HVAC 101: Can Plants Help With Indoor Air Quality?


If you are a homeowner or business owner in the Austin, Texas area, you may already know that the city is full of plants. That's because there are more than 22,000 species of plants in Central Texas!

But did you know that plants actually help improve the air quality inside your home? There are many different types of HVAC systems, but what do they all have in common? The answer is something called an "air filter." Most HVAC units need to have their filters replaced on a regular basis to keep them running optimally and to keep your indoor air clean. When it comes time for you to replace your filters, would you like to reduce your energy costs at the same time? A new study shows how some household plants can make this possible.

Some homeowners choose to install high-quality air filters like HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to keep the outside particles out of their homes. However, these types of air filters actually end up recycling dirty air that has already been purified through your HVAC system!

This article will discuss some of the issues with breathing poor indoor air quality, as well as how plants can actually help improve your indoor air. It will also look at how to choose a safe plant for your home and family. Finally, it will detail what you need to know about selecting a professional HVAC contractor in the Austin area.

What is Poor Indoor Air Quality?

Poor indoor air quality is any type of atmosphere that isn't clean enough to breathe easily or comfortably. That means all types of contaminants, from harmful chemicals to pollen from outside, are polluting your personal space! Some common sources of pollutants include:

  • Molds
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Pesticides
  • Cooking fumes created by gas stoves or electric ovens
  • Certain types of household cleaners and chemicals, like ammonia-based products
  • Paint fumes
  • Carbon monoxide from burning fuels (no matter what type of fuel is used)

You can usually tell if you are breathing poor indoor air quality because the symptoms are often very similar to those of a common cold. This means typical symptoms include fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, postnasal drip, itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. However, some people may not show any symptoms at all, even if they have poor indoor air quality! If that's the case for you, you would be unable to tell if the problems with your indoor air quality were causing other issues like multiple chemical sensitivities or chronic fatigue syndrome.

What Can Plants Do?

Plants are often used indoors to purify the air. This method seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but plants actually work hard behind the scenes! The best part about using indoor plants for this purpose is that they don't require any special installations; many types of potted plants will continue working 24 hours a day if you give them enough sunlight and water like normal.

What Plants Can Help Improve Indoor Air Quality?

According to one study, there are several types of plants that will help purify your indoor air if they are placed in the right spots. These plants include:

Aloe vera

Peace lilies (this is one of the most effective plants for killing airborne mold spores, as well as other harmful toxins. This is also a great option if you want to keep your indoor air clean but don't have many windows or natural light available)

  • English ivy
  • Rubber trees
  • Areca palms (also known as butterfly palms; this plant has minimal water and sunlight needs and can even perform photosynthesis indoors!)
  • Snake plants (These are among the easiest types of plants to grow because they require almost no maintenance. They also filter out some of the most common household toxins, such as benzene and formaldehyde.)

What Can Be Harmful to Plants?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that some types of plants are actually dangerous if they are exposed to too much fertilizer. That means when you're caring for indoor houseplants, be careful not to use any type of fertilizer on them unless the package specifically says it is safe for indoor plants.

When Should You Not Have Any Plant Near Your Air Conditioning or Heating System?

The biggest problem with having plants in your home is that they can block airflow. This can cause problems with your HVAC system because it will work overtime to make up for the blocked airflow, which causes excess wear and tear on the unit. It can also lead to excessive humidity indoors, which may encourage excess mold growth. Both of these problems will end up causing you more issues in the long run, and they also mean that your plants aren't doing much purifying!

Another problem with having plants near or around an HVAC system is that some types of plants may be toxic to you or your pets. That means if you have a cat or dog (or even if you don't) and you still want to add some indoor plants around your living area, make sure none of them are poisonous to any type of animal when ingested.

What Plants Should You Avoid With Pets and Children?

According to the National Capital Poison Center, there are several types of household plants that shouldn't be kept in a house where children or pets live:

Aloe vera: this plant must be handled very carefully because the sap can irritate the skin and cause a rash if it comes into contact with bare skin.

Amaryllis: This plant is poisonous to both pets and children, so keep it out of reach of all animals and small children.

Azalea: these plants contain grayanotoxins which may cause vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, or loss of coordination if ingested by dogs or cats. If humans ingest these same toxins, they won't be as severely harmed; some people will only experience issues like vomiting and diarrhea.

Cactus: there are several types of cacti that can become deadly if ingested by a pet or child, including Pereskia grandifolia (which contains bufadienolide) and Opuntia (which contains opuntine and oxalic acid).

Caladium: this type of plant is poisonous to pets, and it also causes severe skin irritation if humans come into contact with it, so keep it out of reach of all animals and small children.

Dieffenbachia: these plants contain raphides which may cause intense burning and irritation in the mouth or tongue and throat if ingested by dogs or cats.

English ivy: don't let a pet eat any part of this plant because it will irritate their mouth, tongue, and stomach. It can also irritate human skin and cause more severe irritation if it comes into contact with the eyes.

Aluminum plant: this is a common choice for indoor plants; however, keep pets and children away because it can be poisonous!

Final Thoughts

Indoor houseplants are often thought to improve indoor air quality, but this belief has not been scientifically proven. However, the presence of certain types of plants will decrease concentrations of benzene and formaldehyde indoors, which is helpful for those who suffer from asthma or allergies. If you want an indoor plant that can help improve your HVAC system's performance as well as purify your indoor air, choose a snake plant.

If you'd rather have nice-looking greenery around your home without having to worry about any issues with pets or children, go with an easy-to-care-for fern. Ferns do well in low light and don't need much water, so they're perfect for busy homeowners!

Finally, if you want to have a plant in your home that can help purify the air, boosts your HVAC system's performance, and is completely safe for pets and children (and humans too), choose a rubber tree. These trees are able to remove xylene, toluene, and ethylbenzene from indoor air; they will also absorb formaldehyde if kept in an enclosed room.

If you're not sure which plants would make great additions to any indoor space where people live or spend time frequently (office spaces, daycares, schools), always consult a professional before buying anything!

Call now! 512-598-6577