“Does my HVAC need maintenance?” While it might not seem to be the most obvious question behind your flare-up of allergies, it is one well worth asking. It could very well be making you sick – according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), poor air quality is most commonly caused by a faulty HVAC system. Here are some ways to know if your HVAC may be causing problems and what to do about it.
The Filter Is Dirty
Image via Flickr by Mike Linksvayer
The leading cause of HVAC-related illness is a dirty filter. More than just dust accumulates in the filter – it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, black mold, and other fungi. These in turn can cause symptoms such as breathing problems ranging from asthma to Legionnaires’ Disease, a potential fatal form of pneumonia. To fix a dirty filter, replace it with a clean one at least once every three months, and more frequently if you live in an environment with excess hair, pets, and smoke.
There Is Poor Air Circulation
The more time you spend in an air-conditioned space, the dryer your skin could become. This can be due to poor temperature control (more on that in a bit), but also poor ventilation. Simply put, air needs to circulate or it becomes stale and dries out your skin, which can be a problem for people with eczema or psoriasis. Consider adding a humidifier if your HVAC unit doesn’t have one, and drink plenty of water. To soothe irritated skin, try a moisturizer.
It’s Too Cold
Have you ever heard of “sick building syndrome”? According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, people who worked in a building with central air conditioning were more likely to show symptoms of an illness, such as headaches or fatigue, than people who worked in naturally maintained environments. In addition, Oxford Journals reports that people who spend a lot of time inside need more healthcare for a cold than those who don’t. Both of these problems can be traced to the HVAC not keeping a set temperature, such as being too cold. If turning up the thermostat doesn’t solve the problem, it might be time to call an HVAC technician.
There Are Holes in the Ductwork
If your allergies are suddenly giving you trouble, you might want to check the ductwork. Holes can allow unfiltered air into your house, and this can cause runny nose or itchy, watery eyes. Holes in the ductwork also allow small animals such as mice to get into the ducts, and this can be a problem for people with allergies to animal dander.
The air you breathe is vital to your health, so if you suddenly feel sick for no apparent reason, you may want to call an HVAC technician. Remember, it’s not always dry eyes, runny nose, and sneezing that manifest. Other causes of HVAC-related health problems include hypertension and weight gain. To prevent these problems, you should have your HVAC system serviced at least once a year and whenever you suspect there’s a problem with your unit.