By Alan Smith — Healthy Indoors Magazine February 2021
We often think of air pollution as a problem that remains outdoors, particularly in large cities. However, agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are finding that the air in our homes can be just as polluted. Poor air quality at home may go unnoticed for some time, but the long-term effects include chronic allergies, asthma, and, in the case of some toxic gasses, even cancer. Fortunately, there are many things you can do right now to maintain good quality air inside your home.
Change Air Filters
The air filters in your home were designed to effectively remove dust, debris, and other microscopic particles from your home’s air supply. Over time, however, those filters could become clogged, allowing dirty air to recirculate throughout your home. Not only does this lower the air quality of your home, it also causes your HVAC system to work harder, leading to higher utility bills and even damage to the system.
Fortunately, these problems are easy to avoid. Purchase high quality air filters and change them regularly. Most HVAC manufacturers recommend changing out your filters once a month, especially in peak heating and cooling seasons. Regularly changing filters will keep your air quality high and your HVAC system running at maximum capacity.
Install an HRV System
Most people long to bring the fresh air from the outdoors inside, but that isn’t always an option, especially on hot summer days or cold winter nights. Heat Recovery Ventilators, or HRVs, solve that problem by removing stale, unhealthy air that is circulating your home, while simultaneously replacing it with fresh outside air. The temperature of the indoor air is then transferred to the air coming in from outside, without the transfer of dust, dirt, and pollution. This heat exchange not only helps to maintain good air quality in your home, it could also save you money on your heating and cooling.
Utilize Dehumidifiers and Exhaust Fans
High humidity indoors creates the perfect environment for bacteria and toxic mold to grow. Once mold is in your home, millions of toxic spores could be released and recirculated through your home’s HVAC system. EPA recommends that humidity levels remain between 30 percent and 60 percent, but every day activities like cooking, bathing, and even talking could increase the overall moisture of the air. Dehumidifiers and exhaust fans help by pulling the moisture out of your air, making it harder for mold to grow and spread. These systems also help your existing HVAC system to heat and cool your home more effectively.
Clean Out Air Ducts
Your HVAC system relies on air ducts to deliver refreshing air to every part of your home. When your air ducts are filled with dust, dirt, and debris, however, these microscopic particles are circulated throughout your home as well. If you’ve recently remodeled your home, or if you live with pets or smokers, it’s recommended that you have your air ducts cleaned by a licensed HVAC professional.
Inspect HVAC Systems Annually
We don’t often realize there is a problem with air quality in our home until it is too late, and we are dealing with chronic health problems. Scheduling an annual HVAC inspection ensures that a licensed professional will be checking the effectiveness of your system, the condition of your duct work, and the quality of your air on a yearly basis. If a problem is encountered during the annual inspection, it can be remedied right away, before any further damage is done.
Test for Carbon Monoxide and Radon
Both carbon monoxide (CO) and radon are colorless, odorless gasses, which are extremely harmful to breathe in. Deadly CO is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and it is lethal in unventilated spaces. Boilers and heating appliances have been known to release CO into homes without being detected. The best defense against this deadly gas is a carbon monoxide alarm, which is easy to install and can alert you immediately if CO has been detected in your air supply.
Radon is a natural gas that can be found underground in certain areas, and it can easily make its way into your home through your slab or basement. Exposure to this gas can lead to lung cancer in the future. No matter your home’s age or location, it’s a good idea to have the soil checked for radon. If the gas is naturally occurring under your home, you will need to have a radon mitigation system installed. This system will significantly reduce the radon levels in your home’s air supply.
Check Stoves, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
While they are effective at heating your home on a cold winter day, stoves and fireplaces could also be degrading your air quality. Blocked or leaking chimneys or flues, for instance, may actually be releasing smoke and other harmful gasses, like carbon monoxide, back into your home. An annual inspection of your stove or fireplace will detect leaks and blockages that prevent smoke and gasses from exiting your home. Once fixed, you’ll be able to enjoy the warmth of the fire without the poor-quality air.
Use Eco-Friendly, Toxin-Free Products
Many of our daily activities could be contributing to the low-quality air in our homes. Using aerosol hair spray, lighting a candle, or painting a room could release harmful chemicals into the air, which could then be recirculated throughout the home. To lessen the amount of harmful chemicals in the air and maintain good air quality, opt for non-aerosol sprays and cleaners, natural candles, and low VOC paints as often as possible.
Tips to Ensuring Good Air Quality
The quality of your home’s air supply has a direct impact on your health, from chronic allergies caused by recirculating dust to severe reactions to mold, and even death when exposed to carbon monoxide. That’s why it is so important to monitor your home’s air quality and take steps to improve it. Follow these steps to minimize the amount of dust and debris in your air, prevent mold growth, and eliminate exposure to harmful gasses. You may not be able to see your air getting cleaner, but the effects of clean air won’t go unnoticed!
Alan Smith is marketing coordinator for Spartan Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, a leading plumbing /HVAC company that assists all types of businesses and residences throughout the Washington D.C. region and parts of Maryland. Spartan has an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau and was voted Best Plumber in D.C. for four years in a row. You can reach Alan by email at email@example.com or www.spartanman.com.