Could your HVAC be causing allergies?

January 20, 2020   By Terri Williams

Could your HVAC be causing allergies?

If you’ve been in Texas for any period of time, you know the weather is beautiful. However, allergies can flare up at any time, and according to the American Sinus Institute, seasonal allergies in Texas can affect residents year-round.

For example, in the winter, Texans are subject to cedar tree allergies. Spring brings oak tree pollen, as well as allergens from elm, ash, pecan, and cottonwood trees. Summer grasses, such as Bermuda, Timothy, and Bahia, can make people miserable. Even fall in Texas is accompanied by Ragweed pollen.

Your HVAC system could bring allergies indoors

You may be tempted to stay indoors to avoid contact with these allergens. However, it’s possible that your HVAC could also be a contributing factor. That’s because the inside of your home may be exposing you to indoor allergens, including dust mites, pets, cockroaches, and even mice.

You might also be bringing outdoor allergens into the house. The pollen could be on your clothes or shoes. Also, if you leave the windows open, pollen can blow into your home. These allergens can make their way into your HVAC.

Dusty air vents can make your HVAC system less efficient and can be a sign of other maintenance issues left unaddressed,” says Marla Mock, VP of Operations at Aire Serv. Another concern is mold or fungus that might be in your system, which would not only cause allergic reactions, but could also pose a serious health hazard.

The symptoms of indoor allergies are quite similar to outdoor allergies, and include itchy eyes, a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and an irritated throat. You might also develop headaches and feel unusually tired.

How can you avoid HVAC-related allergies?

“In order to prevent dust from making its way to the air vents, it’s important to change your HVAC filter every 3 months,” Mock says. “When your filters are dirty, she says your system has to work harder to distribute conditioned air. “This reduces its lifespan, and spreads dust buildup to vents and other home surfaces.”

However, filters are just one solution. “Dirt, dust, and debris buildup in ductwork can also impact the vents and affect air quality, worsening allergies and causing health issues.” You’ll need to call in the experts to clean your system/ductwork, since they have specialized vacuums and other tools.

When your whole system gets cleaned, this will include your air ducts, the blower motor and assembly, coils, drain pan, and registers.

Maintaining your HVAC system can lead to cleaner air

So, how often should you get your HVAC cleaned? “Frequency of cleaning depends on several factors, not the least of which is the preference of the homeowner,” says Russ Harlow, franchise owner of AdvantaClean. He says these are some of the things that may lead you to consider more frequent cleaning:

  • Smokers in the household
  • Pets that shed high amounts of hair and dander
  • Water contamination or damage to the home or HVAC system
  • Residents with allergies or asthma who might benefit from a reduction in the amount of indoor air pollutants in the home’s HVAC system
  • After home renovations or remodeling
  • Prior to occupancy of a new home.

An added bonus of having your air ducts cleaned is that your system will be more efficient, which can help to reduce your energy bill.

After your air filter and ductwork have been cleaned, Mock recommends clearing your air vents (although some companies do this while cleaning your entire system). “The easiest way to accomplish this is by rubbing your vent registers with a dryer sheet,” she says. “This is an effective way to tackle dust.”

Also, Mock explains that since dryer sheets are anti-static, they help to prevent dryer build-up.” Now, with a fresh filter, clean ducts, and a bit of anti-static aid from dryer sheets, your dust issues should be taken care of.


Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.