If you dread the thought of turning on your air conditioner for the first time each summer for fear you'll spend the next few days (or weeks) in a hacking, sniffling haze, you may be one of the millions of Americans suffering with asthma, a condition that can restrict your airways and cause breathing difficulties. In other cases, the dust and pollen that has settled in your inactive air conditioner all winter may trigger an attack of seasonal allergies as your air conditioner kicks to life and spreads these airborne allergens throughout the room. Are there any air conditioners that can bring you relief from hot temperatures without leaving you breathless? Read on to learn more about the best (and worst) air conditioning systems for those suffering from seasonal allergies, asthma, or another respiratory ailment.
What air conditioners are not ideal for allergy or asthma sufferers?
Although window air conditioners can be convenient and inexpensive, their horizontal vents are a perfect place for dust, animal dander, and pollen to collect. Because these air conditioners are generally left inactive for at least a few months each year, the dust buildup can be significant -- and months of accumulated dust can be dispersed throughout the room in just a few seconds. In other cases, an improperly-cleaned or stored air conditioner (or one with an internal water leak) may develop mold in the compressor unit. As the air conditioner is turned on, these mold spores quickly spread. While it's possible to thoroughly clean your window air conditioner and store it in a protective case to avoid dust buildup, for homeowners dealing with severe allergies, another type of air conditioner is probably best.
What are your best air conditioning options if you have asthma or allergies?
If you need to replace an existing window air conditioner and don't have a home with central air vents, there are still a few portable and convenient options that will avoid the pollen or mold buildup more common to window units.
A portable air conditioner operates similarly to a window unit but instead includes an interior compressor that vents hot, moist air outside through a small, flexible tube. You can vent this tube through a window or unobtrusive hole in the wall, but you should be able to move the air conditioner from room to room without needing to move the vent. This is ideal for small homes -- or large historic homes with no central air and only a few occupied rooms. Because these air conditioners are shaped like radiant heaters, they can be more easily cleaned than window units and should store easily for the winter under a sheet or towel in a small closet.
For homes that already have the ductwork needed to support a central air conditioning system, a geothermal heat pump may be the best long-term option. While these systems can be expensive to install, they'll allow you to cut your energy bills significantly by eliminating your reliance on electric air conditioning. A geothermal heat pump operates by flowing water through a series of underground pipes installed near your home. Because the earth's crust remains a constant cool temperature (even when outside temperatures are freezing or sweltering), this geothermal system can produce an unlimited volume of cold air while using a minimal amount of electricity.
Since this geothermal heat pump can also produce warm air in winter, your air vents shouldn't spend enough time inactive to suffer any dust or pollen buildup. If you combine this geothermal system with a HEPA air filter, you'll notice a dramatic improvement in both your home's air quality and your breathing.
For more information and options, talk with local air conditioning companies, such as Weather Control Air Conditioning, Inc..