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Commercial HVAC, Residential HVAC

Stuffy Air: 5 Ways to Get Fresher Air in a Sealed Building

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Last Updated on October 17, 2022

stuffy air

When you look for advice about banishing stagnant, stuffy air, you’re usually told to open the windows. Here in NYC where we have so many sealed buildings, that’s not an option! And unfortunately, that does contribute to the problem. Stuffy air is often caused by inadequate ventilation, poor air flow, and sometimes air quality issues, all of which tend to happen in sealed buildings.

So what can you do to get fresher, more pleasant (and also healthier) air in your home or business?

5 HVAC solutions to get rid of stuffy air when you can’t open a window

1. Add make up air units

When your space lacks adequate ventilation, the result can be stuffy air that gets worse over time. One solution is to add what’s called a make up air unit.  What is make up air? Simply stated, a make up air unit pulls air into your space from outdoors and conditions it to the set indoor temperature.

Make up air units are particularly useful in commercial spaces, and even sometimes in residential kitchens, that have powerful exhaust systems. Make up air brings in air to replace the air that’s removed from the space by the exhaust system. They create a balanced ventilation environment that helps to get rid of stuffy air, odors, and annoying symptoms of unbalanced air pressure (like doors slamming or drafts).

Learn more: 8 Reasons Restaurants Need a Make Up Air Unit For the Kitchen

2. Fix air distribution problems

Has your space been renovated at some point, without also updating the HVAC system? Or have the usage and occupancy patterns changed?

If so, it’s possible that your HVAC distribution system could benefit from some design changes.

For example, your duct runs might not be ideal for the space as it’s configured and used now. The result can be stagnant and stuffy air, poor temperature and humidity control, or inconsistent conditions throughout the space.

HVAC experts can re-route the air supply and return ducts (and registers) to banish stuffy air, improve ventilation, and enhance comfort.

3. Banish contaminants and purify the air

Does the stuffy air in your space also have an unpleasant odor? If so, you might have a problem that goes beyond comfort and could actually affect your health. 

Odors can be a sign that air has high levels of dangerous contaminants. The cause could be mold growth inside your HVAC ducts, or VOCs from building materials and cleaning chemicals.

If the problem is mold, you’ll need to invest in duct cleaning and mold remediation

Learn more: Mold In Air Ducts? How It Got There and How to Get Rid of It.

For VOCs or other contaminants, air purifiers can be a big help. They can also help to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 in your space. 

Learn more: 7 Ways to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution with HVAC Technology.

4. Address humidity 

When there is too much moisture in the air (a.k.a. humidity), that can make the air feel stuffy and uncomfortably sticky. 

You might wonder about how humidity gets into a sealed building. Unfortunately, even if the windows don’t open, older buildings may not be very air-tight anymore. That means humidity seeps in through every tiny crack and crevice. Plus, certain indoor environments create extra humidity, such as spas, fitness centers, and commercial kitchens. And then it can be tricky to get rid of it.

Start by making sure your air conditioning system is appropriately sized. If your unit has a super high capacity, it may have a hard time removing humidity because it doesn’t run long enough. If you’re replacing your air conditioner, consider VRF technology that has a variable speed compressor that’s better at controlling humidity.

If you have an extremely humid environment, consider adding a dehumidifier to your air conditioning system for better HVAC humidity control.

Learn more: HVAC Humidity Control: 5 Reasons Your AC Is Ineffective

5. Get regular HVAC maintenance

Proper HVAC air flow is very important, not only for preventing stuffy air, but also for efficient and effective operation of your HVAC equipment.

Unfortunately, there are many ways that air flow can be compromised, including clogged filters, dirty coils, fan problems, and obstructions in the system. 

Getting your heating and air conditioning equipment serviced regularly (yearly at a minimum) keeps your equipment in good working condition and prevents air flow problems. 

This is the best possible scenario when it comes to banishing stuffy air… it’s an inexpensive way to breathe easier and be more comfortable. 

If you’re in the NYC metro area, Arista can help with maintenance or any of the solutions described here. Reach out to us today.