Determining the air quality is not difficult. Do your rooms feel stuffy or have a musty smell? Is moisture present on the interior window panes? Do you have an excessive amount of dust on flat surfaces? Is mold visible in areas of your home, such as on books, shoes, or other items? Do you or family members suffer from sneezing, feel lethargic, or have dry skin? If you answer yes to these questions, it is possible that you may have poor air quality within your home. The EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of their top health concerns due to greater awareness of health problems such as asthma, allergies, and chemical sensitivities. Three basic strategies for improving your home’s air quality are proposed by the EPA.
Strategy One: Determine the Source
Where are the pollutants coming from? A number of factors may serve as a source of poor home air quality.
- Smoking: Secondhand smoke pollutes the air and poses as a serious health problem. Don’t permit smoking in your home.
- Vapors: This source will lend itself to several components. Household cleaning agents paints, glues, solvents, etc. should only be used when the area is well ventilated. They should be stored outside of the home as well. Use products that are naturally made or labeled low-VOC (volatile organic compound). Choose furniture that is made of wood not composite materials such as particle board. The materials’ adhesives often contain formaldehyde. Dry cleaning that smells heavily of chemicals should be aired outdoors before bringing into the home. Carpet, which is likely to emit VOC’s, should be aired out for one or two days. After installation, leave windows open and run a fan to provide adequate ventilation. Do not idle your car inside the garage or anywhere fumes can make their way into your home.
- Dirt, dust, and dander: These sources produce allergens within your home that hinder clean air. Clean regularly. Wash bed sheets weekly in hot water. Encase pillows and mattresses with allergen resistant cases. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and vacuum often. Shake rugs outdoors. Clean hard surfaces with household products like baking soda or white vinegar. Dust with a “magnetic” duster that will not redistribute dust particles into the air. Remove shoes before entering the home.
- Mold: Mold growth can stem from high humidity levels. A hygrometer can be used to measure the humidity level in your home. Run a dehumidifier as needed to reduce excess humidity. Your air conditioning system will also aid in keeping the humidity level low. Proper home maintenance, such as fixing drips and leaks, can also inhibit mold growth.
Strategy Two: Filtering and Purifying Indoor Air
A clean air filter for your home’s heating and cooling system is necessary for maintaining high quality air. An allergen filter enhances quality as well. Clean or change filters once a month to provide clean air for your home as well as prolong the life of your system. Keep vents in the kitchen, bathroom, and dryer clean and operating properly. Installing a whole-house air filtration system will clean and purify the air while heating and cooling your home. These systems help reduce particles and allergens, thus keeping your air cleaner. Look for a unit with a high clean delivery rate. There are many types and styles so choose a system that best meets your needs. Since you are taking extra measures to filter and purify the air in your home, take an extra step and have your air ducts cleaned. It does wonders for the air quality in your home. In addition, it will eliminate mold growth within your air ducts and greatly improve the efficiency of your HVAC system. The result of keeping your system and its components clean? Clean air for your home.
Strategy Three: Ventilation
Today’s homes are better built, but “tighter” construction can lead to poor indoor air quality. Improve ventilation easily by opening windows and doors whenever possible. Use window, attic, or ceiling fans to keep the air moving. This allows stale air to exit and fresh air to enter. Of course, you will need to be considerate of those who suffer from outdoor pollens. Use your kitchen and bath exhaust fans. Leave doors between rooms open most of the time to better circulate air. Definitely increase ventilation in areas of activity where you might be doing maintenance or hobby work.
We spend a majority of our time in doors. Research indicates that air within the home can be more polluted than outdoor air. Thus, the health risks may be greater. Indoor air pollution is one health risk you can do something about. Be aware of the potential sources in your home and develop a plan to purify the air you breathe.