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Could HVAC Cleaning Help Your Family Stay Healthy This Winter?

Although winter's arrival won't officially be upon us for another month or so, it certainly feels like it's already here. And of course, as many families know, this time of year is fraught with sniffles, sneezes, and shivers. Americans get nearly 1 billion colds each year -- and this is arguably the germiest season.

If you've already gotten your flu shot and have been upping your orange juice consumption (a sizable feat, considering that the average person drinks around 2.7 gallons of OJ in the average year already), you might think you're covered. But it's possible that the home features you rely on to keep your family warm and toasty could end up making you ill.

Believe it or not, your HVAC system could be to blame when you're feeling sick. We need our heating systems to keep us healthy, of course. When we're cold, your nose's silica hairs (which are your body's first defense for keeping out bacteria) aren't able to do their jobs as easily. So if your heater isn't up to snuff or is reaching the end of its 15-to-18-year lifespan, it's probably time to replace it to ensure you stay snuggly.

But replacing your heating system might not be the only task you need to check off your list. If you aren't doing enough to clean your HVAC system, you could be making yourself more vulnerable to viruses. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the inside of your home or business can have air quality that's two to five times worse than what you'll experience outside. And the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology estimates that 50% of illnesses people face are either aggravated or caused by poor indoor air quality. That's especially true for seniors, for children, and for those with respiratory issues like asthma or allergies. That means that you need to focus on making the air inside your home as clean as possible.

In most cases, that starts with changing your HVAC system's air filters. One recent survey found that 54% of American adults don't actually know when to change their air filters. For maximum efficiency, filters should be changed at least every three months. The EPA recommends merely checking the filters every month, but those who are concerned with improving their indoor air quality may actually want to change them on a monthly basis. Some homeowners swear by services that send new filters to their doors each month, which can serve as a helpful reminder to change them out.

Having the right kind of filters matters, too. Standard filters may not do quite enough to keep pathogens and other harmful contaminants out of the air around you, which is why more people are opting for electronic air filters. The EPA actually estimates that electronic air filters can reduce airborne particles by nearly 90%.

But of course, changing out your filters may not be a cure-all -- especially if your air ducts are clogged with dust, bacteria, and even mold. When ducts become clogged, warm air can't circulate throughout your home. This can make your home less comfortable and cause you to continuously breathe in non-circulating air (which can be a real problem when someone in your home is sick). Having your air ducts cleaned and disinfected by an HVAC professional once a year can provide a lot of relief.

When we crank up the heat in winter, our homes become a lot dryer. That can make things a lot less bearable for those with allergies or asthma and can actually make us more likely to become ill. According to a CNN report, more scientists now believe that homes with higher levels of ambient humidity (ranging between 40% and 60%) actually have fewer flu germs in the air and on key surfaces. Data suggests that having home humidity levels within this range can reduce the survival rate of the flu virus by up to 30%. So if your home feels especially dry, you'll want to invest in a humidifier to boost your health. Not only will you be less likely to catch the flu, but you'll be able to breathe better and the quality of your skin and hair will probably improve, too.

This winter, don't crank up the heat before assessing the state of your HVAC system. By putting in a bit of maintenance now, you may be able to keep your family healthy all season long.


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