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 is absolutely essential. We offer several spooktacular Halloween HVAC tips to consider this spooky holiday.
Indoor Halloween Decorations and IAQ Foes
Certain Halloween decorations are actually tricks disguised as treats! Decor can emit harmful particles that worsen indoor air quality while exacerbating allergies and asthma symptoms and causing illness. Let’s take a look at several popular Halloween decorations and how they affect indoor air quality.
First and foremost, candles are a fire risk. (Obviously, 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. Certain candles and wicks also emit harmful chemicals as they burn, such as benzene and toluene, both notable volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If you’re a candle fanatic and simply can’t resist burning one, or a bunch, purchase natural candles with cotton wicks instead.
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 deceptive air pollutant with thousands of variations. Especially because mold spores spread quickly in the right conditions, like moist and damp spaces. It’s important to dispose of moldy items carefully. Also, make sure to keep pumpkins dry and carefully watch any decorative produce you have indoors. To keep pumpkins fresher longer, you can spray a mixture of water and bleach directly on the pumpkins.
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 worsen 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! Make sure to keep system vents clear.
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.
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.
You’ll likely find that the majority of Halloween decorations are made from plastic (skeletons, spiders, headstones and more). During the manufacturing process, these items can accumulate dangerous chemicals. As you unpackage new items, they release those chemicals or VOCs. This is a process known as off-gassing.
Furthermore, off-gassing is not a one-time problem. In reality, 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.
Spooktacular Halloween HVAC Tips
In addition to harming your home’s indoor air quality, Halloween decorations can impede your HVAC system’s efficacy. 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!
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 basic 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 to the design eye, 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. Even though 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!
4. Minimize Unwanted Ventilation
Consider an entirely outdoor All Hallows’ Eve! Opening and closing the door for trick-or-treaters throughout the night brings two potential issues. The warm 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 a chunk of the night outdoors! Handing out candy on the porch or from a decorated garage provides a memorable experience and is IAQ and HVAC-safe.
A Safe, Healthy and Spooktacular Halloween
Witches and warlocks are on the move as Halloween approaches. Celebrate the month of October without compromising your home’s indoor air quality or HVAC system with our spooktacular tips. 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 your decor this year with practical alternatives that allow you and your family to breathe right.