April 9, 2022
7 Ways Spring Weather Affects Your Indoor Air Quality
Spring weather in St. Louis, MO can be a wild, unpredictable ride. With strong, gusty winds, ample rain, hail storms, and tornadoes, many residents aren’t eager to greet this often volatile season. Sadly, even when you’re nestled safely inside, there’s still the issue of greatly diminished indoor air quality (IAQ). The good news is that you have a far better ability to manage the environment inside of your home than you do the environment outdoors. The following are seven springtime IAQ concerns along with a few tips for mitigating them.
1. Dirty Air Filters, Vents, and Ductwork
Spring in St. Louis often comes on the heels of severe winter weather and an extended cold season. It’s not uncommon for locals to see record-breaking snowfall in mid-March. When compared to locations with shorter and more temperate winters, this means far more strain on central heating systems. By the time that April arrives, your HVAC system is likely riddled with dirt, dust, pet hair, and other accumulated debris.
If the weather stays cold throughout all of early spring, you may make the mistake of skipping or delaying your regular HVAC maintenance. One of the best things that you can do to boost your IAQ during this time of the year is to give your heater and air conditioner a break while you clean all air registers or grills, replace your HVAC air filter, and set up a maintenance appointment. This is especially important to do if you’ve got one or more pets who are constantly in the home during winter.
2. Chemical Pollutants
Although a thorough spring cleaning can give your home a fresh and perfectly organized look, it doesn’t always have the greatest impact on IAQ. When you’re busy clearing out clutter, you may be stirring up lots of dust, cobwebs, pet hairs, and mold. This is especially true if your spring cleaning routine takes you down into the basement, up into the attic, or through damp, musty closets that rarely get used.
Not only is your IAQ negatively impacted by your general movements during a good spring clean, but it’s also affected by the products that you use throughout this process. Air fresheners and odor neutralizers typically contain a variety of chemicals that may be harmful when breathed in large amounts or over extended periods of time. Even after these products dissipate, they’ll still leave micro-fine particulates behind. Worse still, most HVAC air filters aren’t rated to capture and to retain super small contaminants like these. Surface cleaners, furniture polish, and even carpet shampoos can have the same effect.
Your IAQ could become especially low if you finish your spring cleaning off by:
- Lighting candles
- Lighting incense
- Building a real wood fire
- Doing some light touch-up painting
Be conscious of how these activities and the products that you use when you complete them affect the air that you’re breathing in. Consider using diluted essential oils for cleaning, disinfecting, and deodorizing. When store-bought cleansers must be used in large quantities, be sure to turn your HVAC system off, open a few windows and doors, and air your house out. You can also look for HVAC air filters with higher maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings. A highly rated filter will pick up finer contaminants and provide a better level of air filtration overall.
3. Migratory Birds Near Outdoor Air Intakes
Springtime is incredibly busy for migrant passerine (song) birds in the greater St. Louis area. Although this is good news for birders, it may be far less so for some homeowners. Certain migratory birds are known to build nests near the air intakes of HVAC systems or in HVAC vents. Not only can this result in a lot of scratching, thumping, and other surprising noises, but it can also make your indoor air downright unpleasant. In addition to bringing twigs, leaves, and other nesting materials into these areas, these birds will also bring loose feathers and dander. If allowed to nest unchecked, local birds can additionally introduce bacteria and other harmful microorganisms by way of their food, feces, and other leavings.
If you’ve had problems with birds nesting in or near your HVAC system before, be sure to have all of the affected areas checked each spring. If you detect a nest or suspect one, schedule an appointment to have the area professionally cleaned. Spring is also a great time to implement or maintain a diligent, preventative pest management plan.
4. Outdoor Particulate Matter
Springtime surges in pollen are the bane of allergy sufferers everywhere. With more pollen in the air, it’s important to always have a clean, high-performing filter in your HVAC system. If spring happens to be exceptionally dry, this will collect any dust that gets blown inside your air ducts. You also have to account for pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that are being used outdoors on your property and by your neighbors as part of general spring maintenance. Even these contaminants can be tracked into the home. They can also enter through vents, cracked windows, and open doors.
In many areas, spring is the time when major construction projects pick back up. If you live in an area with active construction, consider changing your HVAC air filters more often and even investing in a whole-house air purification system. Although high-performing filters can do quite a bit when it comes to removing fine particulates from the air, these components do not purify the air by eradicating harmful bacteria and viruses. Moreover, they aren’t rated for picking up many of the most common chemical contaminants in households including those produced by off-gassing and other events that occur across all building materials as the weather warms up.
5. Mold and Mildew
Spring is warmer than winter and it can also be far more humid. This is especially true in late spring as the local temperatures move closer to their summertime highs. Having a clean air filter and a well-maintained HVAC system can go a long way toward preventing mold and mildew growth. When HVAC systems are performing exactly as they should, they’re able to moderate humidity levels indoors. However, if you’ve got a lot of people living in your home, if you do a lot of cooking, or if your family is prone to taking lots of long, hot baths and showers, excess humidity could be an issue. Check your windows for condensation, and look for damp, discolored surfaces in corners, closets, and ceilings. If your home is perpetually damp, investing in a whole-house dehumidifier is a great way to prevent mold and to protect your IAQ.
6. More Traffic
In many parts of Missouri, street traffic picks back up in spring. Anxious to be outside of the house after months of heavy snow, a lot of consumers return to everyday driving. This too can be an indoor air quality concern if you live near a freeway or near any other busy street. In these instances, limiting how often you keep your windows and doors opened wide can make a huge difference in your IAQ. Where traffic-related air pollution exists, the outside air can be just as toxin-addled as the air indoors.
7. Rambunctious Pets
As pollen levels increase outdoors, household pets are often eager to frolic in it. After being cooped up inside for several long months, your cat or dog will probably be eager to take a roll in the grass, and nose their way through shrubs and bushes. Try to minimize the number of allergens that get tracked back in by your pets by regularly brushing their coats and having them professionally groomed often.
At Scott-Lee Heating Company, we offer a comprehensive range of indoor air quality services. Residents of St. Louis and the surrounding areas can turn to us for whole-house dehumidifiers, air purifier installation, HVAC maintenance, and more. We also offer the Aprilaire Healthy Air System. If you’re looking for ways to protect or improve your home’s indoor air quality this spring, call us today to schedule a consultation.