Flowers are blooming, the grass is green and lush, and trees are bursting with new leaves… Don’t you just love this time of year?
Not so much if you have allergies.
When the pollen count is out of control, all you want to do is hide in an air conditioned room until fall. Unfortunately, that probably won’t help.
You might think your air conditioning system will remove those nasty allergens from the air. But without the right air filters for allergies, you’ll still be sniffling and sneezing your way through the season.
And it’s not just pollen you need to worry about! The summer heat and humidity make the conditions ripe for the growth of mold and mildew, which can also bring on allergy symptoms.
Learn the facts about choosing the right air filters for allergies, as well as other HVAC maintenance tips that can reduce your suffering this season.
FACT # 1 about air filters for allergies:
Regular HVAC filters protect the equipment, not your lungs and sinuses
Many people mistakenly believe that the air filters in furnaces and air conditioners keep dust and allergens out of the air.
In reality, that’s not what HVAC filters are designed to do. Their purpose is actually to keep dust out of the equipment to prevent damage to the system and keep it running efficiently.
While ordinary furnace and AC filters do help to remove some dust from the air (when changed regularly!), they do little to trap the microscopic particles that cause the sneezing and wheezing of allergy season.
That’s why you need special air filters for allergies that are designed to stop those tiny particles.
FACT # 2 about air filters for allergies:
Ordinary paper filters can’t trap allergens
Those paper filters ordinarily used in your furnace and air conditioner are designed to trap large particles like dust that can accumulate on the motor and fans and reduce efficiency. However, particles like mold, bacteria, and certain types of pollen are much smaller in size, so they slip right through the fibers of those regular filters.
That means they get circulated through your ductwork and blown back into your space.
Air filters for allergies are designed to block much smaller particles, so your air stays cleaner. They are called “high energy particulate air filters” or more commonly, HEPA filters.
Because HEPA filters are made from densely packed layers of glass fibers instead of paper, the best ones are able to trap more than 99 percent of pollen, dust and smoke particles and keep them out of the air you breathe every day.
FACT # 3 about air filters for allergies:
All HEPA filters are not created equal
Unfortunately, it’s not good enough just to look for a HEPA filter for your air conditioner. To get the best results, you need to check the MERV ratings.
HVAC HEPA air filters for allergies are rated on how well they block particles of different sizes. The rating system is called the minimum efficiency reporting system, or MERV. The ratings range from MERV 1 to MERV 20, with the higher number indicating filters that are capable of removing the smallest particles, including many species of pollen.
Your HVAC service professional can help you get and install the best MERV-rated filter for your air conditioning and heating systems. Ideally you want to choose a MERV rating of 17 or higher, which are most effective at blocking the particles that cause allergy symptoms.
IMPORTANT: Have your HVAC technician check to make sure your system can accommodate a HEPA air filter. In some cases, your system might need modifications to prevent performance issues due to reduced airflow.
FACT # 4 about air filters for allergies:
You need to change those filters more frequently than you think
HEPA air filters for allergies need to be changed more frequently than ordinary paper HVAC filters, especially during high pollen season.
That means changing them at least every other month, and possibly more often depending on your location. An HVAC service expert can advise you on what’s recommended for your equipment and your area.
If you haven’t changed your filter yourself, ask your HVAC tech to show you how it’s done, or read this related article:
Why and How to Change an Air Filter
FACT # 5 about air filters for allergies:
The right filter is only half the story
Using the right air filters for allergies does help to reduce the allergens in the air, but don’t forget about cleaning it from the rest of your HVAC system. If you haven’t had your air conditioning system maintained at least once every year, you’ve likely got quite a bit of buildup on the blower fans and in your ductwork.
Did you know that the air you breathe cycles through your HVAC system about 5 to 7 times each day? If you have not been using the right HEPA air filters for allergies AND not maintaining your air conditioning system, years’ worth of dust, pollen and even mold spores are sitting in on your equipment and in your ducts right now.
Get a HVAC maintenance plan
When you invest in HVAC maintenance, your equipment is cleaned up and also tuned up, so you’ll not only get cleaner air, but better performance, more consistent comfort and fewer breakdowns. Regular maintenance also helps lower your energy bills and prolong the life span of your equipment.
Learn more about air conditioning preventative maintenance by reading these related articles:
Invest in duct cleaning
The next thing you should consider if you have a ducted HVAC system is having your ductwork professionally cleaned. Not every home needs this service, but if your equipment and ductwork are at least a few years old, and someone in your home has allergies, it’s worth getting your ducts inspected.
The inspection is free and you’ll be able to see exactly how much dust has accumulated in there, not to mention the microscopic particles you can’t see. Even more important, you’ll find out if you have mold and mildew lurking in there that can be making your symptoms worse.
To learn more about duct cleaning, grab a copy of this helpful guide that will answer all your questions: FAQ: Duct Cleaning and Your Indoor Air Quality