allergies

6 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

air qualityWhen we think about air pollution, we usually think about being outside, maybe in some large city. However, According to the Consumer Product Safety Commision, there is a growing body of scientific data indicating that the air inside our homes may be more seriously polluted than the air outdoors, even in the largest and most industrialized cities. Other studies also show the average person spends about 90 percent of their time inside.

Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Exposure to indoor air pollutants can have many adverse health effects. Some of these health effects can be caused by a single exposure to a pollutant. Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are a few immediate effects of pollutant exposure.

These immediate effects are generally only short-term and are easily treatable.  However, long-term exposure could lead to several serious conditions, including some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer. These conditions could be debilitating or even fatal. That is why it is important to take measures to improve indoor air quality even if you and your family do not show any immediate adverse reactions.

6 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Here are few easy steps you can take to immediately improve the quality of the air inside your home. Implement some or all these and you’ll be well on your way to breathing ea

Add Houseplants to Your Living Space

Plants are nature’s natural air purifiers. They help remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with fresh oxygen, improving the quality of the air for the people who live inside your home. They also help  remove many toxins and other pollutant from the air, working like a filter to clean your air. As a bonus, plants are also an attractive, visually appealing addition to your living spaces.

Consider adding some of the following plants to your home for cleaner air:

  • Aloe
  • English ivy
  • Peace lilies
  • Snake Plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
  • Red-edged Dracaena
  • Cornstalk Dracaena
  • Barberton Daisy
  • Janet Craig
  • Aloe Vera
  • Weeping Fig
  • Broadleaf Lady Palm
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Boston Fern

Keep the Floor Clean

Dirt and particles that collect on your floors and carpets will eventually end up in the air. Regular sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming will help reduce the amount of dirt on your floor and prevent them from becoming airborne.

Another way to help keep your floors, and therefore your air, clean is to remove your shoes. By immediately taking your shoes off when you enter your home, you will limit the amount of outside dirt and debris that enters your living spaces.

Let In Outside Air

When the outdoor temperatures are mild, open your windows, even if only a crack. This is particularly important if your home is relatively new. Newer homes are constructed to be more air tight and most do not breathe well. When your HVAC system is running, it is just recirculating the same air over and over.

New homes may still have construction materials that are off gassing. Fresh paint, new carpet, laminate flooring, and chemically treated wood all emit toxic particles into the air you are breathing. By opening a window, you can help ventilate your home and reduce the amount of chemicals that become airborne inside your home.

Change Your Air Filters

Air filters are your home’s first line of defense against potentially harmful airborne particles. A typical HVAC system circulates about 1,000 cubic feet of air every minute. As the air circulates through your system, it must pass through your air filters. Those air filters work to remove dust and other potentially dangerous particles from the air inside your home.

During the months your HVAC system is working hardest, you need to change your filters at least once a month. This will help keep dirt and debris from clogging up the filtration  material.

When air filters are clogged, the system handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of airflow. A clogged filter not only drives up your utility bills, it can also contribute to chronic allergies and negatively impact your overall health.

Use a Dehumidifier to Control Humidity Levels

Humidity levels can rise dramatically due to simple everyday activities like cooking, showering, and even simply breathing. High indoor humidity levels create a breeding ground for many forms of dangerous mold and mildew.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests a humidity level between 30 and 60 percent for indoor living areas. If the humidity in your home is consistently above the recommended level it can cause mold to proliferate, releasing millions of spores into the air. These spores can trigger respiratory problems in many individuals.

You can have a whole house dehumidifier installed inside your duct work to help maintain optimal levels. These dehumidifiers are controlled by wall mounted humidistats. These humidistats work to control the humidity level in your home much the same way a thermostat works to control temperature. As your HVAC system circulates the air in your home, it passes through your duct work and the installed dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air before it is circulated back into your living space.

Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

You should have your HVAC system checked regularly by a qualified HVAC technician. He or she will make sure your system is working properly. During this regular tune up, he or she will clean your system components.

If you have concerns about your indoor air quality, these trained professionals can help you identify problem areas and suggest potential solutions.

I you have questions about indoor air quality or need to schedule regular system maintenance, contact your local HVAC professional.

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Essential HVAC Tips for Pet Owners

pet ownersIf you are a pet owner, you understand how an animal companion can enrich your life. You probably also understand how much work a pet can be. Keeping a pet healthy and happy will help you both live longer.

When you adopt a pet as a family member, it can out a strain on your HVAC system. If you have a furry friend, whether canine or feline, indoors or outdoors, there are certain steps you should take to keep your pet safe and your system running smoothly.

Groom Your Pet Regularly

Not only is routine grooming good for your pet, it is also good for your HVAC system. The hair your pet sheds can get sucked into your system, settle in your ductwork, and get blown back into your living spaces.

Grooming will significantly reduce the amount of airborne fur in your home. But regular bathing and brushing can also make you healthier. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, frequently bathing your furry friend helps eliminate microscopic pet dander, dust, and pollen, all leading causes of pet allergies.

Change Filters Often

Cleaning or replacing air filters is an essential part of HVAC maintenance. It helps keep dust and hair from bogging down your system. A clean filter is necessary to keep your system running efficiently and effectively.

How often you need to change your filters depends of the size of your HVAC system, the filter it requires, and how much dirt and debris needs to be filtered from the air in your home.

If you share your home with a pet, you will probably need to change your filters more often as pet hair and dander can quickly accumulate in your filters. Pet owners, especially those with multiple pets or pets that regularly shed, may need to change filters monthly to keep their system running at peak efficiency.

Consider upgrading to a HEPA filter.

For some homeowners, especially those suffering from allergies, frequent filter changes may not be enough. By upgrading to a HEPA filter, you can reduce airborne allergens by up to 99 percent. Drastically improving the indoor air quality of your home, a HEPA filter will more efficiently trap microscopic dust and dander and keep it from be recirculated into your home.

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuuming your home will also help reduce the amount of pet hair and dander that gets sucked into your vents. It is just one more step you can take to reduce the amount of hair that floats around your home and makes its way into your HVAC system.

If you suffer from pet allergies, consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Vacuum cleaner models with a built-in HEPA air filter clean the tiniest allergy-causing particulates from your home’s surfaces. This extra filtration is highly important for pet owners with allergies, asthma, or other breathing difficulties since pet dander irritates those conditions.

Protect Your Outdoor Unit and Your Pet

If your pets have free rein outdoors, you will want to take measures to protect your pet and your outdoor unit from each other.

Fido may think your outdoor unit looks like a great place to lift his leg, but pet urine can cause corrosion and other damage to the unit.

Pets may also dig or claw at the fins in your air conditioning condenser. This can cause expensive damage to the unit and could cause your pet unnecessary injury.

The outdoor unit also moving parts that pose an injury risk to your four-legged friends.

To protect dogs and cats from the condenser, and vice-versa, consider erecting a fence or planting dense shrubbery around the unit. This can discourage your pets from getting too close and give Fido other options for relieving himself.

Plants and shrubs can also be an attractive addition to your yard. Keep plants and shrubs at least three feet away from the condenser unit to ensure adequate airflow.

Secure Electrical Cords and Wiring

Since many pets, especially puppies, like to chew, be sure to enclose any exposed electrical wires and conduits. This will prevent electrical hazards to both your system and your pet.  Pets like to chew on electrical wires and cords, which is dangerous for them and can cause damage to the wires. Enclose electrical wires in conduits.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

An annual tune up for your HVAC system has many benefits. A well-maintained system will run more efficiently, lowering your monthly bills and saving energy. Also, a system kept in good operating condition will last longer. Regular maintenance will help pinpoint potential problems before they become expensive, emergency repairs.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any household. However, they do put added strain on your HVAC system. Pet hair, dander, and dirt can clog up vents and ducts causing your system to work harder than necessary. If you follow the essential tips above and schedule yearly maintenance, you can keep your system running smoothly and enjoy the company of a fine furry friend.

If you have questions about how your pet affects your HVAC system, or if you need to schedule routine maintenance, be sure to contact your local HVAC experts.

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How to Use Your AC to Reduce Allergy Season Flare Ups

With spring comes wildflowers, sunshine, new life…..and you guessed it — allergies.

Springtime activities such as hiking, swimming or tending a garden are treats some people look forward to all year. Reality is, sometimes allergens can put a major kink in some of our favorite seasonal pursuits. As it is, most of the state of Pennsylvania is already facing medium to medium-high pollen threats, and we’ve only now turned the official corner into spring.

Understandably so, when the allergens in the air make the season feel more like a nightmare for the respiratory system than another day in paradise, many retreat to the “safe” indoors.

While seeking haven inside your air-conditioned home may help you avoid allergens landing on your skin and clothing, if you don’t have the right air filters or you aren’t changing your filters regularly, the benefit of staying indoors might not be worth the Vitamin D sacrifice.

Contrary to popular belief, typical air filters do not prevent allergens from traveling indoors. Average filters are intended to cut down on dust build up in AC equipment in order to keep the system running flawlessly. Unfortunately, most of them do just that and only that, leaving allergen haunted residents feeling just as miserable while indoors.

Changing the Air Filters

Experts recommend changing your air filters once every three months, at the very least. For allergies, this means the air coming into your home will be cleaner. If you leave your normal air filters in for lengthy periods, such as a year or more, you’re probably punishing your lungs. Dust builds up in the filter over time, as it should, and eventually, the filter contains so much dust and that’s what anyone indoors will inhale. Among the worst cases, you might actually be safer outdoors than inside with things like pet dander adding even more to your issues.

In addition to helping prevent allergy symptoms, properly kept up filters can increase the efficiency of your AC system, saving you some serious cash.

Allergy-Preventing Filters

Typical filters may serve as a gatekeeper for dust and minimal allergens, but they won’t be saving the day by any means. Irritants such as pollen and bacteria still find their way into the air you’re breathing in while indoors.

If you want to battle the major allergens, look into more specialized filters, frequently referred to as HEPA filters. Even the smallest particles have a difficult time getting through these, with some HEPA filters blocking up to 99 percent of air contaminants. If even one of these filters isn’t helping, call a professional for a cleaning. It’ll be worth not missing any additional work or school.
Do your research and make sure to get this taken care of early on before the summer humidity brings the potential for  additional challenges, like mold.

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