Your Nose Knows: HVAC Tips for Allergy Season
While the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula flourishes during spring and summer, many of us begin to suffer seasonal allergies. The pollen count tends to spike as the growing season gets underway. Grasses, ragweed, trees, pollen and various other plants in bloom, combined with sun showers and rainy nights, give way to damp surfaces and mold spores. The spring and summer breezes then circulate these particles and other allergens around the house.
Ah-chooo! This time of year does not need to demand constant doses of medication or boxes of Kleenex. The following HVAC maintenance tips can ease the itchiness and congestion of allergy season:
• Purchase high quality filters. Filters are your HVAC system’s first line of defense. They screen allergens and other pollutants out of the air so they don’t circulate through your home. Two types of filters are HEPA and MERV. HEPA Is an acronym for “high efficiency particulate air;” MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value.” A filter with a MERV rating of around 10 to 12 is sufficient to remove most allergy-causing particles from inside your home. HEPA filters have a rating of a MERV 17 or higher. A HEPA filter with a MERV 17 rating will trap 99.97% of air particles that are 0.3-1.0 micron in size and an even better % of particles below 0.3 microns and above.
• Change filters regularly. To do their job, your filters should be changed every couple of months, with the exact amount of time dependent on your specific filter and HVAC system. The basic recommendation for furnace filters replacement is every 3-4 months for MERV 8, every 6 months for MERV 10 and 11 and every year for MERV 16.
• Add a Purifier or Ionizer. Adding a whole house UV air purifier with an ionizer to your HVAC system can help remove additional allergens and airborne contaminants. Recommended by the American Lung Association and the Environmental Protection Agency for asthma and allergy sufferers, these systems deploy electrically-charged HEPA filters that trap small particles, effectively removing contaminants from the air. UV light destroy bacteria and mold, even the dreaded Covid virus.
• Keep surfaces clean. Control dust, pollen, and pet dander with weekly vacuuming. Bathe your pet regularly as well. Keep your home spic and span to prevent the buildup of allergens and irritants like mold. Store shoes outside, showering and changing after outdoor activities to prevent the inadvertent spread of irritants collected outdoors. This can prevent the buildup of these particles within your air filter and ductwork. Regularly clean vent registers and ductwork as well. This not only boosts system performance, but prevents the spread of allergens and other pollutants throughout your home.
• Get rid of debris around units. Keep the area around your indoor and outdoor units clean and free of debris. Outdoor units pull in the air. Excessive debris can cause your filters to get dirtier faster, which means you will need to change your filters more frequently. Indoor units circulate air that is already inside of the house. If there is dust, dirt, or pet dander in front of your unit, those allergens will get circulated around the house when the unit blows the air.
• Don’t forget to dust. It’s common for people to forget to dust registers and return vents, but they can’t be overlooked because they circulate all of the air from the HVAC system. You don’t want registers and vents circulating allergens with the air.
• Use air conditioning or a dehumidifier. Not only does air conditioning cool the air but it dehumidifies it as well. The air conditioning system helps avoid the growth of mold and other moisture-related airborne particles that can trigger allergies by lowering the humidity levels. For cooler months, a dehumidifier can be added on to your current HVAC unit to help dehumidify the air. [QHEAC]