February 20, 2024
Humidification in Selma, TX

For some people, allergy season in San Antonio, TX is year-round. While tree pollen is most abundant from February to April, massive amounts of weed pollen enter the air in early fall. Winter brings “mountain cedar season,” while summer air is rife with grass pollen. The good news is that your HVAC system can help. When well-maintained and streamlined to meet the specific needs of your household, your heating and cooling equipment can play an important hand in minimizing allergy attacks and limiting their severity and duration.

Your HVAC System Has a Multi-Pronged Job

Often recognized solely for the temperature control they provide, residential HVAC systems also offer ongoing humidity control and limited air filtration. Air conditioners, heat pumps, and condensing furnaces extract excess moisture during operation. These units also draw in indoor air through their filters to extract relatively large-sized particulates like textile and carpet fibers, pet hair, and dust.

When your HVAC system is functioning like it should, you shouldn’t have wet drywall or condensation-covered windows, widespread problems with mold, or excessively dusty indoor surfaces. If these issues appear or your indoor air quality (IAQ) is poor, then your HVAC system probably has an underlying problem.

What Does Limited Air Filtration Mean?

Although HVAC systems offer limited air filtration, it’s rarely enough to meet the needs of people who suffer from chronic allergies, seasonal allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. Standard HVAC air filters are largely designed to protect heating and cooling equipment. These components keep floating debris from settling on AC evaporator coils, furnace heat sensors and thermocouples, and other sensitive HVAC components.

The standard filters that come pre-installed in heaters, heat pumps, and air conditioners aren’t rated to extract all allergens, chemical contaminants, and pathogens. Germs, volatile organic compounds, and allergens like dander and dust mites often pass right through them.

Understanding HVAC Air Filter Ratings

The strength and overall efficacy of HVAC air filters are denoted by their ratings. All HVAC air filters sold throughout the United States come with maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings. These ratings range from one to 20. While 20 is the highest possible filter rating, MERV 20 filters are only used in industrial and commercial environments such as research laboratories, production facilities, and cleanrooms.

Standard HVAC air filters have MERV ratings of just six to eight. When replacing these components, homeowners can easily find options in-store with MERV ratings of 10 to 12.

Low-Cost, Fiberglass Filters Don’t Capture and Retain Most Allergens

Standard filters are low in cost. These thin, fiberglass units reliably remove dust, dirt, lint, fur, and clothing or carpet fibers, but they don’t catch and retain much else. This is especially problematic for those with respiratory ailments that are triggered or exacerbated by dander or pollen.

Higher-rated filters have increased thickness, more surface area, and tighter mesh. Their denser, thicker designs prevent many micro-fine particulates from passing through them.

The Drawbacks of Installing Upgraded HVAC Air Filters

Each time homeowners upgrade their air filters, their IAQ improves but airflow throughout their HVAC systems declines. Moving air through filters with tighter mesh and more surface area places additional strain on blower motors and blower fans. If you raise your filter’s MERV rating too high, it could cause your HVAC equipment to ice over, overheat, or shut down.

Upgrade Your Air Filter While Maintaining Optimum HVAC System Performance

Most homeowners can safely upgrade to HVAC air filters with MERV ratings of up to 13 without making any system modifications. However, if you want the capabilities of a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, you’ll need to have your ducting and other aspects of your HVAC system refined to support it. HEPA filters have MERV ratings of 17 or greater. They can extract all dander and pollen. Many can even extract gaseous irritants like the toxins from secondhand cigarette smoke and the chemicals that are off-gassed by building materials.

What HVAC Air Filters Can’t Do

Whether standard or upgraded, HVAC air filters create healthier indoor air by straining out particle matter. As their ratings increase, air filters gain the ability to sift out increasingly small contaminants, including those as small as 0.3 microns. However, there’s a big difference between air filtration and air purification.

Air purification cleans indoor air. For instance, if you supplement your HVAC air filter with whole-house air purification equipment, your air purifier will release a safe, sanitizing solution that weighs down germs and allergens and deactivates bacteria, fungi, and viruses. You might need an ionizing air purifier or an air scrubber if your seasonal allergies make you more predisposed to catching respiratory illnesses.

UV lights offer similar benefits by sanitizing air as it passes beneath them. Sanitization is often a necessary IAQ improvement for allergy sufferers with terminal illnesses or compromised immunity.

What to Know About Using Integrated HVAC System Accessories for Allergy Relief

Air scrubbers, air purifiers, and media filters with HEPA technology are all integrated HVAC accessories. These units are installed directly in HVAC ductwork or attached to it. They supplement the modest IAQ support provided by standard air filters to create cleaner, fresher indoor air.

Using integrated HVAC accessories to combat the IAQ challenges of allergy season works best when homeowners choose needs-specific equipment types. To help, we offer IAQ assessments. These evaluations determine which indoor contaminants are present, what their concentrations are, and how best to eliminate them.

The Importance of HVAC System Maintenance During Allergy Season

Performing routine HVAC system maintenance is the most critical step in optimizing your IAQ during allergy season. Before you start adding integrated accessories or upgrading your standard filters, it’s important to ensure that your heating and cooling equipment is clean and high-functioning. You should schedule preventative maintenance for your heater and your air conditioner just before the start of the cooling and heating seasons.

During these visits, we:

  • Clean heaters and air conditioners inside and out
  • Check for collapsed or torn ducting
  • Tighten loose connections
  • Replace HVAC air filters

We also replace worn parts, lubricate moving components, and calibrate thermostats, among other things. Not only does our work prime heaters and air conditioners for the challenges of their peak seasons, but it also greatly improves IAQ. Our technicians extract the thick, lint-like accumulations of debris that have escaped through filter mesh over time.

Your HVAC Ductwork and Your IAQ

It’s also important to have your HVAC air ducts professionally maintained. You should have these features inspected at least once annually. According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), you should also have them cleaned every two to three years. Professional duct cleaning services use mechanical agitation, negative air pressure, and suction to extract trapped allergens within these systems.

Does Your San Antonio Home Need Additional IAQ Support?

If your seasonal allergies are especially bad, you can set your heat pump or air conditioner to recirculate mode so that no new air is entering your house. This is the mode that homeowners are advised to use during local wildfires and any other time when the outdoor air is rife with irritants. Running your HVAC equipment in recirculate mode is a great way to create a temporary “clean air sanctuary” until the proverbial dust has cleared.

If your standard air filter proves insufficient during times of high pollen, we can help you find a suitable upgrade. If you’re interested in additional IAQ support, we can also help you explore your options in integrated HVAC equipment while informing your decision with an IAQ assessment. Our team offer outstanding air conditioning and heating services. We also provide air duct cleaning, VRF systems, and cutting-edge indoor air quality accessories. For help with improving the IAQ in your San Antonio home, contact Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating today.

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