Here’s Why Your Allergies Flared Up Recently

Ah, allergies – this gift that keeps on giving.  For most people, they tend to act up in the spring and summer months when outdoor air is ripe with pollen.

But if during our recent “January thaw” you noticed your allergies kicking in, this is why.

Mold, mold, mold

There’s a certain degree of mold present outside year-round, but most grows in the fall season. At this time piles of leaves and other dead vegetation absorb moisture and create dark, wet places ideal for bacteria growth. Anyone with allergies or respiratory sensitivities has probably noticed they are aggravated by activities like raking leaves or turning a compost pile.Winter allergies

Here’s the surprising part: many of these mold strains are not killed off by winter frosts. Instead they lay dormant until mid-winter warm ups when they become exposed on the ground, brush and trees as ice and snow melt off.

So if your allergies flare up whenever the weather gets above 0 degrees outside, particularly when you are spending time outside, this could be why.


Cold weather indoor allergens

However, we can’t forget about allergens that strike in the home all winter long. Forced air heating systems do make homes drier this time of year, but condensation gathers in the more humid parts of homes, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Cold weather means windows stay closed, so if you have an HRV/ERV it’s important to keep them running to exchange fresh outdoor air with indoor air. If you do find mold is growing in your home, it can be cleaned with vinegar or a gentle bleach and hot water solution.

Air filtration products can also be your friends year-round when it comes to reducing indoor allergens like dust, bacteria, and pet dander. There is a huge difference between a standard 1 inch furnace filter and something like the Lennox PureAir which can remove 99.9% of airborne particles and 90% of bacteria. Because the whole family and pets tend to spend more time bundled up inside in the cold months, that’s more hair, dust, pet fur and dirt accumulating inside. Ventilation upgrades – plus not skimping on the dusting and vacuuming – can help reduce respiratory irritants that bother us in winter.

By following these methods, as well as limiting time outdoors on warmer and windy winter days you can reduce your allergy flare ups in winter…at least until spring allergies kick in.


Tips for Changing your Filter

The much debated question about your home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is: how often should the filter be changed?

There is no one answer to this question, as there are many factors to consider.  These include:Types of Filters

  • Type of filter being used – there is a clear distinction between a 1” filter compared to a pleated MERV 16 filter that is 5” thick.
  • Type of furnace and AC – if you have a new high efficiency furnace and/or air conditioner it will help increase the lifespan of your filter in comparison to a 15+ year old system that is tired and needs all the help it can get.
  • House specific – the size of your home, where you live, how many people and pets are living in your home all factor into how long your filter will function at an optimal level.
  • Season – the filter efficiency is also dependent on the time of year and how often you run your equipment.

There are many different sources you can reference for guidelines to this question.  According to and Consumer Reports the average filter should be checked every month and replaced at least every three months.

Regardless of what type of filter you have, and how often you choose to change your filter, all homeowners should understand why a filter needs to be replaced.  Heating and cooling systems have a filter to remove airborne particles before they reach the blower motor and cause damage.  The filter also ensures that the air being pushed through your vents is clean and dust free.  When the filter is replaced often, it allows your furnace and air conditioner to run at optimal efficiency, and that is reflected in your monthly energy bill.

For all instructions as to how to replace the filter in your HVAC system please reference your owner’s manual, or see our FAQ post How do I change my furnace air filter?

Will Your Furnace Last All Winter?

We have already had our first glimpse into winter this year. Have you thought about whether your furnace is ready for the change in temperature? Before the cold sticks around for longer than a week, here are the top three tips to make sure your Cold Winterfurnace is winter-ready.

  1. Replace your filter

Furnace filters should be replaced every two to three months depending on the type of system you have, and the quality of filter you are using. It’s possible you don’t remember the last time you changed your furnace filter, since you have not been using the unit for quite a few months. As a general rule, your filter should always be free of dust and debris. For more information see our FAQ “How do I change my furnace filter?”

Reminder: always remember to shut off your furnace power before attempting to replace your filter for safety reasons.

  1. Double check your vents and registers

The first time you power up your furnace you will want to pay attention for any strange noises in your vents. Also, you should walk around your home to make sure there is nothing blocking your heat registers; furniture, drapes and toys can all be a fire hazards. The registers may also need to be adjusted in order to achieve a consistent temperature throughout your home. Warm air rises, so you may want to restrict airflow to all the warmest rooms, thereby increasing airflow to the coolest rooms.

  1. Schedule an annual maintenance

Arranging for a professional to inspect your furnace will ensure your unit is functioning at its best. When your furnace runs well there are many benefits: it runs less frequently, burns less energy, and heats more efficiently. Furnace service also ensures that clean air is passing through your unit, making your home dust and allergen-free.

Reminder: if you have a warranty with your furnace, it likely stipulates that you need to have an annual maintenance performed in order to be covered.