We know that the air outside can be filled with things like pollution, pollen, dirt and dust. Did you know that the air inside your home can be just as contaminated, if not more so? Since we spend a great deal of time indoors, it’s important that we take appropriate measures to maintain healthy indoor air quality. If we don’t, this can lead to an increase in allergies, illness and fatigue. In the summer, when we close up our windows to keep cool air from our air conditioner inside, how does this affect our IAQ?
What Impacts Our Indoor Air Quality?
Before we discuss how air conditioning affects our indoor air quality, let’s consider some of the factors that impact our indoor air quality.
Volatile organic compounds come from many different products and sources. Chemical cleaning products are commonly used to disinfect your home and make it sparkle. However, the chemicals inside those products can be very dangerous to your health.
Many of the materials used in a home can emit chemicals like formaldehyde, impacting your indoor air quality. This includes carpet, countertops, flooring and paint.
The humidity inside your home should be somewhere between 30% and 50%. Indoor air that is too dry can impact your health and increase your chance of getting sick. Too humid indoor air can lead to mold growth.
There are all sorts of allergens that can make a person feel tired, itchy, experience a scratchy throat or initiate sneezing. This includes pollen from trees, grass and plants outside. Indoor allergens include dander from pets, fragrances and dust. When indoor air isn’t properly circulated and purified, this equates to unhealthy indoor air.
Smoking inside the home is extremely unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs. If you do have a smoker at home, there are over 250 different chemicals that you can be exposed to from cigarettes.
Air Conditioning’s Impact on Our Indoor Air Quality: Humidity
Air conditioning helps to control the humidity in our home to a certain degree. Without a dehumidifier attached to your HVAC system, you won’t be able to remove all moisture. However, an air conditioner has an evaporator coil that condenses water vapor into the air as it runs. This occurs when warm air from your home blows over the cool evaporator coil. The low temperature of this coil pulls moisture out of the indoor air. Once it is removed, it drains into your condensate tray.
Air Conditioning’s Ability to Remove Particulates
When you have your air conditioning unit running on a regular basis, air is constantly passing through a filter. Depending on what type of unit you have and the kind of filter that you use, you can remove as much as 97 percent of all airborne particles that are between 3 and 10 microns. This includes things like dust, pet dander, pollen and mold spores.
In the summer months in Orange County, it’s likely that your air conditioning is running pretty frequently to keep up with the temperature you’ve set on your thermostat. You can take advantage of this by investing in a filter with a MERV rating between 6 and 13. This provides a good flow of air through your system while still trapping harmful particulates that can harm your indoor air quality. Filters typically need to be replaced once every 30 to 90 days. Check the instructions for the filter you have, but also physically check the filter to make sure it isn’t becoming clogged with particulates. There are upgraded filters that you may want to consider with the guidance of a trusted and experienced HVAC professional. Carbon-backed filters can help trap odors and chemical off-gassing. However, they can impede the air flow through your ventilation system, resulting in equipment strain.
When you don’t have your heating or cooling equipment running, the air inside your home will remain very stagnant. Any indoor air pollution that is present will stay where it is rather than be removed. Humidity may become a problem in certain rooms. Some rooms may become very warm based on the direction the sun is hitting your house. It’s ideal to open your windows for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day in order to circulate air and ventilate your home, but the temperatures can become quite warm during the summer in Orange County. This causes you to keep your windows and doors closed. Wildfires are also an issue that can impact your indoor air quality, so many homeowners opt to keep their windows closed when smoke is nearby.
Running your air conditioner will keep air circulating throughout your home, preventing pockets of unhealthy air quality. Make sure that you keep all of your vents open and free of obstructions to promote proper air flow. Even if you’re going to be leaving your home for an extended length of time, have your thermostat set to run your air conditioning periodically to maintain a healthy indoor air temperature.
Indoor Air Quality Risks Associated with Air Conditioning
While air conditioning units have the potential to help improve indoor air quality, there are also risks. These risks are generally associated with poorly maintained equipment that is doing more harm than good. We discussed the importance of regularly changing your filter to promote the removal of particulates. However, dirty filters can cause problems with the interior components of your equipment. Dirty filters also lead to dirty ductwork. When your ducts become saturated with dirt, dust, pollen, dander and mold spores, these particulates will pass right back into the air that you’re breathing. This results in an increase in allergy symptoms, asthma flare-ups and respiratory illnesses.
In order to make the most of your air conditioner, it’s recommended that you utilize routine maintenance along with complementary equipment that will further improve your indoor air quality. This can include the installation of a dehumidifier to remove unwanted moisture from the indoor air. An air filtration device can remove particulates that are left behind by your traditional HVAC filter. These filtration devices can also remove viruses, bacteria and pathogens from your indoor air. This results in a much healthier indoor environment for you and your family.
Routine maintenance of your HVAC and air conditioning equipment is an important part of supporting healthy indoor air. You should schedule an annual appointment with a trusted HVAC professional at White Mechanical, Inc.. We have a team of extremely knowledgeable and experienced professionals on our team, and we would be happy to assist you with all of your air conditioning maintenance and repair needs. We also offer indoor air quality assessments and support, installation of humidifiers and dehumidifiers, commercial support and maintenance agreements to help save you money on HVAC services. Reach out to us today to find out more.