Can your residential or commercial HVAC cause sick building syndrome? This is a vital question for homeowners and commercial property owners to consider, as the health of your family, staff, and visitors depend on it!
To better understand how you can keep your home or commercial building clean and safe and protect the health of everyone inside, consider what causes sick building syndrome and how to check if your building is “sick” or toxic. You might also note 5 telltale signs your HVAC is causing sick building syndrome including, 1) Building occupants demonstrate similar symptoms, 2) Odd smells in the building, 3) Visible mold and contaminants, 4) Debris & dirt along the vents, 5) Lack of proper cleaning protocols and HVAC maintenance in place.
As sick building syndrome can have a number of causes and affect occupants differently, there is no “one size fits all” sign that your home or business is toxic. Note these five signs that it’s time to have the structure checked for pollutants and irritants!
It’s not unusual for more than one family member or staff member to get sick during cold and flu season, or for more than one to have common seasonal allergies. However, if several of the building’s occupants show similar symptoms of sick building syndrome, and especially if they’ve never suffered from allergies, sinus irritations, headaches, and other symptoms before, this can indicate that a building is toxic!
It’s also very telling if those symptoms seem to go away when people are outside the building. If your staff start to develop headaches or sinus irritations during the day but never notice them on the weekend, for example, or if your child’s sniffles go away once they head outside to play, this can indicate a problem in your home or commercial structure itself.
Mold, mildew, chemicals, fumes, and other irritants often produce odd or unpleasant smells and especially where they’re concentrated, such as around vents or areas of a plumbing leak. While some people are especially sensitive to smells and airborne chemicals, don’t dismiss complaints of odd and unpleasant odors from family or staff, as this can indicate a toxic building!
In the same way, a building’s occupants might have the same discomforts when inside a building. For example, excessive airborne dust can lead to dry skin, eyes, and sinuses. Family members or workers might complain that a home or business feels stuffy, or that water from drinking fountains or taps tastes odd.
If you change your HVAC furnace filter or air filter and notice mold, slime, or other such contaminants on the appliances or filter itself, or see mold growing along walls and baseboards, this often indicates the structure is toxic! Even if you don’t notice an abundance of mold or other irritants, remember that they often spread and grow quickly and might already be covering areas of your structure not readily visible, such as framing or plumbing fixtures behind walls.
Dust and other irritants get circulated through a structure’s ductwork and then through vents; excessive dust, pet hair, and other debris then build up on those vents and grates. You might also notice excessively dirty ceiling tiles, baseboards, window ledges, and furniture items.
You might also note if you can see lots of airborne dust in sunlight streaming through windows! While it’s not unusual to notice a few dust particles in the air, if you can see excessive amounts of dust in that sunlight, this might indicate that your structure contains high levels of bothersome airborne dust.
Homeowners and commercial building owners don’t like to admit when they neglect their property, or may not know how to clean and maintain a building properly. However, if you don’t care for a residential or commercial HVAC system properly and ensure interior spaces are clean and pristine, you’re sure to have a toxic building!
Property owners would do well to note how well they maintain their structure’s HVAC system, including changing the furnace and air filters. HVAC maintenance from a heating and cooling company also typically includes full-scale cleaning, to remove dust, mold, slime, and other irritants.
Regular, thorough interior cleaning is also vital for avoiding sick building syndrome. This might include daily vacuuming and dusting of all surfaces including those that are often neglected, such as window blinds and HVAC vents. If you’ve been avoiding this task, there is a very good chance that your building is toxic!
Sick building syndrome is caused by exposure to toxins and chemicals in the air or trapped along a building’s surfaces and materials; when a person breathes in those toxins or are exposed to irritants on their skin or sinus cavities, they can suffer a number of health concerns. Note some common causes of sick building syndrome:
Clean filters are vital for ensuring a building is not toxic and avoiding sick building syndrome. Both heated and cooled air are pushed through a structure’s furnace filter before being sent through ductworks and vents; those filters trap and lock dust, airborne dirt, pet hair and dander, human hair and dead skin cells, mold spores, pollen, and much more, keeping those irritants out of your structure’s interior spaces. Air filtration systems pull air through their filters and perform the same task.
However, for a filter to work properly, it must be clean! A dirty, clogged filter cannot trap and lock all those airborne irritants; the dirtier the filter, the more irritants that get through and wind up circulating around your structure’s interior spaces. This also means added wear and tear on the HVAC unit, as it works harder to push air through a clogged filter.
To keep interior spaces as clean as possible, change furnace filters every month during summer and winter seasons, and your air filter as often as recommended by the manufacturer. If you notice that the filter is especially dirty when you change it, increase this schedule to every two or three weeks, or as needed to ensure it doesn’t get clogged.
If you suspect you have a toxic house or commercial building, it’s typically best to have it checked first by an HVAC repair contractor. He or she can check the HVAC appliances for accumulated dust, mold, pollen, and other irritants, check the condition of the structure’s ductwork, and even perform an air pollution level or air quality test. He or she can also check furnace and air filters and note if they need replacing and if it’s recommended you invest in higher-quality filters for your structure.
A mold removal company can also check a structure for mold, mildew, and other irritants. A plumber can examine a structure for damaged, rusted pipes and contaminated water, as well as leaks that lead to mold growth inside a structure. A full-service cleaning company, especially one that specializes in heavy-duty commercial cleaning, can spot areas of troublesome dust, dirt, soot, and other irritants, and recommend better cleaning options for your home or business.
If your home or business has recently suffered a flood, burst plumbing pipe, overflowing toilet or shower, or other water-related disasters, have a water damage company check surfaces for bacteria, germs, and other irritants. Floodwaters and especially those from plumbing fixtures often bring lots of harmful germs and bacteria with them; if not cleaned properly, those irritants then cling to surfaces long after those waters recede, leading to sinus irritations and other health concerns.
Your HVAC contractor or another specialist can offer personalized suggestions for ensuring your building is free of toxins and safe for occupancy. It’s also good to ensure you’re doing everything possible to keep interior spaces clean and pristine, and free of irritants!
It’s also vital that property owners schedule regular HVAC maintenance and cleaning, to ensure those appliances are clean and operating efficiently. Not only will this ensure they’re in good condition but it will also remove dirt and dust that would otherwise wind up in interior spaces and cause sick building syndrome!
Cypress AC Repair Pros is proud to present this information to our readers and hope that it helped answer how HVAC causes sick building syndrome. If you need to improve your company's air quality via air filtration, be sure to give us a call! We have over 20 years of heating and cooling experience and stand behind all our work with an industry-leading warranty you can trust!
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