Indoor Air Quality and Your AC

Indoor Air Quality and Your AC

Reducing Wildfire Smoke and Other Contaminants in the Home

We often think of our central heating and air conditioning units purely in terms of temperature control. However, their role extends beyond just maintaining a comfortable temperature. Central AC units also have a significant impact on indoor air quality, especially when wildfire smoke is present, which can dramatically affect the air we breathe. Understanding this impact can help you create a healthier, more comfortable environment in your home.

How Your AC Impacts Indoor Air Quality

Central air conditioners have an air filter that removes particles from the air before it’s circulated back into your home. These particles include dust, pet dander, pollen, and more. The filter’s primary purpose is to keep the HVAC system clean to prevent wear and tear on the unit.

The effectiveness of your furnace air filter largely depends on its MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). A higher MERV rating means the filter can trap smaller particles, effectively cleaning the air. However, not all central heating and cooling systems can handle high MERV filters due to increased airflow resistance, so it’s important to use a filter that suits your specific unit.

Another important function of an air conditioner is controlling humidity levels in your home. High humidity can lead to mold growth and increase allergen levels, while too low humidity can cause unhealthy dryness and irritation. A well-maintained AC unit should keep your home’s relative humidity in the 30% to 50% range.

The Impact of Wildfire Smoke on Air Quality In Montana

Wildfires, which have become more common and intense in recent years, significantly impact outdoor and indoor air quality in Montana. The smoke produced by wildfires contains a mix of gases and microscopic particles that can infiltrate homes, affecting indoor air quality and potentially causing health problems. These particles can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, leading to coughing, shortness of breath, and even worsening of heart and lung conditions.

How Your AC Can Help

During a wildfire event, your AC can play a vital role in maintaining good indoor air quality, provided it’s used correctly. Here’s how:

1. Keep Windows and Doors Closed

To minimize the smoke’s entry into your home, it’s best to keep windows and doors shut. Run your AC on the “recirculate” mode, if available. This setting closes the outdoor air damper, reducing the amount of outdoor air (and smoke) brought into your home.

2. Upgrade Your Air Filter

If wildfire smoke is a health concern in your household, consider upgrading to a high-MERV or HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which can effectively filter out smoke particles. Remember to check if your existing HVAC system can handle it first. It may be necessary to install a dedicated whole-home air cleaner in some cases.

3. Use Portable Air Purifiers

In addition to your AC, consider using portable air purifiers in the rooms you use the most. They can add an extra layer of protection, particularly for those with respiratory conditions.

4. Regular Maintenance

Regular AC maintenance is essential for ensuring that your system runs efficiently and effectively, improving your indoor air quality. This includes regular filter changes and professional tune-ups.

5. Seek Professional Advice

Looking for custom tailored indoor air quality solutions? Central Heating Cooling Plumbing and Electrical’s HVAC experts can assess your home’s specific needs and recommend the best approach to improve indoor air quality during wildfire season and all year round.

Understanding the relationship between your AC and indoor air quality can significantly contribute to your home’s comfort and your family’s health. Especially during wildfire season, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to maintain a safe and healthy indoor environment. So don’t neglect your AC – it does more than just keep you cool!

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