Attention ghosts and ghouls, Halloween is right around the corner! Spooky season includes pumpkin scented candles, creepy decorations, sweet treats and festive lighting. What a thrill! Whether your home is heavily decorated or simplistically styled, protecting your home’s indoor air quality and HVAC system are absolutely essential. We offer several spooktacular Halloween HVAC tips to consider this spooky holiday.
Halloween IAQ Foes
Certain Halloween decorations are actually tricks disguised as treats! Decor can emit harmful particles that worsen indoor air quality while exacerbating allergies, asthma symptoms and causing illness. Let’s take a look at several popular Halloween time decorations and how they affect indoor air quality.
1. Scented Candles
First and foremost, candles are a fire risk. (That goes for both scented and unscented candles!) Candles are often forgotten and left burning for hours on end, increasing the risk of a fire. Candles and wicks also emit harmful chemicals as they burn, such as benzene and toluene. If you’re a candle fanatic and simply can’t resist burning one (or a bunch), purchase natural candles with cotton wicks instead.
2. Fake Spider Webs
Spider webs are extremely popular during Halloween. Fake webbing is versatile, inexpensive and requires little effort. However, unpackaging, stretching and cutting fake spider webs releases loose fibers into the air. These fiber particles hurt indoor air quality, particularly as they circulate throughout your home. Use fake spider webs sparingly indoors and avoid fiddling with them unnecessarily. It’s also a common assumption that spreading webs over registers and grilles is harmless—the fake webbing is so thin anyway! Don’t make this mistake! Keep system vents clear.
Pumpkins can’t possibly be dangerous, they’re just fruit, right?! Everyone knows that pumpkins are a classic Halloween decoration. They come in various colors, their seeds are delicious when baked and carving pumpkins is fun for the whole family. Unfortunately, pumpkins, gourds and the like also grow mold over time. Mold is a particularly tricky air pollutant with thousands of variations. It’s important to not only dispose of moldy items carefully but make sure to keep pumpkins dry. Especially because mold spores spread quickly in the right conditions, such as moist and damp spaces. To keep pumpkins fresher longer, create a mixture of water and bleach, spray it on the pumpkin and let it dry.
4. Decorative Lighting
Lighting is everything. It sets the stage and adds warmth to your home. Beautiful colors add an effortless flair to any decorative style. However, there is one tip that all decorative lighting enthusiasts should know. Decorative lights must be safety-approved as they pose an electrical hazard. Whether you use one strand or 100 strands, ensure that they comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards.
5. Fog Machines
Eerie fog clouds your vision as you enter a haunted house! Fog machines are definitely spooky and create an exciting ambiance. In order to produce realistic fog, these machines use chemicals that are particularly harmful to asthma and allergy sufferers. Furthermore, the air pollutants these machines emit can clog your air filter. It’s best to avoid fog machines indoors altogether during Halloween.
6. Plastic Decorations
You’ll likely find that the majority of Halloween decorations are made from plastic (e.g., skeletons, spiders and headstones). During the manufacturing process, these items accumulate a number of dangerous chemicals. As you unpackage new items, they can release those chemicals—also known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs. This is a process called off-gassing. Also, off-gassing is not a one-time problem, new products can continue to emit VOCs for weeks and months after opening. When purchasing Halloween decorations, ensure that they are non-toxic to avoid this unhealthy process.
Halloween Decorations and HVAC Systems
In addition to harming your home’s indoor air quality, Halloween decorations can impede your HVAC system’s efficiency and effectiveness. There are several ways that Halloween decorations may pose an issue. Here are four quick Halloween HVAC tips for a safe and problem-free October!
Spooktacular Halloween HVAC Tips
1. Make Sure to Not Block HVAC Vents
While we understand the temptation to decorate every corner of your home … doing so could end in disaster if the decorations block registers and grilles! The vents and ductwork in your home allow air to circulate throughout the space and aid in the heating and cooling processes. When these vents are blocked, the HVAC system is forced to work harder to complete these tasks. That goes for decorations, furniture and everything in between.
2. Keep the HVAC System Clear
Similar to not letting decor block vents; do not allow any large debris or decorations to enter the vents! Registers and grilles may be unattractive, but that’s okay. They serve a purpose. If small decorations are pulled into the vents, they will severely impede airflow.
3. Do Not Block Outdoor Units
When attempting to impress your neighbors with eight-foot-tall inflatable witches, long-legged bush spiders and strings of decorative lights, do not block your outdoor unit! The outdoor unit, AKA condenser unit is responsible for your home’s air conditioning. And while the weather is cooler and AC may be the last thing on your mind, the cost of replacing the unit next spring isn’t worth the hassle! And for those in warmer locales, blocking the outdoor unit basically renders it useless.
4. Consider an All Outdoor Halloween Night
Opening and closing the door for trick-or-treaters throughout the night brings two potential issues. The warm conditioned indoor air flows outside each time you open the door. This makes your system work harder to compensate for the change in temperature and makes for a costlier night. The more extreme the difference between outdoor and indoor temperatures, the harder your home system has to work. The second issue depends on outdoor air quality. If outdoor air quality is poor, each door opening allows outdoor pollutants in. Instead, consider spending the bulk of the night outdoors! Handing out candy on the porch or from a decorated garage provides a memorable experience and is IAQ-safe.
A Safe, Healthy and Spooktacular Halloween
Witches and warlocks are on the move as Halloween approaches! Celebrate the month of October with our spooktacular tips to promote healthy indoor air quality and protect home HVAC systems. After all, what fun is a Halloween celebration in a poorly ventilated home with flammable decorations and electrical hazards? Enjoy the beauty and safety of decorations this year with practical alternatives that allow you and your family to breathe right.