The flu is a nasty illness, causing uncomfortable symptoms like a sore throat, achy muscles, and frequent coughing. Here in San Antonio, the flu season starts in late October and doesn’t begin slowing down until February. That means at least 3 months each year we live with a higher risk of catching the flu. Although the most effective way to avoid the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine and maintain good hygiene, your HVAC system can also help you combat the flu this fall/winter.
Below are 3 things you can do with your HVAC system to prevent the flu:
- Keep your house warm and humid
- Upgrade your air filter
- Install an air purifier
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Tip #1: Keep your house warm and humid
Simply keeping your house warm (above 69° F) and around 50% humidity can help your body build up its natural defenses against the flu.
You see, warm, humid air hydrates your nasal passages. When your nasal passages are hydrated, it helps the small, hair-like structures (called cilia) inside your nose to keep bacteria and viruses from entering your body.
Although we have fairly humid temperatures during the winter, sometimes the indoor air can lose humidity when we use our furnaces. You can test your indoor humidity levels with a hygrometer and purchase an indoor humidifier if your home has indoor humidity levels below 50%.
Tip #2: Upgrade your air filter
Your HVAC system already has a built-in flu-preventer: your air filter.
The purpose of the air filter is to catch airborne pollutants before they reach your HVAC system. That way, these nasty pollutants won’t enter into your home’s airstream.
That said, most standard air filters only catch larger air pollutants such as dust, pollen, and mold spores. To capture smaller particles (including some that spread the flu), you’ll need to upgrade your filter.
How to upgrade your air filter
To upgrade your home’s air filter, you’ll need to find one with a high MERV rating. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, and it measures the effectiveness of an air filter. Simply put, the higher the MERV rating, the better the air filter will be at catching small particles.
Standard air filters, like the ones you buy at any home improvement store, generally range from 5 to 12 MERV. But these filters can’t catch the small particles that spread the flu.
Higher quality air filters range from 12 to 20 MERV. These filters are capable of capturing bacteria and even the tiny microscopic particles in sneezes.
Since high-MERV filters often require modifications to the return ducts, you’ll need to hire a professional to install one for you.
A note about air filters
The flu is caused by a virus, which can range from 0.004 to 0.1 microns in size. While high-MERV air filters can trap some viruses, most cannot effectively capture ones that are .03 microns or smaller.
Even if an air filter captures a virus, it does not kill it. Because of their limitations, we recommend pairing your air filter with an air purifier to achieve the best filtration results—more on that below.
Note: We install an advanced air filter, called the Perfect 16® by IQAir, that can filter ultrafine particles—such as viruses—as small as 0.003 microns.
Tip #3: Install an air purifier
When you upgrade your home’s air filter, you’ll also want to consider an air purifier (also called an “air scrubber”).
What’s the difference?
Air filters capture pollutants, while air purifiers actually kill them.
An air purifier is installed in your home’s existing HVAC system, typically in the ductwork near the air handler.
Most air purifiers use ions, activated carbon or UV light to neutralize harmful particles such as:
- Mold spores
Note: We install the iWave (ionizer) and APCO (UV light/activated carbon) air purifiers.
Want a San Antonio pro to prep your HVAC system for flu season? Call Today!
We can help! Whether you need an air filter upgrade, an air purifier installation, general HVAC maintenance, or all three services, we have you covered.
Learn more about the air quality services we offer.