In the post Covid-19 pandemic era where we find ourselves today, there is a greater focus on indoor air quality (IAQ) than we have ever seen before. Although the virus in itself offered no threat as an airborne contagion, the extended periods of time that we spent in lockdown made us more aware of IAQ. This is still relevant today; many people are not working mostly, if not exclusively, from home. The quality of our working and home environment is extremely important to maintain a healthy work/life balance. In this article, we will take a closer look at air quality through the lens of HVAC systems. We hope that this information will help you to make improvements to the IAQ in your home.

Is Poor Quality Air a Serious Problem?

The short answer is yes. Studies have shown that many people have polluted indoor air in comparison to the air outdoors. When you consider that the focus of media experts is almost exclusively directed toward air pollution issues, you can begin to realize the scale of the problem. Many people simply don’t realize that their indoor air is unhealthy, and this will make them feel ill and sap their energy. Some common health issues connected to unhealthy air include asthma attacks, allergic reactions, headaches, nausea, poor energy levels, and more. In most cases, people with allergies and pre-existing respiratory ailments are often the first ones to experience health issues. There is an easy way to test if the air in your home is unhealthy. If you feel ill when you’re at home and the symptoms disappear when you go outside, it’s likely that the IAQ is poor.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Take care; these symptoms may also be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning if you have a gas furnace and/or other gas appliances in the home. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless and odorless, and it’s extremely dangerous in any concentration. Visit a Doctor to get a diagnosis; if there is a carbon monoxide leak, contact your local heating and cooling specialist to identify the leak and fix it for you. If you don’t have carbon monoxide detectors, it’s important to install them in a natural gas equipped home. Place one detector within five feet of each gas using appliance and install a detector on each floor of a multi-story home. Check the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors every month and install fresh batteries.

4 Causes of Poor IAQ and How to Fix Them

There are four common causes of poor IAQ in your home:

1.   A Clogged Air Filter

The HVAC air filters are designed to remove airborne particulates that have the potential to damage sensitive components in the system. But, they serve a secondary purpose because the removal of these contaminants will improve the IAQ. The improvement is minor with a standard air filter, and they are lost if the filter is clogged. Upgrading to a better air filter which is designed to improve IAQ, may be possible. But, you need to consult the owner’s manual or an HVAC technician first. Some HVAC systems cannot handle dense filters that are designed to remove smaller particulates. The best way to improve the IAQ is to check the air filters monthly and change or clean them if they look dirty and clogged. As an added bonus, this will reduce the volume of dust in your home too.

2.   Poor Ventilation

If you don’t have sufficient fresh air coming into your home, you can expect an accumulation of pollutants. Without a cross breeze, there is no way to move air from one room to another, and the air quality will degrade. If the home suffers from poor ventilation and the humidity is high, these are perfect conditions for the growth of mold. To avoid this problem, it’s a great idea to keep the registers clear and unobstructed. During the warmer months, it’s important to open the doors and windows for a couple of hours each day to get some fresh air into the home. The best time to do this is in the evening when the air is cooler and fresher. In winter, this can be harder, but there will be days when the weather is a little warmer, and these are the ideal opportunities to open a window for a short while.

3.   Outdoor Pollution Indoors

There are a wide variety of outdoor pollutants that can enter your home, including pesticides, pollen, lead paint chips, radon gas, and more. These can have a dramatic effect on the IAQ, and in extreme cases, you may need to get the air tested! Any sources of pollution that have a negative effect on IAQ should be removed. If the source of the pollution is hard to reach or specialist skills are required to remove it, contact your local HVAC company.

4.   Aging HVAC Components

If there are aging components in the HVAC system, you may notice a lack of performance, higher energy bills, and frequent repairs. But, an overlooked aspect of old parts is that they can degrade the IAQ. If you notice that the air is dusty and you’re replacing the air filter regularly, this can indicate a break in the ductwork. The indoor air may be bypassing the air filter due to air leaks, poor fittings, and other problems. Like any complex system, heating and cooling equipment has a finite lifespan. Some performance and efficiency are lost every year after installation, and an older system should be replaced. Switching to a high-efficiency HVAC system will improve the performance, energy efficiency, and the IAQ in your home.

In Conclusion

As you can see, poor IAQ can represent a significant threat to the health and well-being of everyone living in the home. This is especially true if some of the occupants have asthma, allergies, and pre-existing breathing ailments that make them sensitive to poor IAQ. But, you don’t have to suffer; regular air filter changes can have an immediate and positive impact on the IAQ. Regular HVAC maintenance, improving ventilation, and removing sources of pollution can also make the air fresher.

If you want to upgrade your IAQ or you need to schedule some essential maintenance for your HVAC system, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.