Allergies and HVAC: Is Your Own Home Making You Sneeze?

Allergies and HVAC: Is Your Own Home Making You Sneeze?
“Spring allergies” can be blamed on the outdoors. Who’s to blame when you’re just at home, in bed or on the couch, and you can’t get through a couple episodes on Netflix without accumulating a small mountain of tissues?

Unless you keep pets to whom you’re severely allergic, the answer is most likely in your air.

We generally think of spring allergies as the result of pollination and the like. That’s all true. But when we force our A/C to work very hard on the hottest days of summer — as is the case right now — or turn on the heat for the first time in months, come fall: we’re setting loose all the gathered pet dander, dust mites, dead insects and bugs and their own waste, and even remainder pollen. You can clean every room, wall, window, and cranny in your home…but if you’re pumping air through an appliance whose insides haven’t been cleaned? Your surface work can only help your allergies so much.

While most standard HVAC filters are intended to protect the system itself — furnace or A/C — there are other options. Your standard flat panel filter isn’t necessarily going to help control the air quality in your home. The cleanest, most efficient option would be a HEPA filter. “HEPA” stands for “high-efficiency particulate air,” and it isn’t often recommended for centralized AC systems placed in homes — unless you’re overhauling your entire system in order to fit such a filter — because of its extreme efficiency. Ironically, a HEPA filter placed on a standard home system can force the use of more energy to power it because of this mismatch. HEPA filters are more immediately suited to commercial or recently renovated residential HVAC systems.

Then, perhaps, what’s just a little more accessible? High-efficiency filters can do the job well enough, without overworking your HVAC and utilities bill. With a higher surface area than the standard flat panel filter and capacity to catch smaller particles than the standard (generally termed “medium-efficiency”) pleated filters, this can be a good bet. It still may stress your system, so always speak with a seasoned HVAC serviceperson. A medium-efficiency pleated filter will always do a better job than the manufacturer’s default filter.

Beyond simple filter choice, it’s critical that you have it routinely maintained and cleaned. Sneezing without reason? That’s a sign to call your HVAC service. Your technician will be able to guide you properly, as many things come to matter: the make and model of your HVAC, the dates of its last maintenance, and the humidity and temperature you keep in your home, for example. We’re always happy to take a look at it for you, and get you squared away and breathing easier.

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