated carbon) to “soak up” the pollen, spores, dust particles, chemical traces and so on that can make your home’s air virtually unbreathable.
Air cleaners and purifiers come in a broad range of sizes, capacities and prices, depending on your needs and preferences.