Allergies and asthma are a growing problem. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says, “More than 26 million people in the US have asthma, and allergic asthma is the most common type, affecting around 60% of people with asthma.” Improving your home’s air quality can reduce common symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath. Start by updating your HVAC for allergy relief.

The main culprits that lead to asthma and allergies in your home include dust mites, pollen, pet dander and cockroach droppings. Your HVAC system is designed to filter these allergens (and more), but if it’s not optimized properly, it may be blowing the allergens around. Here are 4 reasons everyone should update their HVAC for allergy relief, even if you don’t personally suffer from asthma or hay fever:

An HVAC inspection and maintenance includes cleaning or replacing air filters and searching for trouble areas where mold and mildew are growing. Image: Charles Knowles/Shutterstock

1. Your HVAC System Can Be Hiding Mildew And Mold

Mildew and mold thrive off dark and damp places. And an improperly maintained HVAC system may be collecting condensation and humidity in hidden zones. Turn your contaminated AC or heating on and you may inadvertently blow the mildew and mold into the room.

HVAC allergy fix: Schedule an annual maintenance visit with a licensed professional to make sure your system is working properly. Make sure the HVAC maintenance visit includes having all ductwork cleaned and changing the air filters. In humid zones, installing a dehumidifier can keep humidity levels in check. A good humidity level is around 40%.

Here’s what your HVAC air filter may look like if you don’t regularly clean or replace it. Image: Steve Heap/Shutterstock

2. Your HVAC Filter May Be Making Your Allergies Worse

HVAC filters are meant to capture debris. But if you don’t clean or replace them regularly, they could become overloaded with allergens and blow allergens like dander, pollen and dust mites back throughout the home.

HVAC allergy fix: Clean or replace your HVAC filters every two to three months. Better yet, upgrade to a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Filters must remove at least 99.97% of contaminants in the air to earn a HEPA rating. Choose a HEPA filter with a MERV rating of at least 10. MERV ratings score the quality of the air filtration on a scale from 1 (worst) to 20 (best).

Keeping all windows closed can cause poor air quality inside your home. Get your home’s air circulating! Image: Dmitry Zimin/Shutterstock

3. Your Home’s Air Is Stagnant

Just because the temperature indoors is fine doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run your AC occasionally. Homes nowadays are so well insulated that there’s a side effect: pollutants and contaminants can’t escape.

HVAC allergy fix: Run your HVAC system regularly, even if just for 20 minutes, to circulate air. The AC ventilates your home by pumping in fresh outdoor air and pumping out the stale indoor air. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can schedule your system to run at a time and duration of your choice.

4. Other Types Of Microbes And Bacteria May Be Growing In And Around Your HVAC Unit

Besides mold and mildew, other organisms can thrive in the warm, damp and dark environment of your system. According to abatement.com, fungi, mites and bacteria that thrive there can “produce adverse effects” to one’s health. Air filters made of cotton and cardboard can provide food for these microbes, allowing them to multiply quickly.

HVAC allergy fix: Consider having your HVAC contractor install a UV light near the system’s evaporator, which absorbs the heat drawn from your home and is often the place where microbes thrive. A UV light will kill bacteria and other bio-organisms and curtail the harmful growth in your HVAC unit.

Once you allergy-proof your HVAC system, tackle the rest of your home. Here are some tips on how to have a healthier, greener home:

The Ultimate Guide To Sustainable Furniture

How To Keep Your Clean Eco-Friendly

Dealing With Asthma And Allergy Triggers In Your Home