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What the First Day of Fall Means for Indoor Air Quality

The Autumnal Equinox marks the first day of fall. Is your home's HVAC system ready for the colder months? Learn how the upcoming season will impact your indoor air quality.
Last Updated on September 14, 2021

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There’s a change in the air when summer fades into fall. Not only does the temperature start to drop, but there’s a distinctive smell in the air. It makes one think of crunching leaves, warm pies and cozy sweaters. We, however, think of what autumn means for indoor air quality, and the solutions available to improve your home.

Unfortunately, the crisp fall air comes with its own set of problems. Did you know that as we enter autumn and expect cooler wet weather, your home’s indoor air quality will likely take a dive? Today, the autumnal equinox and the official start of fall is the time to re-evaluate your indoor air quality. Here are six ways your space’s autumn season indoor air quality could suffer and six simple solutions to ensure fresh high-quality indoor air this season.

1. Less Airflow

During the warmer weather months, it’s common to have open windows and doors while home. You soak in the fresh air and get plenty of natural ventilation in your indoor space.

In the fall, however, most climates won’t allow this. Whether too chilly or because of frequent wet weather, we tend to keep windows closed. When you close windows, you aren’t just cutting off the cold air, you’re also cutting off the source of fresh air.

With less natural ventilation, indoor air particles and germs have fewer circulation paths, meaning they can be trapped inside. This can lead to poor indoor air quality and is perhaps most noticeable during the summer to fall shift.

The Solution to Limited Airflow

Without the addition of natural ventilation and a nice summer breeze, your indoor space needs mechanical ventilation instead. Having an efficient ventilation system in your home will promote healthy air circulation, meaning an influx of fresh air without battling cold temperatures. We describe mechanical ventilation as lungs for your home. These ventilation systems bring in fresh outdoor air and circulate it through the entire home while getting rid of stale exhaust air. It’s also a more energy-efficient system! 

2. Autumn Allergies

There are many types of particles and pollen varieties that cause allergy symptoms throughout the year. While most associate allergy season with spring and the warmer months, there are multiple major allergens that are prevalent throughout fall.

Ragweed is especially common in autumn because it blooms in August and pollinates throughout the fall months until the first freezing temperatures. The weed raises fall pollen levels, irritating those with seasonal allergies.

Dust mites are also more common in the fall compared to other seasons. While they live in your home year-round, they flourish in the more temperate autumn climates. Without the extreme summer humidity, fall is their time to shine.

The Solution to Fall Allergens

Sadly those that suffer from spring allergies, are just as likely to suffer from fall allergies. The best solution for those with allergies is air filters, which play a critical role in their comfort. The importance of air filters is often overlooked, however, higher-rated filters do a better job of capturing air particles and can eliminate even the smallest indoor air pollutants. We suggest upgrading to MERV 13 filters which will help capture and remove as many allergens as possible.

3. Low Humidity

It might be more noticeable in some locales than others, but humidity levels change for everyone as summer becomes fall. As the temperatures cool, the outdoor air becomes drier.

That isn’t the only factor. As you make the switch to heat to keep your home warm in the chilly fall, the heater sadly also contributes to dry indoor air. As a result, most homes have noticeably drier air throughout autumn.

The Solution to Low Humidity

The fall months are the start of chapped lips and cracked hands. As a result, most people will fill their homes with room humidifiers. The problem is you likely need multiple portable humidifiers to treat the entire house. Not only do they not look great and clutter your space, but they’re less effective.

A better solution to fighting dry winter air is whole-home humidification. Compared to stand-alone humidifiers, whole-home humidifiers work with your HVAC system to add extra moisture to your home’s air. This is necessary to keep indoor humidity levels within the ideal 40–60% range.

4. Cold and Flu Season

Autumn isn’t just the season of pumpkin spice and changing leaves. It’s the start of cold and flu season too, meaning there are more illnesses to fight. The cooler the air gets and the more we’re forced indoors, the easier airborne illnesses can spread.

We have an additional new illness to battle as well: COVID-19. Particles from a wide range of viruses could be circulating in your air without even realizing it.

The Solution to Airborne Germs

Thankfully, there are many HVAC solutions to fight airborne germs and viruses. We recommend pursuing a combination of filtration, ventilation and purification options. Your indoor air quality does impact your family’s ability to stay healthy. 

The previously mentioned whole-home humidifiers are a great step to fight against illness. Studies show that when your humidity is low, you’re more likely to have flu virus particles indoors. Ensuring that your home is in the ideal humidity range will help keep occupants healthy and aid in reducing virus particles. Additionally, air purifiers help reduce the number of germs in the air. Similar to humidifiers, whole-home purifiers are wildly more efficient and successful at protecting your home compared to standalone units. 

Because of this, you should take a two-pronged approach to autumn indoor air quality concerns before the cold and flu season fully arrives—and to better protect your indoor space from the novel coronavirus.

autumn season indoor air problems and solutions

5. Likely Increase in Pollution

In many areas, fall comes with an increase in air pollution. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, driving tends to increase in the colder months and makes up a larger percentage of transportation methods. When it’s warm outside and your destination is nearby, you may consider walking or biking. But when the weather is cold, chances are you’re choosing the car for every errand.

Additionally, people use more energy in general during the fall. This is because we use a mix of both AC and heat as the weather changes to ensure comfortable temperatures. We also spend more time indoors with lights on because it gets darker earlier. The widescale increase in energy use contributes to pollution. When there’s more air pollution outside, it’s likely to increase indoor air pollution as well.

The Solution to Air Pollution

Whole-home air purifiers are one of the best ways to reduce pollution and improve your home’s indoor air quality. Purification systems attach to the furnace or air handling unit and decontaminate the air you breathe before it’s even recirculated back into the home. They’re an ideal low-maintenance solution for cleaner air.

6. Mold

Mold is a significant factor in unhealthy air. Breathing in mold spores is unhealthy for all of us. Unfortunately, there is more mold in the air during autumn. This is because mold thrives in wet climates and damp spaces. While falling leaves are a beautiful part of nature, fall foliage holds in moisture–allowing mold to grow. 

We often think of mold as something that stays in the basement, wet spaces outdoors and the corners of our homes we tend to not think about. However, mold spores grow and circulate to eventually enter your home. They also circulate through your indoor air.

The Solution to Increased Mold

The HVAC solutions for removing mold from indoor air are already included on this list. Whole-home humidifiers, purifiers and upgrading the air filters in your home are all helpful steps to combat mold! Perhaps one of the best benefits to HVAC/IAQ solutions is that they’re multipurpose. You’re almost always fixing two problems (or more!) at once. 

So, whether or not you or a family member suffers from mold sensitivity, we recommend improving your HVAC system by including IAQ systems. Even simply upgrading your air filters to MERV 13 or higher-rated filters can keep your family healthy.

Taking Charge of Your Indoor Air Quality This Autumn

2020 has been quite an unpredictable year. And while there are changes in the air and environment that you can’t control … you do have power over the air you breathe in your home. In fact, it’s the one space you truly control, and we suggest investing in the quality of the air you breathe.

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