Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air provides air conditioner service, maintenance, and installations throughout California’s Central Valley. Let our experienced team give you all the knowledge behind how your air conditioner affects your indoor air quality.
AC units have become an essential component of keeping our home comfortable, but make sure it does not become a culprit of compromised air quality for your family.
In this guide, our team at Cencal Mechanical covers some of the most common questions surrounding the indoor air quality of our homes and how it can be affected by your air conditioner.
Table of Contents
- How Do Air Conditioners Impact Indoor Air Quality?
- What Are The Common Pollutants and Allergens That Can Be Found in Air Conditioning Systems?
- How Can You Tell if Your Air Conditioner is Affecting Your Indoor Air Quality?
- What Are the Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality Caused By Air Conditioners?
- How Can You Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Your Home Through Air Conditioning Maintenance?
- How Can I Choose an Air Conditioner That Promotes Good Indoor Air Quality?
- How Do You Address Mold and Mildew Problems in Your Air Conditioner?
How Do Air Conditioners Impact Air Quality?
- Filtration System: Many modern air conditioning systems are equipped with air filters that are designed to capture dust, pollen, mold spores, and other types of debris. This helps to enhance air quality by removing airborne pollutants and allergens from inside the home.
- Humidity Control: Air conditioners often have dehumidifying functions that help control indoor humidity levels. This will help to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.
- Ventilation: Air conditioners have the ability to circulate and filter air throughout the entire indoor space. This consistency helps to prevent stagnant air which minimizes the concentration of allergens or pollutants.
- Condensation & Mold Growth: In some conditions, air conditioners can contribute to moisture buildup (if not properly maintained). Excessive condensation in air ducts or cooling coils creates an environment conducive to mold growth which has the potential for mold spores to be released into the air.
- Airborne Chemicals: Some AC units, particularly older models, may emit low levels of VOCS (volatile organic compounds). This depends on the type of refrigerant that is used.
- Inadequate maintenance: Poorly maintained ACs units can circulate pollutants or allergens throughout an entire home. Without regular tune-ups, air conditioners can compromise air quality.
What Are The Common Pollutants and Allergens That Can Be Found in Air Conditioning Systems?
Air conditioning systems can hold on to various pollutants and allergens that can greatly affect the indoor air quality of a home including:
- Dust: Dust particles can accumulate in air filters, ducts, and coils, leading to reduced system efficiency and the potential release of airborne particles into indoor spaces.
- Mold & Mildew: The potential for mold and mildew build-up is a possibility when condensation sits within those AC systems. Mold spores can be released into the air and cause respiratory health risks.
- Bacteria & Viruses: Moist areas are also a site for bacteria and viruses to thrive. Microorganisms may be found inside drip trays or cooling coils which can contribute to bacteria and viruses being circulated in the air.
- Pollen: Outdoor air filled with pollen can infiltrate an AC unit. Once inside, pollen can collect in filters and ducts which can trigger allergic individuals.
- Pet Dander: Airborne particles of skin, hair, and saliva, from our pets can also be circulated through the air, especially if homeowners are not changing air filters regularly.
- VOCs: As mentioned before, VOCs can be emitted by some cooling systems depending on their use of coolant. Prolonged exposure to these can become a health risk.
- Tobacco Smoke Residue: Residue from tobacco smoke can also accumulate inside an air conditioner and pose a risk to non-smokers. Regular cleaning and maintenance is essential to reduce the presence of these particles.
- Pesticides & Chemicals: Chemicals found in household cleaning products or pesticides can also be drawn into AC units. Their accumulation can impact the air quality inside the home.
How Can You Tell if Your Air Conditioner is Affecting Your Indoor Air Quality?
Noticing the impact your air conditioner has on your indoor air quality involves paying attention to various signs and symptoms.
Key indicators include:
- Unpleasant Odors: Foul or musty smells coming from the air vents may indicate the presence of mold or mildew.
- Increased Respiratory Issues: If occupants of the home start experiencing an increased, prolonged, or uptick in respiratory issues such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or worsened overall allergies, it could be a sign that airborne allergens are circulating the home.
- Visible Mold Growth: Observing mold growth around air vents, on the walls, or near the AC unit, is a clear sign that mold spores are present. This should be addressed promptly.
- Dusty/Dirty Air Vents: Accumulation of dust or dirt in or around your air vents could indicate that the system is not effectively filtering air.
- Inconsistent Cooling or Heating: If your air conditioner is not functioning optimally, it may struggle to regulate temperature and humidity levels. Inefficient cooling or heating can contribute to other conditions outlined above.
- Excessive Humidity: Noticing condensation on windows, dampness on walls, or a generally clammy feeling, suggests that your air conditioner is not effectively controlling humidity.
- Lingering Stale Air: A persistent feeling of stale or stuffy air may indicate inadequate ventilation of the indoor space.
- Increased Dust on Surfaces: If you notice an increase in dust on the surface of items around the home, it could be another sign that your system is not effectively filtering airborne particles.
What Are the Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality Caused By Air Conditioners?
Poor indoor air quality has a range of potentially adverse health effects and varies depending on the nature of the pollutants paired with the sensitivities of particular individuals. For example, those allergic to pet dander or pollen will feel the impact of poor filtration and ventilation at a higher rate than those without those allergies.
Here are some common health effects associated with poor indoor air quality:
- Eye, Nose, Throat, & Skin Irritation: Watery eyes, runny noses, scratchy throats, and dry or irritated skin.
- Respiratory Irritation & Infection: Symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and even full-blown infections caused by bacteria or viruses circulating.
- Increased Asthma Symptoms: Shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest.
- Aggravation of Allergies: Individuals with allergens may experience enhanced symptoms when inside, particularly those allergic to dust, pollen, mold, or mildew.
- Headaches & Fatigue: Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue can be present, especially when exposed to VOCs.
- Mental-Health Impact: Cognitive impairments, contributions to stress, anxiety, and decline in overall well-being.
- Long-Term Risks: Prolonged exposure to poor indoor air quality can contribute to chronic, long-term health issues such as cardiovascular problems and respiratory diseases.
- Exacerbation of Existing Conditions: Individuals with present conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or cardiovascular issues may experience worsened symptoms.
How Can You Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Your Home Through Air Conditioning Maintenance?
Improving indoor air quality through air conditioning maintenance involves several key steps.
Here are some effective best practices to enhance the performance of your air conditioning system and ensure better indoor air quality:
- Regular Filter Maintenance: Change or clean air filters regularly. Clogged or dirty filters hinder airflow, allowing pollutants to circulate. Change out your air filters every 90 days (at minimum).
- Use High-Quality Air Filters: Invest in high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These can capture smaller particles, including allergens and pollutants, improving the overall air quality.
- Professional HVAC Tune-Ups: Schedule regular AC tune-ups with our team. This includes cleaning coils, checking refrigerant levels, and ensuring that all components function optimally.
- Duct Cleaning: Periodically clean air ducts to remove accumulated dust, mold, and other contaminants. This helps prevent the spread of pollutants throughout the home and ensures efficient airflow.
- Control Humidity Levels: Maintain optimal humidity levels (typically between 30-50%) to discourage mold growth. Consider using a dehumidifier if necessary, especially in humid climates or during wet seasons.
- Ventilation Enhancement: Ensure proper ventilation by regularly opening windows and doors to allow fresh outdoor air to circulate. Consider using exhaust fans in areas prone to moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
- Seal Leaks and Insulate: Seal any gaps or leaks in windows and doors to prevent outdoor pollutants from entering. Proper insulation also helps maintain consistent indoor temperatures and reduces the need for excessive air conditioning.
- Regular Cleaning of Surrounding Areas: Keep the area around the outdoor unit clean and free of debris. Trim vegetation to maintain proper airflow.
- Limit Indoor Pollutant Sources: Be mindful of indoor activities that may introduce pollutants, such as smoking or using certain cleaning products. Ventilate the space appropriately when engaging in such activities.
- Install Air Purifiers: Consider using standalone air purifiers with HEPA filters or other advanced filtration technologies to supplement your air conditioning system and further improve air quality.
How Do I Choose an Air Conditioner That Promotes Good Indoor Air Quality?
There are several factors to consider when choosing an air conditioner that will help promote good indoor air quality which involves taking a look at the unit’s design, features, and maintenance requirements.
Key considerations include:
- Filtration System: Go for a system with a high-quality filtration system. Look for units equipped with HERPA filters, for example. These filters effectively capture smaller particles.
- Ventilation Options: Some units offer ventilation options such as a “fresh air” setting that brings in outdoor air helping to dilute indoor pollutants.
- Humidity Control: Look for systems with built-in dehumidification capabilities. This will help prevent mold and mildew from growing.
- Variable Speed Motors: Systems with variable speed motors can adjust the speed of the fan to align with cooling needs. This will not only help energy efficiency but also consistent air circulation.
- Simplified Maintenance Features: Select a model that has accessible and washable air filters that simplify the maintenance process.
- Whole-House Air Purification Systems: For additional air quality improvement, consider going with a whole-house purification system that works alongside the AC unit. They are designed to cleanse the air from a wide array of contaminants.
Before making a purchase, consult with our team at Cencal Mechanical to ensure that the AC unit you choose meets both your needs and wants, especially when it comes to indoor air quality.
How Do You Address Mold and Mildew Problems in Your Air Conditioner?
If you know that you are dealing with mold or mildew problems within your air conditioner, there are several steps to take including:
- Turn Off the AC: Before doing anything, turn off the unit to avoid further circulation of mold spores. Disconnect the power supply as well to avoid any injury during cleaning.
- Safety Precautions: Use appropriate safety gear to do any routine maintenance or cleaning. Grab gloves and a mask to protect yourself from mold exposure.
- Replace Filters: If you have spotted mildew or mold, it’s important to replace the filters and inhibit the chance of recurring issues.
- Clean the Drip Pan: Clean the drip pan found under the evaporator coils. The accumulated water found here can become a breeding ground for mold. Use a mixture of water and mild detergent to clean the pan.
- Clean Evaporator Coils: If you find mold present on the coils, use a soft brush or vacuum to remove debris and mold. Follow this with a solution of water and detergent to finish the cleaning.
- Inspect & Clean the Ducts: If you have mold in the ducts, you’ll want to consider hiring a professional to get this job done correctly. While inspecting, ensure that there is no sign of leaks.
- Improve Ventilation: Enhance the ventilation around the space where the AC unit is located. This will prevent moisture build-up.
- Address Water Leaks: Have any water leaks or condensation issues repaired ASAP.
- Consider UV Light Installation: UV lights will help to kill mold and bacteria, which will help prevent the growth of mold on coils and other components.
- Schedule Professional Maintenance: If mold or mildew persists, or if the problem is extensive, it’s important to contact us so we can properly evaluate and help remediate the situation.
More Improved Indoor Air Quality with Help from Cencal Mechanical
The knowledge above will help keep you on your toes with some of the lesser-known connections between air conditioners and the indoor air quality of a home. We hope this provides a new understanding and direction you need to keep the maintenance of your air conditioner efficient and performing at top levels.