The impact of air conditioning on your health
According to the EPA, Americans spend roughly 90 percent of their time indoors, and with the summer heat raging on through August, we often luxuriate in air conditioned rooms to stay cool. For those with respiratory problems and allergies, air conditioning is often recommended to combat symptoms, which can become more prevalent during warmer months with increased humidity. However, your air conditioner could be doing more harm than good for your respiratory health. Read on to learn more about how to stay cool and breathe deeper this summer.
For those with central air conditioning systems, air filters are your friend when it comes to trapping irritants. Many home air conditioning systems contain air filters that filter out particles such as pollen and dust in your home. What you might not know is that not all air filters are alike. An air filter’s MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) score can help distinguish its level of filtration, which may influence your decision if you are looking to trap certain types of particles in your home.
Filters with MERV scores from 1-4 are used to trap larger particles and are typically found in window air units. Most central, residential air units contain filters with ratings of 5 or higher. Filters with a rating of 5-8 are more effective at removing both small and larger particles from the air, including things such as pet dander, while filters with 9-12 ratings are able to remove particles around the size of dust. Superior filters with ratings of 13 and above are able to remove very small particles such as bacteria, smoke, and cooking oil.
Just as important as knowing your air filter’s score is ensuring your air conditioner and filter are clean. With window units, be sure to clean or replace your filter when the indicator light comes on, or per your unit’s manufacturer guidelines. For those with central air systems, be sure to have your HVAC system cleaned every three to five years, including the air filter and the ducts, as allergens such as mold and mildew can build up over time and be spread through indoor air.
Because many home air conditioning systems use filters with mid-level filtration capabilities, there is a chance that irritants may be passing through your filter and circulating through your home. The same is true for lower MERV score units, such as window units, that are unequipped to filter out medium and small particles. In these cases, having an air purifier with a HEPA air filter, such as Airmega, to capture smaller particles is a great way to ensure you’re breathing clean air this summer and all year-round.