If there’s anything we know as well as HVAC, it’s asthma. Our son has had some terrible attacks over the years. When he was younger, we took him to the emergency room more times than we’d care to count.
Those experiences inspired us to invest in the best indoor air quality strategies for our own home. And we’d like to share what we found effective.
Now, we’re not telling you we cured asthma with our heating and cooling system. And, we know that not everyone has the budget to completely overhaul and upgrade their HVAC.
But, as we worked on making the air in our home cleaner, our son had fewer and fewer attacks. So, we’re outlining some of the common triggers and the tools that can combat them.
If you know that you or your family member are especially prone to one or more of these, we hope these tips help you zero in on the best solutions for your home.
Five of the most common triggers for an asthma attack are:
Let’s break these apart to see how they affect your breathing. Then, we’ll see how various HVAC solutions can help with them.
Dust mites are a common allergen and asthma trigger. And, they’re in virtually every home, no matter how clean you keep it. The best you can do is reduce their numbers.
These microscope insects cause asthma flare-ups and allergic reactions by stimulating the release of free radicals when people breathe them into their lungs. They also shed their skin, which can cause the same reaction.
Pet dander isn’t in every house, but it’s in every home that has a furry pet. It’s made up of pet fur, skin flakes, saliva, and other sheddings.
Similar to dust mites, dander causes problems when people with asthma inhale it. The substance stimulated various immune cells and proteins that cause the reaction.
Mold thrives in dark, damp spaces. Too much of it is unhealthy for anyone, but people with asthma suffer even worse.
It causes an inflammatory reaction in people’s sinuses, and that reaction is much more pronounced when someone already has a breathing problem.
Indoor air pollution is a big catch-all. That’s everything from tobacco smoke (much rarer nowadays, but it’s still around) to chemicals in cleaners to cooking and bathroom smells.
These can all affect your breathing in different ways. And, the more important point to remember just how bad indoor air pollution can be — tobacco smoke or not.
Nowadays, the air inside your home is worse than the air outside.
We wrote previously about how homes don’t breathe the way they used to. That means outside, all the junk in the air gets swept around and circulated. But, everything inside — include what you bring in — just builds up.
Humidity affects asthma in three critical ways.
On its own, breathing in humid air can cause your airways to narrow and tighten. That makes it harder to breathe.
Next, humidity makes it easier for mold to take hold and dust mites to thrive.
Finally, dust and other particles attach to water vapor in the air. When that happens, they stay suspended, where you can breathe them in rather than fall to the ground.
Now that we’ve gone over the asthma triggers to focus on, let’s look at the various HVAC tools you can use in your home to prevent and combat attacks:
If you’ve read up on our Indoor Air Quality Food Pyramid, you’ll see where we’re applying some of those ideas to asthma in particular. With that in mind, we’re organizing these four strategies by what can make the biggest impact.
For whatever reason, ventilation hasn’t exactly been a hot topic when it comes to HVAC or indoor air quality. But circulating state air out of your home while bringing in fresh air can significantly impact people with respiratory problems.
But, maybe the problem is that there’s no inexpensive, off-the-shelf solution that you can plug in and forget about.
To add more ventilation, your best bet is an ERV or energy recovery ventilator. You can read more about it here.
Basically, an ERV brings in fresh air from outside while getting rid of the air in your home. But, thanks to a heat transfer process, it keeps the warmth from your furnace or cooling from your AC in the house.
Not only does the air in your home feel fresh. This process also gets rid of dander, pollen, and other airborne pollutants that would otherwise build up inside.
A forced-air system can circulate more than just air. It will also spread contaminants from one part of your house to another. It draws air from every room, passes it all through the furnace, and then redistributes it.
The good news is that you can use your HVAC system as a sort of choke point to clear the air.
Here’s what we mean:
The filter on your furnace blocks dust and dirt coming in from the return vents from passing through the system. You can enhance that process by changing the filter monthly and upgrading to a stronger screen.
The average filter blocks large dust particles, and that’s about it. A stronger one with a higher MERV rating can also trap pet dander, pollen, mold spores, and more.
And, be sure to have your system maintained. An annual clean-and-check keeps your system running smoothly and gets rid of any dust, dirt, and other contaminants built up inside the machinery.
Based on all the ways humidity can make things worse for people with respiratory problems, it’s pretty obvious that a dehumidifier can make a big difference.
But, what’s not as well-known is that you can do much better than a model that plugs in and treats a single room.
If you really want to get serious about dehumidification, you can get a model directly attaching to your HVAC system. That way, it treats the entire home, just like your ductwork and vents reach every room in the house.
Air purification seems like the most obvious way to make the air cleaner for people with asthma. And, yes, these do work. But, we think people are relying on them a little too much lately.
These should be like the icing on your indoor air quality cake. You can make much more of an impact by starting with moisture control, filters, and ventilation.
Then, you’ll get the most out of eliminating the tiniest particles and addressing bacteria and viruses with a purifier.
If you’re looking for the best ways to improve the indoor air quality in your Barrington, IL home — or anywhere in the Fox River Valley — call or email us at Compass Heating and Air. Starting with a free consultation, we’re here and ready to help you and your family breathe better at home.