For those of us with allergies, early summer is peak pollen season. It’s also the time of year when people run their ACs the most, and the last thing you want is to be hacking up a storm while you’re overheated. However, you might notice that your allergies get worse inside your home, especially when you’re running your AC. You don’t want to trade one kind of discomfort for another, so let’s break down how allergies and air conditioning interact, how to optimize your air conditioner for allergies, and which supplemental products help make your home allergen-free. It’s not too hard to turn your window unit into the best air conditioner for allergy sufferers.
You might be wondering—if I’m inside and the windows are closed, why are there allergens in my home? Unfortunately, allergens enter your home on your clothing, your shoes, your pets, and even through the air vents. Poor insulation, especially in older homes, allows allergens to seep in through windows and even sometimes through the walls. In an enclosed space, the allergens have nowhere to go, which can make your allergies even worse. If you’re running a window air conditioner, you might think the AC is pulling in allergens from outside, but that’s actually a common misconception. A window AC unit intakes inside air, through the front of the unit, before cooling the air and releasing the heat exhaust via its outside-facing vents.
In fact, the best air conditioner for allergy sufferers might already be in your home. Many common allergen producers travel through the air, like dust mites and pet dander. Other allergen producers, like fungal spores, show up more often in humid weather. Air conditioners naturally dehumidify the air in your home while cooling things down, which reduces the risk of mold and removes fungal spores from circulation. The water that drips out the back of an AC is actually the humidity from within your home.
Your unit’s filter also helps out with air purification. Standard mesh filters prevent larger allergens, like pet dander, from recirculating in your home. In addition to our easy-to-clean mesh filter, we designed supplemental Activated Carbon Filters for the Windmill AC to trap even more volatile organic compounds and allergen microparticles. Activated Carbon (which is a fancy name for a special kind of charcoal) traps gasses that pass through most filters, which has the nice additional benefit of improving how your home smells.
But the relationship between allergies and air conditioning isn’t always sunshine and low humidity. If you don’t take care of your unit, it will become a bad air conditioner for allergies very quickly. If you allow water to build up in a window unit, mold is going to form within the AC. Then, when you run the machine, allergens will spread throughout your home. As filters wear down over time, they are less effective at removing allergens as well. In fact, expired carbon filters will actually release the pollutants they previously filtered out! Despite not taking in outside air, improperly installing your window AC will leave gaps for outside allergens to enter your home. Those same leaks in your home will let out the filtered air, raising the air pollution level even higher.
There’s a silver lining: using your window unit air conditioner for allergies just means using your machine responsibly. In some ways, the routines for taking care of your allergies and air conditioning are similar. With a unit like the Windmill AC, installing the unit at 1° pitch (~¼ inch) backwards takes care of water buildup, preventing mold from forming. If you ever do notice standing water in your unit, power it off and empty the water before using a non-toxic household cleaner to disinfect your AC.
Your unit should have a change filter light to let you know when your filter gets too grody. Even if the light doesn’t come on, it’s a good idea to check your filter after a month of regular use (or more often, if you’re ambitious!). The Windmill AC has a washable and reusable filter, but some other window units may require changing out the filter each time.
If you’re going to use an additional filter, remember to regularly change that out as well. Our Activated Carbon Filter subscription sends you a four-pack each year, so you can change out the carbon filter after about two or three months of regular use. Having these good habits will make both your allergies and air conditioning run more efficiently, saving you money and keeping you cooler and healthier at the same time. The best air conditioner for allergy sufferers is a properly installed and well-maintained machine.
By taking good care of your window AC, your unit will dehumidify and filter allergens out of the air. But remember, if your AC isn’t filtering allergens out, your AC could be circulating allergens around your home. If you’re ever concerned that your AC isn’t working, or if it’s making the allergy situation worse, reach out to us at Windmill so we can give you a hand. Just because it’s allergy season outdoors doesn’t mean it has to be allergy season inside your home.