When you think of your furnace or air conditioner, it’s probably in the context of whether you’re comfortable in your home. If you’re cozy and warm during winter, and cool and refreshed during summer, your system is doing its job – right?
Well, maybe not. There are other considerations that can negatively impact your health, your mood, and your overall well-being. Here’s how your HVAC system may be affecting you physically and emotionally, whether you realize it or not.
If you have seasonal allergies, you may escape to the indoors for relief. But what if you’re just locking up allergens inside with you?
A poorly ventilated system can trap allergens inside your home, recirculating them from room to room with nary a moment’s relief. It’s great to have those windows and doors sealed up, but that means you need to make sure you’re properly circulating and ventilating air.
The problem is exacerbated if you haven’t been diligent about keeping filters clean, or if you’re not using the right filters in the first place. Low end filters may not be adequate to trap allergens that affect you most, so be sure to choose the filter that is designed to work best with your system, with a MERV rating that is ideal for your scenario.
For the average home, you may be able to get away without changing a filter for three to six months, but for those who suffer allergies, you may want to consider bringing that up to every month.
Headaches are common enough that you may not pay too much attention to minor aches and pains. But when they become frequent or increasingly common, your HVAC system – and not the screaming kids or barking dog – could be to blame.
In a worst-case scenario, you might be suffering exposure to carbon monoxide. If you haven’t had your system maintained regularly, you might be missing some dangerous fail points. If your headaches worsen at home but seem to magically disappear when you leave the house, that’s a good sign of carbon monoxide exposure. If that’s the case, exit your home and get help immediately.
Less life-threatening but still harmful is the effect of low humidity. This tends to be a problem during winter months when humidity levels drop, but you might be surprised to learn it can also be an issue during summer. Your air conditioner is designed to remove excess moisture from the air, but if it does that a little too well, you could have just as much of a problem.
Low humidity sets you up for dehydration, which leads to – you guessed it – headaches.
Dirty filters or ducts can also be a cause of headaches. As pollutants accumulate without being filtered out properly, you could be inhaling dust particles, mold spores and worse. Poor air quality is a certain cause of headaches, and one you can mitigate with a good maintenance schedule.
For those prone to asthma, having an HVAC system in top functional shape is a priority. Once again, dirty filters or ducts can lead to poor air quality. But where it’s a minor inconvenience for some, it can be life-threatening for others.
Another leading cause of asthma flare-ups is mold. Mold will wreck havoc on the physical well being of even the healthiest individual, triggering hay fever-like symptoms and skin irritation. For those with asthma, it can be detrimental, resulting in seriously impaired lung function.
Mold is a direct result of too much humidity. That damp basement is not to be taken lightly. Mold is insidious, and once it gets hold in a wall or other object like furniture or wood, it’s difficult to remove. In fact, just because you don’t see mold doesn’t mean you don’t have mold. It could very well be living inside walls long after you’ve bleached those tiles or surface areas.
It also likes to grow in drain pans and on evaporator coils, so if you’re not having your system checked regularly, you could be setting yourself up for health problems.
The best way to avoid this hazard is to ensure that your humidity levels are within an acceptable range – install a dehumidifier if it’s too high – and keep your system maintained to be sure it isn’t leaking or otherwise contributing to the problem.
Lethargy & Distraction
Just because you’re comfortable doesn’t mean everyone is. We’ve all known that one person (or maybe that person is you!) who loves to keep indoor temperatures frigid during July, or who is never warm enough without three blankets and a constant stream of hot air.
Temperature sensitivity is subjective, and it can have a huge effect on your mood, your concentration, and your energy levels. Just remember the last time you were too warm for comfort. Or so cold you could hardly bend your fingers to the keyboard. It wasn’t so easy to stay focused, was it?
Being uncomfortable is distracting at best. It also has the potential to contribute to anger, aggression, mood swings, and both mental and physical fatigue.
If you’re feeling despondent about ever finding consensus on temperature in your home, there are other solutions than to fight it out over the thermostat. Consider installing ductless units for heating and cooling trouble spots, or for keeping specific areas comfortable for those temperature-challenged people!
If your home is a single zone and one floor of the house is always too hot or too cold, it might be time to install a dual zone system. Your health and happiness level will thank you.
Eyes, Nose, Throat & Skin Irritation
You might be more familiar with these symptoms during winter. Your skin suddenly dries out and no amount of moisturizer seems to help. You wake up with the Sahara desert in your throat each morning. And your eyes feel like someone scrubbed them over with fine-grain sandpaper.
Low humidity is the culprit here, and not only can it be uncomfortable but it can leave you open to bacteria and viruses that will happily take hold in your parched body. Tack on headaches, and increased sensitivity to allergens, and you won’t be calling winter your friend anytime soon.
Conversely, high humidity in summer can lead to problems with mold and mildew, which we’ve already covered – from asthma to sinus problems, sore throats and yes, even skin irritation.
The solution can be as simple as installing components to your system that regulate humidity – a humidifier for winter, and a dehumidifier for summer.
Depending on your needs, consider installing an air purifier. For those with allergies, respiratory illnesses, or other sensitivities, an air purifier can zap germs, remove irritants and make the air in your home – and you – healthier.
And do be sure to keep your system maintained. We can’t say it enough – if you skip regular maintenance, you’re risking a host of health and safety hazards. It’s a small step to take for your family’s comfort and well being.
The Good News
This all sounds quite frightening, but the good news is that when you have a properly installed and maintained HVAC system, it can keep you both comfortable and healthier.
You’ll breathe clean, fresh air, you’ll avoid contaminants, you’ll enjoy fewer colds and sick days, your skin and eyes will thank you, and you’ll appreciate all the positive effects of proper temperature, humidity and air quality.
If your home environment is less than ideal, contact us for a free consultation and estimate to replace ineffective components, or install new ones that can benefit you. If you need system maintenance you can book an appointment here. Remember, we want you to be safe and healthy, and we care about your comfort.