We often think of our homes as sanctuaries that protect us from outdoor pollutants. Recent news reports about air quality around Baltimore underscore this sentiment. In December 2023, a WMAR televised news segment indicated that air quality samples collected by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDOE) in Curtis Bay had significant levels of coal dust particles, which were likely generated by industrial activity around the Chesapeake Bay.

You certainly don’t want coal dust particles invading your Baltimore home and compromising your indoor air quality (IAQ). For this reason, HVAC systems are designed to provide a level of protection against air pollution through mechanical methods of filtering, ventilation, and recirculation. These methods can be augmented with equipment such as air scrubbers, humidifiers, ultraviolet (UV) lighting, and dehumidifiers.

Proper maintenance of HVAC systems is also crucial for improving indoor air quality in your Baltimore home. With all this in mind, let’s explore why prioritizing indoor air quality is essential for healthy and productive living spaces.

What Lowers Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality in Baltimore?

As previously mentioned, the Baltimore region does not enjoy the best air quality. In addition to detecting coal dust particles around Curtis Bay and other areas, MDOE field technicians recorded an air quality index (AQI) as high as 200 around the Mt. Vernon district in June 2023, thus triggering a code red alert. That AQI measurement of 200 indicates that the air was polluted to the point of being considered unhealthy, which means that even people with healthy respiratory systems experience respiratory irritation and difficulty breathing with prolonged exposure. At that time, hundreds of wildfires in Canada were active, and a weather system transported clouds of smoke south along the Eastern Seaboard, thus exacerbating the situation.

Similar to other metropolitan regions with active industrial centers, Baltimore has its share of air quality challenges. Outdoor pollutants like coal dust and ozone can easily infiltrate your home through windows, doors, and ventilation systems, further compromising the air you breathe. Further, indoor air can often be many more times polluted than outdoor air.

Your home is supposed to be a haven from the region’s air pollution. To a certain extent, this can be accomplished with a properly maintained HVAC system. Still, you can’t forget about other factors such as poor ventilation, common household items, pets, mold colonies, radon gas, and volatile organic compounds. Even domestic activities such as cooking, cleaning, and burning logs in fireplaces release pollutants that can lower IAQ.

The Problem With Low IAQ in Baltimore

The regional climate presents a year-round IAQ challenge. During Baltimore’s notoriously hot and humid summers, residents rely heavily on air conditioning, which can recirculate indoor pollutants if filters aren’t changed regularly. During the colder months with limited ventilation, low IAQ can trap pollutants released from heating systems and during holiday activities.

Respiratory issues top the list of concerns related to low IAQ. People with conditions such as asthma, allergies, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the most affected by poor IAQ. If you or someone in your home lives with these conditions, inadequate IAQ levels can increase the risk of developing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

Other health concerns include common systemic reactions to being exposed to pollutants. Low IAQ can lead to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue even if you do not suffer from respiratory conditions. Airborne pollutants can cause irritated eyes with burning sensations and excessive tearing. Pet dander can trigger allergies and contribute to general stuffiness and discomfort. In the long run, adverse IAQ levels can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to respiratory infections. When this happens, it is not unusual for your overall energy levels and productivity to be negatively impacted.

In addition to health issues, poor IAQ can create unpleasant household situations, such as foul odors emanating from mold and mildew growth. While it is true that these odors can be managed by locating and eliminating colonies, the problem usually persists until IAQ can be improved. Speaking of mildew, persistent moisture and poor ventilation create breeding grounds for colonies that can damage walls, ceilings, furniture, and even garments in walk-in closets. Some structural issues, such as warping wood and peeling paint, can also be caused by mold infestations. These are problems that can be expensive to remediate.

Improving IAQ in Your Baltimore Home

Now that you know how IAQ can affect your health, comfort, and wallet, let’s review how At Your Service Heating & Cooling LLC can help you achieve healthy levels in your home. The first step is to determine IAQ levels. Our technicians use special equipment to detect the presence of dust, allergens, VOCs, radon, and other pollutants. At the same time, humidity levels are measured across all the living spaces of your home.

If our technicians measure poor air quality, the next step is to pinpoint the sources, which can range from mold growth inside sections of HVAC ducting to faulty components. It can also come from inadequate filters or ventilation issues. Based on the assessment, At Your Service Heating & Cooling LLC can propose a plan to improve your home’s IAQ, taking into account your specific needs, budget, and the layout of the residential structure.

Thus far, we have described the minimum you can do to improve IAQ. Now, we can address more specific situations. Your HVAC system provides a baseline level of humidity control and air circulation. Still, some Baltimore homeowners will require advanced solutions if there are household members who live with health conditions such as asthma, sensitive skin, suppressed immune systems, migraines, and environmental allergies. In such cases, maximizing IAQ can greatly contribute to health maintenance and avoiding flare-ups or triggers. This can be done through strategies such as humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air scrubbers, and UV lights.

When living spaces are excessively dry, dehumidifiers can prevent mold growth, a significant concern with Baltimore’s humidity, particularly for residents who live closer to the Chesapeake Bay. Dehumidifiers can contribute to improved respiratory health and a reduction in allergy symptoms. In winter, we can have overly dry air that can irritate respiratory passages and skin. In this case, humidifiers can alleviate these issues and improve overall comfort for individuals who live with chronic conditions related to dry skin.

Air scrubbers installed within your HVAC system improve IAQ by augmenting the functionality of HVAC filters. They boost filtration by removing the VOCs emitted from common household products and capturing airborne particles that can trigger allergies and asthma flare-ups. An additional benefit of air scrubbers is a fresher-smelling home.

When UV lights are integrated with your HVAC system, you get a proactive approach to air purification. These lights combat airborne viruses, bacteria, mold spores, and other floating organisms with the potential to develop pathologies. In addition to improving IAQ, UV lights can enhance the performance of your HVAC system itself through cleaner coils.

For more than a decade, At Your Service Heating & Cooling LLC technicians have been providing IAQ services to Baltimore residents who like to keep their homes fresh and healthy. We specialize in the maintenance, repair, and installation of HVAC systems. We can also service water heaters, filtration systems, boilers, and backup generators. Call At Your Service Heating & Cooling LLC today for a healthier home tomorrow.

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