It’s that time of year again—time to open the windows! Unfortunately, with the warmer temperatures also comes an increase in pollen and other irritants that can put a damper on your springtime fun. Now that all that fresh air is blowing through your home, your seasonal allergies may be acting up again, with sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose making it difficult to enjoy the added hours of daylight. Is there anything you can do?
Consider an Air Filter or Purifier
Your HVAC unit already has an air filter, which (hopefully) you change or wash regularly. But if allergies (also known as hay fever) are a real problem, you may want to consider a supplemental stand-alone air filter/purifier for your home. There are the two main residential options you can investigate:
- HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are the most common option. Dating back to World War II, HEPA technology involves a mechanical filter that works by forcing air through a screen whereby the offending allergens are captured. A good one will capture 99% of pollen and dust irritants as well as pet dander. To ensure the unit works efficiently, the filters must be replaced every few months.
- Electrostatic or electronic filters rely on electric charges to attract and trap harmful particles inside the filter. One concern over these filters is that they produce small amounts of ozone. Ozone is useful in the higher altitudes to protect against sun exposure, but in one’s living environment, it can worsen allergy symptoms. Electrostatic filters don’t need to be replaced but instead should be washed every one to two months.
Look for the MERV Rating
When deciding which air filter to buy, consider the unit’s MERV rating, which stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. This rating, which ranges from 1 to 16, will tell you how well the filter captures particles. You want to look for a highMERV rating, which means that fewer dust particles and other contaminants can pass through the filter.
Common filters in your existing HVAC unit may only have a MERV rating of 1 to 4. However, if you’re an allergy sufferer, using one of these stand-alone air filters with a 13 or higher rating may make a difference in your symptoms. The benefit of a high MERV rating is the unit’s effectiveness against not only seasonal allergens but also pet dander, dust and lint, mold spores, tobacco smoke, smog, and certain bacteria.
While the HEPA filters tend to have the highest MERV ratings, they do have their limitations. For one, they only work on air that’s pushed through the filter. Therefore, allergens that have sunk into the carpet, for example, are beyond the range of the filter. In addition, HEPA filter units are motorized, so they can be noisy.
Best of Both Options
For this reason, it may be a wise choice to invest in two filters—an electrostatic model for high-traffic areas where noise isn’t a concern, and a HEPA purifier for the bedroom. You may just find you’ll be able to sleep with the windows open after all.