‘Tis the season of warm cookies, Christmas movies, hot cocoa, and the sniffles. It’s common knowledge that people are more likely to get sick in the winter, but you may be surprised at the reason why. One big reason why we’re more likely to get sick during the winter months is because we spend a lot more time indoors.
Since the indoor environment is 2-5 times (and occasionally more than 100 times) as polluted as the air outdoors, the more time we spend inside, the more likely we are to get sick (U.S. DOE). Of course, there are other factors at play, but improving your indoor air quality is probably the best way you can prevent the cold, flu, and other winter woes this season.
Since we’ll all be spending more time indoors and around other people this holiday season, take some time to learn about indoor air quality, MERV ratings, and microns.
Being stuck indoors can be fun and cozy, but it also increases your chances of getting sick. In addition to improved insulation levels and a lack of ventilation, the dry winter air makes it easier for germs and bacteria to make it through your breathing passages. A moist nose and throat helps catch airborne contaminants before entering your lungs. Some germs are also better able to survive in dry environments.
Here are just some of the many indoor air pollutants that could be present in your home:
Winter makes it even worse. Combustion sources such as heaters can release dangerous gases into the home, insulation levels increase, ventilation decreases, more candles and air fresheners are used, and pets spend more time indoors.
Also, if you ever make significant insulation and air sealing improvements in your home, it’s a good idea to consult a HVAC specialist to determine if you have proper ventilation.
Negative health effects associated with high levels of indoor pollutants include:
If you or anyone in your household suffers from respiratory problems, dizziness, headaches, allergies, or frequent illness, speak with a professional HVAC expert about indoor air quality solutions. Improving your indoor air is a lot cheaper and more enjoyable than have medical problems develop.
In addition to nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, your indoor air is filled with a variety of microscopic particles, allergens, and organic chemicals. While an air filter can help trap larger particles (pollen, dust, and dander) they have a much harder time trapping smaller particles. The smaller, more serious contaminants (viruses, smoke, bacteria, and fungi) can easily pass through the filter and get recirculated into your home.
Most airborne particles are invisible to the human eye and can easily penetrate deep into the nose, throat, and lungs, where they can cause and aggravate health problems. The size of airborne particles is measured in microns (µ), which is short for micrometer—equal to one millionth of a meter. For perspective, the period at the end of this sentence is around 400 microns.
Viruses – ≈ .01 micron
Bacteria – ≈ 1.0 micron
Fungi – ≈ 1.0 micron
Pollens – ≈ 10 microns
Human Hair – ≈ 100 microns
As you will see in the next section, air filters can only trap larger particles. They won’t protect you from the majority of airborne particulates, which are less than 1 micron in size. That’s why we recommend supplementing your air filtration system with an air cleaner, which actively cleans your air. Learn how air scrubbers and UV air irradiation work.
Your air filter is rated on a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) scale:
MERV 1-4 can trap particles greater than 10.0 µ (not very effective)
MERV 5-8 can trap particles 3.0-10.0 µ (misses most airborne particles)
MERV 9-12 can trap particles 1.0-3.0 µ (better)
MERV 13-16 can trap particles .3-1.0 µ (high-efficiency filters that may impede airflow)
MERV 17-20 (HEPA) can trap particles less than .3 µ (requires professional system modifications, usually reserved for hospitals and other public facilities)
As you can see residential air filters let a lot of airborne particulates float right on by. While a higher MERV rating can help you catch things like dust, hair, dander, and pollen, it’s not a very effective solution to your air quality woes. MERV ratings above 12 usually require professional modifications to account for the thicker filters that restrict airflow. Learn more about MERV ratings and air filters. If you want a hospital-quality air filtration, we recommend HEPA filters, however, you will need to modify your system to account for the larger filter size.
Filtering airborne particles is one thing. Actively cleaning the air is an entirely different thing. For the best air cleaning technology, Air Scrubbers are the best choice around.
An air purifier, such as Air Scrubber Plus (our preferred Air Scrubber product) will help remove harmful airborne particulates, such as:
Standard air filters will only protect you against the largest particles. To reduce your chances of getting sick and improve your overall health and wellbeing, consider the many benefits of air cleaners and air scrubbers.
Service Champions is known for trustworthy, on-time heating and air conditioning service throughout the East Bay, South Bay, and Sacramento areas.
Mon-Thu: 7am - 8pm
Fri-Sun: 7am - 7pm
We would love to hear how your recent experience was. Please feel free to reach out to us.