Fall is the time for lighting pumpkin spice or vanilla-scented candles, throwing a log in the fireplace, and sealing windows and doors closed. After long months of unbearable heat, Las Vegas residents eagerly relish the natural ambiance of the cooler season. However, before you take any of these actions, it’s important to think about your indoor air quality (IAQ). Following are several factors that can affect your autumn IAQ along with strategies for mitigating them.
The Home Is Sealed Shut
Leaving windows open at night becomes increasingly less common as temperatures take a seasonal dip in the fall. Nighttime temperatures in this area can drop as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, as summer winds down and fall ushers itself in, homes tend to remain sealed shut and completely airtight. This prevents harmful contaminants from exiting the building and keeps fresh, outdoor air from flowing in. Although central HVAC systems have filters for capturing and retaining large-sized particulates, these components are primarily designed to protect HVAC equipment rather than residents themselves.
Many of the most common airborne contaminants pass right through standard HVAC air filters. If you’re burning candles or lighting logs in your fireplace, you’re breathing in everything they release. This is also true of all chemicals that you disburse while cleaning including:
- Surface cleaners
- Oven cleaners
- Room sprays or air fresheners
Standard HVAC filters aren’t able to remove chemical contaminants or many other micro-sized allergens. With their doors and windows shut, many Las Vegas residents are slowly overwhelming their bodies with toxins just by going about their everyday routines.
Indoor Humidity Levels Tend to Be Higher
If there’s ever a time when you’re likely to see condensation on your windows, autumn is it. Not only is the home typically sealed shut at this time, but most people are spending more time indoors as well. Hot, steamy showers and hearty, home-cooked meals introduce considerable amounts of moisture into the living environment. Moreover, with far more moderate temperatures both indoor and out, air conditioners and heaters are rarely running. This means that they have little opportunity to regulate inside humidity.
If you have a busy, bustling household, a lot of cooking projects, or other factors that contribute to heavy, humid air, fall is a great time to have a whole-house dehumidifier put in. Not only will this promote higher levels of comfort, but it will also minimize the likelihood of mold spore development and mildew.
Pets Are Indoors More
Just like humans start spending more time inside during the cooler months of the year, pets often find themselves a comfy spot and nestle in too. This means having more pet dander and other allergens in the air, especially in homes with long-haired animals that are prone to shedding in cooler weather.
Even as household pets contribute to lower IAQ, they’re also affected by them. Improving the quality of your indoor air can be just as important for your cat, dog, bird, or other animals as it is for you.
How to Improve Your Home’s Autumn IAQ
The good news is that there are many things that you can do to improve your indoor air quality as the outside temperatures grow cooler. To start, you should make sure that your HVAC system has clean air filters. These components should be checked and changed at least once every two to three months. They should be changed monthly if you:
- Use your HVAC system all of the time
- Have one or more household pets
- Haven’t landscaped your yard
- Live near active construction
- Live near a freeway or busy street
You should also go throughout the home and check and clean all air registers and HVAC air grilles. If these have build-ups of dust, lint, or other debris on their surfaces, wipe them off with a damp rag or towel. Make sure that all of your HVAC air vents are fully open and that none of them are obstructed by furnishings, window treatments, or other items.
Fall is also a great time to consider upgrading from a standard HVAC air filter to one with a higher maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. Higher-rated filters can collect more particulates than standard HVAC air filters can. Smaller contaminants that might pass through a standard filter unimpeded can be caught and retained by a higher-rated filter.
It’s also important to be mindful of the chemicals that you’re willfully disbursing throughout your home. Given that your windows and doors are shut, you may want to consider switching out chemical-laden air fresheners and surface cleaners with homemade ones. Solutions with agents like white vinegar or essential oils as their active ingredients are less likely to wreak havoc on your airways than are products that contain ammonia, chlorine bleach, or surfactants. Rather than lighting candles or using aerosol cans of room freshening sprays, consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a water bottle and using this instead.
Finally, if you like burning logs in autumn, whether for warmth or ambiance, make sure that your chimney is clean. Flue cleaning services should be performed once each year. If there are people in your home with asthma, allergies, or other chronic respiratory ailments, you may not want to use your fireplace at all. Wood-burning fireplaces can be turned into gas-burning units with simple inserts. These provide the same level of warmth and ambiance, and all of their harmful byproducts are vented completely outdoors.
HVAC System Accessories That Are Worth Investing In
Sometimes the best way to protect your home’s IAQ in the fall is by having the right range of needs-specific HVAC accessories. Whole-house dehumidification is significantly more effective at moderating indoor humidity than using low-cost, standalone units in individual rooms.
Whole-house air purifiers are well-worth consideration as well. These units will capture and collect micro-fine particulates that bypass even the most sophisticated HVAC air filters. Air purifiers are an essential addition for homes with indoor smokers, multiple pets, or residents with chronic respiratory ailments. For air cleaning, there are also integrated air scrubbers that kill live pathogens, neutralize chemical contaminants, and actively clean the indoor air.
One of the major challenges of autumn is deciding whether to turn the heater or the air conditioner on. Having a smart thermostat or a programmable thermostat installed will resolve this issue. These devices can streamline HVAC operations to perfectly coordinate with the needs of each season.
Fall and General HVAC System Maintenance
It’s also important to have your HVAC system professionally maintained in the fall. This is the best time to prime your heater for the demands of winter. It’s also the best way to ensure that trapped particulates aren’t diminishing the quality of your indoor air. Although you can wipe down HVAC air vents and grilles, and change out air filters by yourself, there are many maintenance tasks that only licensed HVAC technicians can handle.
Sierra Air Conditioning & Heating has been providing reliable heating, cooling, and plumbing services to residents of the greater Las Vegas, Nevada area for more than 30 years. We also offer indoor air quality services, UV lights, and whole-house zoning. If you need help improving your home’s IAQ this autumn, call us today to schedule an appointment.