At the change of the new and warmer season, we focus our attention on treating outdoor allergies. We stock up on antihistamines hoping the pollen we inhale from spending more time outdoors won’t make use sneeze, itch, or get watery eyes. Indoor allergens present problems year round. Sometimes they cause milder symptoms of the issues mentioned above. However, regular maintenance of your HVAC can help minimize these flare ups for you, members of the household, or guests.
Common Indoor Allergens & Your Air Circulation
Let’s start by addressing allergies. Allergies are foreign particles that enter our bodies and cause an allergic reaction. Our body has a defense mechanism in place to fight off these particles called histamine. But, they can overreact causing a lot of sneezing, coughing, congestion, or other symptoms. Antihistamines control this overreaction and happen to be a crutch for many Americans who need to get through pollen season. What some people fail to realize is how many indoor allergens irritate our system. The most common indoor allergies are:
- Pet Dander
- Dust Mites
- Cockroach Droppings
Some of these particles are picked up from outside and brought in the home. But, others like dust mites and cockroach droppings (as disgusting as it sounds) are found inside. Regular HVAC maintenance will help control allergens. When the air flow kicks in these settled particles are lifted back into the air and moved around the home. The HVAC air filter plays a role in trapping these allergens.
Its sole purpose is to trap and hold as many external components that could damage or harm your HVAC system. Choosing the right one or changing it more often contributes to cleaner indoor air.
Choosing the Right Air Filter
If air filters help reduce indoor allergens, how do you know you’re purchasing the best option? Different information is associated with buying a filter. The first you’ll come across is micron measurements. Micron is a measurement applied to filters, so you understand what kind of particles it can trap. For example, 50 microns is the diameter of a human hair. Anything below 40 microns is too small for the human eye. We’ll talk about the different microns later in our filter suggestions, but knowing this information will help put things in perspective.
The next rating you’ll see if the MERV rating. MERV is an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It helps to determine how many particles would pass through the filter. It’s based on a scale from 1-16. The higher the number, the more it’s capable of catching. So, naturally, the first instinct is to choose one with the highest rating possible. The better the filter is at capturing particles, the faster it clogs.
Best Home Filters for Allergies
Permanent Electrostatic Filter
The electrostatic filter attracts particles in the air with its self-charging fibers. These filters are great at reducing smaller pollutants and have a high MERV rating that won’t clog too quickly. You can find “permanent” washable versions that are great on the budget and the environment. Just ensure they are completely dry before putting them back in.
Disposable Electrostatic Filter
Very similar to the permanent version the disposable is crafted from the same material that attracts particles. As the name describes, they are not meant to be reused. But, they are still capable of trapping microscopic particles. If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to change them more frequently because of the higher MERV rating.
HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. Anyone with severe allergies will like how these filters can improve air quality. With a capacity of capturing anything as small as 0.3 microns, it can also trap 99.97 percent of airborne particles. As a guide, bacteria can range in size from 0.3 to 60 microns. While very efficient, you need to change these filters more often. They are capable of trapping so much dust, bacteria, and debris they congest quickly. They put a lot of stress on the unit as it circulates air through. It could increase your energy bill or damage your HVAC system if you don’t keep an eye on the air filter.
Control Allergens with Regular HVAC Maintenance
Change your filters regularly. Once a quarter works, but when you are dealing with allergy issues you want to change them every month or two. Dust your vents with a damp cloth or a special towel for dust. Dust mites, dander, and other allergens settle on the vents before they are blown back into the air.
Some HVAC units have an outdoor portion that assists with the circulation. Pulling in excess debris is possible if you don’t keep it clear. Try to go outside and sweep or vacuum to remove the debris or dust getting inside the house and flaring up your allergies. A regular inspection from a professional HVAC contractor can help with air quality. As long as your unit isn’t experiencing performance issues, you can rest assured that the air quality is going to be high.