Did you hear about the plume of dust from the Saharan desert that traveled 5,000 miles to Central Texas back in July?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this phenomenon isn’t unusual. In fact, June through August is the peak time for this type of dust plume to arrive in Texas each year.
The dust isn’t all bad.
Plumes of Saharan dust can help keep hurricanes from forming since the dust brings dry air and hurricanes need moist air to develop properly. Additionally, the dust fertilizes the plankton that inhabits both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This keeps our waters healthy and provides food for the marine life living there which, in turn, provides us with food.
But there are indeed negative aspects to having a large plume of dust travel through your area—namely that it worsens the air quality. This means that those who have pre-existing breathing problems—like asthma and other respiratory issues—could have a harder time breathing. Likewise, folks young and old could develop respiratory health complications, so it’s crucial that anyone who could be at the highest risk from poor air quality limit their outdoor time.
Unfortunately, since Saharan dust isn’t an allergen, you won’t find relief in OTC allergy medication, nor should you experience classic allergy symptoms. Instead, you could experience itchy eyes and/or a sore throat. The best preventions are to avoid the dust by limiting your time outdoors or wearing a face mask.
This plume of dust doesn’t just negatively affect people. Your home’s HVAC system can also be impacted.
Saharan dust particles can accumulate on your HVAC’s condenser coils, which causes both the condenser and condenser fan to run much longer than needed. Just like other moving parts, extra strain can lead to premature equipment malfunctioning or failure. Broken condensers and condenser fans can be expensive and can even result in the whole system needing to be replaced.
To protect your HVAC system from dust buildup, it’s important to have your coils cleaned annually. You should also change your filters more regularly when Saharan dust is most prevalent (typically in the summer).
If your HVAC system isn’t working efficiently or its filter is too dirty, you may experience poor indoor air quality. For those who can’t spend extended periods of time outdoors due to the accumulation of dust, having poor air quality inside your home won’t make things any better.
If you haven’t had your HVAC system serviced in a while, perhaps now is the time to finally have an experienced technician at Richmond’s Air make sure your unit is clean and in proper working order—before the next dust cloud rolls in.