A large body of scientific evidence has shown that many indoor spaces have air pollution problems far worse than those found outdoors. Our HVAC systems can only recycle the available air, and if that air is polluted, we will breathe it in on a daily basis. Our indoor air can contain a wide variety of contaminants, such as bacteria, dust, dirt, pollen, pet dander, and mold spores. These contaminants can trigger allergic reactions and exacerbate breathing problems for people that have respiratory diseases. So, improving indoor air quality should be a priority for everyone interested in a healthier home. In this article, we will examine five proven methods to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
- Bring Fresh Air Indoors and Reduce Dust
The best way to improve the air quality is to crack the windows open and bring some fresh indoors. Our HVAC systems will recirculate the stale air over and over again until we let that fresher air in. Dust and debris are also a major contributing factor to poor air quality. This material can contain dust mites and other nasty contaminants that can affect our mood and health. Establishing a regular cleaning routine to remove the dust will remove these harmful particulates. The less dust you have in your home, the cleaner your air filter will be, and this will improve airflow throughout the home. Make sure to clean any doormats, rugs, and carpets and mop hard surfaces to remove any dust deposits that may be lingering there.
- Check, Clean and Change the Air Filter Regularly
The primary purpose of the air filter in your HVAC system is to prevent particulates from entering and damaging sensitive components. But the secondary purpose is to improve the indoor air quality by capturing particulates in the filter. The air in your home will pass through the air filter multiple times in a single day, and any particulates will be trapped there. As you can imagine, over time, this material will build-up on the surface of the filter, and the airflow will be affected. A clogged air filter will diminish the air quality, and it will cause the HVAC system to work harder, leading to component failures and a shorter lifespan.
A fresh, clean filter can remove many airborne particulates, but a clogged filter will act as a repository where contaminants can accumulate and breed. This material will then be recirculated back into the home where people will breathe it in, and this is very unhealthy. The air filter should be checked and cleaned or replaced depending on your exact HVAC system every month. If you have pets or live in an area where there is a lot of dust generated during a typical day, it may be a better idea to do this more often.
The air filter should be the correct size for your HVAC system, or the particulates could simply pass around the sides, and it would be useless. There are different types of air filters that deliver a varying degree of air filtration performance available. Choosing the right air filter is a question of balance; more efficient air filters require more power to push the air through the filter membrane, and this can drive up energy bills. In extreme cases, the HVAC system may not receive the required airflow because the filtration media is too dense for the system. The best basic air filter for most homes would be a pleated unit that can handle particulates of 3 microns or larger. If you want even cleaner air, ask your local HVAC specialist about air purification systems that are more effective and efficient than a traditional air filter.
- Turn the Furnace Blower “On”
If you turn the furnace blower to the “On” position, the air will be circulated at the optimal level. The air will be repeatedly pushed out into the home and then gathered into the intake to keep the airflow even for better performance. This works better if the furnace is well maintained; if the equipment isn’t serviced annually, the air will not be cleaned effectively.
It’s also a great idea to look at an Ultraviolet (UV) light filter system for your furnace. When you install UV lights, any microbial contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and mold spores are killed before they enter your indoor air supply. This could result in air that’s 90% cleaner, and everyone in the home will certainly notice the difference. Ask your local HVAC specialist about ways to clean and purify your air, and you may be surprised at the difference that this makes in your home.
- Install Heat Recovery Ventilators
Cracking open some windows to allow fresh air into the home isn’t a viable option if it’s cold or hot outside. The purpose of ventilation is to freshen the indoor air, not to make the home excessively cold or hot and uncomfortable. A popular alternative is to install Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) in your home. HRVs use a small diameter ductwork system that’s connected to a central control unit, which has its own heat exchanging core. This allows the system to deliver precise volumes of fresh air without the need to open any windows. The incoming air can also be pre-warmed or pre-cooled as desired to help preserve the indoor temperature.
- Install Dehumidifiers or Exhaust Fans
Every HVAC system acts as a very basic dehumidifier, but in many homes, this is simply not enough, and extra measures need to be taken. After all, a tightly sealed domestic environment where bathing, cooking, and even our breath can generate large volumes of humidity. The EPA recommends that a home should have a humidity level of 30-60%, and a high level of indoor humidity is unhealthy. When there is more humidity in the home, the conditions are ideal for the breeding of bacteria and toxic mold growth. The best humidity range for optimal health is 45-55% based on recent data collected by ASHRAE. Adding a dehumidifier to your HVAC system can correct this problem, and it’s easy to control from a centrally located humidistat unit.
Improving your indoor air quality is possible, and you will notice the difference instantly. Some solutions are easy to implement, and others require expert help from a local certified HVAC specialist.