To ensure that your family is safe and that the indoor air that they are breathing is the best possible, you would probably go to great lengths, right? Well, with indoor air quality, the solutions are relatively simply to ensure that you have fresh air inside your home and to boost the overall indoor air quality while reducing household contaminants.
The truth of the matter is that most homes in the United States fall just short of quality indoor air. In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over the last few years, scientific evidence has pointed towards indoor air being seriously polluted—more so than outdoor air, even in some of the biggest and most industrialized cities. Some research even suggests that individuals spend roughly 90 percent of their time inside. Therefore, this results in greater health risks because of their increased exposure to indoor air pollution.
This article will provide you with actionable tips that you can literally put to use right now, today.
Solution #1: Bring Nature Inside for Cleaner Air
There are so many benefits to houseplants. They clean the air. They breathe. Houseplants take carbon dioxide in, and then they breathe out oxygen. Humans and animals do the exact opposite: they take oxygen in, and then they breathe out carbon dioxide. When you bring plants inside your home, the plants will help filter the air by creating fresh oxygen while also beautifying the home. Here are some of the best houseplants:
Solution #2: Keep the Floors Clean and Crack Your Windows
As a general rule, your home just doesn’t breathe well, and this is particularly true if you have a newer home. The home tends to re-circulate the same air over and over again. When it comes to indoor air quality, this can be a huge issue. To help with this, you will want to crack the windows every once and a while to allow fresh air to come inside. In addition, you will want to keep the floors clean by vacuuming, mopping and even using doormats, as this will remove particles that would eventually wind up floating through the air in your home.
Solution #3: Switch On the Furnace Blower
One of the best things that you do to improve your indoor air quality is to simply turn on the furnace blower. This works to re-circulate the air inside the home through the intake and back out of the supply ducts inside the home. In addition, you will want to ensure that the furnace is equipped with a filter system with UV lights, as these will aid in the killing of mold spores and microbial bacterial. Plus, it will help clean the indoor air up to 90 percent better, significantly improving the quality of your home’s indoor air.
It is important to ensure that your furnace has been thoroughly serviced. If the furnace is not operating properly, it will be unable to efficiently clean your air. In addition, it can result in further maintenance issues or stop working completely. Your furnace needs to be serviced on a regular basis. Contact a professional for more information and how frequently your furnace should undergo routine maintenance.
Solution #4: Change Your Air Filters
The HVAC system’s air filter is the first line of defense against inadequate air quality inside your home. Did you know that a standard HVAC system circulators more than 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the air filter? So, in other words, that air volume of your home goes through the filter numerous times a day.
A clean air filter has the ability to effectively remove airborne particulates, such as dust, from the air. If the filter is dirty, however, it can worsen the indoor air quality by serving as a reservoir for dust, dirt, and other contaminants in the air that are being constantly circulated back into the air that you are breathing.
During the heating and cool seasons, the air filter should be changed on a monthly basis. Rather than using the inexpensive fiberglass panel filters that can be thrown away, you should opt for the higher quality pleated fabric filters that are rated to capture airborne particles from the air to a size of three microns.
When the filter gets clogged, the air handler has to work much harder in order to compensate for the blockage of flow of air. This increases your utility bill while also causing the heat exchanger to possibly overheat and turn off too quickly.
Clogs Can Contribute to Unhealthy Indoor Air
If you have a clogged air filter, any dust and debris that needs to be filter out of the air will simply be re-circulated right back into the home. As a result, anyone in the home with asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions may suffer.
Households with pets or a lot of chemicals inside the house, the indoor air quality may be even worse if a clogged filter is in the HVAC system. While it may just be an occasional sniffle at first, the poor indoor air quality will cause a direct and negative impact on your health over time.
By taking the time to change your air filter, you can prevent unnecessary, serious issues.
So, just how often should my filter be changed? The filter should be changed as recommended by your manufacturer. And, remember, it is a simply task to do so; plus, it will save you money and ensure your indoor air is kept cleaner.
Solution #5: Clean the Ventilation System
Another way to improve your indoor air quality is to replace the stale indoor air. When you can’t just open the windows and doors because of the cold temperature, you need to ensure you have proper ventilation—which means balance. To achieve this balance, your ventilation system needs to be able to get rid of unhealthy, stagnant air and replace it with the same amount of fresh, filtered air from the outside so that indoor contaminants are diluted and the healthy indoor air quality is restored. When it comes to residential ventilation, you need to consider a heat recovery ventilator (HRV).
When dedicated ductwork of a small diameter is connected to a central controller, a heat recovery ventilator can remove the stale air from the utility rooms, bathrooms, and kitchen while ensuring that the appropriate amount of fresh outdoor air is added to all living spaces. Inside this controller, there is a heat exchange core that assists in the preservation of the indoor temperatures by pre-warming the incoming fresh air from outside during the winter and cooling it down during the summer.
If your ventilation system is not maintenance or there is not an adequate amount of ventilation, it can lead to infections, chronic lung disease (such as asthma), or even lung cancer.
Decades ago, homes had their very own source of ventilation, but they were considered leaky. These older homes had little to no insulation inside the walls, which made it virtually impossible to keep fresh air from entering the house through cracks, gaps, and holes.
Solution #6: Use Dehumidifiers and Exhaust Fans to Reduce Mold and Humidity
Humidity builds up in environments that are tightly sealed as a result of activities like bathing, cooking, and just breathing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that indoor humidity levels should remain between 30 and 60 percent—anything higher can result in toxic mold and bacteria. Plus, high humidity levels make it different to maintain proper indoor air quality. Luckily, it is easier to manage indoor air quality with a dehumidifier.
The most favorable humidity level for inside your home will depend on your individual preference, level of physical activity, and clothing. It is suggested that you maintain a range of 45 to 55 percent humidity to manage illnesses and health effects.
Actively growing mold will release reproductive spores—by the millions—into the air, which contaminates the air inside the home. If the humidity levels in the home are consistently above what is recommended, then it is important that you seriously consider having a whole house dehumidifier installed to help maintain a healthy level of indoor air quality.
A whole house dehumidifier is controlled by a humidistat that is mounted on the wall—similar to that of the thermostat that operates your HVAC system—and treats the home’s air as it flows through the ducting 24/7.
Solution #7: Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Monitor Levels
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, toxic substance that you may potentially come in contact with in your own home. One of the most effective defenses against this harmful toxin is a carbon monoxide detector. The toxin is produced when fossil fuels (like gas) are not completely burned. This often occurs when heating appliances are not properly maintained or installed. If the chimney or flue is blocked in any way, then carbon monoxide is not able to escape the home, which allows the gas to build up inside to a dangerous level.
How Carbon Monoxide Alarms Can Be Installed
Make sure that you are routinely testing these detectors. The batteries should be switched out twice annually. A good rule of thumb is to change them during the spring and fall whenever your turn your clocks back or forward.
Always follow the instructions that came with your carbon monoxide detector when you bought it. Also, don’t forget to have your heating system—be it electric, gas, or oil burning—serviced by a professional each year.
Solution #8: Vacuum on a Regular Basis to Minimize Dust Mites and Dirt
This is a simple task that you can do in minimal time. Studies have repeatedly shown that routine dusting and vacuuming in the home can dramatically reduce the amount of harmful allergens, mites, and dust that pollute the home as well as your lungs. The best vacuums for sufferers of allergies and asthma are equipped with various technologies include a sealed system that uses a HEPA filter.
When it comes to environmental pollution, indoor air pollution is a leading source. The EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental dangers. Regardless of how clean you believe that your home is, those microscopic dust mites exist and can be found on the drapes, carpets, bedding, and furniture.
While you cannot eliminate them completely, there are a few strategies that you can use to help minimize their existence.
Solution #9: Have an HVAC Technician Check Your Home Annually
If you’re concerned about your home or office’s air quality, it may be a good idea to have an air quality test performed by a professional. This type of test can assist in figuring out the type of airborne problems you could be having and what is necessary to fix them. The five main steps of an indoor air quality test are:
While a do-it-yourself indoor air testing kit can be purchased, these kits typically just indicate whether you need professional testing performed. Some DIY kits could also miss contaminants that a professional could catch, making it dangerous if you simply rely on the DIY kit. Once you receive the final report from a professional, you can rest assured knowing that your indoor air quality is good or you can take the proper action to make it that way.
Installing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) or a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) may be a step that you want to take to improve your home’s air quality. These systems can bring fresh outside air into your home to replace the stale indoor air.
Experts can easily identify issues in your home and assist in creating an improvement plan that will boost the indoor air quality of your home.
Solution #10: Utilize a Whole Home Air Purification System
Indoor air is important for more than just your comfort, as it is important for life as well. For individuals who suffer from asthma and allergies, you are very familiar with this. Things can get a bit tricky, as adequate balance is difficult to find. It is suggested that you use air purifiers since they have the ability to remove airborne allergens and contaminants from the air.
Air purifiers can trap roughly 98 percent (or more) of mold spores and pollen, depending on the unit in your home. The Mayo Clinic says that over 90 percent of chronic sinus infections are attributed to mold. Mold can begin to grow in your sinus cavities as well as your lungs simply because your breath in airborne spores.
Mold simply has a way of prevailing. In the right conditions, dampness, humidity, condensation, and leaks all can result in the growth of mold anywhere.
Solution #11: Get Your Air Ducting Cleaned by a Professional
Air duct cleaning is a particular form of maintenance that is often provided by HVAC companies and helps to offer more efficient HVAC systems as well as cleaner indoor air. Significant amounts of dirt and dust as well as large obstructions in the ducting are two of the main concerns that homeowners have considering this type of maintenance service.
Remember that the easier it is for air to freely flow through the ductwork, the easier it will be for your system to deliver said air throughout your home. Evidence has shown that inspecting your air ducts can aid in the identification of certain problems that may assist in taking steps to a more efficient HVAC system.
Solution #12: Don’t Allow Smoking Inside the Home
Smoking is bad in so many different ways and for numerous reasons. Tobacco consists of multiple pollutants that are considered harmful. It has been noted that the smoke you exhale contains over 4,000 various chemicals. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS, for short) contributes to indoor air pollution. For decades it has been documented that ETS is harmful to the health of humans and can result in disease and premature death. If someone wants to smoke inside the home, don’t let them; ask them to step outside.
Solution #13: Have Your Home Tested for Radon
Radon gas can naturally be emitted by the ground in specific areas. It is an odorless and invisible gas that can potentially cause lung cancer. While the gas can be released from building materials, it is generally naturally found in the rock and soils on which your property is built.
Essentially, your home acts as a chimney with warm air rising inside the home, causing a negative pressure at the slab or in basements. This negative pressure can then suck in gases, which includes radon.
System #14: Use Cleaning Products That Are Considered Non-Toxic
95 percent of the chemicals that are utilized in synthetic fragrances come from petroleum and include various toxic chemicals including benzene derivatives (a known carcinogenic), toluene, and aldehydes. This is not healthy for the air that you breathe on a continuous basis. Here are a few tips:
Solution #15: Be Conscious of the Furniture That You’re Buying
It is important that you ensure any new furniture, cabinets, and building materials like particle board, plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) that are in your home don’t contain adhesives with formaldehyde. Formaldeyde is a very toxic gas that is given off by a variety of items in the home. It can be found in:
How do you know which kinds of furniture in the home can potentially released this toxic gas?
One of the main uses of formaldehyde is in adhesives, so if you have furniture in the home that is made out of so-called “wood”—something that it is not solid natural wood—then there is a good chance that it contains and is emitting formaldehyde into your home. Items like chipboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particle board, and plywood all require glue in order to hold them together, and they all can potentially be high in the harmful gas.
Solution #16: Opt for Eco-Friendly Paint (Low or No VOCs)
VOC stands for volatile organic compound. Due to the fact that they are volatile, these compounds will vaporize and also emit gasses, and this is true even after they have completely dried. For instance, paint releases half of its volatile organic compounds during the first year and it can result in symptoms like dizziness and headaches.
For a paint to be low-VOC, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that the paint contain no more than 250 grams per liter of VOCs for latex or flat paint, while oil-based paints are permitted to have as much as 280 grams per liter. In some areas like California, there are stricter regulations regarding this. In order for the paint to be VOC-free, the paint cannot have more than 5 grams per liter of VOCs.
Household air that is rich in VOCs can increase the risk of household members developing allergies or asthma. If at all possible, purchase and use paints that contain low or no VOCs.
Solution #17: Have Your Pets Groomed More Often
If you have pets in the home that shed, their fur can get into the air and then clog up your air filters. You know what happens when your air filters gets clogged, such as the HVAC system’s efficiency will decrease. Of course, there is more to it than that with pet hair, because when you have pet hair, you also have pet dander.
Pet dander consists of very small—sometimes microscopic—flakes of skin that your pets shed. There are a number of people who are allergic to pet danger, and as a result, they suffer when air filters are not cleaned properly and become clogged with pet hair and dander.
Your home’s ducting is made of metal, which makes it that much more susceptible to pet hair and danger. As soon as your HVAC system turns on, a small mixture of the hair and dander blows through the HVAC system, and as a result, household members breathe it in.
Solution #18: Clean Floor and Ceiling Fans
Similar to the way that your air filters collect dust, dirt, and debris, your fans also collect a lot of the same. When fans get dusty, they tend to start circulating a lot of, well, dust. So, it is important that you take the time every so often to clean the blades of your ceiling and floor fans.
Solution #19: Deep Freeze Stuffed Animals and Pillows
Pillows and stuffed animals in the home can have dust mites. These items should be removed from the home or placed into a waterproof laundry bag and placed in the freeze. If you choose the latter option, they should be left in the freezer for several hours. The cold temperature will kill the dust mites, dramatically contributing to cleaner air inside the home.
Another option you have for your pillows (since they can get pretty gross) is to wash them. Believe it or not, your pillows are the perfect breeding ground for dust mites as well as the flu. After about two years, roughly one-third of the weight of your pillow contains dust mites, dead skin (which the dust mites eat), and dust mite droppings. Moreover, 80 percent of allergy suffers and 10 percent of the overall population are actually allergic to the proteins that are found within waste and decomposed dust mites.
Solution #20: Have Everyone Take Their Shoes Off
Did you know that your shoes can have a lot of bacteria on them? It’s true, which means that bacteria can be tracked all throughout your home—unless you make everyone take their shoes off at the door. Sure, doormats and carpets can reduce the amount of dirt and other air pollutants that get into the home, but it is far more effective to simply have a “no-shoe” policy past the front door.
Solution #21: Have a Range Hood Installed and Vented Outside
You may want to consider having a quality range hood installed and vented outside with the recommended cubic feet per minute (CFM) air flow for the stove in your home. If you have a microwave with a fan, you may be wondering why you need a vent hood as well. The truth of the matter is that while the over-the-range microwaves are indeed convenient, they fail to offer proper venting, and as a general rule, they are not vented outside the home.
It is relatively simple to follow the advice given in this article, though you will need to put in some effort on your end. By taking the steps to add houseplants to your home, opening up the windows, cleaning your floors, and maintaining your furnace so it can circulate the air more efficiently, you are taking the proper measures that are necessary care for you and your family.
When it comes to improving indoor air quality, it is truly a year-round issue. It takes a multi-faceted approach that fully addresses any and all sources of poor air quality inside the home. It is important that you take measures to control the mold, dust, humidity, and/or lack of ventilation, as all of these things can help to give your home’s air quality a significant boost.
There are so many different factors that can negative impact indoor air quality, cause air pollution, and/or trigger allergies, asthma, and other health illnesses. However, if you want to ensure that your home has fresh air, the aforementioned solutions are your best starting point.
If you would like to learn more or would like to schedule a routine maintenance appointment, contact us at Air Degree.