Photo By fizkes at istock
Spring is generally a cheerful time of year in Cleveland, TN. People look forward to spring because it signifies the end of cold winter weather and heralds beautiful Tennessee summers. Unfortunately, allergies can dampen the usual joys of spring.
Clearing Allergens From the Air
Flowers bloom and grass grows while the sound of mowers fills the air. Animals and insects become more active, and people tend to enter and exit homes frequently as winter weather transitions to spring. These seasonal activities fill the air with allergens, including pollen, insect droppings, animal dander, mold, bacteria, and mildew. Warm temperatures and humidity also encourage mold and mildew growth.
Air conditioning and closed windows reduce the amount of allergens and pollutants entering a home, but it’s nearly impossible to keep allergens out completely. Allergens that make it indoors circulate continuously. Heating and AC specialists can help you make your home an allergen-free haven.
Many people mistakenly believe that HVAC filters are meant to keep dust and allergens out of the air. This is not accurate. Regular HVAC filters are designed to keep dust and debris out of equipment so your HVAC system runs efficiently.
Ordinary paper filters for furnaces or air conditioners trap large dust particles to prevent build-up on motors and fans. Allergens, such as mold, pollen, or bacteria, in the air are much smaller than dust, so they travel right through fibers in regular paper filters. The allergens are circulated through HVAC systems and ductwork to end up right back in your living space.
High energy particulate air filters, more commonly known as HEPA filters, are capable of trapping very small particles. These filters are made of densely packed glass fiber layers. High quality HEPA filters can trap up to 99% of allergens in the air. It may be necessary to hire a technician to clean ductwork after installing HEPA filters for the first time.
HEPA air filters designed to remove allergens are rated according to their ability to trap particles of various sizes. The rating system is called MERV, or the minimum efficiency reporting system. Filters are rated from MERV 1 to MERV 12.
Higher numbers mean the filter removes smaller particles, so MERV 12 is the most efficient filter capable of trapping the smallest particles. Your local heating and AC professionals can provide information on available HEPA filters and explain MERV ratings.
Ask your local heating and AC service provider to help you find a MERV-rated filter that suits your needs. Most people with allergies benefit from HEPA filters rated at MERV 10 or higher.
HEPA air filters must be changed more frequently than ordinary HVAC filters to be effective. The minimum replacement schedule is every other month, but this time frame may not be sufficient depending on location and individual allergen sensitivity.
An increase in allergy symptoms may be a sign that the HEPA filter should be replaced. A heating and AC repair technician can determine the ideal filter changing frequency for your situation and provide necessary maintenance for the entire HVAC system.
Humidity and Moisture
Allergies are not the only health issue influenced by HVAC systems. High humidity aggravates symptoms of many respiratory illnesses. Humidity also encourages mold. Drip pans, poorly maintained air filters, and condensate lines can become breeding grounds for microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. Consult a heating and AC professional to inspect your home and identify potentially problematic areas containing standing water. Microorganisms are discouraged by humidity levels under 50%.
Many people with respiratory health issues experience less difficulty breathing in low humidity. Air conditioning removes moisture from air, but only if the unit is maintained properly. Removing too much moisture can leave air too dry, which is also a problem. Overly dry air can cause irritated nasal membranes, coughing and sneezing from irritation in the throat or nasal passages, and dry, irritated eyes. Consult a heating and AC technician for help if your home is too humid or overly dry.
Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution
Allergens and pollutants in the air may cause skin irritation, especially for individuals with sensitive skin. Infants, young children, and the elderly are more susceptible to skin irritation and other conditions aggravated by contaminants in the air.
Potential air pollutants come from a wide range of indoor sources, including exhaust from appliances, tobacco products, household cleaning chemicals, and personal care products. Building materials and furnishings such as asbestos insulation, recently installed flooring, carpet, or upholstery, and cabinets or furniture made from pressed wood. Outdoor sources include pesticides, radon, and fuel-burning combustion engines. Heating and AC professionals may be able to test your home’s indoor air quality.
Sick Building Syndrome
Air conditioning and climate controlled environments certainly have many benefits, but they can have drawbacks as well. A phenomenon called ‘sick building syndrome’ was first noticed in the 1970s and became more widely known in the 1980s. Large numbers of people working in large air conditioned office buildings were getting sick at the same time.
An unusual range of symptoms included nasal congestion, irritated skin, breathing problems, headaches, and fatigue. People in different buildings did not have identical symptoms, so the causes were not identified immediately. The illnesses were eventually linked to microorganisms growing in air conditioning units, condensate lines, drip pans, and standing water around the units.
Different symptoms occurred in various locations because illnesses were caused by many different strains of bacteria and fungi. Illness linked to AC units are relatively uncommon now because the importance of properly maintained heating and air conditioning systems is widely recognized. Heating and AC technicians are trained to maintain HVAC systems correctly so microorganisms can not establish colonies and grow.
Contact the professionals at Metro Plumbing, Heating and Air in Cleveland, TN, to inspect and evaluate your home’s HVAC systems. Explain any personal concerns, such as allergies or respiratory illness, so heating and AC technicians can help you find effective solutions.