Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million Americans annually. And with each passing year, the situation gets worse. In the first half 2020 alone, a number of states including Georgia and New York have seen pollen counts near record highs and Washington, DC experienced a spike even earlier than usual this spring.
There are a number of products on the market that can help mitigate allergy symptoms and create a more comfortable indoor environment. While each individual should explore the range of solutions available to them, installing HVAC equipment designed to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) can be one route to reduce allergens in the home. HVAC installations like ductless mini-split systems, air purification technologies and proper ventilation units can help lessen allergy triggers. With these solutions, homeowners can lower the concentration of pollen in the indoor environment to promote a healthier, more comfortable space.
Ductless Mini-Split Systems
A ductless mini-split system is comprised of two main components that work together but are installed in separate places. An outdoor condenser unit is connected to a single or multiple indoor units via small refrigerant pipes. Installation by a licensed contractor is simple, requiring no ductwork and only a small exterior wall penetration to connect the refrigerant lines and electricity. Since there is no ductwork, dust and allergens that are often found in the ductwork of common ducted HVAC systems is avoided.
Ductless mini-split systems also tend to be more energy efficient while providing more flexibility to homeowners who can select different units based on their home’s individual needs. For example, if the goal of a homeowner is to reduce allergens within his or her home, he/she may choose a system that has air purification technology built-in. With this setup, the ductless air purification system constitutes one part of a total home solution. Other products like floor air purifiers offer their own unique benefits and should be considered by homeowners on a case by case basis.
Air Purification Technologies
There are many different kinds of air purification technologies on the market ranging from filters to those that utilize ultraviolet light. One patented variety of air purification technology uses nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles rich in OH radicals that can reduce the concentration of certain pollutants and odors in the home, while adding moisture to occupants’ skin.
Depending on the model in use, these technologies have been shown to inhibit a number of airborne and adhered pollutants including select bacteria and viruses, mold, allergens, pollen and hazardous substances. Harmful substances in fine particle matter (PM2.5) and pollen that are thought to cause asthma, bronchitis and other health issues tend to cling to your clothing and hair when you come in from outside. Having an air purification system can reduce the negative effects of such pollutants in your home by neutralizing these substances when you come inside, preventing the pollutants from impacting the IAQ within your home.
For those with pets or babies, IAQ is even more important to protect. Keeping air and surfaces like carpets minimized of allergens such as mites and pet dander can be a challenge. With the right air purification system, homeowners can create an environment that’s cleaner for children and more comfortable to live in with pets.
Ventilation is another important component when it comes to mitigating allergens within the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are three types of ventilation strategies: natural ventilation that occurs as air moves in and out of small holes in the home, spot ventilation that removes pollution and moisture at the source (i.e. in the kitchen with a range hood or the bathroom with a vent fan) and whole-house ventilation which uses fans and ducts to supply fresh air to the full house.
If a homeowner chooses to install a whole-house ventilation system, the right fresh air strategy is crucial. A fresh air strategy that allows for customized airflow, can operate as a stand-alone solution and can be integrated with a larger, balanced ventilation solution is a smart choice for any homeowner looking to bolster IAQ during allergy season. To provide additional peace of mind, some fan models increase speed automatically to ensure optimal output when faced with static pressure. This ensures fresh air is continually circulated throughout the home, effectively reducing the presence of allergens and other irritants.
Ensuring Year-Round IAQ Benefits
Because comfort consists of more than just having the right temperature in a room, it’s important to consider how health and cleanliness can impact IAQ. During allergy season and beyond, IAQ plays an integral role in creating a comfortable living space where occupants aren’t presented with pollen, pet dander and other allergens that can cause irritation. While there are many products on the market that can help improve IAQ, for those particularly sensitive to pollutants and irritants, those with babies or pets or those just looking for a way to stay healthier at home, investing in the right ductless mini-split systems, air purification technologies and proper ventilation can be great place to start.
Victor Flynn is a senior product manager at Panasonic Appliances Air-Conditioning North America. With over 30 years of experience, Victor has focused on developing and managing commercial and residential building products, optimizing product sell-through and improving end-user satisfaction by coordinating product development with engineering teams, developing training programs and collaborating with sales representatives and distributors.