“Spring cleaning.” Is there a less appealing phrase in the English language? Well, maybe “why yes, I would like that fork in my eye”…but “spring cleaning” is right up there with the worst of them.
Most of us go through the motions, rushing to complete the vague list of tasks we’ve come up with in the hopes of getting it all done so we can finally sit down and watch baseball again. However, every year there’s one aspect of spring cleaning that most people overlook: the HVAC system. I’m willing to bet that most people reading this are now thinking about just how long it’s been since their system has been cleaned. For many people, they go decades without doing what should really be done every year.
According to the EPA, the CDC, several consumer watchdog groups and number of non-governmental organizations, the air inside of a home can be even more dangerous than pollutants and allergens outside. This is because if the HVAC system in a home is not properly maintained then the quality of the building’s air gradually becomes worse over time. This can lead to minor reactions such as sneezing and itchy eyes but it can also be extremely dangerous to the elderly, infants and anyone with respiratory issues such as asthma.
Change your filters: Regardless of which type of system you have, there will be filters that should be changed on a regular basis. Typically, they should be changed out every thirty to ninety days. The average amount of time for this being done is every sixty days but if you live in a home with more than three people and more than one pet, then it should be done more often. If you live alone with no pets or just have a vacation home, then it can go about bit longer. The important thing is that they’re changed out regularly, otherwise they won’t be able to filter out allergens once they’re full. A clogged filter can also restrict airflow into the system, which can be a burden on your system’s air handler.
Get rid of dust: As with most things in life, the more disciplined and vigilant you are, the better off you will be. If you make an effort to regularly wipe down surfaces, dust hard to reach areas, vacuum, mop and scrub kitchen and bathroom surfaces, then you are essentially cutting off those allergens at the pass.
Wash everything: Even if you’re curled up in a ball under a mountain of blankets and sheets, protected from harsh dangers of the outside world, you still may not be safe from common allergens. Airborne allergens, from both indoors and out, can become trapped in a number of fibrous surfaces. Not only does this mean shirts, pants, socks, shoes, hats, etc, but also sheets, blankets, dust covers, bed skirts and curtains. To stay on top of these types of allergens, make sure you wash all fibrous materials in hot or warm water on a regular basis. Curtains may need to be dry cleaned. This practice also helps combat other dangers such as mites and bedbugs.
Bathe all living things: If you live in a house with a pet, or a few of them, then you already know how much hair can gather throughout the home, increasing the risk of itchy eyes and sneezing. If you take steps to groom those pets on a regular basis, then they’ll shed less in the house, which will in turn reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions. The same goes for people, as the majority of dust in a home is from skin flakes (I know, gross….but it’s true).
Utilize exhaust fans: Many people think that the exhaust fan in their bathroom is simply there to remove steam so that mirrors don’t get fogged up, and many people don’t even turn them on. However, steam (as one would imagine), produces a lot of moisture, which in turn leads to mildew and mold growth. Even if you can’t visibly see mold on bathroom surfaces, it can still exist in ceilings, walls, closets and cabinets. That’s why it’s a good idea to turn on the fan every time you take a bath or shower so that excess moisture is vented outside.
Clean out your ducts: The ducts of your HVAC system can become inundated with dust, debris, hair, mold and a number of other unpleasant nuisances, so it’s important to have them cleaned out by a professional every three to five years. Otherwise, all of those allergens trapped inside will be pushed out into your home’s air, which will then be breathed in by you and your family.
Reduce smoke damage: We all know that smoking is bad for us and those around us, but did you know that ten percent of the population is allergic to cigarette smoke? Particles from cigarette smoke can become trapped in surfaces (particularly fibrous ones like carpet, drapes and upholstered furniture), which can then trigger allergies in people who inhale them. This is called “third-hand” smoke. Even if someone isn’t allergic to tobacco itself, those particles can worsen with pre-existing allergies like ragweed and pollen.
Introduce fresh air: The best way to get rid of existing allergens in your home is to simply open the windows to let in fresh air. It may seem counterintuitive, as you would be letting outside allergens in, but as was previously mentioned, indoor airborne particles do more harm. Opening the windows on days when you can do without heat and air to ventilate those toxins is a good practice throughout the year.
Just remember, the most important part of your spring cleaning rituals should be to take care of your HVAC system. If you do, then you’ll be on your way to a healthier and stress-free season. If you’re concerned about your indoor air quality, would like to have a professional HVAC company service your system, and are in the Jacksonville area, then call J&W Heating and Air at 904-647-329 for a free estimate today.