How Healthy is Your Air Conditioning Unit? 4 Ways to Find Out
As homeowners, we are responsible for maintaining a comfortable and safe space for our loved ones. While good cleaning habits and routine upkeep go a long way, don’t forget that the less-visible features of your house also need attention. Your air conditioning system is responsible for filtering and circulating the air your family breathes, and if it’s not functioning properly, it can pose significant health risks. But don’t panic; evaluating the condition of your home’s system is relatively simple.
Get to Know Your Air Conditioning System
As a first step, identify your AC unit’s make and age. A system’s age is important: The U.S. Department of Energy recommends replacing units every 10 years for maximum energy efficiency. But older systems are also more likely to develop leaks and accumulate contaminants like mold and mildew. Left unchecked, circulating particles of mold can activate allergies and irritate delicate membranes in the nose and ears, even to the point of bleeding. If more than one of your family members start to develop a cough this summer, an elderly air conditioning system may be to blame.
Pay Attention to the Refrigerant
Innovations in air conditioning technology mean safer and more efficient solutions for your home, but you’re responsible for making sure your installation is up to snuff. In recent years, manufacturers have begun to replace certain industrial refrigerants with less hazardous, more environmentally-friendly alternatives, and the United States has restricted the import of certain chemical compounds altogether.
Check the informational label on the outside of your compressor — older refrigerants will be identified with names like “HCFC-2” or “R-22”. Certified technicians must replace outdated systems with newer installations, but the upgrade is safer as well as more cost-efficient.
Check Your Filters Regularly
Your unit may use disposable or washable air filters, but in either case, they must be changed on a regular basis. Set a schedule and stick to it. Dirty filters and unclean ductwork not only inhibit the circulation of air inside the home, they can also let in dangerous pesticides and allergens from the outdoors. Poorly-circulated, polluted air negatively impacts everyone in the house, including pets, but can be a downright health risk for young children, the elderly, and anyone with underlying respiratory issues (such as asthma.)
Preventative Maintenance Is a Must
Don’t make the mistake of waiting for your system to become a problem: Get professional eyes on your system early. Although homeowners can check some aspects of their HVAC unit on their own, all air conditioning installations require regular maintenance and evaluation by licensed repairmen. A good certified technician will look at your system’s ductwork, electrical wiring, compressor operation, and circuit boards, among other components. They should also carry out a thorough and detailed cleaning and perform repairs where necessary. A reliable annual service plan ensures that issues with your system are identified before your family’s health gets involved.
When it comes to the air your family breathes, routine observation and maintenance can mean the prevention of everything from headaches and fatigue to serious upper respiratory infections. Using these four simple steps as a guide, become familiar with your air conditioning system, its components, and a trustworthy technician; the return in air quality, comfort, and savings is more than worth it.