An allergen is any substance which can trigger a response from the immune system – the result being an uncomfortable allergic reaction. The definition is vague because virtually anything can be an allergen. Some unfortunate people suffer from allergic reactions to water, sunlight, loose change and even the touch of another person!

Unfortunately, two of the five most common allergies are allergies to pollen and pet dander – both of which are extremely common in American households. In fact, approximately 50% of American homes have at least six detectable allergens present. These common household allergens include:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Fabrics
  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Cockroaches
  • Rodent dander
  • Smoke particles
  • Cat and dog dander

Airborne allergens are typically two to five times higher indoors than they are outdoors. To make matters worse, the average American now spends nearly 22 hours a day indoors.

This begs an important question: How can you reduce indoor levels of allergens? Fortunately there are several allergy solutions available for your home. Some are high-tech and require assistance from an HVAC company in Sioux Falls. Others are low-tech and may be implemented by anyone!


Install an Air Ionizer

An air ionizer takes a totally different approach to reducing levels of airborne allergens. Rather than destroying airborne particles altogether, an ionizer releases negatively charged electrical ions into the air. These ions attach themselves to positively charged particles such as dust, pollen and smoke, which in turn forces those particles to attach to one another. After the particles have clumped together, they become too heavy to remain airborne. At that point a broom or vacuum cleaner is all that’s required to remove the allergens. (And unlike UV light, an air ionizer is effective against microorganisms and inanimate particles alike!)

An ionic air purifier utilizes static electricity in the same fashion – it just takes a slightly different approach by drawing airborne particles into itself and gathering them there. Ionic air purifiers must be routinely emptied, but they effectively keep an indoor space much cleaner. Homes with small children – aka “rugrats” – can especially benefit from ionic air purifiers which prohibit large clumps of allergens from gathering on the floor.
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Install More Effective HVAC Air Filters

The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) system is used to evaluate air filter efficacy. The higher its MERV rating, the more effective the filter. An air filter with the lowest possible MERV rating of 1 is, in no uncertain terms, trash. An air filter with the highest possible MERV rating of 20 is top of the line, and would be suitable for the operating rooms of hospitals which specialize in treating high-risk patients.

The highest-quality HVAC filter typically used in residential buildings is called a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. A HEPA filter boasts a MERV rating of 17, and is accordingly capable of trapping airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns (µm) in diameter. For reference, most grains of pollen are 10 to 70 µm in diameter. Dust particles range from 1 to 100 µm in diameter, and most common bacteria are 1 to 2 µm in diameter. The HEPA filter is therefore exceedingly effective at trapping all of these allergens, and as a bonus it only requires replacement once or twice annually.
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Install a UV Air Purifier

Ultraviolet (UV) light air purifiers may be installed inside your ventilation ducts, but they are available as stand-alone units as well. Regardless of its design, a UV air purifier works on a simple principle. Just like the natural UV light in solar radiation damages the DNA in your own skin cells, so too does artificial UV light damage the DNA inside airborne viruses, mold sports, bacteria and fungi. (Note that UV light does not affect dust and other inanimate particles.)

A microorganism may have as little as one cell, so damaging the single copy of its genetic code is the rough equivalent of shooting a mosquito with a cannon. And multicellular microorganisms don’t fare much better. One recent study demonstrated that UV light effectively kills 100% of common bacteria in only five seconds. Air that has been purified via UV light is perfectly safe to breathe in, which is only part of the reason why it is increasingly utilized in hospitals, hotels and private residences across the country.


Take Additional Steps to Reduce Airborne Allergens

Outside of upgrading your home’s air filtration system, there are several simpler steps you can take to enjoy cleaner air.

  • Vacuum once or twice weekly
  • Keep doors and windows closed, especially during any day with a high air quality index (AQI) value
  • Prevent dust mites from breeding by removing wall-to-wall carpeting, heavy drapes and upholstered furniture
  • Prevent mold from releasing spores by maintaining your home’s relative humidity between 30 and 60%
  • Take necessary steps to eliminate cockroaches from your home, as their saliva, feces and body flakes may cause allergic reactions and complicate symptoms of asthma

If you would like assistance installing an affordable air purification solution in your home in the greater Sioux Falls, SD area, then we welcome you to contact the Haugan Heating and Air Conditioning team today!