7 Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality With HVAC Technology
Did you know that the air outside of your O’Fallon, MO home might be cleaner than your air indoors? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the indoor concentrations of certain pollutants are up to five times higher than the concentrations outside. This remains true even when homeowners have high-performing and well-maintained HVAC systems. The good news is that there are several ways to reduce indoor air pollution with HVAC technologies. The following are seven of them.
1. Take Advantage of the “V” in HVAC
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Unfortunately, many companies and consumers overlook the “V” in HVAC. This is especially true now that the emphasis is on improving the efficiency of heating and cooling equipment by tightening home envelopes. Although having a tight home envelope prevents your heated and cooled air from escaping outdoors, an overly tight envelope also prevents fresh, outdoor air from flowing in. Excessively tight home envelopes keep toxins trapped inside and create stale, stagnant, and often unpleasant-smelling air.
Buildings typically “breathe” through a process known as induction whereby indoor air seeps out through cracks and gaps in building materials and outside air replaces it. As you seal up openings around your windows and doors, add insulation, and take other envelope-tightening measures, it’s important to incorporate one or more forms of mechanical ventilation. These include:
- Exhaust fans
- Supply fans
- Balanced ventilation
- Energy recovery ventilation
Each of these options comes with both benefits and drawbacks. To reach your indoor air quality (IAQ) goals, it’s vital to find the right ventilation type for your household.
You likely have exhaust fans in your home already. These are typically found in bathrooms and in kitchens as part of range hoods. If you aren’t using your exhaust fans regularly, now is the time to start doing so. These units draw high concentrations of indoor toxins out in rooms where higher than normal concentrations of toxins are usually disbursed or produced. They remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) created by cooking projects along with many of the chemicals that are disbursed when using spray-on deodorants, perfumes, hair sprays, and other common self-care products. However, they do not remove all of these pollutants.
You can upgrade your home’s exhaust fans by installing a single, centrally located unit. This can then be connected by ducts to several rooms. Exhaust fans work by depressurizing buildings so that stagnant air is drawn out and “breathing” by induction is enhanced. Unfortunately, powerful exhaust systems pose the risk of bringing outside pollutants into the living space, such as exhaust fumes from vehicles just outside of the home. They can also pull mold, dust, and other contaminants from basement areas and crawl spaces.
Supply systems pressurize homes with powerful fans. This gives homeowners more control over the air that flows into their dwellings so that the in-flow of outdoor pollutants is minimized. Much like their name implies, balanced systems introduce fresh outdoor air and remove stale indoor air in equal measure so that homes are neither pressurized nor depressurized during their operation.
For a more sophisticated and benefit-rich form of mechanical ventilation, consider your options in energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) and heat recovery ventilators (HRVs). These systems produce marked improvements in indoor air quality without negatively affecting the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. They can share ductwork with all other heating and cooling equipment, or they can have ductwork of their own. They offer a controlled and balanced way to exchange polluted, indoor air with the cleaner, fresher air outdoors, and without opening windows or paying the high costs of HVAC-related energy loss.
2. Have a Whole-House Air Purifier Installed
Air purification technologies are excellent for homes with high levels of indoor toxins. Whole-house air purifiers are installed directly within HVAC air ducts. These units capture and retain airborne particulates that aren’t collected by standard HVAC air filters. Most are capable of removing VOCs, bacteria, mold, viruses, and other allergens and pathogens. They use multi-stage filtration along with secondary air-cleaning techniques. Some disburse gaseous hydrogen peroxide into the air to kill harmful organisms. Others use UV lights.
3. Invest in Humidification or Dehumidification Equipment
Balancing the humidity in your home is a critical part of protecting your IAQ. With too much moisture in the air, you’re bound to struggle with mold issues. Although HVAC systems regulate indoor humidity along with indoor temperature, certain household-specific and environmental factors could create the need for supplementary humidity control. For instance, if you have a large household, you probably have lots of people taking hot baths and showers throughout the day, and there are probably a lot of indoor cooking projects completed as well.
Whole-house dehumidification equipment is installed directly on the return ducts of HVAC systems. It removes excess moisture from the indoor air after the HVAC system has already performed its own humidity control. You might need a whole-house dehumidifier for IAQ improvements if you regularly have condensation on your windows, blooms of mold in bathroom areas, or soft, damp, or discolored drywall.
Similarly, having insufficient moisture in your air can set the stage for mold growth and IAQ issues as well. Dry, dusty homes give micro-sized organisms plenty to feed on. It also creates uncomfortable indoor conditions that could lead to dry nasal passages, nighttime nosebleeds, and other problems.
4. Upgrade Your HVAC Air Filter
Standard HVAC air filters are built to protect HVAC equipment. These components sift out large-sized particulates from the air so that they don’t settle on evaporator coils, thermocouples, or other sensitive heating and cooling system components. If you want air filtration that reliably improves your IAQ, you can upgrade your standard air filter to an option with a higher maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. However, it’s important to note that the higher rated a filter is, the more stress it will place on your HVAC system. If you want the IAQ benefits of a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, you’ll have to work with a licensed HVAC company to refine your HVAC system to accommodate this upgrade.
5. Consider Installing an Air Scrubber
For decades, air-scrubbing technologies have been used in medical and research facilities to eliminate airborne pathogens and other contaminants. Now, homeowners can take advantage of them too. These units draw toxin-laden air from the home and then pass it through a series of filters. They also release ionized oxidizers that float through the air and clean it as they go.
6. Explore the Benefits of UV Light Sanitization
Installed directly in HVAC air ducts, UV lights leverage the power of ultraviolet radiation to kill mold, mildew, bacteria, viruses, and more. If you have a pervasive or recurring mold issue in your home, or if building residents are constantly sick, UV light sanitation could be the perfect choice for improving your indoor air quality.
7. Limit Humidity With a VFR HVAC System
If excess humidity is the primary cause of your indoor air quality concerns, consider installing a VFR or variable-flow refrigerant system. These zoned HVAC systems balance indoor moisture year-round so that humidity levels consistently remain between 30% and 50%. They’re a good choice for homeowners who need dehumidification equipment during the summer months and humidifiers during the winter. VFR systems also prevent hot and cold spots throughout the building while providing enhanced efficiency and custom air delivery through zoning.
Whether exploring integrated HVAC technologies or total system upgrades, we can help you make an informed and highly beneficial selection. We proudly serve residents of O’Fallon, Missouri and the surrounding areas. We provide heat pump, air conditioner, and furnace services. We also offer geothermal systems and advanced indoor air quality solutions. To find out more about improving your home’s IAQ or to schedule an appointment, contact Hoff Heating & AC today.