Your HVAC Can Help Reduce Allergens

indoor air quality

Many homeowners think of things like replacing the filter in their HVAC system to reduce the spread of allergens throughout the home, but there are actually several different ways that the HVAC system can be used to reduce asthma and allergy symptoms.

Certainly the filter is the first line of defense against indoor air pollutants so it’s important to replace it regularly and buy a quality filter.  The professionals at Diamond Heating and Cooling can recommend one based on your specific situation, but in general it’s recommended to look for one with a higher MERV rating.  This rating will range from 1-20 with a higher number indicating a higher level of filtration.  It’s also important to choose a high-efficiency filter that is designed to help reduce allergens.  Most high-efficiency filters are rated from 14-16, and are designed to remove small particles from the air. The highest rated filters are HEPA filters which are rated from 17-20 however you’ll want to check with an HVAC technician though before installing a HEPA filter as they are only intended to be used on HVAC systems that can handle the additional stress that this type of filter will put on it.

Looking to do more than just change the filter?  There are some accessory items that can be added to your HVAC system to further improve the indoor air quality.  The most common first addition is an air purifier.  A whole-home air purifier is highly recommended for anyone dealing with severe allergies or asthma.  It is designed to improve the air in the entire home through purification and the use of a HEPA filter.

The next biggest cause of allergy symptoms is changes in humidity levels.  Maintaining the ideal humidity level inside your home is often the next step that allergy and asthma suffers will take.  A whole-home dehumidifier/humidifier can be added to your HVAC system to help achieve that ideal humidity level.  The final, and most expensive, option is the addition of UV lamps.  A UV lamp can be used with your HVAC system to help you go beyond just trapping allergens to actually killing bacteria, mold and other allergy triggers.

One final recommendation is to stay on top of regular HVAC maintenance visits.  Having a technician thoroughly clean your HVAC system, as well as the ductwork, is the absolute best way to stay ahead of allergens.  It’s generally recommended to have this done annually, and spring is usually the ideal time.

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Reduce Pollutants to Breathe Better

Pollutants

There are some air pollutants that can’t be filtered out with a furnace filter or media air cleaner. These pollutants can cause health issues, and are found in many common items in homes. Keep reading to learn what they are and how to reduce their presence in the home.

  1. Benzene

This common solvent can irritate skin and eyes, cause respiratory issues, and more. It is found in paints, oils, plastics and rubber. It can be emitted by furniture or other items in the house, increasing the occupants’ exposure.

  1. Trichloroethylene

This is used in printing inks, paints, spot removers, cleaning fluid for rugs, varnishes, and adhesives. It has been identified as a potential carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute.

  1. Formaldehyde

Most people associate this with dissecting frogs in high school science class, but it is found in many household products. Some of these are paper towels, cleaning products, carpet backing, and much more. It can cause respiratory irritation, headaches, and allergic contact dermatitis.

Some of these pollutants are commonly found in furniture because of how it is manufactured. To reduce its presence, check certifications, air out new furniture, and consider buying used furniture when possible.

To reduce these pollutants throughout the entire house, consider implementing more plants into the home. While it seems like such a simple solution, there are many types of plants that absorb these pollutants and clean the air around them. Plants like the spider plant, peace lily, English ivy, and many more are especially beneficial. These are all-natural air cleaners that can help everyone breathe better and worry less.

For help eliminating other indoor air pollutants like dust and pollen, contact Diamond Heating and Cooling. We offer allergy and asthma solutions that can help keep air cleaner, reducing allergy or asthma attacks for many people.

How Wood Burning Stoves Impact IAQ

Stoves

In an effort to save money on the energy bill, many turn to their wood burning stoves for heat during the colder months. While they have a positive impact on the energy bill, they can have a negative impact on the indoor air quality.

Using a properly vented, clean-burning wood stove usually isn’t harmful enough to cause symptoms such as headaches, coughing, and asthma attacks. It’s when the stove is old, hasn’t been properly cleaned, and the chimney is clogged that using the fireplace becomes potentially harmful.

This can lead to the buildup of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particles in the air. These can be very dangerous, causing health risks and in some cases death. Here are a few ways to prevent indoor air pollution from wood burning stoves and fireplaces:

  • Choose a properly-sized wood stove or insert certified as meeting EPA emissions standards
  • Check that the door gaskets are in good shape, the door fits tightly, and the stove is free of leaks
  • Make sure the flue is the correct diameter and height, and have it inspected and cleaned annually
  • Use wood that has been split and dried for six months minimum and do not overload the stove.
  • Install a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in the room where the stove or fireplace is located.

Doing these things can help ensure that the stove burns correctly, is properly vented, and minimizes the amount of pollutants inside the home. Improving indoor air quality isn’t just about cleaner air, it’s about creating a healthier environment for everyone.

Talk to the team at Diamond Heating and Cooling for more tips and products that can help improve indoor air quality all year long. We also have a media air cleaner and UV lighting system that can remove pollutants and bacteria in a residential setting.

Plants That Clean Air and Brighten the Home

Indoor Air Quality

While everything outside is turning brown and losing leaves, bring in some new, vibrant plants to brighten your home. Green plants not only create a cheerier atmosphere, but can improve the indoor air quality as well. Since some plants are better at cleaning and scrubbing the air than others, here’s a list of some the best plants for improving the air in your home:

  1. Aloe Vera

This plant is beneficial in a variety of ways. It removes benzene and formaldehyde from the air, absorbs carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen, and can be used to treat burns and other ailments. As a succulent, it shouldn’t be overwatered and needs sunlight, but is hardy and can be placed in any room of the house.

  1. Peace Lily

Want some flowers with the greenery? The Peace Lily can provides beautiful white flowers. It also removes many chemical vapors like acetone, ammonia, and xylene. In addition to removing toxins, the Peace Lily also helps raise indoor humidity levels. It is a great houseplant for beginners to start with and requires little sunlight.

  1. Rubber Plant

Rubber plants can grow to be eight feet tall in some cases, but that isn’t what makes them special. They are known for removing formaldehyde from the air. Bright, indirect light and regular watering can help this plant reach its true height potential.

  1. Snake Plant

Another good plant for beginners, the snake plant removes formaldehyde, smog, and trichloroethylene from the air along with taking in carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen.

  1. Weeping Fig

Looking for a more exotic plant variety? Check out the tropical Weeping Fig. It can remove formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from the indoor air while bringing a unique look to the home. Keep it in semi to full sun and water it regularly.

Plants can clean the air and bring a little greenery inside while everything outside is turning shades of brown for fall and winter. If plants aren’t improving IAQ enough, talk to Diamond Heating and Cooling about other products that can help.

How Colder Weather Can Affect IAQ

Indoor Air Quality

As a chill creeps into the air, residents in Boise will begin to close off their houses to outside air to keep the cold out. Trapping in warm air and keeping out the cold is good for furnace efficiency, but not as much for indoor air quality.

When people begin to close off their homes during fall, it traps indoor air, which leads to a buildup of pollutants that can re-circulate through the house for months. The solution isn’t to leave windows open year-round, but has to do with implementing these three tips:

  1. Increase Ventilation

Newer homes are designed to be sealed off for energy efficiency, but that can have a negative impact in IAQ. Increase the ventilation in the home with a whole-house ventilation system or use window and bathroom exhaust fans. This will allow fresh, outside air to come in, removing some pollutants and keeping the humidity levels in check.

  1. Maintain the HVAC System

As pollutants move around in the home, they become lodged in the air filters used by the furnace and heat pump. Check the filters each month to see if they need changed. At a minimum, the filters need to be replaced every three months.

Also, schedule annual maintenance for the furnace soon. The better it runs, the better it can remove pollutants, reduce humidity, and produce cleaner air.

  1. Clean Often

Dust particles and other pollutants settle on surfaces in the home. When they are disturbed, they fly into the air and can be inhaled. Cleaning and dusting on a regular basis reduces these particles, keeping the air cleaner.

Closing off the house for colder weather doesn’t have to decrease indoor air quality. Ask Diamond Heating and Cooling for more tips and products to improve IAQ and don’t forget to schedule furnace maintenance!

 

Reducing the Effects of Smoky Air

smoke

As the month of August begins, so does the air quality warning from fires surrounding the Boise area.. This time of year can be especially difficult on those with asthma, heart disease, and children, elderly residents, and pets. Here are some tips to reduce exposure to smoke-filled air as much as possible:

  • Seal the House

Shut all the doors and windows to seal up the house. Close any fresh air intakes from furnaces, fireplaces, or stoves. Set the air conditioner to recirculate as well. This will stop most of the outside air from coming in, lessening its effects.

  • Humidifiers

Using a humidifier can help remove the smoke from the air that might have already gotten inside. It also helps to keep the air moist, which is important during this time of year.

  • Limited Activity

Even those who don’t have breathing issues and health problems might find it hard to be outside for long periods of time. It’s best to limit psychical activity and stay as hydrated as possible while outdoors.

  • Car Windows

While driving, keep car windows rolled up. Make sure the air conditioner is on recirculate to limit the amount of smoky air coming into the car.

  • Air Cleaner

Consider investing in an air cleaner. Poor air quality due to smoke occurs almost every year in the Boise area, and being proactive is better than being reactive when it comes to indoor air quality. An air purifier is also beneficial year-round, especially in homes with family members who have asthma and allergies.

Talk to the team at Diamond Heating and Cooling about how we can help improve indoor air quality, not just during fire season, but all year long. Visit the website to learn more about the air cleaner we offer and how homeowners can get a free air filter during maintenance trips when they become part of the Silver Club.

Learning About MERV Ratings

To get the most out of your HVAC system, everyone says to look at MERV ratings. What exactly is MERV and why does it matter? Here’s the rundown:

MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It’s essentially measuring the effectiveness of the air filter in question. A filter can have a MERV rating ranging from 1 to 16. The higher the rating, the fewer dust particles and other contaminants can pass through it.

When filters are tested for a MERV rating, they use common particles like pollen, dust mites, carpet fibers, mold spores, pet dander, and more. Most residential systems can remove airborne contaminants like those listed above with a filter that has a MERV rating of 7-12. Filters with a rating of 13-16 are generally used in hospital-type settings.

The higher the MERV rating, the less particles that can get through the filter. This means the most efficient filter must have the highest rating, right? Not exactly. Filters with higher MERV ratings have smaller pores, which lets less air through. It can create resistance in airflow that the HVAC system can’t handle. The system will then have to work harder to pump air through the filter, lowering the efficiency and increasing the energy bill.

Every HVAC system is different. Find out what MERV rating the system can handle and still allow for maximum airflow. This will help homeowners get the most out of the HVAC system and get the cleanest air possible.

It’s also worth noting that filters with higher MERV ratings need to be changed more frequently than those with lower ratings. Because these filters are catching more contaminants, they are more likely to get clogged and restrict the airflow. Be sure to check the filters frequently and change them often for the best results.

Not sure which filter is best? Talk to the technicians at Diamond Heating and Cooling when they come out for an annual HVAC check-up. They’re happy to help and educate their customers.