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Ensuring Your Home Is Winter-Ready

How to Battle Fall Allergies

Anyone who's experienced chronic allergy problems knows that "battle" is a totally appropriate word to describe what the situation feels like when fall allergy season arrives. Serious allergies can be seriously debilitating but just because you suffer from fall allergies doesn’t mean the outlook has to be grim. And it’s true, to a certain extent, there’s only so much you can improve the situation from outside in, because you can’t control the air outdoors. When you’re out and about, the best chance you have is allergy medicine.

But this isn’t the same case for when you’re in your own home. You can take control of your indoor air quality and use every resource available to make your home as allergy free as possible. And since most people spend most of their time in their own homes, this can be very freeing. With that being said, this tip of the day will be all about how to conquer allergies in your home, focusing on how you can use your HVAC system to your advantage in the situation. Read on to learn some quick and simple tips for how to battle fall allergies within your home.

Know Your Enemy

The most important tool in any battle is information. You have to know what you’re up against in order to learn how to defeat it. In this case, the enemy is, of course, allergies. Specifically, allergies that are common in the fall. So, what are these allergies? And where do they come from?

First up, we’ve got ragweed. A single ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen per season. This yellow flowering weed blooms in August but causes allergic symptoms well into the fall, until the coldest weather of the winter finally kills the plant. It grows nationwide but is most prevalent in rural areas of the East and Midwest. Approximately 75 percent of people who suffer springtime allergies will also be affected by ragweed pollen, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. A single ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen per season.

Ragweed can be found growing in vacant lots, along the road, and in open fields. In areas with colder temperatures, the first frost usually occurs at about the time ragweed pollination ends. In places like Austin, in the south, however, ragweed may pollinate through the winter. Bad news for those sensitive to ragweed. But there are defenses. Keep home and car windows completely closed. Take off your shoes and jacket before entering your home. You don’t want to track in any pollen that you’ve picked up outside. Vacuum carpets and upholstery regularly.

Wash your clothes, linens, and curtains regularly. Don’t line dry your laundry outdoors. And, don’t forget this one, bathe your pets, especially outdoor dogs and cats, frequently. Those furry friends are going to be a big part of the ragweed pollen’s migration from the plant itself to the inside of your home.

Next up we have mold, mold and mildew. These fungi thrive both outdoors and indoors. They grow from and produce spores that, like pollen, are spread by the wind or indoor air. Mold and mildew tend to grow year-round. But they always do best when the weather is wet. In the fall, they grow on damp fallen leaves and compost piles. They thrive in damp areas indoors like basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Unlike pollen, mold and mildew aren’t killed by the first frost, but they do tend to go into a dormant phase during the winter months. They are common in soil, compost piles, and in the leaves that cover the ground during the fall. In temperate climates, mold spores form a distinct fall season in mid to late fall, after ragweed season is over. Mold spores are common airborne allergens. They are light, very small, and easily inhaled into the lungs. Spores rise high in the atmosphere during the warming of the day, falling back to the ground with the cool of evening.

Then, of course, is the ever present dust mite. Dust mites are microscopic arthropods that feed primarily on flakes of human skin that are shed naturally around the home. They’re a common year-round allergen that thrives in temperatures ranging from the high 60s to mid 70s. Dust mites usually die in extreme temperatures or if the humidity drops below 70 percent. It’s next to impossible to completely rid your home of dust mites. But you can take steps to keep them at a manageable level.

In various parts of the country, goldenrod, curly dock, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, sheep sorrel, and sagebrush can all cause fall allergies. If you know what kinds of allergens you’re sensitive to the best thing you can do to arm yourself with knowledge is keep track of these allergens as they appear in Austin. Monitor your local pollen count. Most local newspapers and TV news websites publish a daily report.

Utilize Your Austin Heating and Air Conditioning

We’ve had daily moderate temperature this fall in Austin so far. The need for heating in Austin has mostly been limited to a couple of cold nights interrupted by mild days. But despite the fact that you may be relying on Austin air conditioning and heating less than ever this year so far, you should consider utilizing your HVAC system to help in other ways.

Namely, you can use your HVAC system to help you battle fall allergies and improve your indoor air quality. But first, let’s get the maintenance tasks out of the way first. These are things that if neglected, are going to hurt your fall allergy sensitivities more than if you just left your system off. For example, mind that window unit, if you use one. If you are, don’t forget to clean the filter. Otherwise, the unit will continue to blow dusty air into the room, further agitating your allergy symptoms.

Most window units are simple to clean. Simply pop out the front grill of the unit, remove the mesh filter, and wash it in a mixture of warm, soapy water with bleach to remove mold. Let dry completely before placing back in the unit.

And speaking of filters, don’t forget about your furnace’s. Furnaces need their filters cleaned or replaced every few months to ensure maximum efficiency (and not to mention, allergy relief). To swap out your filter, first turn off the furnace. Remove the existing filter (generally located inside the furnace or return air vent). Be sure to pay attention to markings instructing you which side of the filter should face the furnace, otherwise, you could accidentally block airflow rather than clean it.

If you want to go a step further with a proactive approach to battling fall allergies, consider investing in a better filter altogether. Look for filters with at least a MERV 8 rating to trap more microscopic particles, reducing indoor allergens. Or invest in a HEPA filter. These filters remove over 90 percent of particulate matter. They’re leagues better than disposable filters.

And the filter isn’t the only thing that could do with a regular cleaning. Most people dust their homes at least once a week, but many forget about the registers and return vents. These vents circulate all the air from the HVAC system, so if they are dusty, your home will be dusty.

Tackle these first in every room, using a damp or treated rag when dusting anywhere in your home to keep from kicking up dust mites and other dust particles that may cause allergy and breathing issues.

Next up, humidity control. Whether your Achilles’ heel is dust, mold, pollen or pet dander, these allergens all share a common characteristic: They love humidity. When you’ve got excess moisture in your home, these allergens will thrive and make you miserable. Optimal indoor humidity levels range from 40 to 50 percent; any higher than that, and you’ll simply be creating a playground for mold, dust mites and cockroaches, all of which increase allergen levels. The good news is that your HVAC unit, specifically, your air conditioner, is one of the most effective ways to control excessive humidity.

Think about how your car windows fog up when it’s wet out. What’s the fastest, easiest way to de-fog them? By running your air conditioner. The same principle holds true inside your home during that still-warm Austin fall weather. Bonus: the air conditioner will also filter the air, decreasing pollen, dust, pet dander and other allergens.

And, finally, if you’re running the air conditioning with regularly cleaned filters and you’re still having allergy issues, consider getting your home’s air ducts cleaned. You may be harboring mold. Get up close and personal with your vents and give them a good sniff. If you smell a moldy, musty or otherwise unpleasant odor coming out, it’s time to call in the professionals to give your ducts a good once-over.

Fall Allergies and Heating Repair in Austin

Allergies can be anything from a mild annoyance to a total day ruiner but you aren’t alone in the battle against these pesky pollens and mites. With the help of your air conditioner and heater, you can make your home that much more pleasant a place to be even when the allergens are raging just outdoors. Try a few of these tips and make your fall season a little more allergy free.

And if you find yourself in need of heater repair this fall season, consider AC Express. Call today to get quality, reliable Austin heating service and more!

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