Window AC Unit Making Me Sick--Other Options?

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CWilS
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 7/24/2014 3:29 AM (GMT -7)   
I live in a top floor (3rd floor) apartment in NYC with no central air. I have a small room that is pretty easily cooled by a small window unit. My apartment is extremely hot and stuffy, so I run at least the fan on the unit most of the time that I'm in my room. about a week ago, I developed a sore throat that evolved to a dry cough and is now congestion and a slightly productive cough. It's not getting better. In fact, I start to feel ok when I'm at work, but then I come home and turn on the AC and by the time I go to bed, I'm coughing (the kind where you feel the need to cough when exhaling....definitely my asthma acting up) like crazy. I don't know if the AC unit made me sick, but it definitely seems like it's keeping me sick.

I know that fans are not great because they kick around dust, but I need to use something to keep my room cool. What are my options? My big triggers are dust and mold (and my apartment is really dusty), so could I use a fan with an air purifier? I don't have a lot of money to throw around, so whatever I do, it needs to be pretty cheap. Any and all suggestions are helpful. I also have an autoimmune disease, so I worry that the longer I stay sick like this, the better my chances of having a flare-up, so I need to figure this out quick. Thank you in advance for your suggestions!

Alcie
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 4946
   Posted 7/24/2014 2:41 PM (GMT -7)   
Welcome to the forum, CW.

Have you thoroughly cleaned the unit? These things often develop mold. Is there a way to attach an air filter that won't compromise it?

Have you seen an allergist, maybe gotten some testing?

It just might help if you try cleaning out your sinuses using a sinus wash bottle. Do a search with the search box at the top of the page for suggestions.

I'm less than impressed with air purifiers. They won't cool your apartment either. Keeping everything in the place really clean might help. Drapes, floors, walls, stove fan filter, ceilings, especially shower! There are special mattress and pillow covers for dust mites.

CWilS
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 7/24/2014 3:01 PM (GMT -7)   
I really haven't had a problem living in this apartment (been here a year), until I had to start using the ac unit. I dust weekly and clean my sheets regularly and have hypo-allergenic covers on my box springs, mattress, and pillow. The ac unit seems to be the culprit. It belongs to my roommate who lived in this room before me. It's bolted in and we haven't been able to get our super in to move it to her room. I clean the filter every week, but I can't remove the entire unit to thoroughly clean it. Since it doesn't belong to me, I don't want to mess with it really or buy any attachments for it. I would prefer to not have a window unit at all.

I know that purifiers don't cool, but I figured if I had a fan to cool, an air purifier might help remove the dust that the fan kicks up? And I could buy a fan that can be broken down for cleaning. I really only need to cool my bedroom which is very small, so I don't need anything heavy duty. And like I said, I'm on a very limited budget, so something that doesn't use a lot of energy would be helpful, too.

I'll have to look into the sinus wash, that may be something to help in the meantime, with this particular cold. Thanks for the tip!

CWilS
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 7/24/2014 7:48 PM (GMT -7)   
Yeah, I definitely need to get the mold situation in my bathroom under control.

Obviously, cleaning the unit would help. I don't think my roommate cleaned it in the 2 years before I moved in and I definitely haven't, but like I said above, the ac unit doesn't even belong to me, but it's bolted in the window. I'll be asking my roommate to contact our super to move it to her new room, but I don't want to get my own ac unit to replace it. I don't have the money, it uses too much energy, and I would like to be able to open the window. What is a good alternative to cooling down my room (very small, doesn't need much and I'm really only in it in the evenings) without kicking up a lot of dust or spreading allergens?

Chartreux
Veteran Member


Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9657
   Posted 7/24/2014 9:16 PM (GMT -7)   
Write a letter to the landlord about the window unit needing repairs and send it by certified mail (where you get the green card saying the got the letter) That way the landlord has to look into getting it fixed or you could go after them in court for failure to make repaires. However, there might be fees for the repaire that you'll have to pay for not doing route maintenance on this ac unit, not sure. Just trying to help you.
Otherwise keep it off and see if you improve....
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* So many dx's I could write a book* "It would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...
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CWilS
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 7/25/2014 3:21 AM (GMT -7)   
I don't think my landlord has any responsibility to the unit. If we had central air and each had a built-in wall unit in our bedrooms, that would be different, but I don't think she has a legal responsibility to fix a window unit that my roommate bought herself. Also, like I said above, once my roommate has it moved to her room, I don't want to get another window unit. I'm more looking for suggestions on other options, if they exist.

I may decide to get my own window unit next summer, but we're too far into the season and I don't want to have to deal with taking it out for the winter right after I've put it in. If I do get another one next year, I'll definitely take it out of the window during the winter and clean it because feeling this bad is not worth it!

JackLegofAllTrades
Regular Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 28
   Posted 7/25/2014 9:54 AM (GMT -7)   
Actually, landlords in gov't housing especially, are responsible for providing heat and AC equipment, but that doesn't make them do anything properly. Likewise, if you buy a new unit you should still do what I recommend below, regarding the filter.
Therefore...

If you are sure it is the A/C get someone mechanically-minded to clean it thoroughly by pulling the unit out, unscrewing the air box, and thoroighly cleaning it's interior with bleach-based cleaner. A degreaser, such as Mean Green or Purple Power should be used with a spray bottle in the aluminum fins and squirrel-cage inter fan, and rinsed out with pressurized water or a detachable shower head in the tub. An old hair brush to clean it with, and acomb can be used to put the necessary gaps back in the aluminum fins. A blow-dryer can be used to speed up the drying process after dumping the rinsewater out of the ac unit. Lot's of water remains in the aluminum fins and it WILL make a mess to be mopped up.
Once the unit is replaced, simply measure the square intake area(the entire front, excluding the outflow section) and purchase a couple high-end dust and allergenic 1"" thick filters from the hardware store.
Duct tape the filter to the front panel covering the intake fins, or cut it small enough to fit inside the plastic facing in the space between it and the aluminum fins. You may even have to remove the outer cardboard edge in order to cut the material with scissors or tin snips.
Spraying a good antiseptic 99% allergenic killer directly onto the filter, such as a Lysol or Clorox air cleaner should kill all the allergenics that attach themselves to the filter.
Believe me, you will be surprised how quickly the filter is fouled in the course of weeks.

A/C units are surprisingly disgusting on the inside of the air box after only a year or two, and what gets cleaned out of them may make you want to puke when you see it.

P.S. Tell him to clean it in the bathtub in order to rinse it out thoroughly.

Post Edited (JackLegofAllTrades) : 7/25/2014 11:36:33 AM (GMT-6)


CWilS
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 7/25/2014 1:11 PM (GMT -7)   
That's wonderful advice, but like I said above, this is not my unit so I don't want to tamper with it. And I won't be getting a unit to replace it, not this summer anyway. I'll definitely file the cleaning info away until then. In the meantime, I'm looking for options for cooling down my room without sacrificing air quality. Maybe my questions just aren't specific enough. Any one know of good oscillating fans that can be easily taken apart and cleaned. I've seen those oscillating tower fans that also have an air purifying mechanism. Anyone have experience with those? I'm on a very limited budget and only need to cool a very small room. Has anyone tried those combination heating/cooling units that are free standing (kind of like a space heater, but not)? Have these things triggered anyone's asthma and therefore I should stay far far away? Any suggestions that have nothing to do with cleaning the current unit in my window or buying a new one are greatly appreciated!

JackLegofAllTrades
Regular Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 28
   Posted 7/25/2014 1:35 PM (GMT -7)   
All I can tell you then, is to spray the intake thoroughly with anti-allergenic disinfectant
and get one of those square anti-allergenic filters for central AC air-return holes to cover
the inlet section of the AC.
That means coverong everything BUT the output. Tape and filter may be $15, and a good anti-allergenic disinfectant may cost $5-10.
I hope the best, no matter how you decide to try it.
A free-standing AC unit from Lowes is NOT cheap, but it is mobile, and I would do the same filter add-on as spoken above.
I think they still require a condensate tube for dripping, and if you cannot run it to a drain, it will cause more mould.
If it has a removable dumping cannister attached just like a dehumidifier, then a mobile AC unit could be right for you.

Post Edited (JackLegofAllTrades) : 7/25/2014 3:02:23 PM (GMT-6)


CWilS
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 7/25/2014 2:30 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks! I'll look into finding one with a removable canister. I'm really good at remembering to do the regular maintenance, like cleaning the filter or emptying a canister, but tackling big cleaning projects like cleaning out a window unit are not my forte.

JackLegofAllTrades
Regular Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 28
   Posted 7/27/2014 5:22 AM (GMT -7)   
You're welcome.
One of my first jobs was in HVAC as a grunt under crawl spaces for a family-owned business.
I know a little about the filtering thing, so I offer that suggestion as an added aid for your condition.
Even in 1980 my uncle was putting electronic and anti-allergenic filtering units inline with the AC and heat pump
trunklines for special-needs of some customers.
The stickum from the tape can be removed with isopropyl alcohol if your new unit must be returned.
It will probably be much louder than your window unit due to the compressor being indoors, but maybe
if you back the thing up to the bathroom door, it will muffle some of the noise.
Jack-leg of All Trades- "Hitting the nail on the head since 1985."

kberaun
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2014
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/27/2014 5:37 AM (GMT -7)   
bathroom could be the culprit too.. you build up problems over time with mold.. wear a mask from walmart and clean it with bleach.. that is also a landlord issue. and causing health problems. I am allergic to mold. YOu could get really sick. and some types of mold are dangerous.

LucasGlover
New Member


Date Joined Dec 2014
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 12/18/2014 3:36 AM (GMT -7)   
I have allergy and had a problem with the window ac as well. In the past, my allergy aggravated every time I turn on the ac unit. So I move my bed out of air direction and that make my allergy better. I suggest you to avoid your face from air direction especially when you sleep. And clean you window ac at least every two weeks (open everyday).
www.thegoodgears.com/Window-Air-Conditioner/

Post Edited (LucasGlover) : 3/21/2017 4:57:53 AM (GMT-6)


Lanie G
Forum Moderator


Date Joined Nov 2006
Total Posts : 6106
   Posted 12/18/2014 10:54 AM (GMT -7)   
I'm not a carpenter or handyman but if you're going to use the window AC in that window, you need to install some sort of insulated board above the AC. If you're not handy yourself, then go to a home supply center with the measurements and talk to the people there about what material would be suitable and how you should install it making sure there's some sort of insulation to ensure there are no air leaks. There might even be pre-made material for this but you need to ask. You might also contact the manufacturer of the AC unit and see what they suggest. Check out their website or Google for solutions. Sorry I can't help more

On the other hand, I do question why you didn't think of this before you put the AC unit in? confused
Lanie

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diabetes type 2 controlled by diet and exercise and
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Alcie
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2009
Total Posts : 4946
   Posted 12/18/2014 5:10 PM (GMT -7)   
Lucas -A sheet of that 4" thick foam board insulation could be cut to fit and duct taped into position. It's not very security-minded to not be able to shut the window.

There are units that sit inside the room and just vent the hot air out through a 4" hose like dryer hose.

CW - The roommate's unit could be sending mold spores all through the apartment. I'd see about getting it cleaned as the others suggested. I'm with them on cleaning up all the other sources of mold and bacteria - and then KEEPING THEM CLEAN. That might be all you need to do to feel better.

If your heat is coming from a main unit and not within your room, you could try putting a filter over the air coming in, if it's forced air. If the heat is from within your unit, then get a better air filter.

I'm not impressed that "purifiers" do much. They cost a lot of electricity to run all the time too. Think of running a vacuum cleaner all the time. $$
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