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Dust in HVAC System

Understanding and Eliminating HVAC Air Duct Contaminants for Better Air

An HVAC system is commonplace in most homes these days, which generally includes a central unit with air ducts pushing the cool or warm air throughout the home. Air conditioning has become a necessity to keep us comfortable during all four seasons of the year. However, we generally don’t think about what could be flowing and more importantly spreading throughout our home through the HVAC system. Unfortunately, for many of us, harmful air duct contaminants could be floating through the ducts and spreading throughout the home. Do you have any health concerns and can’t figure out why you have them? Below we will identify some of possible health concerns that may originate from your duct work and provide some solutions to help resolve these issues so you can have a cleaner and safer home.

Are Air Ducts Contaminates, Like Mold, Making you Sick?HVAC mold

Ever wondered if mold is traveling through your air duct and causing issues for my family. Mold isn’t just a problem with old food in the back of the refrigerator; it can also be found in any damp and dark places, like our air ducts. While most of us do not consider what is floating through the air duct, we probably should. The air ducts can be an ideal place for mold to grow, take hold, and spread its spores throughout your home when the AC or heat is running.

Did you know that mold spores can travel as far as 10 miles away?

That means no rooms in your home are safe if mold starts growing anywhere in the system. Mold isn’t just unsightly; it can also be a serious health hazard. According to the New York State Department of Health, the following are possible symptoms:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Eye irritation, such as itchy, red, watery eyes
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Throat irritation
  • Skin irritation, such as a rash
  • Headache
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Not only can mold cause health concerns, but it can also cause significant damage to your home. If left untreated, mold can undermine the structural integrity of your home leading to costly repairs. As mentioned earlier, mold is usually a sign of a high level of moisture in the home. Learn more about how high humidity can wreak havoc on the home.

What are the Possible Solutions to Resolve Mold Issues in the Air Ducts?

There are non-chemical options to help clear out any air duct contaminants, like mold, that may be in the duct work. After all, we don’t want to create additional health issues in the process of stopping the mold growth. Many chemicals fall into the category what is called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs can be just as bad for your health and cause similar symptoms to the mold exposure. What other choices do you have besides chemicals?

  • The first option is to install high-grade filter(s) in the HVAC system. A HEPA or a high-grade MERV filter can trap very small particles like mold spores and keep them from traveling throughout the home.
  • Second option is to add a UVC lamp system to the HVAC system. The UVC lamp reduces airborne bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungi.
  • If you want to take steps to lower the humidity in the home, which will also slow growth of mold, consider adding a whole house dehumidifier.

What else could be in the air ducts?

Bacteria and Viruses in the Air Ducts

Bacteria and viruses are air ducts contaminants and therefore can circulate throughout the home. On warm or cold days when the system is running more these microorganisms can find their ways from room to room. With the viruses and bacterial traveling through the system more freely, everyone in the home is at a higher risk. In fact, infections from bacteria or viruses can lead to serious issues including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Rashes
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It might seem reasonable if someone is sick in the home to isolate them in their room until after the infection runs its course. Unfortunately, these micro particles can leave one room via the return duct and get recirculated to another room if steps are not taken to slow the spread. Unfortunately, there are no quick-fix chemical solutions for internally insulated duct systems, however there are some options.

Solution for Bacteria and Viruses in Air ducts

Once again invest in a high-quality air filter and a UVC light.

  • Although a lower-lever MERV filter (13-16) will capture bacteria, it may make more sense to invest in MERV 17-20 (HEPA Level Filters) so you can be sure to capture bacteria and viruses.
    • MERV 17-20 (HEPA Filters) can capture 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. HEPA filters have been studied and shown to capture viruses as small as 0.1 to 0.3 microns.
  • Install an HVAC UV light, which can be very effective in reducing the bacteria and viruses. The UVC light through a process called ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) disrupts the DNA or the microorganism, which in turn prevents replication.

Dust and Dust Mites in the Air DuctsDust in HVAC System

Dust and subsequentially dust mites, which are microscopic pests, can live in your air ducts if nothing is done to remove the dust. If you suffer from dust allergies, these tiny intruders could be making your symptoms worse, leading to sneezing, coughing, and congestion.

Solution to Remove Air Duct Contaminants Like Dust and Dust Mites

There are several steps to take to help remove or eliminate the dust and/or dust mites from your air duct system.

  • Upgrade to HEPA filters which can capture dust mites and other allergens effectively.
  • Add a UVC light to your furnace to target dust mites and inhibit their reproduction.
  • Hire a professional that can clean the duct system.
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Air ducts have a tendency to get contaminated and dirty over time. If the conditions in your home or HVAC system is not ideal, follow the steps above and you should experience significantly clearer air in your home. Don’t underestimate the impact of unseen air duct contaminants which can be hard to resolve without taking proactive steps. By cleaning the air ducts, reducing humidity and purifying your HVAC system, you can create a healthier environment for you and your family.

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