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Must-Have HVAC Features That Enhance Air Quality & Comfort

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Last Updated on June 25, 2015

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What’s more important than the quality of the air you and your family breathe every day in your home? It affects not only your mood and your energy level, but whether or not you catch every cold that goes around and your long-term health as well.

Your heating and air conditioning systems do their part to improve your home’s comfort, but have you considered these add-ons that take comfort and healthy air to the next level?

Central Humidifiers

The dangers of dryness:

Are your skin, hair and lips dry and cracking in the winter? Are you plagued by electric shocks every time you touch something made of metal? These are signs that your home needs humidification. Dry air can also increase the chances of illness, especially for people with asthma and other breathing difficulties.

There are also dangers to your home from dry air that you may not notice until you have an expensive problem on your hands. Dry air can be damaging to valuable things like furniture, paintings, floors and woodwork. Adding a central humidifier to your home will make sure they won’t dry out and crack.

How central humidifiers work:

A central humidifier is attached to your home’s heating and air conditioning unit and your plumbing. The humidifier unit uses a device similar to a thermostat (called a humidistat) to monitor the humidity levels in the air. The ideal humidity level for comfort is between 35 and 50 percent. When the air is too dry, the humidifier adds moisture in the form of water vapor to the air being circulated throughout your home by your HVAC system.

So, unlike standalone humidifiers that can only work in one room, these permanent installations humidify the entire house at once, making them extremely efficient. Not only that, but you never need to worry about the safety of your children around hot steam, or tripping over an ugly unit in the middle of your living room. The equipment is completely out of sight.

Upkeep tips:

The wonderful thing about central humidifiers is that there is very little upkeep. You never need to add water since it’s attached to your plumbing. You just need to have the unit cleaned periodically by a professional, ideally at the same time you have your HVAC system serviced in the spring and fall.

Related article: Get Ahead of the 90 Degree Day: HVAC Preventative Maintenance and The Changing Season.

Additional advice:

Look for a unit that removes minerals and pollutants from the water it uses to humidify the air in your home.

Central Air Cleaners / Purifiers

Air quality dangers:

Indoor air quality, or IAQ, refers to the condition of the air inside your home. Poor IAQ not only makes you uncomfortable, but it also impacts the health of your family, worsening allergies and asthma and spreading respiratory illnesses caused by airborne contaminants like bacteria, mold and viruses. Some pollutants, like mold and chemicals used in construction, also cause unpleasant odors.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies have shown that your indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside—even in smoggy, urban areas like NYC.

How air cleaners/purifiers work:

When it comes to removing dangerous microorganisms from the air you breathe, standard HVAC filters don’t really do the job. Those filters are designed to protect the equipment from damage, not to protect your lungs, eyes and skin from airborne pollutants.

Central air purification systems remove dust, mold, smog, bacteria and viruses from the air circulated throughout your home’s HVAC system. They remove pollutants and microorganisms with a combination of heavy-duty HEPA filters that trap the larger particles like dust, and electrostatic fields that capture the tiniest particles like viruses as small as .1 micron.

It can be a bit confusing to shop for these systems since different manufacturers use different names to describe them: air cleaners, air purifiers, or air filtration systems.

Upkeep tips:

It’s vitally important to keep the HEPA filter clean. When the filter becomes clogged with debris, the system can no longer do its job. Some systems have reusable filters that can be cleaned with a hose, while others have disposable filters that need to be replaced regularly. How often you need to clean or replace the filter depends on the system you choose and the level of air quality where you live. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions, but also get the advice of a local HVAC professional who can advise you based on the pollution in your area.

Related article: Furnace Maintenance: How to Change Your Furnace’s Air Filter.

Additional advice:

Look for a unit with a germicidal disinfection lamp, which takes purification a step further by using UV light to kill microbes.

Don’t neglect maintenance to ensure air quality and comfort

Central humidification systems and air purifiers can greatly enhance the comfort of your home, but they depend on the condition of your HVAC system. If it’s not working properly due to neglected maintenance, you still won’t experience consistent air quality and comfort.

Related Article: HVAC System Maintenance: Humidity and Your Poor Indoor Air Quality

A experienced HVAC professional can also give you advice about choosing a central humidifier and air purification system that are right for your home. And if you haven’t been having your HVAC system regularly serviced, be sure to call in an HVAC expert to inspect your equipment and put together a plan to keep everything working reliably.

For more information about choosing a maintenance plan that works for you, check out our free guide: HVAC Preventative Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your HVAC Infrastructure.
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