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Home air purification, calling all HVAC experts

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by chokeslam512, Dec 27, 2011.

  1. Hello all!

    In the last year or so, my wife has developed some serious allergies resulting in several sinus infections. We live in an industrial style loft and there is no shortage of dust (we also have two dogs but they are staying). We tend to notice that our unit is fairly dry and we notice a lot of dust. Our HVAC ducts were cleaned last year and there wasn't a whole lot in the ducts themselves prior to cleaning (such as construction debris etc that is common).

    We currently use the Filtrete Ultra allergen filters in our air exchange and we have an ionic purifier set up right by my wifes side of the bed. My question is, aside from a forced air HEPA filter unit (which we are also currently researching, recommendations are welcome!) can I add further filtering onto our HVAC unit? The Air Return is located in a closet and there is a louvered section on the door. What I am thinking is attaching a second furnace air filter to the inside of the door to act as sort of a pre cleaning filter so the air going into the air return is pre cleaned. I would more than likely put a higher flow (less intense) filter on the door and continue to use the Ultra Allergen filter in the air return itself.

    My common sense is telling me that this will help, but my engineering background is telling me that this will result in possible increased wear and tear on our HVAC unit.
  2. Strohsx


    Aug 16, 2011
    google - Neti pot and a hot vapor humidifier to set near the bed.
    Trust me, I had a chronic sinus infection for 4 years running and had tried every filter, med and treatment other than surgery.

    Truth be told there is only so much you can do and then the effects are negligible when it comes to air purification, keep the sinuses moist so they can drain properly and see if that helps.
  3. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Have you been to a doctor to find out what in the air is the source of the infections? Before you go out buying filters and sticking them up all over, find out what you're battling against.

    We have an inline Honeywell unit for the furnace in our house in Washington by the way. Filters are cleaned monthly. No other filters in the return or vents.

  4. My wife is a religious Neti Pot user. I recently discovered a gap between the faucet in our shower and the shower wall. I just ordered a borescope to see if we have a mold problem. I figure that both of us would have symptoms if it was mold though so, hopefully that's not the culprit. I am going to perform a heavy shower cleaning and recaulking in the next few days after inspection.
  5. She is going to go see an allergist and an ENT doctor after the first of the year to get the whole story on what she is allergic to. I am also planning to have a home inspector come out and take some air samples and some swabs of the insides of our wall at various locations to see if it is bacterial/viral/fungal or particulate. He mom had late onset allergies (late 20's, wife is currently 27).

    It's just frustrating because she was always the healthy one.
  6. pflash4001


    Dec 2, 2011
  7. That's interesting... I used it a couple times and hated it. It seemed like a home waterboarding kit. She puts the saline packets in each one but I don't know if that kills the microbes (if there are any in city water). That story specifically calls out amoeba, I would hate to think that those are found in my water at home. :shudder:
  8. fenderhutz

    fenderhutz Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    Harpers Ferry WV
    If you used store bought distilled water you don't have to consider the amoeba.
  9. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    There's plenty of stand-alone HEPA air purifiers for apartments. They have a quiet setting to be used during the night, so they're bedroom-friendly, too. This is what I use during the pollen season and it works great. For removing the dust, there's vacuum cleaners with HEPA filtration. If you have a serious problem with the dust, a robotic vacuum cleaner with HEPA would be one nice option, as it can go around cleaning every day if you need it to.
  10. Better read up on the Ionic Breeze units as well. It seems they produce a lot of ozone which can aggravate respiratory issues.
  11. You know, I did read something about this too. Ozone is a good sanitizer but is quite harmful as well...

    Edit: Just read a lot of reviews and articles on these things. EPA say it can aggrivate all the symptoms that she has as well as propelling more particles than it captures. We shut it off a couple days ago and are going to throw it out. Next steps: replace furnace filter, get to an allergist and wash those dern dogs.
  12. RosieB


    Feb 10, 2009

    I have a lot of allergies and as long as I get allergy shots and stay hydrated I don't get sinus infections. When I go off my shots I start getting sinus infections until they are continuous. Then I give up and start shots again and the sinus infections stop. Keeping the dogs bathed helps a lot, too.

    So it sounds like you are on the right track to get her healthy again. Allergist, bathe the dogs, neti pot with distilled water, and drink lots of water daily.

    Also, I got tested and found that I had some food allergies I wasn't aware of. I've noticed that when I eliminate those foods from my diet that my inhalant allergies are better, too. Just something to be aware of.

    I hope they get it all figured out for her quickly!
  13. pflash4001


    Dec 2, 2011
    Your digestive system is made to defend against some of the stuff in water (to an extent) but when you pour it straight up your nose like that, there's nothing to fight against it. Both had used tap water. They recommend boiled or distiller water. My wife works with water quality here for the State of Texas. She said its not uncommon to find some small quantities of bugs in the water system. The key is to keep them at manageable levels.
  14. I run two-deep filters in one of our furnaces (at the suggestion of the HVAC guy) and it works just fine. No problems. I notice that the filter second-in-line takes much longer to get dirty.
  15. dsanders


    Jan 22, 2005
    Nashville, TN

    My day job is with an HVAC company here in Nashville. I can put you in touch with someone that can talk with you over the phone and answer any questions you have, then make a few recommendations. At that point you can get with a contractor local to you if you need more help.

    If that's something you would like to do PM me please. A few things that come to mind: Humidifiers inline with your system, UV lights, air scrubbers, etc.

    There's alot that can be done to both clean the air and control the moisture so that your wife's breathing is easier.
  16. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    What did your wife's mother do to solve her allergy problems? Did she get tested and what were the results?

    I suggest you get all the medical testing done before spending bucks on all the equipment. IME, until you have an more specific target, attempting to clean everything may not work as well you hope or solve any of your wife's sinus problems.

    I have been taking anti-allergy shots since 1999. First I went to an ENT for sinus problems and he also did the allergy testing. I had an update of my tests about 6 years ago. I did pretty well on those anti-allergy injections.

    About a year ago, as I seemed to be having more sinus problems, I decided to visit an allergist. He did additional testing and part of the testing including duplicating some of the back tests on my arm. Apparently some allergens respond differently depending on the location of the test. Turns out I am allergic to dust mites and that was not picked up in the original testing. My anti-allergy serum now covers dust mites, cats and weeds. I'm doing a much better.

    Another note, I use the neti-pot occasionally, especially if I feel a cold coming on. I use a saline solution or just warm water. My allergist said that the salt is to match the ph of your sinuses, not for killing microbes.

    For awhile I was using several different nasal sprays. They worked okay but can have side effects as well.

    The best thing that helped me cut my sinus infections to zero was to trim my nasal hair with one of those battery powered nasal hair trimmers. I take my time and cut the hair as short as possible. Using the trimmer instead of scissors is much safer and allows one to do a much more thorough job.

    I've discovered that doing this allows me to breathe about 20-30% more freely. I tried the Breathe Rite strips but they were uncomfortable to me and did not do nearly as much as trimming did. Trimming every couple of weeks works well. If I forget, I notice the difference.

    By having shorter nasal hair, it seems to allow mucus to clear out much more easily, so much so that I have reduced my neti-pot usage and stopped the nasal sprays.

    Btw, certain medications have sinus problems as side effects. A relative of mine discovered this. I suggest investigating each medication and supplement your wife takes.

    You might also check around your neighborhood and local area to find out if any new businesses have gone in that produce pollution that is being blown your way e.g., restaurants use unfiltered hoods.

    Also, have you changed any brands of food that you normally eat? Maybe they have different ingredients.

    Have you add/changed any of your household cleaning products? Detergents? Perfumes? Household sprays? Incense burning? Plug-in aromatics? Soaps? Toothpaste? Deodorants? Shampoo? Dog shampoo? Flea treatments? Insect sprays/traps? etc. Basically you have to account for and test everything you use to eliminate potential irritants. Generating a list may help your allergist.

    We switched from a major detergent brand that included lots of perfume to an organic, concentrated type with a bit of lavender in it. That also helped me out a lot. My daughter switched also and her kids sleep/breathe better for it.

    My wife also helps me out by not wearing any perfume. Getting stuck in an elevator/automobile where someone has used a lot of perfume, even if they've left the elevator/car really creates a problem for my sinuses. She also a non-smoker.

    Good luck.
  17. Sneakypete


    Jul 22, 2009
    I'm no expert but I'm sure that many modern homes are simply too dry and exacerbate sinus problems as well as dry itchy skin. Do you have a hygrometer? They aren't expensive and will tell you exactly what the humidity is in your home. 40% to 45% is apparently ideal. I'd be interested to follow this and see if you find a solution. Good Luck.
  18. This is all great information.

    dsanders - after we visit the doctor(s) I will take you up on that offer. We just replaced the filter yesterday after using it for 30 days (90 day filter) and it looked pretty nasty. One thing we might try is to have the furnace fan running even when the heat is not in order to help filter as much as possible.

    Stumbo - As far as household cleaners and chemicals go, we try to use the Greenworks and 7th Generation (all natural stuff) as much as possible. I never really thought about the food allergies either. We will be going through the grueling ordeal of testing for everything. I work in a flour mill and until recently I was wearing my work clothes home with me; I don't get THAT dirty, but as we are in the business of making dust, it HAS to be attaching itself to my clothes. It has been a long time since we actually washed our pillows as well, it's actually about time that we get rid of them and get new ones. We have leather couches and are currently planning to get rid of the rest of the carpet save for one area rug in the spring and get wood floors in the two bedrooms. Neitherone of us smoke which is good, and none of our nighbors smoke inside the building (I think only two smoke out of about 90 people).

    Sneakypete - Our house is extremely dry; we can take a pair of jeans out of the washing machine and hang it up and it will be dry in two hours.

    Thank you all very much for the suggestions, we'll kick this thing if it's the last thing I do.

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