Summer is often associated with the worst air pollution of the year, but air quality varies greatly on a regional basis. In fact, many cities in Florida experience their worst air quality indexes in January, and the levels in fall are not far behind. Considering that, let us explore some of the most common indoor air quality issues in autumn and what steps you can take to avoid them or at least mitigate them.
Dust is by far the greatest indoor air quality concern in homes, and this is true throughout the country and regardless of which season it is. But autumn is notable in that this is a time of year where Floridians begin to spend substantially more time indoors, and that makes dust even more dangerous. What is so bad about dust? Well, it is more than just dirt, dead skin, dander, and dust mites. It is actually a complex amalgam that can trap other pollutants and contaminants and re-release them over time.
The only way to stop dust from diminishing your indoor air quality is to keep removing it, and while no one likes dusting, there is probably no such thing as doing it too often. You should perform a deep dusting of your home at least once a week. Take one room at a time. Start from the ceiling and work your way down. Pay particular attention to areas that collect a lot of dust, such as knickknacks. When you are done, vacuum all of your flooring surfaces. Ideally, use a vacuum that can do hardwood floors as well and preferably one with a HEPA vacuum bag that ensures that most of the dust is collected.
Autumn can be a difficult time for people with allergies. The biggest trigger is ragweed, and most people who experience spring allergies will also be affected by ragweed. The two next leading triggers are mold and dust mites. Dust mites can be managed through good dusting habits. Mold will be discussed in a bit in its own section. Ragweed allergies drive many affected people indoors during September and October. It is recommended that anyone with a ragweed allergy start treatment in the summer. A ragweed allergy is diagnosable, so if you have unexplained symptoms in the fall, this would be a good avenue to investigate. During this period, benefiting from natural ventilation is not really an option for you. Therefore, it becomes imperative that your mechanical ventilation is working well enough to exhaust pollutants.
Cold and Flu Season
Autumn also marks the beginning of both cold and flu season. While you can get sick at any time of the year, your chances go up in autumn and winter. The reason for this is that autumn and winter force us indoors where it is much easier for airborne illnesses to spread between us. The best way to avoid being infected is to practice good hygiene habits, such as social distancing, wearing a mask where it is mandated or you feel it necessary, washing your hands often and well, using hand sanitizer, and not touching your face. In your own home, you can also opt for an air purification system that has one or more antimicrobial mechanisms that can kill bacteria, fungi, mold spores, viruses, and so forth.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds — often abbreviated VOCs — are gases that are emitted from various solids and liquids. VOCs contain a variety of chemicals, and some of these are bad for your health in the short term and over the long term. These compounds tend to be more of an indoor problem than an outdoor one. A reason for this is that pollution concentration levels tend to be higher indoors due to less ventilation. Another notable reason is that people often inadvertently introduce VOCs to their homes. This can occur due to home decor such as furniture and carpet. But many people also routinely introduce VOCs through household cleaners, deodorizers, candles, and so on.
Both High and Low Humidity
Autumn is an interesting time of year in Florida because you can experience both high and low humidity in the span of a couple of days, and neither is ideal for your comfort nor your indoor air quality. High humidity can often be combatted by running the air conditioner, but Florida is a humid place, and it is not unusual for a home to need a whole-home dehumidifier or at least a portable dehumidifier to lessen the load on the AC. When the temperature drops enough that you opt to run your heating equipment, doing so can dry out the air in your home. That can lead to a variety of respiratory issues. The fix for this is either a whole-home humidifier or a portable humidifier you can take from room to room.
Less-Than-Ideal Air Quality
As mentioned in the introduction, certain areas of Florida experience their worse days in terms of the air quality index in winter and, to a lesser extent, autumn. Be mindful that without air filtration or air purification, the air inside your home generally cannot be less polluted than the air outside it. If the air is bad for just one day, your home can serve as a sanctuary. But if the issue persists, hiding away indoors may not do you much good. That is unless you have a well-sealed home with a mechanical ventilation system that is up to snuff and an air filtration system that can eliminate the pollutants.
Lots of Moisture and Thus Mold
It rains a lot in Florida during autumn, and that results in an abundance of moisture. That moisture sets the stage for mold spores, which can undermine your indoor air quality long before you realize mold is even present. The experts even recommend removing live plants from the home, and this is the time of year to monitor bathrooms, basements, and other areas of a home that can have moisture problems.
Pollution From Cooking
Household cleaners and deodorizers are not even the most prevalent way that people pollute their homes. That distinction falls to cooking, and surveys show that the average American greatly underestimates just how much cooking can affect indoor air quality. All major cooking appliances should have well-functioning vents that exhaust pollutants, heat, and steam outside the home. You should run these fans prior to preheating and starting to cook. You should continue to run them an additional 10 minutes after no food is cooking and all appliances have been turned off.
Your Local IAQ Experts in Florida
McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning has proudly served homeowners from Northeast Florida to Daytona Beach for more than 40 years. Our company has offices in Jacksonville, Flagler/Palm Coast, and Ocala/Gainesville, and our licensed technicians travel throughout the surrounding areas. Our indoor air quality services include testing and air duct cleaning. We also install, maintain, and repair air filters and UV lights. We provide a full range of heating and cooling services and install attic insulation as well. Call us or contact us online to learn more about these services or to schedule an appointment at a time convenient to you!