Hawaii Air Conditioning & Indoor Air Quality: What You Need to Know

February 22nd, 2020

Hawaii has some of the best outdoor air quality in the country – but indoor air quality? Not so much.

Honolulu boasts an Air Quality Index score of 21 and towns outside the city rank even lower – which is great!

Unfortunately, most people don’t spend the bulk of their time hanging out on North Shore or hiking Makapu’u. We spend most of our time indoors working or taking care of our families where the air conditioning runs constantly. Bummer!

You may not realize that indoor air is filled with pollutants and toxic substances like mold. Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family.

Why is Indoor Air Quality and Air Conditioning Important?

Indoor air quality matters because you spend most of your time inside breathing the air. 

The EPA estimates that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors on average where pollutants are up to 5 times higher than outside. Yikes.

While energy efficient systems help reduce costs and protect the environment, they might make indoor air quality worse. According to the EPA, the air you breathe indoors has gotten much worse over the past decade because energy efficient materials don’t provide proper ventilation.

Not only that, but your items in your home includes several toxic synthetic AND organic materials like

  • Furniture (like memory foam mattresses and polyester couches)
  • Upholstery 
  • Clothing
  • Pesticides 
  • Flame retardant coatings
  • Waterproofing like PFAS
  • Teflon and nonstick coatings like PFAS
  • Cleaning products
  • Personal care products
  • Pet dander
  • Radon
  • Dust mites
  • Mold 
  • Cockroach droppings and allergens

Living in Hawaii, you know roaches are a fact. Not only are they annoying but their droppings and presence can pollute the air in your home. 

Humidity plays a key role in both mold and organic toxin growth. Roaches are attracted to dark and damp places. When it gets humid outside and you can’t bring down your home’s humidity, you’ll notice an increase in roaches. 

Humidity also increases mold growth. Mold can be deadly and create toxic environments.

Sick Building Syndrome

If you feel sick while you’re at home and feel better once you step outdoors, you’re not going crazy! You might be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Eye, nose, or throat irritation
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Hoarse voice
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Increased allergies
  • Personality changes

Symptoms clear up when you leave the building in-question and come back when you return. Experts aren’t sure what causes Sick Building Syndrome but they suspect it stems from mold growth or increased toxins due to poor ventilation and air conditioning. 

Respiratory Illnesses

Mold and humidity can also cause respiratory illnesses or make existing problems worse.

People with allergies and asthma should pay close attention to their air conditioning maintenance and indoor air quality to prevent symptoms and flareups. 

Keeping roaches at bay can also help keep your respiratory system healthy. 

Breathing bacteria and mold growth can lead to deadly diseases like Legionnaire’s or Pontiac Fever which produce symptoms like

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing mucus or blood
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Digestive issues like nausea or diarrhea 

Compromised Immune Systems

Anyone with a compromised immune system due to illnesses like HIV, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and other autoimmune diseases should do their part to prevent mold growth at home.

Breathing in toxic air containing mold or pollutants from synthetic sources can put more stress on the immune system. The added burden can trigger frequent flareups and increase their intensity as well.

How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality with Your Air Conditioning

A quote from the post about air conditioningWhen the sun starts shining and the outdoor humidity levels rise, your air conditioner probably stays on 24-7. 

In other words, your air conditioning handles 100% of the air you breathe indoors – where people spend 90% of their time. 

You can take a proactive approach to respiratory health, starting with your AC unit. 

Use High-Quality Air Filters

The filter in your AC unit is the floodgate protecting the air you breathe in your home from toxins like mold, dander, bacteria, and countless others. 

It’s important to invest in a high-quality air filter if you want to protect your lungs, mind, and body. 

Fiberglass filters can remove large particle toxins and substances like PFAS. However, they won’t remove pollution. Instead, choose polyester or pleated filter. 

It’s also critical to regularly change your air filter. When your filter gets dirty, your AC can’t run efficiently. Not only does this drag down performance and increase humidity, but it also means your indoor air quality suffers. 

You should change your filter:

  • Every 90 days in pet-free homes
  • Every 60 days in homes with one pet 
  • Every 30 days in homes with two pets or someone with allergies or asthma

Keep Humidity Down

Keeping the humidity levels down in your home is the best way to reduce mold and bacteria growth. 

Air conditioners naturally function as dehumidifiers. Sometimes things go haywire and humidity levels rise. You can take a few steps to make sure your AC is keeping your home nice and dry (but not TOO dry).

  • Make sure your coil is clean. A dirty filter will make your AC evaporator coil dirty. Your coil’s job is to remove condensation and water from the air. Replacing a faulty coil or cleaning it can help reduce humidity in your home. Give us a call if you need help.
  • Install a thermal expansion valve. A thermal expansion valve helps your coil remove water more efficiently by increasing the surface area.
  • Check your refrigerant charge. If your AC isn’t fully charged, it can’t run properly. The first place you’ll notice this problem is with increased humidity. Regular maintenance and tune-ups from our experts at Island Comfort can help.
  • Lower your fan speed. When your air conditioning fan blows super-fast, air passes over the coil without time to pull out the water. Air entering your home hasn’t had a chance to dehumidify and will cause increased moisture.

Call the Air Conditioning Professionals to Help

Your air conditioner plays a key role in respiratory health. Don’t neglect it! Take a proactive approach to your air quality.

Our expert technicians at Island Comfort can help you fix your humidity problem with a 32-point tune-up and select the perfect air filter to keep your indoor air quality in a healthy range. 

Schedule an appointment with Island Comfort today!