Autumn is one of the most relaxing, awe-inspiring seasons of the year. The hot days of summer gradually wind down to their end, and trees bloom with color before gracefully doffing their leaves. Not too hot and not too cold, fall is the perfect time for long, leisurely walks and time spent in front of a backyard fire pit. Unfortunately, however, for all its aesthetic appeal and soothing ambiance, fall can also wreak havoc on indoor air quality (IAQ). The following are four of the most common indoor air quality issues during autumn, as well as several tips for resolving them.
1. Indoor Airflow Drops Dramatically
On relatively temperate summer days, many people crack windows and doors to allow fresh air to flow into their homes. Surprisingly, the quality of the outdoor air can actually be significantly higher than that of the air indoors since particulates, contaminants and other allergens can be disbursed and carried away. As the weather grows much cooler, most people keep their homes sealed up. Moreover, necessary efforts to close all gaps and cracks in building materials and at all doors and windows essentially creates an airtight, winter-ready environment. Although this can certainly make the HVAC system work more efficiently, it means that all particulates that aren’t being filtered out by the HVAC air filter are constantly floating around in the indoor air. This includes any chemicals that are used for cleaning or deodorizing the home. It also includes chemicals that are the byproducts of off-gassing building materials, varnishes, paints and other structural or aesthetic elements.
The best way to permanently remove these contaminants from the indoor air is by installing a filter with a higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. During autumn, your home may be filled with particulates that your summertime air filter isn’t rated to remove. Alternating air filter types throughout the year as the nature of airborne contaminants change will ensure that you don’t experience any seasonal dips in your IAQ. If this doesn’t do the job, you can also have a whole-house air purifier installed. This supplementary equipment will remove more particulates than even the highest-rated air filter that your HVAC system can accommodate. In autumn, this may be an essential upgrade for any household with residents who live with:
- Severe asthma
- Frequent bronchial infections
Investing in a whole-house air purifier is also a good idea if you have one or more indoor pets, carpeted flooring or a home that’s located near active construction or any other unfinished landscape.
2. Constantly Changing Temperatures
Fall is a confusing time for home heating and cooling systems. It’s often cool in the mornings and at night but quite warm in the middle of the day. If your thermostat isn’t able to automatically adjust to reflect dramatic temperature changes, your HVAC system may overwork. Many HVAC systems constantly toggle between cooling and warming the home on typical autumn days, which causes them undue stress. The result is both lowered efficiency and a lower IAQ.
One of the best ways to limit stress on your HVAC system as it struggles to keep up with the constantly changing demands of fall is by having a smart thermostat installed. Whereas programmable thermostats can be set to different temperatures throughout the day, smart thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled. As such, they can check local weather forecasts and make adjustments to their own settings as needed.
3. Allergens Are Everywhere
Dust mites flourish in the fall. If the transition to fall has everyone in the home itching, sneezing and coughing, these microscopic critters could be the problem. Consider:
- Putting allergy covers on all mattresses and pillows
- Laundering all bedding in hot water at least once a week
- Shampooing all carpeting and upholstery once each month
- Switching from fabric drapes to blinds
Not only are dust mites more prevalent during autumn, but people and pets are also more present. When residents arrive, they often come tracking in a lot of outdoor debris on their shoes, hair and clothing. Mold spores and mildew are more likely to develop at this time of the year. If you have a wood-burning fireplace in your home, your air quality level takes a considerable dip as soon as you start firing it up. Although the warmth and ambiance are certainly enjoyable, a fireplace can make it much harder for everyone to breathe easy.
Some common strategies for mitigating these problems include having people leave their outdoor shoes by the front door so that dust and dirt aren’t being tracked into carpeted areas. You can also vacuum more frequently and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter. Having your HVAC system tuned up at the start of fall will optimize its ability to regulate humidity and purify the air.
4. Indoor Humidity Levels Fluctuate
In addition to spending more time indoors, people tend to do far more cooking at home during the fall. This is the time for preparing hearty soups and stews, pasta dishes and other steamy fare. With the windows and doors sealed shut, the resulting humidity has nowhere to go. Although HVAC systems are designed to regulate humidity, they can easily become overwhelmed in busy households. This can lead to stuffy, uncomfortable conditions, a lower IAQ, condensation on windows and even the formation of mold and mildew.
Depending upon your household and your indoor activities, you may have the exact opposite problem. For some Denver homes, autumn can be a time of excessively dry indoor air. Increased reliance upon your heating system and increasingly dry outdoor air can lead to dry, cracked hands, dry skin and lips and even a chronically dry, itchy throat and cough.
No matter what your humidity-related issues may be, consulting with a reputable HVAC company can help you find the right solution. This can include installing a simple, free-standing humidifier, a whole-house humidifier or using dehumidifiers to extract excess moisture. Having this additional equipment will reduce the amount of work that your HVAC must do and prevent a variety of moisture-related IAQ problems.
At True Heating & Cooling, we’ve been serving Westminster and the Greater Denver Metro area since 2015. In addition to offering reliable HVAC maintenance, repair and installation services, we also provide options for improving indoor air quality. Contact us today to find out how to get your home ready for the extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations that autumn often brings.