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flu seasonCold and flu season begins as the days begin to shorten and the temperatures begin to drop. While cold and flu activity peak in the coldest months between December and March, seasonal flu activity starts as early as mid October.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, it isn’t a sure fire way to prevent getting sick this flu season. Luckily, you have another ally during cold and flu season: your central air system.

By making just a few adjustments, you can protect yourself from viruses and other germs, and create an environment that is warmer, more comfortable, and less likely to make you sick.

Change Your Air Filter

Every homeowner knows how air filters help keep dust and other particles out of the air. Air filters also work to protect the home’s HVAC unit and keep it running smoothly and efficiently.  

Air filters protect both your HVAC equipment and your indoor air from dust, dirt, pollen, pet hair and dander, and even bits of decomposed insect. Also, trapped inside the filtration medium are cold and flu contaminants that could pose a threat to your family’s health.

Be sure to change your air filter regularly. Do some research to determine the best filter for your system. If you don’t already use one, consider switching to a  HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) rated filter. A HEPA filter traps microscopic particles, including the germs that cause the flu and common cold.

Check Your Air Ducts

Dirty air ducts can add to poor indoor air quality. Dust and debris in your air ducts will blow through your vents and cause potential health problems. Fall is a good time to schedule a maintenance check with a trained technician. He or she can check to see if your ducts need cleaning.

Consider Ultraviolet Lights

Ultraviolet or UV light is a natural component of sunlight. UV light can eliminate bacteria, virus, odors and allergens by disrupting their DNA, rendering them harmless. By having a UV light incorporated into your HVAC system, you can reduce the amount of cold and flu germs that get recirculated into your home.

Other Ways Your HVAC System Can Help

A clean air filter can’t completely protect you from the flu. When everyone around you at work, school, and even the grocery store, starts to cough, sneeze, and sniffle, you’ll be unable to completely escape exposure.

If you do find yourself feeling under the weather, there are several ways you heating and cooling system can help you feel better faster.

Zone Heating

One of the symptoms of the flu is a feeling of chills. While everyone else in the home feels comfortable, a person suffering from the flu will feel like they are freezing.

If your home has zoned heating, adjusting localized temperature for the sick person is easy.

However, if you do not have the convenience of zoned heating, you can still create a special warm environment for the sick person. By adjusting the registers in a room, you can adjust how much heat enters the room. Adjusting the fins of each register in a room gives you a little more control over the intensity of heat in each room.

Whole House Humidifier

Cold and flu symptoms include coughing and congestion. These symptoms can feel much worse when indoor humidity levels are low. One solution is a whole house humidifier. A whole house humidifier uses a built-in fan to disperse moisture through your homes HVAC system.

Prevent HVAC System Failures

Staying healthy during cold and flu season is easier when your HVAC system is in good running order. Staying warm and comfortable will help keep your body healthy. You don’t want your HVAC system to unexpectedly stop working when the outdoor temperatures are bitter cold.

Before cold and flu season, it is a smart idea to have your local HVAC technician perform a winter safety check. This can help prevent unexpected problems from coming up when they are least convenient. No one wants to lose the ability to heat their home when they are uncomfortable sick.