When most homeowners think about their HVAC systems and keeping them running well, they may think about their filters and keeping registers clear. They may also think about keeping the return vent clear so air can flow into the system.
Some people may even consider the temperature they keep compared to the outside temperature. This is understandable because the bigger the temperature difference, the more the system will run and the more strain it endures.
What escapes most people’s thoughts is how the quality of the air in your building affects the system. This is actually a bigger concern with a larger impact on how your system runs on a daily basis.
How Your Air Quality Ruins Your HVAC System
It is a fact that the quality of the air in your building can ruin your HVAC system. The worse the air is, the faster you will realize the damage. To understand why, you need to understand how the system runs.
What Your System Needs to Run Efficiently
On a basic level, your HVAC system works by doing two things. First, it transfers heat. When the heat is on, you are transferring heat into your space, generated by some type of furnace or heater. If you are running the air conditioner, it transfers the heat out of your space, producing cooler air.
The second thing it does is that it circulates the air that has either been cooled or heated. That means the system must be able to draw air in to begin the heat transfer and then be able to push the air back out afterward. You add additional strain to the system if the airflow is restricted anywhere in the process.
The common places this restriction occurs are at the filters, with the circulation fan, at the heat exchanger or evaporator coils and in the air ducts. There are many invisible particulates that float in the air that contribute to these restrictions, including:
- Dirt, dust and grime – Simple dirt, dust and grime are the easiest to identify and to deal with. This is what most furnace filters will work on removing, but they only capture a portion of what is in the air. Helping to reduce these before they get into the system will help extend your system’s service life.
- Chemical residues – Most people do not realize the number of chemicals they add to the air, let alone how those substances impact the efficiency of an HVAC system. Think about all the chemicals you use every day. There may be aerosols like hair spray or air fresheners, cleaning products and scented candles, just to name a few. These collect in the system, creating a sticking film that collects more of the other particulates. They can be very difficult to clean off due to their natures and how they corrode some of the components on which they settle.
- Invisible bioaerosols – Bioaerosols are biological contaminants that float in the air. Yes, that means the airborne bacteria and viruses that can cause you to become ill. It also means molds and mildews. The most dangerous place for these is your ductwork, which is a perfect breeding ground because it is often damp and dark.
When they start to grow and to multiply, bioaerosols send more spores out into the air. Those can be inhaled causing respiratory problems like allergies. They are also transported to other areas of the home where they can further grow and cause more problems.
As you can see, there are a lot of invisible contaminants that fill the air, and they can have a real effect on your HVAC system. While filters help, some studies suggest they only remove about 10 percent of the contaminants in the air. That means that proactively working to improve air quality beyond your filters will help save your HVAC system.
4 Ways to Improve Air Quality and Help Efficiency
There are many ways that you can improve your air quality, and there are many products marketed to help do that. There are some simple things you can do, with minimal cost, that will help make a real difference in the air quality. They can also extend your system’s service life and efficiency.
As air quality experts who have served the greater Sacramento area for more than 40 years, we recommend these four things to have the biggest impacts on your air quality:
1. Swap out your cleaners and air fresheners – Consider all the chemicals you use on a daily basis, and consider natural alternatives. Plant-based cleaners and essential oils for air fresheners do not tend to leave the residues their chemical counterparts do. Swapping these out also has a profound effect on your health by removing toxins that you constantly breathe.
There are many natural products available due to the growing concern over toxic chemicals. Studies show that these natural alternatives are at least as effective, if not more so, than traditional cleaners. If you prefer to make something yourself, there are many simple recipes that use ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and even witch hazel for air sprays. Just do a quick search, and find one that matches your needs.
2. Collect dirt at the door – One easy way to keep some of the grime out of your system is to collect it at the door. That means taking off your shoes and even wearing slippers. It also means asking guests to do the same thing.
Whether you keep your shoes at the door or not, we recommend a two-mat approach to help capture dirt and grime and to keep it in its place. Put one mat outside on your doorstep. Some people even go so far as to have a shoe “brush” that you can simply pull your foot through to take off the water, mud and large dirt particles. The mat itself will help capture dirt from the bottom of the show.
The second mat should go inside the door. This one will not get as dirty as quickly and acts as a second line of defense for whatever the outdoor mat missed. It also gives a great place for guests to place shoes.
3. Keep humidity in check – Humidity plays a key role in your air quality. When the air is too moist, it encourages mold to grow in your HVAC system as well as in any dark corner of your home. If the humidity is too low, the dirt and dust around your house dry out and stay airborne. Use a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on the month, to keep your relative humidity between 30-50 percent.
4. Have your HVAC system professionally cleaned – Have your HVAC system professionally cleaned every two to five years. Clean it regularly if you do any projects that increase your air contaminants as well. This should include not only your ductwork, but it should also handle the heat exchanger, the evaporating coils and the circulating fan for your system.
Air Quality Experts in Sacramento
The SABRS Home Comfort team maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau by providing quality and friendly service. Our crew works to understand your needs and to find the best solution to match your individual air quality needs. We offer heating and cooling services. Give us a call in Lewes, DE to schedule your consultation.