indoor air quality

Is your ac giving you a headache?

Is Your AC Giving You a Headache?

If you suffer from frequent summer headaches, your air conditioning could be to blame. AC is a modern comfort welcome in most areas and a downright necessity in others. However, your head could end up suffering during the long, hot months of summer.

How Your AC Can Give You a Headache

There are several reasons your air conditioner could be causing your head to throb. Here are some common contributing factors and some solutions to help you feel better.

Dehydration Headaches

While your air conditioner is bringing the indoor temperature down to an enjoyable temperature, it is also drawing out the humidity in the air. One great benefit is the reduced risk of indoor mold and mildew. However, one drawback to reduced humidity levels is an increased risk of dehydration.

There is an elevated risk of dehydration during the summer months due to the climbing temperatures outdoors. However, if the indoor air becomes overly dry and you don’t consume enough water, it could lead to dehydration.

Along with dehydration comes the risk of a painful headache. Caused by the brain temporarily contracting due to fluid loss, dehydration headaches can be mild or severe.

Dehydration headaches are simple to prevent, however. Make sure that you stay well hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends 91 ounces of water from food and beverages each day for women, and 125 ounces for men.

You can also combat dehydration by running a simple humidifier in your home or office space. This will help prevent the indoor air from becoming excessively dry.

Cold Temperatures Cause Blood Vessel Contraction

If you are the type of person who likes to keep the indoor temperature chilly enough for penguins and polar bears, it may be causing your headaches. When you get cold, the blood vessels in your body contract to help preserve body heat. As the blood vessels in your brain contract, it can cause you to develop an uncomfortable headache.

To prevent this, simply turn up the temperature on your thermostat a few degrees.

Excessive Noise from Your AC Unit

It isn’t a secret that loud environments produce headaches. If your air conditioner is loud when it runs, or even if it just hums at a frequency that irritates you, it could contribute to your summertime headaches.

If you think your air conditioner’s compressor is annoyingly loud, call your local AC technician for a unit tune-up. The problem may be remedied with some basic adjustments to the unit. However, excessive noise could be an indication that you may need a whole new model.

Headaches and Airborne Allergens and Chemicals

If you suffer from frequent headaches, it is possible that your AC unit is circulating more than just air. If your vents and duct work aren’t clean, a forced-air system will send dust, pollen, mold, and other allergens into your living or work space.

Also, chemicals from cleaning supplies, construction materials, paint, or other sources can cause problems if your indoor space does not have adequate ventilation. Your AC system will just keep recirculating irritating or toxic substances through your indoor spaces repeatedly.

One potential solution to the problem of airborne allergens and chemicals is to schedule regular cleaning and maintenance for your AC system. A qualified professional AC technician can make sure all parts of your system are clean and running efficiently.

Consult Your Doctor and Your HVAC Technician

Persistent headaches could be a symptom of a serious medical condition. Therefore, if you have recurring migraines or serious headaches, you should consult your physician for proper diagnosis.

However, if your headaches are mild, and you are convinced that your air conditioning is contributing to your suffering, consult your AC technician to diagnose and remedy any potential problems with your AC. The solution may be as simple as basic maintenance and cleaning, no doctor visit required.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality With House Plants

House PlantsThe survival rule of threes, intended to help people prioritize during a survival situation, states that you can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. This rule of threes helps illustrate just how important the air we breathe is to life.

While many people focus on the importance of hydration and nutrition for health, we shouldn’t overlook air quality. We consume more air proportionately than any other substance. Clean air isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.The quality of the air we breathe is important to our health and our comfort.

The average American spends as much as ninety percent of his or her time indoors, where the air can actually be several times more polluted than the air outside. HVAC professionals can help you keep the air inside your home clean and contaminant-free by installing products like electrostatic filters or providing services like duct cleaning techniques approved by the National Air Duct Cleaning Association.

However, there is one easy and attractive way you can take action to improve your home’s air quality. All you have to do is add some house plants.

How Plants Improve Indoor Air Quality

The NASA Clean Air Study was the first published research that proved common house plants can effectively eliminate specific toxins from indoor air. The research began in the late 1980s, and was intended to help NASA discover ways to keep the air inside of space stations safe and clean for astronauts.

During research, scientists discovered that certain plants did more than just absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Many houseplants also effectively removed significant amounts of toxins including:

  • Benzene – A chemical commonly found in household detergents, paint, gasoline, and plastics, benzene can cause headaches, dizziness, and eye irritation. Benzene exposure is also known to cause certain types of cancer.
  • Formaldehyde – A colorless, flammable chemical commonly found in building materials, permanent press fabrics, adhesives, and industrial disinfectants, formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, burning of the nose and throat, nausea, and skin irritation. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services listed formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
  • Ammonia – This chemical is a common ingredient in many household cleaners. Exposure to ammonia can cause coughing as well as nose and throat irritation.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) – A solvent used most commonly as a grease remover, trichloroethylene is also used to make refrigerants, adhesives, and paint removers. Exposure to TCE can cause skin rashes, nerve damage, and liver and kidney damage. Long-term exposure can lead to lowered levels of reproductive hormones, low sperm quality, and a decrease in sex drive.
  • Xylene – Xylenes are important petrochemicals often found in cleaning products, paint thinner, and gasoline. Exposure to Xylene can cause dizziness,confusion, headaches, lack of muscle coordination, and possible changes to the lungs and kidneys.

Plants aren’t just helpful in space, however. Having a few potted plants is more than just a simple and natural way to clean air inside of space stations. They can also be used to clean the air inside of your home or office.

Other research shows that having plants in your home or office can also significantly help overcome the effects of sick building syndrome, a mysterious medical condition where inhabitants of a building feel unwell for no apparent reason.

More recent research suggests that it is more than just the houseplants themselves that clean indoor air. A study released in 2004 shows that tiny beneficial microorganisms living in the soil of many potted plants aid in removing toxins from indoor air.

The Best Potted Plants for Clean Air.

Most of the plants that made NASA’s list of the best air-filtering plants originated in tropical and subtropical environments. Because or their ability to thrive in often  thick forested environments, thriving on sunlight filtered through lush forest canopies, these plants are capable of growing well in filtered household light.

NASA’s top plant performers are the peace lily and florist chrysanthemum. Both of these plants are effective at filtering all five toxic compounds in the original research study (benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, trichlorethylene, and xylene) from indoor air.

  • Peace Lilies – When it comes to house plants, peace lilies are some of the easiest to grow and care for. Since they prefer medium to low light areas, they grow well in homes and office spaces.. Peace lilies are great plants for beginners as they are very forgiving and can even “tell” when they need to be watered. Just be careful not to over water. The soil should be almost dry. Water only when the leaves begin to droop.

    Not only are these hardy plants efficient air cleaners, they also brighten up any living space with their wide green leaves and lovely white “flowers.”

  • Florist Chrysanthemum – With their big, bright flowers and dark green foliage, florist mums will bring a splash of color and sunshine to any indoor space. They require a cool, bright spot for optimum blooming. Once the flowers are spent, it is difficult to get the plant to re-bloom. Because of this, florist mums are often treated as annuals, needing to be replaced every year. While chrysanthemums help keep indoor air healthy, the leaves are toxic. Make sure to find a place safe from small children and curious pets.

  • Other Plants – While peace lilies and florists chrysanthemums were NASA’s top clean air performers, there are many other plants that you can include in your home or office to help improve indoor air quality. Here are some other varieties that will brighten your indoor spaces and clean the air you breathe:

    English Ivy
    Flamingo Lily
    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

House plants are one proactive step you can take to improve the quality of the air you breathe, However, a few potted plants are not cure-all solution. There are many  other steps you can take. If you want to further improve the air purifying properties of your HVAC system, reach out to your local HVAC experts to explore other options for optimum indoor air quality.

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