How Can I Improve Indoor Air Quality?
As Americans become more and more focused on improving their health, there is one critical factor that frequently gets overlooked: our indoor air quality. According to the EPA, the average person spends 90% of their time indoors. The quality of the air we breathe has a huge impact on our physical wellbeing, and, unfortunately, indoor air pollution is all too common, underestimated, undetected, and unaddressed.
The fact is many people simply do not know how poor their air quality is or how much it affects them. Experts report that indoor air pollution may even be a greater threat to us than outdoor air pollution in the most polluted of cities. It has been linked to respiratory problems, headaches, frequent colds, sore throats, chronic cough, skin rashes, eye irritation, dizziness, lethargy, sleep problems, and even memory issues. Furthermore, long-term exposure may lead to an increased risk of cancer and other ailments. It also exacerbates existing illnesses such as asthma, and heart and lung disease and can be even more damaging to vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. The good news is, that there are steps you can take to improve your home’s indoor air quality.
Increase Your Ventilation
Most homes these days focus on energy efficiency and insulation, but that comes at the expense of proper ventilation. In the colder months especially, we tend to keep our homes “buttoned uptight” to keep the heat locked inside. But that also means that we are breathing the same stale, air every day as pollutants continue to build up. Letting clean, fresh, oxygen-rich outdoor air into your home regularly is crucial to alleviating that build-up. Open doors and windows frequently to air out your home. If you have an air exchanger as part of your HVAC system, use it. If you have a bathroom or kitchen fan that vents to the outside, use that as well. Another great option to increase your ventilation is by adding a form of whole-house ventilation. This might include an exhaust system, a supply system, a balanced system, or an energy & heat recovery ventilator system.
Stop Using Air Fresheners And Candles
Okay, we get it. A little spritz of your favorite air freshener or a sprinkle of carpet powder can certainly make the air around you smell a lot better sometimes, and a pretty candle can set the mood. These products don’t really eliminate the cause of unpleasant odors; they only mask them. Candles (even unscented ones) release smoke, soot, and other pollutants into your air as they burn. Fresheners (sprays, solids, beads, powders, and oils) can release formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, phthalates, and other volatile organic compounds. If you want to infuse a fresh, clean scent into the air, try a bouquet of real flowers instead or natural essential oil. And replace your candles with non-burning, battery-operated versions.
Switch To Green, Natural Cleaning Products
It certainly seems wrong to say that cleaning your house is making your house dirtier. But, in terms of indoor air pollution, that may just be the case. Many popular cleaning products can release volatile organic compounds (also called VOCs) that make indoor air quality worse. So, when you breathe in and smell that lemony bleach cleaner you used, you are likely also breathing in chloroform, methyl chloroform, and hazardous byproducts such as chloramine, and hypochlorous acid, and ammonia. Of course, you cannot stop cleaning your home, but you can choose your cleaning products wisely. Bear in mind that truly natural products like baking soda, vinegar, seltzer, and lemon juice may be old-fashioned, but they still work and are probably a lot better for you to clean your home with than the most expensive cleaning products on the market today. When shopping for cleaning products, choose unscented items that boast “low or no VOCs” and profess to be “green,” “all-natural,” and “organic.”
Use Air Purifiers/Cleaners
Air purifiers/cleaners come in many shapes and sizes and can be positioned throughout your home to help perpetually clean the air. These can be especially helpful in removing smoke and allergens like dust, mites, pollen, mold, and dander. Some, depending on the type of machine, are very good at removing particulate matter as well. It is important to note that quality and function can vary from model to model, so do a little research before you buy.
Keep Your HVAC Maintained And Change Your Filters Regularly
Make sure you are keeping your HVAC system in good working order and change your filters regularly. Dust filters can also be attached to air vents to further improve air quality, and some homeowners even opt to periodically have their ductwork cleaned of dust, mold, and other debris.
Mold and mildew are airborne pollutants caused by excess moisture and may often be found in bathrooms, basements, and places that tend to get damp within the home. Using a dehumidifier can help reduce that moisture content.
Add Live Houseplants
Live houseplants are more than just decorative. They give us a mental boost, and release oxygen into the air, and some studies show that they may even help to filter out pollutants to a limited degree.
Don’t Smoke Indoors
Smoking is hazardous no matter where you do it, but it’s even worse to do it indoors where your family members can also be subjected to that smoke.
Consult With A Pro
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the absolute best way to reduce indoor air pollution is to control the source of emissions. That means being mindful of the products you use and checking your HVAC system and your appliances like your stove, fireplace, and other potential sources of pollution within the home. However, the problem with that advice is that most homeowners are neither knowledgeable nor experienced when it comes to doing that, and they just don’t know where to start or how to deal with each source effectively. So, here’s our best advice yet: If you are serious about improving your indoor air quality, consult with a heating and air conditioning professional such as Norris Air. At Norris Air, helping people breathe easier is what we do best. With decades of experience and the most skilled, dedicated technicians in the business, nobody does it better. Give us a call today.