While this is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the 1960s US Government films urging elementary school children to “duck and cover” to protect against nuclear explosions, experts truly are warning allergy and asthma sufferers that they should prepare this year like never before.
A longer-than-normal warming/growing season last fall, coupled with extremely damp weather in many regions, have created a “perfect storm“ for the growth and spread of pollen this spring. The growth of ragweed and other fall allergy triggers are likely to be just as severe.
USA Today recently cited a study from the US Department of Agriculture which stated that the pollen season has grown as much as 13 to 27 days longer since 1995.*
A few basics to prepare include seeing your allergist, of course, to start any recommended treatment early. When pollen counts are high, avoid the outdoors, keep doors and windows closed, and keep your HVAC system filter clean.
Indoor Air Quality: Controlling Your Home’s Air
The air inside your home can be 100 times more polluted than the air outside.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our homes are loaded with pollutants like pollen, lung-damaging dust, pet hair, dander, dust mites, mold spores, bacteria and viruses. It’s no wonder they list indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health today.
What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You
Unfortunately, most homeowners believe the standard throwaway furnace filter is doing the job and they couldn’t be more wrong. The typical one inch filters people use on the furnace only traps about 5-15% of airborne particulates, leaving 85% to 95% of particulate matter to accumulate in their homes.
Additionally, with homes being built and remodeled more insulated and tighter than ever, many homes are nearly draft-free. In making homes more energy efficient, we are also creating a number of issues. With less ventilation and improper filtration, allergens, harmful vapors and contaminants get trapped and can accumulate to unhealthy levels. These may include:
- Airborne pollutants – dust, dust mites, pet hair, dander, pollen, particulates from clothing and furniture.
- Biological contaminants – bacteria, viruses, mold spores, mildew.
- Odors and vapors – tobacco smoke, cooking grease
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are three main approaches to improving indoor air quality: source control, improved ventilation and air cleaning.
Source control refers to removing the source of the pollutant from the home. Examples include not smoking indoors, removing animals, plants, unused solvents and paint thinners. Controlling humidity levels with whole-home Dehumidification can also reduce the spread of mold and dust mites, which thrive in high humidity environments.
Ventilation is a key in decreasing pollutants that are generated inside the home. New construction techniques utilizing energy efficient windows and doors, extra caulk and weather-stripping, house wraps, sealants and additional insulation all lead to decreased movement of outside air through the home.
According to the EPA, the lack of air movement through homes can lead to a buildup of toxic pollutants that can have concentrations up to a hundred times greater inside a home than outside.
However, indoor concentration of particles such as pollen may actually increase when ventilation rates are increased due to the introduction of fresh outdoor air, so air cleaning may be needed regardless of the level of ventilation.
Air cleaners and filters are a vital part of the solution for poor indoor air quality. These cleaners remove the particulate matter that remains airborne after source control and ventilation have failed. The effectiveness of air cleaners in improving overall air quality is highly dependent on both the type of air cleaner selected and the nature and concentration of the pollutant.
Fixing The Problem
There‘s only one good way to deal with the problem. Take a holistic approach. Create a strategy that includes whole-home humidity control, ventilation to remove the odors and potentially harmful vapors, and have a whole-home air cleaner installed to trap airborne contaminants.
Unless you remove the problems from every room in your house, you will only be treating the symptoms. Whole–home systems represent the best option for those with allergies and asthma, ridding their home of dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, pollen, bacteria and viruses, smoke and more.
How They Work
Installed as part of your home‘s central heating and cooling system, Whole-Home Air Cleaners, Dehumidifiers and Ventilation systems are out-of-sight and out of your way. So, each time your system runs, excess humidity is removed, proper amounts of fresh air is introduced, and the air in your home is filtered through state-of-the-art filter media, so potentially harmful contaminants are removed from every room.
The result is your heating and cooling system distributes cleaner, healthier air to your entire home. Better yet, the Whole-home systems are easy to maintain (generally once every one to two years, unlike portable units that require monthly care or standard filters that need cleaning every 1-3 months).
The American Lung Association tracks indoor air quality and its impact. Consider the following facts.
- Each person inhales over 3,500 gallons of air each day. Children inhale more particles for their size than adolescents or adults.
- Polluted air causes 94% of all respiratory problems.
- More than 31 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma, about 1/3 are children under 18.
- About 40,000 dust mites, a common household allergen, can live in one ounce of dust.
- An estimated 10-15% of the entire population may be allergic to cat or dog dander.
- A person sheds up to 700,000 skin flakes per day.
When you consider what can occur without controlling your home‘s air purity, humidity and fresh air, it‘s hard to believe more people don‘t take advantage of whole-home systems for health’s sake.
Now, with new technology from Aprilaire, you can control the air quality in your entire home from a convenient location on your wall – your thermostat – and you can choose various cleaning modes based on your own needs, whether you have allergies or you are kicking up extra dust while cleaning or if there’s construction going on around your house. There are also options to control your ventilation or humidity from the same location. It‘s the way to control your indoor air today.
There are a number of variables that affect your homes air quality. There are also a variety of techniques that have different levels of effectiveness. The best thing to do is to call your HVAC air quality professional to assess what is in your air and in what quantities. We can then recommend the right solution to improve the air you breathe.
So before you go “ducking and covering“ under your desk, or start to build that new bomb shelter in the back yard, consider taking a look at your indoor air and how you can reduce the allergens you breathe at home.