Could Your HVAC Be Making You Sick? | Identifying Signs

January 27, 2022

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Have you noticed that your home's heating or cooling system isn't working properly? If so, you might be at risk of serious health problems. That's because indoor air quality can impact your physical health and well-being in many ways, from rashes to migraines to asthma attacks—and much more. Here are some telltale signs that your HVAC could be making you sick and how to get it fixed before you get worse.

HVAC and Your Health

When you’re deciding which type of system to install in your home, it’s important to take your health into consideration. As a general rule, try and make sure you’re using a high-quality filter on your furnace or air conditioner that is replaced every three months. Also, talk with your local contractor about installing a system for increased air quality in your home.

Unfortunately, in some areas, air quality may be poor due to outside pollutants. It’s also possible that your home isn’t well-sealed. All of these things can cause health issues and can contribute to chronic diseases like asthma or allergies. If you live in an older home or one that hasn’t been well-maintained, it could even lead to mold growth.

It's important to invest in air filtration and purification systems to prevent this from happening.

hvac system

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

The term sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe a collection of symptoms that occur in people who work in buildings with poor indoor air quality. Symptoms of SBS include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and dizziness, fatigue and weakness, difficulty concentrating, dry or itchy skin, sore throats and irritated sinuses. The air inside most buildings can be quite a bit more polluted than outside air.

While office buildings account for a high number of reported SBS cases, schools, hospitals and other building types can also be culprits. Besides poor ventilation and air filtration, mold and bacteria are among common causes of SBS symptoms. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from paints, adhesives, cleaning products or solvents may also lead to SBS. Molds may grow in damp environments. Many people link their sensitivity to molds directly to their SBS problems. Even chemicals from carpet cleaners can cause an outbreak of these problems in an office environment where everyone is exposed on a daily basis.

Symptoms of SBS

Eye irritation, headaches, dizziness and nausea, shortness of breath and wheezing, rash and sore throat. If you notice any of these symptoms while you’re running your AC system at home or work, get it checked out immediately to avoid major problems later on.

Short-term symptoms of sick building syndrome include irritability, headaches, dry skin and chapped lips. Shortness of breath is also a sign of SBS. In addition to these mild symptoms, occupants may experience a variety of long-term problems related to SBS.

Long-term health effects are most common in people who work inside their homes or offices every day. These individuals could develop conditions like asthma, chronic coughs and upper respiratory infections.

residential hvac pipes

How to Avoid SBS

If you’re experiencing these symptoms after spending time in your home or at work, take steps to reduce exposure to mold by cleaning your AC vents. An air conditioning system has an internal unit that cools air and blows it into a room through a series of vents. In order to do its job effectively, it needs air circulation inside your home. If you notice moisture around your AC vents, you’ll want to investigate for mold growth. This occurs when moisture is trapped within a confined space, like between walls or in attic ductwork.

The solution is to clean your AC vents. First, remove loose debris from around and behind them. Then, wipe them down with a cloth dampened with water to help get rid of any excess moisture. If you find that your air conditioning system has been exposed to a lot of water or if there’s already mold growth, schedule an appointment for repairs immediately. 

The best way to avoid health problems associated with mold exposure is prevention. Keep indoor humidity levels below 60 percent (high humidity encourages mold growth) by running your AC on high when it’s hot outside and keeping window coverings closed in rooms that don’t need sunlight (this also helps keep rooms cool). Consider installing a dehumidifier in basements where they can do double duty as well as keep areas dry enough to prevent mildew growth.

How Often Should You Clean Your Ducts?

You should clean your air ducts at least once a year. Make sure to get your ductwork professionally cleaned by a company that has experience cleaning air ducts. The average cost of duct cleaning is $376 which is relatively small when you consider the health issues you can have if they're ignored. 

Regular dusting or vacuuming of vents doesn’t give you what you need because it doesn’t include getting inside air ducts and vacuuming with a rotating brush tool, which is essential in removing dust, dirt, mold and any other particles or allergens inside air ducts. If you see any signs of mold in your home or have asthma or allergies, we recommend having your system inspected twice a year.

It’s important to get your air ducts cleaned when you see mold or if you have asthma or allergies. Mold in vents can be dangerous for people with these conditions, as it can worsen symptoms.

If you see any signs of mold in your home or have asthma or allergies, we recommend having your system inspected twice a year. That way, if there is any visible sign of trouble in your air ducts, it will be discovered before it worsens. We also recommend adding an air purifier to help keep debris from collecting on return grills and inside vents.

cleaning commercial duct work

Recovery from SBS

If you’re not feeling any relief from home remedies or are sick for more than two weeks, it’s time to call a professional. He or she will perform an air duct cleaning of your heating and cooling system and can help determine if there is mold growth in your system. A professional will also be able to identify other possible sources of moisture in your home that aren’t related to ductwork.

If you've begun to experience any of the symptoms of SBS it's important to keep an eye on them. Most of them should go away over a few hours or even days. If after a few days, your symptoms are getting worse it's important to discuss them with your doctor. In some cases, professional medical attention may be required. 

For duct work cleaning, get in touch with our professionals at Total HVAC Houston!

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