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Alleviate Spring Allergies: Air Filters & MERV Filter Ratings

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Last Updated on June 25, 2015


It’s amazing what those little microscopic buggers (pollen, dust and mold spores) can do to wreak havoc on your health. This time of year, the air is just saturated with them and the consequences are obvious: people sneezing and wheezing everywhere you go.

When the pollen counts are so high and the air is turning warm and sticky (just the right conditions for mold growth), it may seem like there’s little you can do to avoid suffering, short of moving to the desert.

Good news! There is one one very easy and effective way to alleviate spring allergy symptoms that you may not know about. Hit those nasty things where they live: in your HVAC system.

You probably already knew that your heating and air conditioning equipment has air filters that need to be changed. But did you know that the type of filter you choose can mean the difference between sniffling your way through the season and breathing easy? It’s time you learned about MERV filter ratings.

The common misconception about HVAC air filters

Many people assume that any heating and air conditioning filter will clean the air of contaminants. Wrong! Those ordinary air filters do no more than keep dust and debris out of your heating and air conditioning equipment. They do not protect your lungs and your sinuses by removing pollen and mold.

To remove outdoor allergens from your building’s air handling equipment and the air you breathe, you need high-energy particulate air filters, more commonly known as HEPA filters.

Made from layers of glass fibers formed into pleated paper-like material, HEPA filters trap more than 99 percent of pollen, dust and smoke. HVAC HEPA filters are rated according to the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) system, which is based on how well the filter blocks particles of different sizes. MERV filter ratings range from MERV 1 to MERV 12, with a higher rating being better for removing tiny particles like many species of pollen.

Ask your NYC HVAC service provider to install HEPA filters with MERV filter ratings of 10 or above, which are most effective at blocking the particles that cause allergies. Ordinary filter have much larger holes, so they are not capable of trapping viruses and pollen.

Choosing the wrong MERV filter ratings can make you seriously sick

Have you ever taken a look at your used HVAC filters? It’s a pretty disgusting sight, and that’s only the dust and debris that you can actually see. Just imagine all the tiny particles that are sneaking through your ordinary filters with low MERV filter ratings.

Remember that the air you breathe in your space all comes through your HVAC system. When you use air filters with low MERV ratings that are not capable of removing the contaminants from the air, those bacteria, viruses, pollen and mold spores wind up in your equipment, passed into the ductwork, and distributed throughout your occupied space.

This is especially troubling, and even dangerous, for people with allergies, asthma, and other breathing difficulties. In the worst case, you could face Sick Building Syndrome, when large numbers of building occupants report unexplained illnesses.

Ask your NYC HVAC service provider about filters with a MERV rating of 10 to 12 to minimize pollen and other allergens.

Related Article: Could Your New York HVAC System Be Making You Sick?

Don’t forget to change the filters frequently during allergy season

For HEPA filters to be effective, they need to be changed at least every other month, or sometimes more often if your building is located in an area with very high pollen counts.

Other ways you can tweak your HVAC system to improve your air quality and your allergies

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the most common causes of poor indoor air quality is poor upkeep of ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems.

When you first start up your air conditioning system at the start of the season and again when you shut it down in the fall, bring in an HVAC service specialist to do AC preventative maintenance. This service typically includes a detailed inspection and tune up of your system.

Dirty cooling coils, fan motors and blades, drain pans and other parts can cause contaminants and moisture to enter the ducts and accumulate. Moisture is especially dangerous as it can lead to mold growth. As your air handling systems circulate air throughout your building, they are also circulating contaminants including pollen and mold spores.

Regular maintenance of your equipment and even cleaning of your air ducts by experienced professionals can greatly improve the air quality in your building and help reduce allergy symptoms.

BONUS: Cleaning and tuning up your HVAC system also prevents breakdowns and increases the life span of your system. Not to mention improving the efficiency of your equipment, saving energy and reducing your utility bills.

Related Article: Spring AC Maintenance Checklist & Comparing Service Contracts.

Fight the onslaught of pollen with a HEPA filter that has a high MERV filter rating

Having your air filter changed is as easy as making a call to your trusty NYC HVAC service provider. He can advise you on exactly the right filter for your equipment, get you good prices on filters with high MERV filter ratings, and even order multiple filters so you can change them yourself in between HVAC tune-up appointments.

Now that you understand the importance to your health of having your HVAC system properly taken care of, you may be unsure that your current HVAC service provider is really up to the job. Find out how to tell and learn how to make the switch to a provider you can trust to do the job right. Grab a copy of our helpful guide to Contract Confidence: Transitioning to a New HVAC Service Provider.
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