Why is My Home So Dusty?

How many homeowners ask questions regarding the accumulation of dust within their home?

Where does it come from? In many cases, this observation comes immediately after a change in environment by the homeowner. We have found that the most dust free atmospheres appear to result with the following types of heating and air conditioning as noted below ( No. 1 thru 4 ) with systems getting dirtier ( No. 5 thru 7 )

1.) Hot water baseboard heat.
The use of hot water baseboard heat is generally an extremely clean method of heating the home. The radiant heat that is generated by the hot water running through the copper perimeter tubing and fins, does not introduce any type of air movement. The only actual air movement that is stimulated by the hot water baseboard heating system, is the effects of the warmer air surrounding the actual heating elements. This warmer air will rise through the cooler ambient atmosphere, and create minimal air movement. The system is basically dust free and provides an excellent as well as even means of heating a space.

2.) Hot steam radiator heat.
Like the hot water baseboard, any steam heat that is created by the introduction of steam within a cast iron room radiator, will not generate any real dirt or dust. Again, like the perimeter baseboard heating, the heat is radiating from the cast iron radiators into the room. There are minimal air currents that are generated by the movement of warmer air through the ambient cooler air. As with the hot water baseboard, the heat is very even and efficient.

3.) Electric baseboard heat.
Once again, the principal is the same as the other two previously described heating systems. The air is warmed by an element within an enclosure, normally located under the windows, at the base of the wall. This heat is generated by the passage of electricity through an element that causes resistance, therefore a heating effect. The air around the heating element is heated and will flow through the cooler ambient air. Similar to the hot water and steam heat, the movement of air is only caused by convection currents produced by the introduction of warmer air into the colder atmosphere.

4.) Under-floor heating systems.
Whether the under-floor heating system is electric, water, or even steam, the resultant heat is generated by a warm floor created by the under-floor system. This warm air will rise from the heated floor into the cooler ambient air, and heat the entire environment. Again, like the previous ( 3 ) systems, the creation of dust or dirt is minimal and the air currents are only caused by the heating effect of the warmer air.

5.) Ductless heating systems.
The ductless heating and cooling systems are created by the condensation and evaporation of a coolant, similar to your refrigerator or freezer. The systems are designed to require a very minimal diameter tubing, that transfers the coolant, or refrigerant from the exterior condensers to the interior registers, evaporators or terminals. It all depends on the make and model of the system, what the descriptive references are. However, in many of these systems, the heat or cooling is accelerated through the ambient air with fans or blowers. If this is the case, then the creation of dust and dirt will be slightly greater than the static systems such as the hot water baseboard, steam radiator, or under-floor heating systems. The movement of air is the reason that these systems will generate slightly more dust than the previously described systems.

6.) Hot and cold air systems. ( typical central air system )
The most inexpensive, and therefore the most popular type of heating and cooling systems is the very common central air and heat systems installed in the majority of contemporary residential homes. The reason these systems are so popular is that they use the same ductwork for heating, air conditioning and ventilation. These systems require a major fan assembly that literally blows the hot or cold air through the entire duct system of the home. This system requires the return of air through the positive pressure created by the supply air into each room. This movement of air, as well as the length of enclosed ductwork required, will generate dust and dirt.

It is recommended that all ducted heating and air conditioning systems be cleaned on an annual basis. There are contractors that will insert vacuums and other equipment into the ductwork to reduce the amount of dust and dirt buildup. in addition, the cleaning and replacement of all filters is highly recommended to reduce the amount of dust and dirt.

These systems also come equipped with special HEPA filters, that are specifically designed and engineered to reduce the amount of dust and pollen being distributed by your heating and cooling systems.

7.) Wood and pellet stoves
The combustion of wood, paper, pellets, etc. in an open atmosphere within the home, will cause dust, dirt, carbon and ash to accumulate on all horizontal surfaces within the environment. Although all manufacturers will claim that their systems burn clean and efficient, the exposed open flame of any of these types of heating appliances, will cause the environment to become dirty. The cleaning of the ventilation systems for these open burning appliances, will ensure that the system is venting properly. However, they will remain dirtier that any of the enclosed systems, previously described.

In summary, the increased dust in a residential building is normally due to the shift from a static type system such as hot water baseboard, to a system that requires artificial air movement with a fan or blower. This shift is normally due to the resident moving from one habitat that was heated by one or the other of the systems. Air movement will cause dust and dirt, there is not anything that can be done to eliminate this situation. The maintenance of the systems will reduce the accumulation of dust and dirt, but will not eliminate it.

If air quality is important, the best systems are a combination of baseboard heating and ductless cooling. The combination of the two will generate the least dust and dirt, and will provide evenly distributed heating and cooling throughout the environment.