What is it that makes some wonder “is my AC making my allergies worse” when we cool our Michigan homes? As Michiganders, we try to make the most of the summer weather, so it’s tough when your home is not the respite from the heat you need.
Why is that? Could you be allergic to your air conditioning? If you’re one of the growing number of Americans with asthma, do you feel your AC helps or hurts?
In this blog, we’ll cover why some Lansing and Grand Rapids residents feel allergies flare when the AC comes on, common indoor allergens and steps to reduce allergy symptoms when the air conditioning runs.
WHY IT FEELS LIKE AC TRIGGERS ALLERGIES
- Common “Air Conditioning” Allergy Symptoms
- Watery eyes
- Shortness of breath
What many people experience isn’t an allergy to air conditioning, it’s actually a response to the airborne pollutants in their homes.
Poor Air Quality
As your HVAC system pulls air into the ductwork, it brings all sorts of airborne pollutants with them. Common indoor particulates include:
- Pet dander
- Mold/Mildew spores
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Your HVAC’s system’s air filter captures many of these but not all. If the filter is insufficient or already clogged, the contaminants circulate back into your rooms. Allergens spread and settle on surfaces, such as pillows and bedding. Poor air quality often affects babies, children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system the most.
Too Much Humidity
For anyone with respiratory or certain cardiac conditions, high humidity easily triggers difficulty breathing or full-blown asthma attacks. High humidity levels also encourage dust mite, mold and mildew growth. These three pollutants are common allergens and asthma triggers.
How is air conditioning related to humidity?
Part of the air conditioning process is removing excess moisture from the air. Humidity, or water content in the air, makes you feel warmer, so removing the excess moisture helps you feel cooler. Less moisture in the air allows your perspiration to evaporate more easily.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE ALLERGY AND ASTHMA TRIGGERS FROM AIR CONDITIONING USE AT HOME
- Check and change your air filter regularly
- Follow regular preventive maintenance for your air conditioner
- Improve the filtration of airborne contaminants within your system
- Encourage healthy home practices
Air Filter Maintenance
We encourage homeowners to check air filters each month. A handy way to remember? When the gas or electric bill arrives, check your air filter the same day. Change it as necessary. For most Michigan homes, every two to three months is sufficient.
If, however, members of your household have pets, smoke or have compromised immune systems, a monthly change might be appropriate. A clean air filter also provides the best airflow to your air conditioner, furnace or heat pump.
Dirty filters create HVAC problems, like excess wear and tear, higher utility bills and greater risk or repairs or breakdowns.
Preventive Maintenance for Your HVAC System
When a qualified HVAC technician performs a tune up, he or she inspects the system and components. As part of the tune up, the tech cleans components and notes any circumstances of concern.
These might include leaky ductwork or evidence of rodents, insects or other pests. Leaks in the ductwork allow allergens to sneak inside the ducts and your conditioned air. Rodents leave nesting material, droppings and even carcasses, which shed airborne particulates into your home.
Therefore, in addition to a more efficient air conditioner, furnace or heat pump, preventive maintenance addresses air quality in your home.
Install Air Quality Products Within the HVAC System
If you find you need greater filtration or reduction of airborne allergy and asthma triggers, install air quality equipment. There’s a variety of options available including media air cleaners, air purifiers, dehumidifiers and humidifiers.
When installed within the HVAC system itself, the air quality equipment filters the air throughout the whole house. Portable units are usually insufficient and require more maintenance.
Some examples include the Carrier ® Infinity ® Air Purifier – DGAPA and the Carrier Comfort™ EZ Flex Cabinet Air Filter – EZXCAB.
Carrier ® Infinity ® Air Purifier – DGAPA
With whole house coverage, this air purifier uses “Captures & Kills™” technology to trap up to 95 percent of particles between 1.0 and 3.0 microns. Based on third-party testing, it even shows a greater than 99 percent kill rate for common cold surrogate Streptococcus pyogenes and human influenza.
Ever feel like your family passes the same cold germ or flu bug around for weeks? It could be in your home’s air, continually re-infecting you. It also offers flexible installation in upflow, downflow or horizontal flow furnaces.
Using easy to replace, long-lasting MERV 15 filters, Carrier offers a 10-year parts limited warranty.
Carrier Comfort EZ Flex Cabinet Air Filter – EZXCAB
Another option uses the deep-pleated style MERV 10 filter to promote airflow while it removes up to 65 percent of particulates as small as 1.0 micron.
The high-dust holding capacity allows for longer periods between easy to replace filter changes. For even more filtration, MERV 13 filters are available.
Ultraviolet Air Purifier Light
A simple modification to your HVAC system, an ultraviolet air purifier light neutralizes airborne pollutants as they pass through. These UV lamps kill contaminants like mold and bacteria on the coil before they reenter your home.
You might be familiar with portable humidifiers sold at the pharmacy or dehumidifiers sold at big box stores. Unfortunately, these temporary solutions cannot control the amount of moisture in your whole home.
If you experience asthma attacks or allergy symptoms from excess humidity, consider a whole house dehumidifier. Ideal indoor humidity is contained between 30 and 50 percent. A dehumidifier controls the amount of moisture in the air and helps relieve the dehumidification job from your air conditioner.
In the fall and winter, you may experience dry air. Common complaints of dry air include stale air, dry nasal passages, dry skin, static electricity and an increase in nosebleeds or viral and bacterial illnesses.
A whole house humidifier adds the correct amount of moisture to the air to decrease these symptoms and increase your comfort. Plus, when there’s the right amount of moisture in the air, you can set the heating system at a lower temperature.
Healthy Air Quality Habits to Avoid Feeling My AC is Making My Allergies Worse
Keep outdoors out
If pollen is a problem for you, leave your shoes at the door. There’s a lot of allergens tracked indoors on our shoes so keep them contained. Likewise, keep the windows and doors shut, especially during high pollen times.
If you’ve spent time outdoors, be sure to shower and wash your hair before bed. If pollen particulates are in your hair you don’t want to transfer them to your pillow and rub your face in them all night.
Pets and Grooming
Keep pets clean – stepping up their bath frequency if necessary. People can develop allergies at any point during their lifetime, including pet dander or saliva. If this isn’t enough, you might consider allergy shots.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
If you’re unfamiliar, VOCs come from chemicals off-gassing in your home. Unfortunately, they’re everywhere, from craft and cleaning supplies to the adhesives used in carpeting to the foam in furniture cushions or mattresses.
Most people are familiar with the “new paint smell.” You’re smelling the paint off-gassing. Strong odors like this easily trigger allergies or asthma symptoms. It’s easy to assume “why is my AC making my allergies worse” in cases like this. Good news – low or zero VOC options are readily available and are now more price-competitive.
Switch to more eco-friendly cleaning supplies and consider the “green” component of furnishing and finish purchases. Organic options are available and use less toxic glues and materials.
BREATHE EASIER WHEN YOU CALL A-1 MECHANICAL
If the high indoor humidity is too uncomfortable or compromising the health of a family member, call our team in Lansing or Grand Rapids for help. We don’t want you to worry if your air conditioning is making your allergies worse – we want to relieve your air quality concerns.
We’re proud to offer a range of heating and cooling services to our communities including air conditioner installation and AC service and repair.
Check our offers page – we frequently offer specials on indoor air quality products designed to work with your central heating and air. To request a free estimate on new HVAC equipment or to book AC repair or service, call A-1 Mechanical at 517-348-0302.