According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American will spend 93 percent of their time indoors. With so much of our lives spent inside, the quality of our indoor air is important, especially when the EPA claims the average indoor environment is five times more toxic than the air outside.
How Regular HVAC Maintenance Can Improve Indoor Air Quality
Most homeowners don’t realize they can improve the quality of the air inside their homes by performing regular HVAC maintenance. Residential HVAC systems are usually forced-air units that blow cooled or heated air through ductwork. HVAC systems have air filters to trap dust and keep it out of the mechanical elements of the system. These filters essentially protect your HVAC unit from potential damage caused by the dirt and debris that floats around inside of your home.
However, there is an added benefit to keeping your system’s filters clean that extends beyond the protection of the internal mechanisms of your HVAC unit.
Improve Air Quality By Upgrading Your Filter
You can use your HVAC unit to help improve indoor air quality by upgrading the filter. All filters have a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. This rating indicates the size particle the filter medium will capture. Particles that are too small to pass through end up trapped in the filter and therefore are not released back into the indoor air.
Filters for residential purposes generally have a MERV rating that falls between 1 and 16. A filter with a higher MERV rating is able to trap smaller particles which results in cleaner air.
Types of Air Filters
Most fiberglass filters have a MERV rating that falls in the 1 to 4 range. While these filters will capture most dust particles, they are incapable of trapping more irritating particles. Mold spores, pollen, pet dander, and dust mite waste will pass right through them.
Pleated filters usually have MERV ratings between 5 and 8. These filters will trap most irritating particles.
Some filters may have a rating of 13 or higher. Before installing a filter with a high MERV rating above 8, it is important to contact your HVAC technician or consult your HVAC system’s manual. A filter too dense for your unit will hinder airflow and cause the system to run inefficiently.
Keeping Your Filters Clean
Most air filters are disposable and need to be replaced periodically. How frequently you should replace your filters depends on several factors. If you have a home with pets, smokers, or people with allergies, your filter should be replaced more often.
Thicker filters and filters with higher MERV ratings will also need to be replaced more frequently. Although, pleated filters will last longer than fiberglass ones.
If you are concerned about how often you should replace your filter, contact your local HVAC technician for help.
Clean Filters Help Keep Ducts Clean
A clean filter will also help keep you ductwork cleaner. However, even with frequent filter changes, dust and debris can build up in your ducts over time. Look for dust deposits around your registers. This could be a sign of dirty ductwork.
By removing your register covers and using a flashlight, you can check to see if dust and debris has collected in your ducts. Ducts that are overly dirty require professional duct cleaning to keep your system running smoothly and the air inside your home clean and easy to breathe.
The best way to prevent dirt from building up in your system ducts is to check your filter at least once a month and replace it when it is dirty.
By upgrading your HVAC filters and keeping them clean, not only will your system run more efficiently, but everyone in your home will breathe easier.