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Central Air Conditioning and Allergies

Heating and HVAC
Air Conditioning Contractors
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Although central air conditioning provides our homes and businesses with year-round comfort, for many people central air conditioning and allergies go hand-in-hand.

In order for central AC systems to be effective and cost-effective, they must operate in a closed environment in which cool air is re-circulated. To that end, builders and consumers employ caulks, insulations and various other weather proofing products that, when used properly, serve as highly effective barriers to the free flow of indoor and outdoor air. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, any contaminants in the air are also re-circulated throughout the environment, and the better insulated the environment, the worse the effects can be.

Contaminants found in indoor air include:

  • Synthetic fibers found in most commercially-available carpets and furniture fabrics
  • Chemicals contained in building materials including formaldehyde
  • Cleaning and personal care products
  • Insecticides and pesticides
  • Gases produced by water heaters and cooking appliances including carbon monoxide (CO) which is potentially lethal
  • Fumes produced by combustible agents including tobacco products and wood burning fireplaces
  • Pet dander and dust mites

Contaminants can also be introduced from outdoor air including pollen and radon gas.

Central air conditioning not only contain offensive biological contaminants within your home or business, they actually promote their formation. Cool air produced by central air conditioners is transported throughout a structure by air ducts located in the attics and walls. As cooled air travels through the air ducts in these warmer areas, condensation can occur; creating an ideal environment for the production of mold which is a primary irritant for allergy sufferers.

Allergy Symptoms

For allergy sufferers, central AC systems can cause or exacerbate a variety of symptoms including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, respiratory congestion and shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches and fatigue.

Reducing the Effects of Central Air Conditioning on Allergies

There are a number of measures available to combat the effects of central air conditioning systems on allergy sufferers.

One of the most effective methods for removing existing contaminants is having the air ducts in your home professionally cleaned. Homeowners should have their air ducts inspected for leaks and cleaned by a qualified HVAC professional to remove contaminants and reduce the risk of re-contamination.

Central air conditioning utilizes air filters which are designed to remove contaminants from indoor air. Air filters are available at home and garden centers, hardware and discount stores and even many grocery stores and vary in effectiveness and price. At the low end of the effectiveness spectrum are fiberglass and polyester media filters which are low cost but do not provide sufficient filtration for allergy sufferers. Fibers from lower quality fiberglass filters can also come free and become airborne, presenting an additional risk to air quality. Electrostatic AC filters create an electrical charge that attracts airborne contaminants to the filtration material where they are trapped for future removal. Electrostatic central air conditioning filters should be cleaned regularly with ordinary tap water and thoroughly dried before being replaced in the system.

For allergy sufferers, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are often recommended. HEPA filters are single-use, disposable filters constructed of a dry-type filter medium with a minimum particulate removal efficiency of 99.97% of 0.3 micron or lager contaminants. HEPA filters are available in a range of resistances and flows. Ultra-low penetration aerosol filters are also available and provide filtering of 99.9995% of particles 0.1 microns or larger.

For severe allergy sufferers, air purifiers and ultra-violate light cleaning may be required to make the indoor air quality of their homes tolerable.

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