It may seem like Tampa Bay never has a winter, but if you have allergies then you know spring has sprung when you step outside and find yourself exclaiming to the world, “Ha-ahhh-AHH-CHU!”. Head congestion, sneezing, runny noses, headaches and itchy, watery eyes – you know the deal. It’s one thing when you suffer from allergies outdoors, but it’s an endless nightmare if you can’t find relief from your allergies in the comfort of your own home.
You’ve seen it before… all that stuff floating in the room when the sunlight hits it just right. Most homes are full of allergens; dust, pollen, pet dander, molds, etc. They sift through the air and settle on furniture, ceiling fans, blinds, floors, etc. As people move about through the day, the allergens are kicked up and inhaled. As a result, your body reacts with all the tell-tale symptoms that can easily resemble a common cold. Sometimes, it’s all you can do to get a halfway decent night’s rest!
Five simple ways you can reduce allergies in your home
If you suffer from asthma or severe allergies, following are a few tips you can use to improve indoor air quality in your home which will help you get by more comfortably during the spring and summer months in Tampa, Florida.
TIP # 1 – Change Air Filters Frequently, Use the Right Filters!
Air filters for your air conditioner collect most of the unwanted elements from the air. They not only prevent the elements from building up in your air conditioner, but also protect you and your family from breathing the elements into your nose and lungs. But beware of the type of air filters you install in your central air conditioning system.
If you’re like most Tampa Bay area residents, you try to do the right thing by buying the expensive, pleated AC filters with the dense filtering system because logically they will catch more dust and particles. However, if the air filters are not engineered correctly for the residential home, then they could be too restrictive resulting in damage to the AC compressor over time. This damage is due to your air conditioner having to work extra hard to draw the air through the AC system. With the extreme temperatures in Tampa, your air conditioner may seem to run non-stop in the summer. Likewise, washable air filters usually have a high pressure drop across them, so reusable air filters are not a recommended option for home owners. The best solution for taking particles out of the air is to install an Everclean Green System or duct a special filtering system in parallel with the air handler.
TIP # 2 – Service your Air Conditioner Regularly
AC maintenance is typically the last thing on people’s minds, especially if the system properly cools their home during the blistering hot summers in the Tampa Bay area. Although the system may be cooling, the AC system itself can collect allergens over time. The internal A/C components can accumulate each form of allergen, from pet dander to mold, if the air conditioning system is not cleaned and maintained regularly. Routine AC maintenance service is a key component to extending the life of your air conditioner, but also ensures that there are not air pollutants or mold building up throughout the air conditioning system. Many people call a Tampa Air Conditioning Contractor to perform maintenance on their air conditioner in the spring so their AC system is prime and ready to handle the hot, humid Florida summer and again in the fall to recover from the summer wear and prepare for the heating season.
TIP # 3 – Reduce Indoor Humidity Levels
Tampa is extremely humid in the summer, but spring and fall can get pretty muggy, too! Have you ever broken a sweat just walking to your mailbox? Just as humidity causes mold and mildew outside your home; on your fence, roof top, exterior walls, in your lawn – Likewise, the inside of your home is susceptible to mold caused by high levels of humidity. Mold and dust mites love a moist household; mold spores, mildew, and dust particles kicked up into the surrounding air will remain suspended for longer since the air is so moist, providing allergy sufferers with even more allergens to inhale. Reducing the indoor humidity level will help to prevent more mold from forming and contributing to the overall allergen levels in the home.
Is there such thing as Too Cool in Tampa?
You may be inclined to reduce the temperature in your home in an effort to reduce the humidity level. On the contrary, a study conducted by the Florida Solar Energy Center at University of Central Florida found that lowering your thermostat can slightly increase your indoor humidity levels, and also cause moisture condensation to accumulate on your walls, floors and other surfaces in your home. Have you ever noticed condensation forming on your windows in the summer? The Florida Solar Energy Center recommends maintaining a temperature in your home within a couple degrees of 78 degrees. Even when going away for vacation to escape the Tampa heat, we recommend keeping your air conditioning running to maintain the optimum temperature to discourage any change in your environment while you’re away.
Running the Air Conditioner in Fan Mode?
Another common misconception homeowners have is to run their AC system in “fan” mode to promote constant air flow throughout the home to cycle the air through the air filters in hopes to collect the elements in the air. However, the flow of air through the air conditioning system will push the air by the wet coils and the drip pan which picks up moisture and causes a higher humidity index in your home by about 10 percent. Instead, we recommend you run ceiling fans to move the air. Using your ceiling fans will extend the life of your air conditioner motor since it won’t be running constantly, and expends approximately the same amount of electricity.
Run the exhaust fan while you shower
Surprisingly, we have found that many of our customers don’t run their bathroom fan while taking a shower. However, running your bathroom fan during your shower (and even up to 15 minutes after) can help control mildew in the bathroom and reduce humidity levels in the rest of your home. If you’ve bought a used home, or you use your bathroom fan often, then it may be time to change out the exhaust fan. Have your AC repair contractor inspect your exhaust fan the next time you schedule your routine air conditioning maintenance.
TIP # 4 – Air Duct Cleaning
The air ducts in your home that route air to and from the AC unit may need to be cleaned. Although air passes quickly through the ducts, they do have twists and turns throughout their lengths that can cause allergens to settle into tiny crevices. As a result, turning on the heat or air conditioning after a period of time can deliver a large blast of allergens through the ventilation.
Some people claim that your air ducts should be cleaned often. However, having your air ducts cleaned can be costly not to mention you have the potential to do damage to your duct work, loosening the fiber glass insulation causing fiberglass particles to enter the air stream. It’s important that you only clean your air ducts when it’s deemed necessary by a certified air conditioning contractor that has the proper training to inspect and clean your air ducts professionally. A lot of people claim to clean air ducts, but due to the risks involved you should do your homework to ensure a proper cleaning.
It may not be the best investment to clean your air ducts. If your duct system is old and you have hot and cold spots in your home due to poor duct design, you may be better served by investing that money into a new engineered duct system. New duct systems meet today’s code standards, save energy because of new installation values, and you receive a utility rebate for improving your duct system with energy savings.
TIP # 5 – Clean your home
The routine regimen of cleaning your home can get quite tiresome. Sometimes I wish I could just hire a Tampa maid service! All kidding aside, keeping your home clean plays a big part in the quality of your indoor air. Following are some cleaning tips you may want to consider to help maintain a comfortable living space for those with allergies.
- When dusting, use a slightly damp rag
- Dust shelves, counter tops, televisions often
- Dust ceiling fans, window blinds, plants, lamps
- Vacuum/sweep/mop the floors at least once per week
- Clean Bathrooms (tubs, showers, sinks, toilets)
- Change bed sheets, including the comforter which tends to collect a lot of dust
- Bath your pets frequently. If they shed, brush their hair daily, and clean their sleeping pad often.
Keeping a cleaner home, and giving regular attention to your air conditioning system can improve your home’s indoor air quality making it a more comfortable living space in an uncomfortable time of year for many in Tampa Bay. Hopefully we shared some things you didn’t know before.
Post your thoughts!
We’d love to hear how our tips have helped you cope this allergy season. Or, feel free to share some of the things you do to help you and your family beat the Florida summer heat and reduce the impact allergens have in your home.