The novel coronavirus has wrecked havoc with a lot of lives – from those infected to those who are trying to help, and everyone else who has suffered unemployment, had graduations cancelled and summer plans called off. And it looks like we might be in this for the long haul, which means lots of hand washing and probably social distancing rules for some time.
Now that we’ve all been “locked up” for a while, confined to our homes with limited options, a bit of cabin fever may be setting in. If someone says the word “puzzle” to you one more time… you’re not sure exactly what will happen.
Unfortunately, being stuck inside, whether you’re alone or with family, has more drawbacks than just your mental health. It can affect your physical health, too, in more ways than just coronavirus. The problem boils down to indoor air quality.
Here’s why indoor air quality is even more important than ever as we work, play and live at home for long periods of time.
You’re Cooking More
With restaurants closed, many people are getting to know their ovens intimately. On the plus side, you’re probably saving money over dining out, and even cooking healthier meals, too. But cooking can actually contribute to indoor air pollution, so if you’re doing it more now that you’re home, you can actually be lowering your indoor air quality.
Tiny soot and organic particles from cooking meat, vegetables and oils are released into the air and can linger for two hours or more depending on how well your home is ventilated. Inhaling these particles isn’t great for your health, either.
It can lead to respiratory illnesses, asthma, and other health problems. Turning on a fan won’t quite do the trick to aerate. That just recirculates those particles through the air and may even keep them airborne longer.
If you use the self-cleaning function on your oven – and who wouldn’t these days? – it can get even worse. High levels of pollutants are created as the intense temperate burns off food, fats, oils and waste. Exposure can cause headaches, throat and nose irritation and other ailments.
And if you thought that was bad, consider that your oven or stove themselves can give off carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other toxins.
Not only are you cooking more, but you’re home more – shut up tight with all those particles, which are just hovering around in suspension waiting to be inhaled before slowly settling onto surfaces.
If you weren’t already pining for a good dinner out, this may just make you want to hang up your apron and stick to takeout. Don’t give up your newfound culinary skills, though – all you need is proper air filtration to keep your home healthy and even avoid those stale leftover smells.
There are whole house options that can be installed right in your HVAC ducts that will pick up particles as small as 0.1 microns in size. Most cooking smoke and grease particles are between 0.1 and 1.0 microns, so an air filter will go a long way to reducing those pollutants.
Cleaning Can Make You Unhealthy
The plus side to cleaning more often is that you’re probably reducing the amount of dust in your home. That’s good news for anyone suffering from allergies or asthma – provided you actually pick up the dust and don’t just blow it off furniture and back into the air!
You’re also probably spending a whole lot more time disinfecting, whether with bleach, antibacterial wipes, surface sprays or other sanitizing agents. What do all of these things have in common? Chemicals. Lots and lots of chemicals.
We probably don’t have to tell you that every squirt with the spray bottle releases chemical particulate into the air, or that evaporating liquids… well, evaporate – right into the air you breathe.
This isn’t great news for anyone, and if you have a baby or young children, an elderly family member, or someone who is pregnant in your home, it can be especially dangerous.
By the way, don’t be fooled by “natural” or “green” cleaners, either. Even they have chemicals that can end up in your lungs.
Read the fine print on most cleaners and they’ll tell you to use in a well-ventilated area, especially the more potent ones that are effective at killing the coronavirus. And now that you’re stuck at home, day after day, week after week, using those cleaners the whole time, you’re quite literally exponentially increasing your exposure to dangerous chemicals. If your windows are closed against the cold or heat or pollen, then it’s only making things worse.
Good thing you don’t have to choose between sanitizing and breathing! Chemical vapors and particles can be addressed the same way as cooking particles – with a good air purifier and filter installed on your HVAC system.
Proper air filtration will ensure that your HVAC system is circulating a healthy amount of fresh air into your home and a purifier will help to trap and neutralize harmful particles.
Other Germs Don’t Take A Holiday
With all the talk of coronavirus, it’s easy to forget that there are other bacteria and viruses out there, even if it’s just the common cold. These germs don’t take a break just because we’re concerned with bigger problems.
And much like other airborne particles, they’ll hover and recirculate unless they’re otherwise trapped or killed.
Even if a simple cold seems pretty unthreatening by comparison, it can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to other germs. For babies, grandparents, or immunocompromised individuals, this is all the more worrisome.
Add this to your list of woes: unless everyone in your household stays home and isolated 100% of the time, there is always a risk, however small, that someone will bring something home – whether coronavirus or another, ordinary bug. Germs that travel by briefcase or clothing can be introduced into your home any time.
And if someone in your family does goes out – whether for groceries or to work – they are also at risk of contracting coronavirus or some other illness and bringing it home. All it takes is a cough or a sneeze to send those particles into the air where they can circulate through your tightly closed up home and infect other family members.
For many bacteria and viruses, an air purifier that emits UV light can knock out germs right in your HVAC ducts, before they continue being recirculated throughout your house. And one that emits ionized hydrogen peroxide particles will attack everything from germs to mold spores, even killing them on surfaces where they may linger.
You Don’t Want The HVAC Guys In Your House
You’ve probably skipped a lot of things this year – from concerts and movies to family reunions and even Saturday visits with grandma. And you’ve almost certainly reduced or eliminated contact with anyone who isn’t absolutely essential.
You may have been hesitant to invite your HVAC contractor into your home, which means you may have skipped spring maintenance and service. That isn’t great, but what’s worse is you may not have replaced your HVAC filters, either.
If ever there was a time to make sure your filters are clean and effective – meaning you’ve got quality filters with the highest MERV rating you can use on your system – now is it!
Beyond filters, spring maintenance will ensure your system is running effectively, so when you turn on the air conditioner this summer, it will be cooling properly and safely. And it’s not just about comfort – your system needs to be able to maintain an appropriate relative humidity, which is an important factor in air quality.
Our human immune system functions optimally in a relative humidity between 40-60%. A lower indoor humidity can not only create a more hospitable environment for viruses – and a less healthy one for us – but it can dry out mucus membranes and make us even more susceptible to a host of germs. Too high, and humidity can cause its own breathing problems.
Counterintuitively, high humidity can also cause dehydration. As you sweat and lose moisture through your skin, you can succumb to heart exhaustion or experience dizziness and cramps. None of these things will help you fight off illness during a time when you most need a strong immune system.
On the flip side, a proper relative humidity means that infectious particles released by coughs and sneezes will more quickly settle out of the air where they can be cleaned from surfaces instead of inhaled by other family members.
Summer humidity is also often responsible for the growth of mold and mildew. It’s an incubator for dust mites, and it can worsen exposure to chemicals that can be emitted by common household items like new carpet and paint. So if you’ve decided to undertake some home improvement projects during quarantine, you could inadvertently be creating a perfect storm of dangerous air quality.
HVAC maintenance and inspection can help mitigate all of these problems. A humidifier or dehumidifier may be needed to regulate humidity levels, new filters can help trap germs, and a good cleaning and service can ensure that your system isn’t giving birth to mold.
If your HVAC contractor is following proper protocol, including social distancing, wearing a mask, and engaging in proper hygiene, then the risk of inviting a service tech into your home for a system checkup can be far lower than ignoring your seasonal service.
Better Is Better
There is no perfect solution to avoiding or fighting the novel coronavirus, or any virus for that matter. But good indoor air quality can give you an advantage, especially as you spend more time at home and increase other pollutants simply by nature of the fact that you are home – most likely in a closed environment with minimal fresh air.
If you can, open your windows to keep fresh air circulating. Get your HVAC system checked out and make sure you have clean filters. And install an air purification system for improved health overall.
While using an air purifier is not able on its own to prevent the transmission of coronavirus or other illnesses, it is a good part of an overall protective plan. Think of good air quality 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 discuss the air quality in your home or need HVAC service, contact us and let us know. We’ve been servicing clients throughout the pandemic, using thorough safety precautions to protect the health of our customers and technicians.
We’re available to answer any questions or concerns you may have and to work with you for a better, healthier home environment.