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What's in the Air?

It’s spring, so we know that love is in the air! But we also know that countless other particles, health hazards, and life factors are wafting, buzzing, and floating through each breath we take on a daily basis. With quality central air systems, advanced filters, and climate controlled environments we tend to think that the air in our own homes is of an unmatched quality but with people spending most of their time indoors, this may not be the case in your home.

What Air is Made Of

We all know that the air we breathe contains oxygen (we need it to live). What you might have missed is that our air is only around 21% oxygen. Too much oxygen is dangerous (O3 is what we call ozone and is hazardous). The majority of our atmosphere is nitrogen, which is a neutral gas that plants thrive on. There are trace amounts of other elements (argon, carbon dioxide, and methane are good examples), but the majority of our atmosphere consists of about 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen.

But wait, there’s more!

See, our atmosphere isn’t just a chemical solution of different base elements. Anything that’s lighter than air, including complicated chemical mixes, can be borne aloft and breathed in. In addition to the ozone and carbon dioxide that’s placed into the air, chemicals such as acetone (common in nail-polish remover), gasoline, and even the propellants in aerosol sprays are extremely volatile (which, in this case, means they evaporate easily and mix with the air). Volatile chemicals mix with air easily and can travel great distances under the right conditions.

As an added burden, nature itself likes to put its own ‘pollutants’ into the air. Methane is a naturally occurring gas made from decomposing material, and it’s unhealthy in large quantities. More benign (and even necessary) air contaminants are the pollens, hairs, and cells given off by plants and animals on a day-to-day basis. In the spring, this pollen is often at its highest level – although pollen from trees and plants is carried through the air almost year-round by plants flowering in different seasons – and it is a serious burden for those with heavy allergies.

It’s such a burden in fact that your daily weather report includes the daily pollen count in their information. If you’re looking for a forecast for your specific area (or anywhere you’ll be traveling) you can find one on A word of advice, a count of 2.5-4.8 is where those with allergies and sensitivities start to react, as the level grows, symptoms become far worse. A clean air filter will help to remove pollen and mold from the air in your home, but if you’re looking at high-pollen counts for your area, upgrading to a higher-quality filter is not a bad idea.

infographic by Air Oasis

What Can We Do?

While we can’t directly stop these contaminants from entering the air (as dogs will shed, plants will pollinate, and chemicals necessary for modern life will remain volatile), we can lower their presence in our homes.

When the climate is nice outside, it’s tempting to leave your central air system off (it does save a lot of money each month), but if you stop air circulation to save money that will allow pollutants to build up in the home. Consider leaving the fan for your air system on to circulate the air in your home. This will allow for your indoor air to be continually filtered even if you aren’t actively heating or cooling the air. Another alternative is to open the windows. It may seem counterintuitive to let outside air in, but keeping a draft active will circulate the air and prevent pollutants from building up inside your home.

Keeping your air filter and ductwork clean is essential for maintaining air quality and reducing allergy symptoms. After all, if your ventilation system and filter are dirty, a forced air system is simply blowing fresh allergens into every room of your home (my nose itches just thinking about it), so be sure to at least replace your air filter every 3-6 months. The start of spring and the start of summer are both excellent times for a filter refresh!

Cassel Home Comfort Heating & Cooling is committed to being your best HVA/C contractor choice in Central Illinois in both Value and Customer Service! Call us to maintain your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in the Champaign, IL area: (217) 866-1596.

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