Tips for Dealing with Spring Allergies

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Although you may be happy that warmer weather has finally arrived, you may be frustrated with the allergy symptoms it may bring with it. Unlike food allergies or allergies to certain types of animals, spring allergies often occur when the trees, flowers and other fauna are in bloom.

What are the Common Allergy Symptoms?

Spring allergy symptoms can range from the sniffles to coughing, sneezing and watery eyes. In severe cases, they can cause a person to trouble breathing and can affect their ability to concentrate. Allergy symptoms can make a person feel ill and have a negative impact on their school or work performance.

Identifying the Causes of Allergies

If a person believes that they have allergies, it is highly recommended that they go to a specialist who can help them identify exactly what they are allergic to. An allergy specialist may give you a skin test or a blood test. Skin tests often include pricking the skin with a small amount of the suspected allergen. If you are allergic to that particular allergen, you will form a red bump at the site of the prick.

Tips to Prevent Allergy Symptoms

If a specialist is able to identify a particular allergen that is causing you trouble, they may have medication that you can take that will reduce the symptoms and make you feel better. However, if your symptoms are not severe enough to warrant prescription medication or they are more troublesome than normal, there are some natural remedies you can use to keep your symptoms at bay.

For example, nasal irrigation may potentially help clean out the sinuses, which could make breathing a little bit easier. To do this, you will need to mist up a solution of warm distilled water, a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. A neti pot or squeeze bottle is then used to administer the solution into the sinuses. It is important to note that this works for some and not for others, so if you do not see any improvements, you may need to find alternative treatments.

Spring Cleaning to Get Rid of Allergy Symptoms

If you are allergic to pollen and other types of biological allergens, you can help make yourself feel better by making sure your home is free of them. Vacuuming at least once a week and doing the occasional dusting can keep your exposure levels at bay. Be sure to change out or wash your furnace filters, depending on the type that you use, on a regular basis so that you can be sure that the airborne allergens are being removed from the air that you are breathing. You can also install a whole-home air cleaner like these to improve your indoor air quality.

You can also prevent some allergens from getting into your home by removing your shoes before you come inside. If you spent the day outdoors, a quick change of clothes can prevent you from transporting pollen and other allergens all around your home. Finally, you may find it appropriate to shower before jumping into your sheets. This way, you can breathe a little easier and get a refreshing night of rest.

Stay Healthy and Productive

When you find a system of keeping the allergens at bay that works for you, you will be amazed at just how much better and more energized you feel. Note that, in addition to keeping pollen and other biological allergens out of your home and taking medical precautions, it is always helpful to eat a healthy diet, stay active and stay positive.

Taking Control of Indoor Pollutants During the Winter

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

During the winter when temperatures remain low, keeping the home airtight and warm may be of the highest priority for many homeowners. While sealing off the home from the outside world will save money and keep inhabitants warmer, there is a major drawback. Sealing up the home can cause indoor air pollutants to also become trapped in the recirculating air, potentially causing feelings of illness or other more severe symptoms.
What are Indoor Pollutants?

Indoor pollutants can range from biological allergens like pet dander and pollen to harmful or even toxic particles called volatile organic compounds. Pollutants can be brought indoors from outside or they may be generated inside from appliances or even from the home’s heating unit.

Before you can begin to improve the indoor air quality in your home, you will need to determine where the pollutants are coming from. Volatile organic compounds can be found in many household supplies, personal care products, furnishings and paints. Fireplaces, dryers and other appliances also give off combustion pollutants when they are used. Finally, biological pollutants can be created when the pets shed, mold and mildew buildup in the damp places or if you bring them in from outside. For example, you can potentially bring in pollen, environmental tobacco smoke and pesticides on your shoes.

Symptoms that can be Caused by Indoor Air Pollutants

Poor indoor air quality can make you and other family members feel ill. It can cause watery eyes, coughing and sneezing. When the air quality is very poor, you may even suffer from headaches and upper respiratory congestion. In worst case scenarios, sufferers may even get nose bleeds more easily, have difficulty breathing or even develop a severe lung disease.

Because these symptoms are associated with other illnesses, you may not think about your indoor air quality when you are suffering these symptoms. However, if you feel better when you are away from home, then it may be worth taking steps to improve your indoor air quality.

Simple Ways to Reduce Indoor Pollutants

It is just a fact of life that you, your pets and your appliances will always be producing air pollutants. While you can certainly reduce the amount of some pollutants in your home, making your air permanently cleaner for the winter will involve your heater. Your heating equipment is responsible for circulating the air when your home is sealed off, so any pollutants that are in the home will have to pass through your heater first. As such, ensure that you clean or replace the filter once every 30 days during the winter. If you have a regular filter, you can upgrade to a HEPA filter, which collects smaller particles and prevents them from going back into the circulating air.

Another way you can improve your indoor air quality is to stop using products that leave pollutants in the air. For example, choosing to use green cleaning supplies and non-aerosol personal care products can reduce the amount of pollutants you are adding into the air. Additionally, if you are involved in hobbies that require paint or chemicals, working in a well-ventilated room, even if it is cold, will prevent you from breathing in the fumes. To keep biological pollutants at bay, you can up your vacuuming and dusting game to prevent a buildup of irritants. Shoes should be taken off outside or be left at the front door.

During the winter, it is important for everyone to be aware of their indoor air quality and how to combat them. By being vigilant, you can ensure that the air you are breathing while stuck indoors is clean.

 

The Importance of Humidity

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Many homeowners do not understand just how important the amount of humidity in their homes can be. The amount of moisture in the air can dictate how the inhabitants of a home may feel or even allow for certain unwanted organisms to grow within the home. However, maintaining humidity levels may be the last thing on your mind, especially if you are busy keeping your air conditioner, roof and gutters maintained. Regardless, adding the maintenance of humidity levels could greatly improve the way that you feel while hanging out at home.

 
Dealing with Dry Air

You may find that you suffer from dry sinuses, dry skin and chapped lips during the winter time or when the air becomes particularly dry during the summer. Dry indoor air can cause a person to suffer from nosebleeds, headaches and other associated illnesses.

The main way to increase the humidity level within the home is to purchase a humidifier. There are several different types of humidifiers available, including:

  • Install a Central Humidifier: These humidifiers are included as part of the home’s HVAC system and are designed to raise humidity levels throughout the home.
  • Impellar Humidifiers: These humidifiers have a rotating disk installed that produces a cool mist.
  • Steam Vaporizers: Electricity is used to create a cooling steam that is then released into the air. Because this device involves hot water, it is not recommended for households that have children or pets.
  • Ultrasonic Humidifiers: These devices use an ultrasonic vibration to produce a mist that increases humidity levels.
  • Evaporators: Air is blown through a wet material, which could be a wet filter, belt or wick.

Dealing with Damp Air

High humidity levels often becomes a problem during the summer time. Occupants who suffer from certain allergies may be more likely to suffer from respiratory problems or even asthma flare-ups. Further, dust mites, molds and bacteria can also grow within the home if the humidity levels are high enough.

There are several things that you can do to lower the humidity levels within the home:

  • Purchase a Dehumidifier: Dehumidifiers suck the excessive moisture from the air and collect it in a reservoir.
  • Install a Permanent Dehumidifier
  • Run the Air Conditioner: When air is forced through the air conditioner, the air is not only cooled but dried.

What are the Ideal Humidity Levels?

In general, humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. If the home does not have proper ventilation, the indoor air can become stale and dry. However, if too much moisture is added to the indoor air, the occupants of the home could also suffer from symptoms associated with the flu while the growth of harmful bacteria and other organic contaminants may be assisted.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that homeowners keep their indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. If you or another occupant suffer from allergies, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor about what humidity levels would be right for you.

How do I Measure My Home’s Humidity Levels?

The device used to test humidity levels is called a hygrometer, which resembles a thermometer. While these devices can be purchased at any of your local hardware stores, many humidifiers also come equipped with a hygrometer to help keep indoor humidity at a healthy level. Hydrometers come in both analog forms and digital forms, both of which are simple to use and allow you to better control the conditions within your home.

 

Tips for Surviving Spring Allergies

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

4. Pollenallergy-suffering-woman-young-sick-ill-spring-using-tissue-nose-49402168With the weather finally warming up, it’s time to open the windows and spend some quality time outdoors. For those who suffer from severe spring allergies, however, this time of the year can lead to congestion, sneezing and sniffling. Not only can these symptoms make it difficult to breath, but sufferers also often have trouble concentrating in school or at work. Even if you are already on medication, there are several ways you can give your sinuses some relief.

Check Pollen Counts

When it comes to the amount of pollen in the air, some days are worse than others. If your allergies are severe enough, you may need to plan your outdoor activities with your local pollen count. Weather.com provides an allergen forecast that you can use to see your local pollen and mold levels. If the levels are high, you may want to workout indoors or choose another indoor activity for the day.

Change Your Clothing

Pollen particles can take a ride on your clothing and attach to your shoes. To reduce the amount of pollen you bring in to your home, consider changing out of your work or school clothing as soon as you get back. Leave your shoes by the door and deposit your clothes into a closed hamper so pollen and other contaminants are contained. This way, you won’t be tracking allergens around your house and onto your furniture.

Close Your Windows

If you are allergic to pollen, the last thing you want to do is allow the pollen particles into your home. Keeping your windows closed will keep the pollen out. On the days where the pollen count is low, throw those windows open and enjoy a fresh breeze through your home.

Install a Whole-Home Media Air Cleaner

The air you breathe inside your home could be the most polluted air you breathe all day. In fact the EPA has named indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. With the amount of time spent indoors, it’s no wonder so many people suffer from allergies, asthma and other illnesses. Check out some of the air purity products that we carry here. We also install UV Lights and other indoor air purity products.

Wear a Surgical Mask

While the idea of wearing a surgical mask seems silly, they can actually help keep pollen and other allergens out. In fact, people in many places around the world, such as Japan and Korea, utilize the masks to stay healthy when the pollen counts get high. These surgical masks now come in a variety of styles and colors so you can still look stylish while working in the garden. Look for the masks that are marked N95 as these have been shown to filter out 95 percent of pollen and other contaminants.

Take Care of Yourself

It is no secret that allergies can take a huge toll on your general well-being. Even though the symptoms can be annoying, brushing off your headache or congestion can be detrimental to your health. If your symptoms are making you feel ill or are preventing you from getting your work done, consider taking a sick day if possible. Pushing through can put unneeded stress on your body and actually cause you to get sick, making you feel worse than you already do.

Do You Actually Have Allergies?

If you live in an area that has versatile weather, the swing from cold to hot can cause bodily symptoms that are very similar to allergies. In general, you most likely have allergies if you only suffer the symptoms after spending the day outside or are around pollen and other triggers. If you are suffering from symptoms that last longer than two weeks or you’re suffering from aches and even fevers, you may actually be sick. Consider talking to your doctor.

No matter where you live, it is practically impossible to avoid spring allergies, especially if you live in an area where lots of plants grow. However, you can relieve your symptoms by being smart about staying away from allergens and triggering your allergies.

Why Every Home Should Have an Air Purifier

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Your indoor air quality should always be on your radar. Homes that have poor indoor air quality are often difficult to breathe in and can result in general ill feelings and problems with asthma or allergies. One way to improve your indoor air quality is to find an air purifier that works for your home. An air purifier will help you breathe more easily and make your home feel more comfortable. 

 

What Does an Air Purifier Do?

Air purifiers are devices that help remove contaminants from the circulating air. Some of the contaminants that they help to remove can include pet dander, mold spores and dust, all of which can trigger allergies. Air purifiers can also help remove smoke particles and various volatile organic compounds, contaminants that contribute to sick building syndrome. Depending on the size of your home, you may opt for one that is stand-alone or one that can be installed as a part of your HVAC system.

Aprilaire Air Cleaners

Eliminating Allergies and Reducing Respiratory Problems

Allergens are always going to be present in your home. There are many people who are extremely sensitive to these allergens, especially young children. If you have pets in the home, for example, you may find yourself feeling slightly ill or even sneezing more than usual. An air purifier will filter out the dander from your circulating air so you don’t have to worry about breathing in your cat or dog’s dander.

Poor indoor air quality can also impact those who have respiratory illnesses or problems such as asthma. Attacks for some who have respiratory diseases can lead to loss of breath and can even be deadly in certain situations. By keeping the air quality within the living space as high as possible, families can reduce the potential for these attacks to occur while making it easier to breathe. 

Get Rid of Unpleasant Smells in the Home

Your home’s furniture, carpets and bedding can soak up odors from a wide variety of sources, making your home smell dirty. Sources could include, for example, dirty diapers, sports or gym equipment and even your pets. Some of the smells may even be coming from a neighboring home or apartment depending on where you live, meaning you may not feel like you have control over how your home smells. Because many people are very sensitive to these types of smells, a home that smells dirty can make it impossible to relax. When no amount of cleaning works to rid your home of that strange unpleasant odor, an air purifier can give your living space a boost of freshness.

Deal with the New Home Smell

If you’re moving into a home that has just been built, the home may still smell of new paint and new carpeting. While the smell may not necessarily be unpleasant, it can cause you to have headaches and exacerbate any health problems you or your family members may have. New carpeting, paint and even new furniture often have formaldehyde and other preservatives that are dangerous when breathed in for long periods of time. Even if your new home does not have much of an odor, VOCs can still be found in low-odor materials. 

Stay Happy and Healthy

Fresh, healthy air is important to your well-being. When you simply can’t properly ventilate your home by opening the windows due to poor outdoor air quality or cold weather, the right air purifier can give you some peace of mind knowing that the air that you’re breathing is still clean and healthy.

 

Indoor Air Pollution: Biological

Friday, July 17th, 2015

Biological contaminants, such as bacteria, viruses, mold spores and mildew, are produced within the home. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), mold and other biological pollutants are commonly found in homes that have damp areas or are poorly ventilated. Like any living organisms, biological pollutants need basic nutrients and water to survive. which make poorly ventilated bathrooms and damp basements perfect breeding grounds.
Like airborne pollutants, mold and mildew can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Symptoms can include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches and fatigue. For very sensitive individuals, mold and mildew can even cause severe respiratory infections, and can even result in mold infections in the lungs. For homes with airtight ventilation systems, bacteria and viruses are more easily spread between residents, but are also prone to breeding in humid locations.
Bacteria

Where biological pollutants grow at home:

 

  • Poorly ventilated areas or appliances allow a build-up of moisture, which can potentially become breeding grounds for contaminants.
  • Water reservoirs are ideal for a number of different viruses, bacteria and mold. These ideal water reservoirs can often be found in humidifiers, hot tubs or spas, vaporizers and even air conditioners. These appliances also have the ability to disperse anything growing into the air.
  • Building materials made from cellulose, including wood and drywall, can grow mold or mildew if they remain wet for longer than 48 hours.

How to keep biological air pollutants at bay:

  • Keep the humidity level at home as low as possible. Humidity levels will change throughout the day, so checking on humidity levels several times a day is ideal. Dehumidifiers can help keep these levels down, particularly during months that tend to be more humid.
  • Check pipes frequently for any possible leaks or dampness. If leaks are present, fix the problem as quickly as possible.
  • Mold inhibitors can be added to paints before being applied to walls inside the home. Further, there are numerous products that have mold and mildew-killing agents added to them that are perfect for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens. These will also help to kill any bacteria present.
  • Installing exhaust fans that vent outside the home will help to eliminate moisture buildup.

If mold is found in the home, it is imperative that it be removed. There are mold tests available; however, the CDC has stated that there are no standards for judging how much mold can be considered safe. If mold can be seen or if there is a musty odor within the home, there is a potential health risk.

Sometimes flooding happens, especially after sudden downpours or during the spring when the snow melts quickly. As soon as possible, remove waterlogged carpet or furniture as these are ideal breeding grounds for mold, mildew and bacteria.

It has been estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that over 100 million Americans are living in toxic environments caused by biological pollutants. It is recommended that if there has been significant water damage from flooding or if mold and mildew cover more than 10 feet of any surface, to contact a health professional and an experienced contractor. Do you have further questions or need assistance? Fill out the form below so we can help.

 

Preparing Your Air Conditioner for the Cooling Season Part 2

Friday, April 24th, 2015

General Cleaning and Maintenance of the Evaporator Coil:

A Coil

Depending upon your air conditioner, the evaporator coil may or may not be accessible for routine cleaning. Before performing any work on the coil, make sure to cut the power to the unit.

  • The easiest way to keep the evaporator working efficiently is to keep routinely replace or clean the filter and gently vacuum the fins from the side of the blower.
  •  Some models have oil ports on the blower. If these are accessible, lubricate the ports by adding a few drops of electric motor oil.
  • If the condensation tubes are flexible plastic, they can be pulled off and cleaned.

 

Cleaning or Replacing the Filter:
Furnace Filter

One of the easiest ways to keep your air conditioning unit working at its peak efficiency is to regularly change the air filters. If you have a reusable filter, it simply needs to be removed and washed with water. If you have a disposable filter, you will need to purchase a new one on a regular basis.

  • Locate the filter on your unit. It should be covered by a slotted metal door. Check your unit’s manual if you are unsure of the exact location. The door may have screws holding the filter in place. You will need to remove the door in order to change the filter.
  • You will need to know the size of your filter. The size should be located along the top or side of the filter. If no filter is present, you can either measure the filter area or it will be stated in the owner’s manual.
  •  Choose a suitable replacement filter. There are a number of types to choose from, including conventional, pleated, HEPA and electrostatic filters. Conventional filters are made of fiberglass and are the most inexpensive. Pleated filters are the most common types of filters used in the home and remove up to 40 percent of impurities from indoor air. HEPA filters work best for households that have family members who are highly allergic to pet dander and pollen. Electostatic filters are reusable and remove up to 90 percent of impurities from the air.
  •  Switch the old filter with the new filter. As you remove the old filter, look for the arrows on the side of the filter. This indicates the air flow direction. When you replace the new filter, you want to make sure that the arrows are facing the same way. The new filter should fit snugly into your unit.
  • Replace the slotted metal door.

How often the filter needs to be changed depends upon the type of filter that you purchased and several factors within your home. Some filters are only good for one month, while others recommend that they be changed every three months. However, if there are pets or a family member smokes indoors, the filter may become clogged before its recommended change date.