Did you know that the average American spends as much as 90% of their time indoors? Unfortunately, that has the unintended consequence of trapping you inside with a host of airborne pollutants and potentially unhealthy conditions.
This problem is exacerbated even further by well-insulated, energy-efficient homes. They may save you on energy costs, but they can cost you in health if you don’t pay attention to proper ventilation and overall air quality.
Now that you’re probably home more often, whether working, homeschooling or simply minimizing outside contact, it’s more important than ever to create a safe, healthy environment for you and your family. Quarantining may keep the viruses at bay, but it won’t stop other pollutants from accumulating and affecting your health.
These tips can help you maintain good indoor air quality in your home. And that can help you stay healthier any time of the year.
“Airing out the room” is a real thing! Cleaning chemicals, cooking particles, even residue from school glue and markers can contribute to unhealthy air quality. Everything from your home printer to the bottle of disinfectant that you probably always have on hand nowadays can be a threat to your health.
Your HVAC system should be able to handle ventilation if it’s installed and maintained properly, but that only works when it’s on. Those days when the temperature is “just right” and the system doesn’t kick on, means the air is more stagnant than usual.
Plus, you’re probably exposed to chemicals and pollutants you’re not even aware of. Fumes and residue from new furniture and flooring, paint, carpet cleaners, hand sanitizer, gas fumes from an attached garage – these can all be swirling around in the air you breathe.
Ventilation helps clear the air and opening windows occasionally can give you a burst of much-needed fresh air.
Skip The Air Fresheners
From plug-ins to candles, they may smell pretty but they’re notorious polluters. They also do nothing to reduce either air pollution or odors. At best they camouflage underlying problems, and the result may not be worth the small benefit.
Chemicals, soot, and other particles can aggravate asthma and contribute to respiratory ailments. But it gets worse, because some candles contain lead in the wick, which is a hazard at any level.
Smoke from incense is particularly problematic. Some studies have linked it not only to respiratory ailments, but to dermatitis and even cancer. In fact, burning incense during pregnancy or while nursing has been linked to higher risk of childhood leukemia.
If you’re concerned about using these products, it pays to consult your doctor. Be mindful of the quality of products that you purchase. If you have any suspicion that a candle’s wick contains lead, for example, switch to a safer brand.
When you do use air fresheners or other related products, be sure to maintain proper ventilation and don’t use them for extended periods.
Keep Filters Clean
Good air quality is partly about good ventilation and partly about proper filtration. When it comes to the filtration part, your HVAC filters can help or harm.
Dirty filters not only won’t trap airborne particles effectively, but they can cause your blower to push dirty air back into the house.
Then there’s the issue of filter quality. Low end (read: cheap) filters are not designed to capture particles as small as higher-end filters can capture. And when it comes to size, some of the most dangerous particles are the smallest. Viruses, some bacteria, gases, smoke and more, are particles that can easily slip through a cheap filter’s defenses.
For maximum benefit, use the highest rated filters appropriate for your system. That doesn’t mean the _highest rated_. It’s important to know what your system is designed for, or you may be putting undue pressures on it.
Replace filters at least every three months, or up to every month depending on your circumstances, and you will be rewarded with better air quality.
Monitor For Carbon Monoxide
Boilers, gas furnaces, fireplaces, even your stove and oven can be sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. Damaged components, leaks, a block chimney flue, and other issues can all lead to dangerous conditions in your home.
Running a generator too close to your windows can increase carbon monoxide levels, too. In the event of a power outage, be sure you’re not inadvertently putting yourself and your family at risk.
The problem with carbon monoxide is that you may not know it’s present until it’s too late. High levels can affect you quickly, but even at low levels, it can accumulate and cause all sorts of symptoms that may be mistaken for common ailments. Some of those symptoms include dizziness, headaches, nausea and shortness of breath.
In other words, don’t fool around with this potential threat!
Installing detectors is a must, but they only tell you when a problem already exists. Minimize danger further by ensuring appliances are installed properly and professionally, and by having your HVAC system serviced regularly to ensure safe functioning.
Maintain Proper Relative Humidity
In addition to ruining your baked bread and contributing to dry, itchy skin, wild humidity levels are bad for your health.
Too low and you can end up with dry eyes, nose, and throat, which makes you more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, colds, flu and viruses. Too high and it can lead to mold growth, which is never good for your health. High humidity can also aggravate existing breathing problems, especially for the elderly and asthmatic.
When it comes to humidity, you really do want to be in ‘the Goldilocks zone.” The ideal indoor humidity range is 30-50%, but weather conditions can turn that into anywhere from 15-100%!
Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can help, whether you use them in rooms selectively, or install whole house systems. Consistent humidity within ideal levels means better air quality overall.
Filter Out Pollutants
Do you cook? Clean? Have a flea collar on your pet? Do you have an inkjet or laser printer, use nonstick cookware, or do laundry? Do your kids do arts and crafts? How about you, do you have a hobby that includes any kind of adhesive, sealant, or ink-based product? Have you purchased new furniture or painted recently?
Then you’ve got pollutants, and probably a few garden-variety germs.
A good air purifier can filter out chemicals, dust, dander, pollen, and other particles as small as viruses. Some whole-house units have UV lights that zap germs right in ducts, others can kill germs on surfaces.
When you can’t avoid pollutants, taking steps to minimize your exposure is key.
Good air quality is like taking your vitamins or getting enough exercise and sleep. Alone, those things won’t optimize your health. But together, they can be powerful allies.
If you’d like to talk about your home’s indoor air quality, or you’re interested in installing new components like air purifiers, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, or something else, contact us and let us know. Our pros are here to answer your questions and ensure that you have the right components for your individual needs.