Can Furnace Filters Ease Asthma and Allergies?

Fall is the best time of the year, according to many people. Good weather to be outdoors, beautiful colors in nature and pumpkin spice flavor. However, as the air gets a little cold, respiratory problems can become a nuisance, specifically for people who suffer from asthma and allergies.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, over 25 million people in the United States suffer from asthma. When asthma attacks occur, the chest tightens and the sufferer has a shortness of breath or wheeze. It can happen unexpectedly, and may be triggered by specific things in your everyday environment, or even allergies.

Pollutants and allergens such as ragweed, mold, pet dander and cigarette smoke are common triggers of both asthma and allergies. Therefore, it is essential to clear the home of as many impurities in the air as possible. While there are many methods of doing this, most people already have a tool to help—their furnace. Discover how your heating and cooling system can relieve your asthma symptoms.

  • Furnace Filters Make the Difference
    The purpose of a filter in the HVAC unit is to maintain indoor air quality by capturing dust and other pollutants. Furnace filters are essential for asthma and allergies, because the filter captures the pollen, mold, pet dander and common airborne allergens—keeping it out of the air. Cleaner indoor air can make a big difference in how easy it is to breathe indoors for those with respiratory conditions. This is why it is important to change your air filters frequently.
  • What Filter Should You Use?
    Choosing an air filter to help prevent asthma symptoms requires research because each filter has a rating called a MERV. First, you want to use a filter that fits your system. Getting a precise measurement and MERV rating is important, so the filter can function efficiently. The higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is at capturing allergens and airborne pollutants. Consider a filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 13 for the best results.

As you can see, it is vital that you choose the right furnace filter and change them regularly. Not only will doing this keep the air that flows through your home cleaner and healthier for you and your family, but it may also reduce heating and cooling costs too.

HELP! It is hot and my AC stopped working…

If the hot weather arrived earlier than you expected, it is possible that your air conditioning unit might not be ready to go quite yet. In a desperate attempt to escape the heat, you may have powered on your AC anyway, only to notice that it is not working properly. AC units in need of service will not cool or filter air properly. Luckily, many AC unit issues are easily repaired by simple maintenance tasks, such as replacing the air filter, cleaning the lines or an annual checkup done by a professional.

Why does my AC smell?

Does the air coming out of your AC unit smell musty or moldy? If so, the air filter may be filled with dust, pollen and other debris. If the filter is not changed frequently, these contaminants cause mold to grow on the surface of the air filter. You can easily restore the air quality flowing through your home by replacing your dirty air filter with a brand new one. You should check your AC filter monthly to find the best replacement interval for your home.  

My AC is not blowing cold air

Are you not feeling cold air from your air conditioning? If you notice that your ducts are not producing the normal blast of cold air, you must find a fix fast to prevent damage to the unit. Your air conditioner operates best when the blower can constantly push cooled air through the ducts. Otherwise, the chilled air remains in the system, causing it to freeze and stop working. The most common causes of weak airflow are a clogged air filter or faulty fan switch. If a filter change does not instantly fix the problem, you may need additional diagnostic tests performed by a licensed HVAC professional.

I think my AC has a leak

Does your air conditioner unit constantly leak water while it is running? If so, the AC drain lines could be clogged. With regular AC use, dirt and debris fill up these lines, eventually causing a total blockage. When this happens, the water flows back through the lines and overflows the drain pan. Fixing this problem involves a thorough cleaning of the drain lines to remove the debris causing the blockage. You will also need to dry the drain pan to prevent mildew growth inside the AC unit.

Obtaining HVAC Services

As you start preparing your air conditioner for the summer, reflect on your repair abilities to determine if the services would be best handled by a professional. Although changing an AC filter is usually a fairly straightforward task, additional diagnostic tests can help you avoid overlooking problems before the heat of the summer arrives. Otherwise, you could end up waiting in the summer heat for your service professional to repair your AC unit.

Should I turn my AC Off when I go on vacation?

With the summer months on the way, vacation days are too. When you leave your home, it is easy to switch your AC unit off and lock the door behind you without a second glance. But, this may not be the best option for you as it is almost always better to run the AC while you are gone, rather than turn it off completely.

Dangers of Leaving the AC Off

One of the features of the air conditioner is that it continually removes moisture from the air. Therefore, with your AC unit switched off, your windows and other interior surfaces will start condensing and trapped moisture can quickly turn into mold and mildew growth.

Without the cooling system running, temperatures inside your home will match or exceed the high temps for each day. Constant high temperatures make building materials, such as doors and flooring, to expand and contract, causing them to warp.

Preparing Your AC for Your Absence

To avoid an unexpected system shutdown while you are gone, perform preventative maintenance tasks for your air conditioner before leaving. In general, you will need to change the filter, clear the drain lines and check the vent flaps to make sure it will work propperly. If you notice any problems with your system, you can always schedule an check up with your AC repair professional before you go.

While On Vacation, use these Settings

Right before you leave for vacation, set the thermostat to a temperature that is between 5 to 10 degrees higher than your normal setting. By turning up the temperature, you can save money on energy costs while continuing to reap the benefits of leaving your AC running. Professionals recommend 85 degrees as the best temperature because it resembles outdoor weather and your AC does not work as hard. That way your electricity bill won’t skyrocket.

If you want to come home to comfortable temperatures, consider digital thermostat. It allows you to control the temperature settings from a distance using your smartphone or computer.

Netting The Benefits

By properly preparing and setting your air conditioning unit before your vacation, you can avoid having to worry about your home while you are away. Upon returning from your trip, you will just be able sit back, relax and recuperate from your fun vacation without worry about the state of your home or AC unit.

How to know if my AC is Overworked?

Proper maintenance and settings are key elements to extend the life of your Air Conditioning unit and keep it working properly, especially during hot summer months. If you want to ensure that your air conditioner continues to blow cool air all through the summer, here are 6 smart ways to tell if your AC unit is overworked.

Your AC might be overworked if…

Improper Settings are on your thermostat

Your AC unit might work more efficiently by keeping the thermostat set at a steady temperature throughout the day. For the best efficiency, you should set the dial to a comfortable temperature that is not too cold. The Department of Energy suggests that using fans and setting the temperature at 78 degrees is the perfect method to save energy and money.

Wrong Unit Size

When you purchase a new air conditioner, it is necessary to match its size to the square footage of the area to avoid overworking the system. An improperly sized air conditioner will work too hard and too long as it attempts to cool the space. This will cause it to develop premature wear and damage that often leads to failure of internal parts.

Dirty/ Wrong Size Air Filter

As the AC filter clogs with dirt and debris, the system becomes less and less efficient, causing you to pay extra money for less cooling power. In addition, the air conditioner blower has to work even harder than normal to blow air through the filter, which can lead to internal damage.

For best results, change your filter every one to three months on average, but check it monthly during high pollen counts or excessive dust. In addition, the wrong air filter size can cause your AC unit to be overworked. Always check the make and model of the unit and purchase the correct filters size accordingly. If your old filter does not have labels with the size, grab some tape measure or ruler and see our page on “How to Measure Your Air Filter”.

Clogged Drain Lines

Over time, the drain lines in air conditioners get clogged with dust and debris. Once the drain lines are clogged, the air conditioner cannot adequately remove moisture from the air to cool it to optimal temperatures. As part of your seasonal cleaning, try to clear out the drain lines to keep your AC unit efficiently producing cool air. If you are unsure of the location of the drain line, consult a HVAC professional, they may be able to show the location of your drain line.

Uninsulated Ducts

If your AC ducts are not properly insulated, the cooled air may rise in temperature before it enters the room. Since wildlife like squirrels and raccoons can remove this material from the ducts, be sure to double check the insulation on a regular basis to avoid accidentally overworking the cooling system.

Closed Vent Flaps

The AC unit utilizes exterior vent flaps to release warm air and moisture left over from the cooling process. When the vent flaps are turned to the closed position, the warm air remains in the case and kicks the system into overdrive. When this happens, you may notice that the air coming out of the interior vents feels warmer than usual.

Reducing Stress On Your Air Conditioning Unit

By paying close attention to the areas listed above, you can make sure your AC unit produces adequate amounts of icy cool air without causing excessive damage to the internal parts. When you are preparing the AC for summer, for example, you can double check all of these problem areas to ensure your system is ready to go before powering it up full time. You will be rewarded with an AC system that maintains comfortable temperatures without fail.

Preventative care methods like a yearly check–up of your unit is more likely to detect any recurring problems.  AC units are very expensive and should last an average of 20 years, proper care throughout your ownership will keep your unit in the best shape possible.

Energy bill running high? There is one way to fix it…

Your office needs lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, water heating and office equipment to stay in business. All of these items consume energy, which drives up your utility bills.

If you’re hoping to specifically keep heating and cooling costs down, there’s one easy thing you can do: choose a mid-efficiency air filter and change it frequently. Your efforts can lower the energy consumption of your furnace and air conditioner by 5 to 15 percent, according to the US Department of Energy.

Choose the Right Air Filter

When choosing a type of air filter for your office building, consider the MERV rating, which indicates how effectively the filter removes increasingly smaller particles from the air:

  • The lowest efficiency filters are MERV 1-4. These one-inch-thick throwaway filters restrict airflow very little and keep energy costs down, but they only remove the largest airborne particles.
  • Pleated filters in the MERV 5-8 range remove dust, lint, pollen, dust mites, mold spores and fine powder from the air without substantially blocking airflow. These are great for residential air filtration, but they’re often not enough for businesses.
  • High-efficiency filters from MERV 9-16 are better suited for commercial applications. In addition to removing allergens and particle matter, many of these filters can trap bacteria and viruses to help sustain a healthier workplace environment.
  • The highest efficiency filters from MERV 17-20 are reserved for cleanrooms and electronics manufacturing facilities. They trap 99.97 percent of microscopic particles but must operate with a powerful air handler to push air through an incredibly tightly woven filter.

Change the Filter Frequently

Once you have a good filter in place, it’s easy to forget about it. However, you must change it once every 30 to 90 days (or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation) to prevent it from becoming clogged with dust, hair and other debris. When this happens, airflow is restricted and the furnace or air conditioner is forced to work harder, driving up your energy bills.

At the same time, as the filter becomes clogged, bits of debris make their way through the filter. Over time, this can cause the A/C evaporator coil to accumulate a layer of debris, which impairs cooling efficiency.

To solve both of these problems, check your filter monthly and change it when it appears dirty, waiting no longer than three months between changes.

Other Ways to Maximize Heating and Cooling Efficiency

To lower heating and cooling costs even more, follow these tips:

  • Seal air leaks in your ductwork to save upwards of 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
  • Keep air vents unblocked by desks and other pieces of furniture to ensure good circulation.
  • Hire a professional to conduct a routine heating and cooling inspection once a year.

How to improve indoor air quality?

Most people spend a majority of their day at work, which often means being in an office building. With harmful allergens polluting the indoor air, some sensitive individuals may develop mysterious symptoms while at work and feel better after they leave the building. These can range from minor allergy symptoms and headaches to more serious nausea and shortness of breath.

Different people react to poor indoor air quality differently, and some may have no complaints at all. However, if any of your employees report health problems that occur only while they’re at work, it’s time to focus on improving indoor air quality in your office building. Learn more about the most common indoor air pollutants found in office buildings and how to combat them.

Indoor Air Pollutants at the Office


Dust floating around the office is largely invisible until it settles. Though it’s difficult to see, every breath sends dust into the lungs, which can cause allergic reactions. This is because dust contains mold spores, pollen, animal dander and other common allergens. With enough of it flying through the air, sensitive individuals could be left sneezing and sniffling all day long.


Microscopic spores float harmlessly through the air until they come in contact with a surface they can grow on. If enough mold starts growing in hidden places within your building, the spore count can soar, potentially causing allergic reactions, lung infections and other serious health effects.

Bacteria and Viruses

Germs spread quickly in public places because a large number of people touch the same surfaces and breathe the same air. If one employee has a sick child at home, the entire office could potentially contract the condition just by touching the same doorknob, keyboard or elevator button. It doesn’t help that offices tend to be low-humidity environments, which help bacteria and viruses to live longer.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the most common chemicals found in homes and businesses. Everything from carpet adhesives and paint to cleaning supplies and photocopiers give off different types of VOCs, many of which are odorless. Regular exposure to high concentrations could cause eye, throat and lung irritation in the short term and organ damage or cancer in the long term.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

  • Choose a high-efficiency air filter for the office and change it regularly.
  • Hire a professional contractor to maintain the heating and cooling equipment once a year.
  • Dust and disinfect surfaces often with all-natural cleaning products.
  • Choose a vacuum that features a HEPA filter.
  • Keep indoor humidity between 40 and 70 percent (the office humidity level recommended by the Health and Safety Executive) with the help of a humidifier in the winter and a dehumidifier in the summer.
  • Ventilate the office by opening windows and installing a mechanical ventilation system.

What MERV Rating is right for my business?

Choosing the right air filter and changing it frequently can help promote cleaner indoor air, longer equipment life, lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint for your business. Here’s what you need to know about MERV ratings and selecting the best air filter for your commercial HVAC system.

What is a MERV Rating?

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE, created the standardized Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) scale to make shopping for an air filter easier. MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, though MERV 16 is typically the highest efficiency you’ll find outside cleanrooms and electronics manufacturing plants. The higher the number, the better the filter is at removing smaller and smaller particles from the air.

Assessing MERV Ratings

Here’s a breakdown of MERV ratings so you understand what to expect when you purchase a particular filter.

  • MERV 1-4 filters are the one-inch-thick disposable variety. They offer minimal air filtration, essentially only trapping the largest textile fibers, lint, dust and pollen no smaller than 10 microns wide. The purpose of these filters is merely to prevent dust from settling on HVAC equipment.
  • MERV 5-8 filters have a pleated surface made of polyester or cotton. The pleats improve efficiency greatly, giving these filters the ability to trap particles such as dust mites, mold spores and fine powder down to 3 microns.
  • MERV 9-12 filters are typically around 12 inches thick to help them capture a wide range of microscopic particles such as pet dander, smoke, smog, germs expelled from a sneeze, welding fumes and auto emissions as small as 2 microns.
  • MERV 13-16 filters are constructed from pleated synthetic cotton attached to a rigid metal frame. In addition to trapping all types of particles that lower-rated filters can, these impressive commercial filters also capture bacteria, viruses and other particles down to 0.3 microns.
  • HEPA – High Efficiency Particulate Absorption (HEPA) commercial filters trap at least 99.97 percent of the smallest airborne particles measuring 0.3 microns or smaller, including viruses, combustion smoke and carbon dust and are used in medical facilities, data centers, among others.

Making Your Selection

The trick to finding the right MERV rating for your business is to balance purchase price and operating cost with filter efficiency. Filters with higher MERV ratings remove more airborne pollutants, but they also put added strain on the HVAC equipment and could increase operating costs.

Generally speaking, MERV 8 filters or MERV 11 filters strike just the right balance. They filter plenty of particles from the air to reduce exposure to allergens, toxins and irritants without costing your business too much. If you operate an industrial facility, a filter closer to MERV 13 could be beneficial to remove additional pollutants, such as smoke and smog, from the air.