Top 8 Reasons Why Clean Air Is More Important Than Ever
Clean air to breathe is always important. But did you know that the air inside your home or office can be more polluted than the air outside?6 Even if you live in a big city with documented pollution problems?!6 Come learn the top 8 reasons why clean air is so important right now, and how you can keep the air you breathe cleaner for yourself, your family, and your coworkers.
1. You have to breathe all day, everyday, 24/7/365.
None of us can live without clean air. We have to breathe all day, every day. Nowadays, people spend most of their time indoors, in offices, homes, and schools. 5, 6 Indoor air quality is very important to our health. Indoor air quality is more of a problem now than it was in the past for three reasons: 1. the way buildings are constructed, 2. the lack of ventilation in newer buildings for the sake of energy efficiency, and 3. smaller or inoperable windows.
Lack of good ventilation can cause many problems with indoor air quality because indoor air is not circulated as much as outdoor air. The indoor air can retain chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), mold spores, pollen, microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC’s), toxins, bacteria, viruses, and other irritants more easily than outdoor air.5, 6
According to the EPA, in the last few years indoor air has become more polluted than outdoor air even in the most industrialized cities! 2 The longer you are exposed to indoor air pollutants, the more likely you will develop health problems such as respiratory diseases (like asthma) and cardiovascular diseases.6 Young children, the elderly, and those suffering from chronic disease will be the most likely to develop problems due to poor indoor air quality.5, 6
2. Why efficient HVAC systems tend to exclude clean air
Energy efficiency has become more important in the recent past, and has begun to come into conflict with clean indoor air. Buildings are being built to reduce air flow both in and out of the building, which improves energy efficiency. It is more efficient to heat and cool air that has not been exchanged with outside air. However, when air is not circulated well from inside to outside, pollutants, allergens, irritants, toxins, and more can build up inside the building.10 Inadequate ventilation can also cause indoor air quality problems because pollutants can accumulate inside the building. 10
3. How can I make sure I am getting fresh air into my system?
Does your home have a fresh air intake vent? Is it cleaned regularly? Checking all the vents on the outside of your home (including air intakes, dryer vents, bathroom fan vents, etc.) is something you can do as part of routine maintenance 4 times per year. For example, when you change air filters and check the crawlspace or HVAC system for leaks.
4. Your HVAC system may not be clean. How do they get dirty?
The main reason your HVAC system gets dirty in the first place is through neglect.11 Forgetting to change air filters, using poor filters, having gaps in filters, or no filter at all(!) all could affect how clean the system is.11 Leaking ducts (especially in crawl spaces under homes) can also be culprits for dirt, dust, insects, and even animal droppings.1,3
A dirty nearby environment can affect your HVAC system negatively. New construction, factories, and nearby highways can increase pollution outside your home or workspace. Dirty outside air dramatically increases the amount of pollution inside a building.11
5. How can you keep the air you breathe clean inside your home?
Changing your filter regularly (at least every 3 months for residential buildings or possibly more often for commercial buildings) can keep your unit working properly and prevent dirty ducts. Using the correct size filter and ensuring proper fit are also key to keeping ducts and air clean.3,4,11
Checking the ducts and inspecting the units every time the filters are changed can dramatically improve air quality. Things like bird nests, old pieces of air filter, and frayed fan belts are easy to detect and fix, IF the unit is inspected regularly.11 Inspecting ducts regularly decreases the chances for leaks and the need for cleaning and repairs.3,4
Mold in HVAC Systems
Most of the time the mold is located inside the air handler on the coil. There are two simple reasons for this:
- Water is present on the coil when the air conditioner is running, deposited as moisture is removed from the air during cooling.
- Air filters inadequately prevent dust (mold candy) from being deposited on the coil, usually because they are of poor quality, do not fit properly, or are missing altogether.
Once mold has begun growing inside the air handler, mold spores are blown into the home’s living space every time the heat or air conditioner runs. This compromises indoor air quality and can cause additional mold growth inside the ductwork and the home. To learn more check out our post: How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC system.
6. If air filters are so important, how can I choose the best one?
All air filters are not created equal. To begin, determine the size of the filter needed. It sounds like a no brainer, but people use the wrong sized filters all the time. Incorrectly sized filters will not filter the air properly causing dirty vents and dirty air.
Next, determine what MERV values your HVAC system can handle. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, or how efficient your filter is at removing dust, dirt, smoke, pollen, carpet fibers, pet hair and dander, mold, bacteria, and even viruses. The higher the MERV value, the more effective it is at removing all of those nasty things from your air.
Not all HVAC systems are created equally either. Some systems can handle using a filter with a High MERV value and others cannot. Be sure to find out what MERV ratings your system can handle before purchasing one that is not designed for your system.
Finally, once you know what size and MERV value are best, make your purchase with confidence! Of course, remember to change the filter at least every 3 months, or to wash and replace washable filters every month.
7. Would having my air ducts cleaned in my home improve the quality of the air?
The answer is maybe. If your system is dirty, through neglect, leaking ducts, or poor air filtration it could help significantly! However, people eager and willing to sell you ‘duct cleaning services’ for a gimmick price are all too many!3 Before you rush to get your ducts cleaned, check out our article 12 Facts about Duct Cleaning – How to Avoid Scams.3 We tell you all about all the tricks, and how to really get your money’s worth.3
8. Can I get sick from dirty air?
Yes. Indoor air can retain chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), mold spores, pollen, microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC’s), toxins, bacteria, viruses, and other irritants more easily than outdoor air.5, 6 All of these things can make you feel sick and some can even cause disease.
Infectious bacteria and viruses can cause disease. Mold can cause mental and physical health problems including: allergy sensitization, shortness of breath, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and mental health problems including: disordered brain function, changes in balance, slower blink reflexes, slower reaction times, color discrimination problems, and depression. 12, 13, 14
Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can be spread more easily inside air conditioned buildings.7,8 When people are inside more often, they are more likely to spread the virus. It has also been shown that in a very few cases, the virus transmitted through air currents inside buildings with poor ventilation systems. 7,8 Yet another good reason to have plenty of fresh air coming into a building!
Fortunately, preventing the spread of this virus is possible through simple steps you can take to protect your family and your business. Wearing a face covering or mask, and staying at least 6 feet from other people can also prevent the spread of the virus.18 To learn more visit our post: In-depth Guide to Face Masks: Allergies, Grass Cutting, and COVID-19.
Regular maintenance keeps your HVAC system cleaner and healthier for everyone. Changing filters regularly, using the correct size and MERV rated filter, keeping vents clean and in good working order, and checking ductwork on a regular basis can prevent many problems.
We’re Here When You Need Us
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. We treat each inspection as an investigation. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC system – Branch Environmental
- 5 Expectations about Mold vs. Eye-Opening Reality – Branch Environmental
- 12 Facts about Duct Cleaning – How to Avoid Scams – Branch Environmental
- HVAC System in Your Crawl Space? You May Be Breathing Dirty Air – Branch Environmental
- Your Right to Breathe – Branch Environmental
- The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
- Air conditioning may be factor in COVID-19 spread in the South – Harvard Gazette
- COVID: Air conditioning could facilitate coronavirus airborne spread – USA Today
- Volatile Organic Compounds – American Lung Association
- Introduction to Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
- The Ten Main Reasons Why HVAC Systems Get Dirty – Action Duct Cleaning Company
- Mold and Mycotoxins: Effects on the Brain and Nervous System in Adults – Branch Environmental
- Ratnaseelan, A. M. et. al. 2018. Effects of Mycotoxins on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Immune Processes. Clinical Therapeutics V40, number 6, p903-917. https://www.clinicaltherapeutics.com/article/S0149-2918(18)30229-7/pdf
- Effects of Mold on Children’s Health – Branch Environmental
- Adding a Fresh Air Intake to Your Home – Energy-One
- MERV Ratings: What Do They Mean? – Bob Vila
- How Your Home Can Affect Your Allergies – Branch Environmental
- Use Masks to Help Slow Spread – CDC
- Maintaining HVAC to Address COVID-19 – US Air Conditioning Distributors
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