Air conditioners can make you more comfortable on a hot day and can help you avoid overheating. However, in some cases, they can make you feel sick due to a condition sometimes known as “air conditioning sickness.” Homes and businesses with cooling systems can also have a higher risk of occupants experiencing sick building syndrome (SBS).
It’s that time of year again, where the air is so hot and stifling that you crave the relief of walking into a cool, air-conditioned building or home. Your unit works well and keeps your house cool on the hottest days, so no worries right? WRONG.
Your air conditioning unit could be becoming a health hazard to you and your family. You wouldn’t drive your car for 50,000 miles without changing the oil. The same should apply to servicing your HVAC unit. The months of June, July, and August are going to be sweltering. According to weather.com, “There is a historically large amount of background global warmth around that will likely skew all temperatures towards the warmer side for the next few months.” As mentioned in our previous blog, the La Niña will be bringing extreme temperatures. Therefore, your HVAC system will be cranked all summer. The longevity and efficiency of your HVAC unit is determined by how often it is maintained. However, there are more dire effects that lack of maintenance could have: negative health effects on YOU and your family.
Air conditioning sickness is not a serious or dangerous condition for most people. In most cases, you will start to feel better if you get fresh air. This condition, which can cause feelings of being “stuffed up” as well as a feeling of weakness or common cold, is usually caused by mold, mildew, fungi, or bacteria.
Pollutants from your HVAC unit being generated throughout your home could create new illnesses or aggravate existing problems such as allergies, asthma, and sinusitis. Don’t let yourself and the people in your home become susceptible to worsening existing health problems.
A more serious effect of dirty HVAC filters is Legionnaire’s disease. The disease is not spread from person to person, but instead through the mist produced by HVAC units. It is a severe form of pneumonia. An infection in your lungs causes them become inflamed, hinder breathing, and cause a harsh cough. Why put your family at risk to something that is so easily prevented?
Sick building syndrome has been linked to poor indoor air quality. It can be caused by HVAC systems that blow around allergens or by inadequate ventilation. Symptoms can include headaches, itchy eyes, sneezing or wheezing, sore throat, gastrointestinal issues, and other problems.
HVAC units work simply: they produce cool air and circulate it throughout your home. The hazards occur when the air being circulated throughout your home becomes contaminated, or the equipment in your unit becomes bacteria-ridden. How does this happen?
Lack of maintenance! Imagine a vacuum cleaner being used for months on end without emptying the canister. It becomes congested with dust and dirt, and works much less efficiently. Sometimes, the vacuum will even spit some of the dust and dirt back out onto your floors. The filters in your HVAC unit get clogged with dust and dirt similarly. These clogged filters result in polluted air being generated throughout your home. The filters should be changed every 30-90 days, depending on the style of the filter and the number of pets in your home. You can change these filters yourself, or contact a certified Shipley technician for assistance.
When your air conditioner is on, any mold, mildew, bacteria, and other allergens in the home get airborne. You can end up breathing this airborne matter in, and since the air conditioner can also dry out the air, it can irritate your nose and throat as well. If you’re indoors all day, eventually this can make you feel ill.
Worse, the condensation produced by HVAC units in the drain pan could cause mold and fungus to grow. As this fungus grows within your unit, its particles are being distributed in your home and yourself, your family, and your animals are being exposed. The mold could be making people in your household sick as it proliferates in the pan. Even if you don’t see the mold, if there is an odor it could still be there. The graphic below shows a severe case of mold growth in a unit.
When you spend a lot of time in an air-conditioned space, you can often prevent feeling unwell with these tips:
If you have any air conditioning sickness symptoms that are severe or seem to last, see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
If you need to have maintenance conducted on your air conditioning unit to help improve your home’s indoor air quality, contact Shipley Energy to speak to a professional. We can help you keep your air conditioner safe and healthy for your home.