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Avoid Health Risks from Air Conditioning Overuse

by Stewart Unsdorfer

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The weather in Northeast Ohio seems more an more unpredictable - at times even extreme - with each passing season. During the summer months, the need for central air conditioning has become almost mandatory in most areas.

Despite the relief it brings on a hot day, there are some health considerations you should be aware of before keeping that air conditioning running 24/7, as you may be tempted to do.

Besides the concerns of high utility bills that result from excessive use, you might ask yourself, "Does air conditioning overuse pose any health risks?"

Potential Health Issues

While overexposure to air conditioning itself is not linked to actual illness, constant exposure can contribute to indoor discomfort for various reasons.

Here are some common health issues associated with the overuse of central air conditioning...

  • Indoor Air Pollution -- Studies indicate that indoor air pollution can sometimes be far greater than outdoor air pollution. If your home's air is poorly circulated or contains allergens, you may start to suffer from nasal issues, itchy eyes, headaches, dizziness or difficulty breathing, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. In extreme cases, asthma attacks and pneumonia may develop.  If the pollution within the home is allowed to persist for years, your symptoms may become severe or more serious conditions may develop. 

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  • Dry Skin and Nasal Passages -- Long hours of being exposed to central air conditioning can dry out the skin. Keeping the skin adequately cared for with moisturizers can help reduce flaky, often itchy, skin. Since air conditioned air is usually lower in humidity, it contributes to indoor comfort in the summer, but will also lead to drier skin and air passages.
  • Colds and Other Respiratory Illnesses -- Not only will your skin dry out from air conditioning overuse, but your mucus membranes will also dry out, which can leave you vulnerable to upper respiratory infections, fatigue and other illnesses, according to Global News. Having a humidifier professionally installed will help to balance the humidity in the home.
  • Heat Intolerance -- Spending long hours in an air conditioned home may cause you to suffer heat intolerance when you go outside. You may feel exhausted from exposure to the heat of the outdoors. Often, dizziness, headaches, difficulty breathing and even heat stroke may occur to a person who has spent long amounts of time in an air conditioned space.
  • Worsened Allergies & Ear Irritations -- If you suffer from allergies during the summer months, running your air conditioning constantly can worsen your symptoms if your system has not been regularly maintained. In addition, if mold is circulating in the air, it can accumulate in the folds of a person's ears, causing them to dry out and possibly bleed. The constant noise generated by some less-efficient central air conditioning systems may also potentially contribute to hearing damage. 

What are the Common Causes?

Dirty filters, uncleaned ductwork and vents and poor overall maintenance can cause your air conditioning system to release mold and other contaminants into the air you breathe.

According to National Geographic, dirty filters allow pollen, pesticides and other outdoor pollutants to accumulate and enter your home. Such substances can adversely effect your health. 

Safe Use of Your Air Conditioning System

The causes of indoor air pollution and the other discomfort discussed here are typically a dirty system and dirty filters that are used without maintenance for a long period of time. Here are some tips we suggest as you decide how and when to use your central air conditioning this summer:

  • Clean and/or replace your unit's air filters according to the manufacturer's recommendation.
  • Have a yearly maintenance check performed by an HVAC service technician.
  • Make sure your home has adequate ventilation to help bring fresh air inside and reduce indoor contaminants. Turning off the system and opening the windows occasionally can help circulate the air for periods of time. 
  • Have an air cleaner professionally installed on your central heating and air conditioning unit.
  • Turn the system off or down when no one is home and at night. This lowers the circulation of potentially harmful particles in your air, if they exist.

Constant use of air conditioning combined with poor indoor air quality can contribute to a host of issues related to breathing and allergies, in both adults and young children.

Find out more about protecting your family from the causes of poor air quality and what you can do to improve your indoor air in our blog.

Professional maintenance will keep your central air conditioning system functioning in tip-top shape,  but you can also do your part by controlling the use of your system and changing or cleaning the system's filters. You may even lower your energy usage and save a little money on your utility bills in the process.

Image credit: flickr.com

 

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Topics: Air Conditioners, Central Air Conditioning

blog author

Stewart Unsdorfer

Stewart has been in the HVAC business for more than 25 years. He is a state licensed heating and A/C contractor, as well as being certified in design, fabrication, layout and installation of forced air heating / cooling systems.

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