When chilly winter air finally reaches Southeast Texas, our first instinct is to turn on the heater without a moment of hesitation. When you wake in the morning with cold or allergy symptoms, the cold front is often considered the cause.
Many homeowners are unaware that your heating unit, if not prepared for winter use, can make you sick. Our team at Efficient Systems knows what to look out for if you are feeling unwell and ways to make the air in your home as healthy as possible, especially when all you want is to cozy up indoors for a winter movie marathon.
What Is “Heater Sickness”?
Our central heating system is not usually thought of as something that can cause an illness, which makes “heater sickness” really troubling.
Starting the unit for the first time after months of dormancy forces allergens and contaminants that have collected in the ducts throughout the year into your home. When you breathe the past year’s dust, pollen and mold into your lungs, your body reacts the same way it would to seasonal allergies and illnesses. If you aren’t typically affected by seasonal allergies but have them this winter, your heater may be the culprit.
Symptoms of Heater Sickness
- Sore/Dry Throat
- Sneezing or Itchy Nose
- Watery, Itchy Eyes
- Allergy Flare-Up
- General Discomfort Indoors
How Your Heater May Make you Sick
While in use, heaters lower humidity levels in your home and force hot air through dusty, dirty vents, filters and ducts, if poorly maintained. Constantly breathing extremely warm, dry air that may contain fungi, mold and mildew from the vents can affect your skin, nose, throat and eyes.
Breathing these air particulates and smelling the bacteria may cause sneezing, congestion headaches, coughing and drying out your eyes, nose and throat. The dust and dryness can also make your eyes water and itch, and you may even feel dehydrated at times.
Another sign your heating system is the problem is if certain rooms feel different in temperature or humidity. Dirty ducts won’t equally distribute heat, causing alternating cold and warm conditions from room to room or throughout the day.
Ways to Fix and Prevent Heater Sickness
Open a Window
Keeping your home closed up during winter can worsen the harsh effects your heater may have on your body (especially if you’ve dedicated time to sealing up drafty spots in your home to preserve warm air). It may seem strange to risk letting cold air in, but ventilation is key to improving indoor air quality.
Without it, allergens will recirculate throughout your home and remain in the air you breathe. Opening a window the first time you run your heater should help polluted air escape before your body reacts to it.
Change or Clean Filters
During the warm months, pollen, dust, mold and other allergens collect in the ductwork. Dirty filters allow these allergens to enter your home when the heater kicks on. Not changing the filters allows the contaminants to continue circulating through your home’s system, making your indoor air quality, allergies and asthma worse.
Depending on the specific type, single-use air and furnace filters should be changed roughly four times per year to ensure clean air is forced into your home. Reusable filters should be cleaned on a similar schedule. In extreme cases, you may consider investing in HEPA filter upgrades.
Invest in an Air Purifier or Humidifier
Dirty or dry heater air causes dry skin, throat, irritated sinuses and can trigger asthma. Air purifiers help clear contaminants from dirty air, while humidifiers increase moisture levels in the air, making it more comfortable to breathe.
Clean Your Ducts
If the ductwork in your home has never been cleaned, consider the investment! Hiring a company to clean the ducts is a great way to remove any dust and allergens that have been collected in them. This will help warm, clean air blow out of your vents the first time you run your heater, without irritating your immune system.
Get Regular Maintenance
Routine heater maintenance and inspections are the best way to ensure your heating unit is ready for winter weather! Efficient Systems has been providing residents and businesses with expert Beaumont heating services since 1979.
Contact The Professionals
Contact us today to schedule heater maintenance, repair or if you need advice on air filter replacements. We’ll help ensure your home’s heated air is as clean as possible this winter!