Contrary to popular belief, staying indoors isn't a surefire way of staying clear of common allergies. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside of your home may be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outdoors.
While indoor air pollution comes from a wide variety of sources, it may be your own HVAC system that deserves most of the blame. To find out why, take a look at this in-depth explanation of how a HVAC system can harbor common allergens, as well as how you can get rid of them.
How a Dirty HVAC System Affects Your Home
Your HVAC system not only keeps your home warm during winter and cools it during the summer, but it also serves as the main form of air circulation in your home. Indoor air enters the HVAC system via the return air ducts, where it passes through an air filter and enters the furnace and air conditioner portions of your HVAC system. Conditioned air then travels through your home's ductwork before being deposited in each room.
Every time your HVAC system runs, it also collects a wide variety of allergens and airborne pollutants, including pollen, pet dander and various microbes. These pollutants settle and circulate through the HVAC system, triggering allergy symptoms in those most vulnerable. These pollutants can also have a negative impact on HVAC system performance.
Problem Areas to Watch
- Air filters – The air filter is designed to trap a wide variety of allergens and other airborne pollutants that pass through the return air duct. However, there's only so much dust, pollen and pet dander it can successfully block before it gets clogged up. When the air filter reaches its capacity, it not only reduces the air flow your HVAC system needs, but it also allows unfiltered air to leak past the filter.
- Blower fan – Dust and debris slowly settles and builds up on the blower fan blades. Before you know it, your blower fan could be home to a thick coating of dust and other allergy-triggering pollutants.
- Evaporator coil – The relatively dark and damp confines of your evaporator coil make it an ideal place for mold and mildew spores to germinate and thrive. The end result is a colony of mold and bacteria that not only cover your evaporator coil, but it could also travel through the rest of your HVAC system and your home.
- Ductwork – Even your HVAC system's ducts can harbor allergens that have settled over time. Dust and debris can also accumulate on the duct vents, as well.
Making a Clean Sweep
Cleaning your HVAC system is a major step towards making your home's indoor air cleaner:
- Replace or clean your air filter at least every three months. A clean air filter is more effective at preventing allergens from getting through to your HVAC system than a thoroughly used filter.
- Clean your blower fan on a regular basis. You can have your HVAC technician do this during a regularly scheduled service call or do it yourself.
- Clean the evaporator coil, condensate catch pan and drain. These areas are common places for bacteria and mold growth. You can use a foaming no-rinse cleaner on the evaporator coil, mild detergent and a soft-bristle brush on the catch pan and a small drain cleaner brush on the drain. Don't forget to flush the drain with a cup of white vinegar or bleach afterwards.
- Have your HVAC technician clean your home's HVAC ductwork on a yearly basis or whenever it's necessary. In the meantime, you can use a vacuum with a soft brush attachment to remove dust and debris from the duct vents.
With the above tips, you can click here or work towards eliminating those airborne pollutants that trigger most common allergy symptoms.