Your indoor air quality affects not only your health and well-being, but also the condition of your heating and cooling system. The Sarasota area’s lush greenery and high humidity mean we get more than our share of air contaminants. For that reason, it’s important to be aware of the signs of poor indoor air quality and know how to resolve the problem.
How Air Contamination Affects You and Your Home
- Worsened allergy and asthma symptoms – Many common air contaminants, including dust mites, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander, trigger allergy systems. Nearly all particulate air contaminants are capable of irritating the airways enough to trigger asthma attacks in those with the condition. This includes common allergens as well as smoke particles, pest debris, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from carpeting, upholstery and other household materials.
- Poor overall health – Even if you don’t have a respiratory condition, living with pollutant-laden air could leave you with a chronic cough, upper respiratory congestion, watery eyes, and other health complaints similar to allergy symptoms. Fatigue and frequent headaches are also signs of low indoor air quality. These symptoms in particular could mean your home has high levels of VOCs or a low-level buildup of carbon monoxide.
- Long-term health issues – Exposure to airborne cockroach debris not only triggers asthma attacks, but can also cause asthma to develop in young children. Just because you haven’t seen roaches in your home doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In urban areas, around 40 percent of all home’s harbor roaches. These pest are particularly common in Florida’s humid climate.
- In adults, long-term exposure to polluted indoor air increases risk of cardiovascular health problems such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
- High energy bills – The more particles floating around in your home’s air, the faster your heating and cooling system’s air filter gets dirty. While you should check the air filter monthly for dirt buildup and replace the filter as needed, there’s always a chance you’ll forget. A dirty air filter interferes with airflow and can reduce your system’s energy efficiency by 5 to 15 percent.
- Wear on your HVAC system – The more contaminated your indoor air, the more particles will slip through the air filter and end up in your heating and cooling system’s components. This is especially true if you’re using a standard 1-inch fiberglass filter. Dirt on the motor, A/C evaporator coil, and other components can lead these parts to wear out early.
Simple Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
If your home’s air isn’t as clean as you’d like it to be, you have several options for reducing the contaminants.
- Upgrade the air filter – If you want cleaner indoor air, choose HVAC air filters with minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of 5 or higher. Those with MERVs between 7 and 13 are nearly as effective as HEPA filters, trapping more than 90 percent of passing contaminant particles. If you have allergies or asthma, you’ll be best served by a filter with a MERV of 11 or 12.
- Run the A/C often – Making good use of your air conditioner keeps your home cool, reduces excess humidity, and cuts down on airborne pollutants. Because many plants release their pollen a little after dawn, keep windows closed overnight and in the morning, and run the A/C instead to keep your air cool and clean.
- Improve ventilation – Today’s airtight homes develop air quality problems when they’re not properly ventilated. If your home lacks airflow, talk with a ventilation professional about adding whole-house ventilation or upgrading your existing system. In our warm climate, the best option is usually a supply system, which brings in fresh outdoor air, or a balanced system, which brings in fresh air and draws out stale air.
- Manage humidity levels – Indoor humidity levels above 50 percent encourage the growth of mold and dust mites. If your home feels humid or has mold problems, you may benefit from a whole-house dehumidifier. These systems fit in your ductwork and reduce humidity in the air passing through.
- Install an air cleaner – Different whole-house air cleaners are available to target tiny lung-irritant particles, microbial contaminants such as mold spores and bacteria, and gaseous pollutants such as VOCs.
If you’ve been suffering from poor indoor air quality or want to ensure your home’s air is as clean and healthy as possible, contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air in Sarasota and Bradenton for guidance.
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