With the temperatures heating up in the spring, installing an air conditioner to cool your home down may become necessary. A common question is whether installing an air conditioning unit will help alleviate or worsen seasonal allergies.
Air conditioning can help with allergies. When installed and maintained properly, air conditioning units can help filter air and control humidity within your home. These are both important factors that will contribute to how bad your allergies feel.
Unfortunately, as the trees and plants come back to life, so do allergies. Seasonal allergies affect an estimated 50+ million Americans. With pollen levels continuously increasing, spring is full of sneezing, itchiness, watery eyes, and congestion for the unlucky people who have to put up with seasonal allergies.
Are you suffering from seasonal allergies, or dealing with what is sometimes called hay fever? Seasonal allergies can nearly ruin the spring for people who deal with them, which is a time of year that has beautiful weather and is enjoyable for many. Let’s take a look at how an air conditioner can help with your allergies and make your life better.
How Does An Air Conditioner Help With Allergies?
An air conditioner will act as a proxy between your breathing and airborne irritants, such as pollen. The unit will filter out air as it comes into your home, thus improving the quality of the air. This can help with not only seasonal allergies, but with year-round allergens from pets or dust.
There is a filter within the air conditioning unit that will stop these particles from making it through the unit to the indoors. Therefore, the unit will help to keep them out of your lungs and reduce their impact on your allergies.
An air conditioning unit will also increase the quality of air within your home through the reduction of humidity levels. A home with high levels of humidity can produce allergens of its own, such as mildew, bacteria, and mold.
The air conditioning will balance the levels of humidity within your home, making instances of these allergens less common.
When An Air Conditioner Doesn’t Help With Allergies
When your air conditioning system isn’t maintained properly, it can actually make your allergies worse. Regular maintenance on your unit will include changing the filter, and this is the main element that will help your allergies.
Since the filter in your air conditioning is trapping allergy particles, they will eventually start to build up. Over time this will cause the filter within the unit to be less effective at filtering out those particles.
When the allergy particles are built up within your air conditioning unit, the unit is just going to blow those all-around your home. This is why a neglected air conditioning unit can actually make your allergies become worse, rather than better.
The same concept applies to humidity. When humidity builds within your unit, it will become less effective at filtering it out. This will make mold and bacteria more prevalent in your home, which can be very problematic, especially if you are allergic.
Related article: Is It OK to Use Air Conditioning When You Have a Cold?
How To Ensure Your Air Conditioning Unit Is Effective Against Allergies
While it may seem straightforward, there are a lot of different factors you need to take into account when dealing with air conditioners. Consider these things to make sure you get the most out of your air conditioning unit.
Central System Air Conditioning vs. Window Unit Air Conditioning
The truth that some people won’t want to hear is that a more expensive central air conditioning system will help control allergies better. Window units will have trouble controlling humidity levels and will build up dust and mold more quickly. This dust and mold build-up can make your allergies in your home worse.
A central air conditioning unit will run more efficiently than a window unit will. By cooling down and filtering the entirety of your home, a central air conditioning unit will provide a lot more help with allergies and conditions like asthma.
The clean air will also be circulated throughout your home better with a central unit. A window air conditioning unit can have trouble with circulating air throughout just one room, so even if you have them installed throughout your home, you still won’t get the same results as a central unit.
A couple of additional benefits outside of the realm of allergies will also come with a central air conditioning unit. You will be able to have even temperatures throughout your home, and you will also be able to cool off the entirety of your home, rather than just a couple of spots.
Maintaining Your Air Conditioning
Maintaining your air conditioning is one of the most important steps you can take to make your indoor allergy situation better. There are multiple things that you need to do to keep your unit effective at filtering out particles that cause allergies.
Clean Any Dust Or Debris Around Your Unit
Cleaning dust and debris is very important to keep the air in your house clean. Dust itself can be an irritant, so if your air conditioning is blowing it around your house, it can make your allergies a lot worse. Also make sure to clean any nearby debris, as the various particles could contain other irritants.
Inspect Your Unit For Leaks or Corrosion
Inspecting your air conditioning unit for leaks or corrosion is crucial to prevent the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. If you find any still water or things that have been damaged by water, you must remove them. You may also want to get in touch with a professional so that they can further inspect for damage. If you suspect there might be a leak in your AC read our article about recharging air conditioners.
Upgrade Your Air Conditioning When You Need To
Sometimes the answer is simple – you may need to upgrade your air conditioning unit altogether. A timeframe that you should go off of is upgrading your system about every 10 years. While that timeframe may not always be correct, it is an estimate to work with and a good number to go off of.
Here are 9 benefits of a new AC unit.
There are certain signs that you can also look out for that will indicate if you need to replace your air conditioning. The first of which is somewhat obvious to notice and that is if your air conditioning is blowing out warm air. If your air conditioner is failing to cool down your house like it is made to do, it is probably time to replace it, or at least have an HVAC professional come look at it.
The next sign is if your unit is not blowing out much air. You may notice this if you stand close to the unit and don’t feel much coming out, or the circulation of cool air around the room is poor. This can be an indication of multiple issues, so definitely reach out to a professional to get the situation checked out.
Some sensory indicators of a failing AC unit include loud noises coming from inside, as well as bad smells. Loud noises can be an indication of parts failing within the machine, which can lead to more problems down the road. Bad smells are a sign of either burnt out electronics or a build-up of mold within the machine, which as mentioned before, can be problematic.
Any noticeable leaking is also a sign that your air conditioner’s life is coming to an end. Not all leaks are the same, and some can be more serious than others. If freon refrigerant leaks, that is a more serious issue because it is poisonous. If water is leaking, it is still a bad sign and can lead to more problems later on with mold and mildew.
The bottom line is that air conditioning units do not live forever. If your air conditioner lasts for more than 10 years, that is not normal, and you are lucky it has lasted that long. Keep in mind the year that you started using your air conditioning, and look out for the signs that we mentioned as clues that your air conditioning is on its last legs.
Keep Openings To The Outdoors Closed
Keeping all of your doors and windows closed when your air conditioner is running is very important. Believe it or not, it is very common for people to leave openings to the outdoors while their air conditioner is running.
Not only will sealing off any airways improve the efficiency of your air conditioning, but it will also help you in your fight against allergies. Particles in the air can come through these openings and avoid the filter in your air conditioning, which basically defeats the purpose of using it in the first place. Keep everything sealed off from the outdoors to keep electricity bills down, and improve your air quality.
While it is still important to get some fresh air, you should avoid having your windows open with any air conditioning system running. If you do want fresh air for a change, be sure to shut everything off before cracking open your windows or doors.
Consider Using An Air Purifier
Using an air purifier can significantly help get rid of allergy particles in your home. Think of your air conditioning and an air purifier as sort of a “one-two punch”. An air purifier will just add more layers of filtration within your home.
As air comes into your home through your air conditioning unit, it will be filtered if that unit is maintained properly. Then, the air will get filtered again if you have an air purifier, some of which actually have multiple filters. The filters will remove pollutants and particles from the air, and then release clean air into your home.
There are also different levels of air filters. You can get one for a small area of your home for about $200-600. Or, you can buy an air filter for the entirety of your home, for about $1000-5000 more than that.
Keep in mind though that similar to an air conditioning unit, an air purifier will also have to be maintained in order to clean the air properly. This mainly involves changing out the filters when they get a lot of gunk in them.
How often you change the filters on any air purifying units will depend on how often you are running them. To garner the maximum benefits of them, you should be running them almost constantly, so plan to replace the filters regularly.
There are also reusable air purifier filters that allow you to wash them instead of replacing the filters. Just keep in mind that they will require careful cleaning regularly, and they actually aren’t as effective as the typical air purifier filters.
Using English Ivy as Air Purifier
English Ivy can be a green way to clean the air inside and outside your home. The study made by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed that English Ivy will reduce airborne mold.
This article will give you some more info about the research.
That been said, it is still important to remember that plant leaves and berries can be poisonous when ingested. Extra important to keep in mind if you have small kids or animals who love to eat plants.
The other downside with that plant is that when it starts to grow it will thrive. First, you might think that this is a good thing but wait, English Ivy is a plant that will steal all the sunlight from the other plants it will cover, and soon it’s the only one left.
It loves to use trees to climb up by wrapping itself around them. It might look really magical and nice but the truth be told the trees do not like it, it limits the amount of sun and nutrients that reach the tree’s foliage and in the end, the tree can die.
English Ivy is not effective enough to replace an air purifier, but it will help with the indoor air quality. So why not use it as an extra boost.
I have it in my bathroom. I keep it on the top shelf so it gets some sunlight and is not bothering anyone.
Consider Getting a Dehumidifier
Dehumidifiers will take excess moisture out of the air in your home. This will protect your house from mold and mildew, which are known to cause allergic reactions in many people. A dehumidifier can also make your home harder for dust mites to live in.
Using a dehumidifier can also help clear the build-up of allergy particles in your home. The only problem with a dehumidifier is that you don’t want to take too much moisture out of the air in your home, because that can cause other problems.
The ideal amount of moisture in your home is between 30%-50%. If your home is below that 30% level, you may need to consider getting a humidifier instead. It’s all about finding the right balance of moisture in the air in your home, to live comfortably and keep allergies at bay.
Keep in mind that too low humidity levels are not only bad for you and your family, but also indoor plants as we discuss in our article about plants and air conditioners.
How To Perform Maintenance On Your Air Conditioning Unit
To start off, you should be performing maintenance on your air conditioning unit at least once a year. Due to the timing of the weather, it would be ideal to do maintenance on your air conditioning every spring, before it is taken into use.
The first step you should take is to replace your air filters. You should be using HEPA air filters, as they can remove up to 99.9% of particles that are above a certain size. Just replacing your filters regularly will make a huge difference, but there are still plenty of other things you can do.
The next thing you can do is to clean your intake and output vents that are a part of your central air conditioning system. A lot of air particles can build up in these vents as well, so it is important to regularly clean them out.
You should also be cleaning out the ductwork that is either below or above your home. You should unscrew the duct covers, and use a brush and vacuum to clean out the ductwork.
This is a step that is a little bit easier but will definitely make a difference in cleaning any dust or debris that is inside the unit or around it. Make sure that you take the time to do this well, and you can look out for mold while you are doing it. If you do spot any mold, be sure to remove it right away.
While you are performing maintenance, keep an eye out for any water or material that has been damaged by water. This can be a source for the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria which will make allergies worse.
While it is okay to do this cleaning and maintenance on your own, it is necessary to make sure it is being done carefully and precisely. Make sure you consider hiring a professional to do maintenance at least some of the time. Professionals do this stuff for a living, so it is likely they will find something that you did not see.
Air conditioning units can certainly help with your allergies, but if you don’t care for yours properly than it will likely make your allergies worse. Air particles build up within the filters, so that defeats the purpose of making your air quality better.
A regularly maintained central air conditioning unit can help improve the air quality of your home. When paired with a well-maintained air purifier and the right moisture levels, your home should be a sanctuary for anyone who deals with allergy problems, either seasonally oy year-round.
You should regularly go through the different steps for maintaining your air conditioning unit. The best time to do this is during the Spring while you are getting it set up for the year. This way, your air conditioning unit will be all set to provide you with clean air for the season when you start using it.
Also, remember that it can be beneficial to have a professional look at your air conditioning once in a while. Consider this as sort of a “deep clean”. So while it is important to make sure that you are maintaining your air conditioning unit, it can be equally as important to have a professional to come and perform maintenance on a deeper level.