Keeping Your Indoor Air Quality Healthy With Proper Air Conditioning Maintenance
In recent years, news reports from Seattle and the surrounding area have warned residents about unhealthy air quality levels. These reports let you know how polluted the air is on a scale from zero to 500. The highest number denotes the lowest and most concerning air quality. In September 2022, for example, the air quality index (AQI) was close to 200, thus making it unhealthy for many residents. Similar to the AQI, there is an indoor air quality (IAQ) index to measure breathing conditions in your home.
At Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning, we get quite a few inquiries from customers concerned about IAQ levels in their Seattle homes. One of the most common concerns in this regard is related to IAQ and air conditioning. This is a valid concern because it ties into one of the primary functions of AC units, which is re-circulation. The cooling process and mechanisms can have an impact on IAQ, and it is important to understand them.
Understanding the IAQ Index
Similar to its outdoor counterpart used by environmental protection agencies, the IAQ index is scored numerically. The scale runs from zero to 150, and it accounts for the detected levels of the following pollutants:
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Particulate matter
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
VOCs are chemicals emitted from sources ranging from paints to cleaning products and from linens to furniture. Particulate matter comes from dust, pollen, traffic, and construction. CO2 is a gas that is produced by the exhalations of humans, animals, and plants. These pollutants present a risk of turning into pathogens at high levels.
In essence, IAQ is a score with zero being the cleanest air and 150 being the most polluted. IAQ testing companies use the IAQ index to measure conditions inside living spaces. The IAQ helps to identify potential problems that may arise from AC recirculation.
You always want to score the lowest on an IAQ index test. Companies providing these services use portable testing units with handheld components to measure your home’s IAQ. These devices are equipped with sensors that detect gases, particles, and other pollutants. When the sensors react to the pollutants, a signal is converted into a number used for the IAQ score. Some modern thermostats, particularly those that are part of smart home automation systems, provide IAQ monitoring. These thermostats can alert homeowners if the IAQ in the home reaches unhealthy levels.
How Air Conditioning Affects Your Indoor Air Quality
Whether your AC system is of the central or split-mini variety, indoor air will be recirculated. When AC units recirculate air, they can trap pollutants inside the home. Naturally, this can be a problem if your home is already polluted. If the AC system is not properly maintained, chances are that IAQ will worsen over time.
Some of the issues that can diminish the quality of recirculated air can be created by inefficient AC systems. Condensation, for example, can provide a breeding ground for mold and mildew spores. Some AC units can excessively dry out the air inside the home, thus allowing certain particles to circulate freely. Inadequate air filters can fail to trap pollutants, increasing their recirculation inside your home.
You can improve IAQ score by leaving the windows open and using a ceiling fan when possible. AC systems keep your home comfortable by taking indoor air, cooling it, and blowing it back. As long as the air is recirculating in living spaces, IAQ will be affected positively or negatively depending on the measures you use to control indoor pollutants.
The Importance of Proper Air Conditioning Maintenance
AC maintenance is also essential for maintaining good IAQ. When our technicians inspect your AC, they check for issues that may impact your IAQ. In most cases, Seattle customers who adhere to AC maintenance schedules should not have to worry about having severe issues with IAQ. This is not the only strategy to improve IAQ, but it is crucial because you don’t want your AC to be the culprit.
Many of our Seattle customers are surprised to learn that their AC systems contribute to their IAQ. If the IAQ monitor scores your home in the fair to poor categories, chances are that something is happening with the AC system. An AC maintenance call can often result in an immediate IAQ improvement.
If our technicians see that wear and tear or damage is compromising the system, they will likely assume this is the issue. An AC unit that is not running efficiently can definitely harm your home’s IAQ. It all begins with the AC filter, which is always the first line of defense against pollutants. If the filter is worn-out, or if the type you use is not efficient in trapping certain particles, it should be replaced. The same can be said about the coils; when they get dirty, they reduce efficiency, thus increasing the risk of mold growth.
There are also situations in which the configuration of the AC system is not the most adequate. In a recirculated air system, there needs to be some level of fresh air intake. If we see that IAQ can be improved with more fresh air, we may reposition the intake. If your AC system is equipped with an air handler, damper, or return air duct, the issue may be solved differently.
During an IAQ service call, our technicians also look into the possibility of technical improvements. A smart thermostat with IAQ monitoring is one such improvement, particularly if someone in your home has to deal with environmental sensitivity. There are also air purifiers that actively work towards eliminating pollutants and bacteria from the air.
Installation of an air purifier should not preclude proper AC maintenance. When it comes to improving IAQ, you always start with the AC system and go from there. Our technicians may recommend a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter before suggesting the installation of an air purifier. Other customers may benefit from dehumidifiers and even humidifiers, but this is often related to personal preference or medical recommendation. A frequently maintained AC system can keep your IAQ score in the fair to excellent categories. If you need to maintain excellent IAQ scores at all times because of health concerns, this is when purifiers, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers come into play.
IAQ is one of the various services Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning provides to homeowners in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Let us know if you have questions about IAQ or how your AC unit can improve breathing conditions at home. We also offer professional HVAC, including installation, repair, and maintenance. Additionally, our team offers a complete line of electrical services in residential, commercial, and retail locations. We will make sure that everything is up to code. Water heater services, including both traditional and tankless options, are also provided by Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning. We can even clean out your fireplace in time for the cold winter months.
Our company has served the Pacific Northwest area for over 20 years. Our technicians are fully licensed and NATE-certified. Contact Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning today to find out more about how we can help you with your indoor air quality.