Many people, when asked about air pollution, only think about the air outside their homes. Yet, studies have shown that most of us have indoor air that’s more polluted than the air outside. This is referred to as the Indoor Air Quality or IAQ, and there are many factors that can affect it. In this article, we will explain IAQ in more detail, how it can affect people in the home and what you can do to improve it.

What Are the Causes of Poor IAQ?

There are a number of pollutants in modern homes that can degrade the IAQ, including dust, radon, formaldehyde, fire retardant chemicals, pet dander, dust mites, and more. The source of these pollutants could be furniture, fabrics, and other items in the home. Other pollutants can be tracked into the home from outdoors, and at certain times of the year, this can include pollen. During a typical day, the HVAC system will cycle the indoor air throughout the home many times. The result is stale air that can be hard to breathe, and it can lead to health complications.

How Does Poor IAQ Affect Human Health?

The first people to notice a drop in the IAQ will be people with pre-existing allergies and breathing conditions. Children and the elderly are often affected to the greatest degree, and poor IAQ can trigger allergic reactions. When people take steps to improve the IAQ, they often notice an immediate easing of their symptoms. The air is fresher, easier to breathe, and the risk of an allergic reaction is diminished.

7 Steps to Improve the IAQ in Your Home

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer from poor IAQ in your home. Let’s take a look at seven steps that you can take to improve the air quality:

  1. Regular Floor Cleaning

Many allergens and chemical contaminants can lurk in dust for a prolonged period of time. If you vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter equipped vacuum cleaner, you can remove many contaminants, including dust mites, pollen, chemicals, pet dander, and more. Pay close attention to high traffic areas, and don’t forget about carpet edges, walls, drapes, upholstered furniture, and other vulnerable surfaces. It’s a great idea to mop floors after vacuuming because the mop will pick up some dirt and dust that the vacuum cleaner will miss. Mopping with clean water will suffice, and microfiber mops are the most efficient cleaning option. Investing in some floor mats to place in high traffic areas is a good idea because you can lift and clean them easily. This helps to control the flow of pollutants and chemicals into your home on shoes.

  1. Stop Smoking Tobacco Products

Tobacco smoke is a huge contributor to the poor IAQ in many homes. The tobacco used in cigarettes is the worst offender because more than 4,000 chemicals are used in the production process. These chemicals increase the risks of cancer, heart problems, asthma, respiratory infections, and other health issues. If you stop smoking, your health and your IAQ will improve dramatically.

  1. Watch the Humidity Levels

Mold spores and dust mites tend to thrive in a moist and warm environment. The best way to deal with this problem is to keep the humidity in the home in a 30-50% range. An air conditioner acts as a dehumidifier, but this is only at a very basic level, and it won’t help a home with high humidity. Adding a dehumidifier can help you to keep the moisture under control and prevent the growth of mold. If you add an exhaust fan to your bathroom, this will help, or you can open a window when you take a shower. The air conditioner and dehumidifier will have a drip pan where the moisture collected from the air in your home is collected. This needs to be kept clean because collected dirt can mix with the moisture and form clogs that block the condensate drain line.

  1. Testing for Radon

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that can be found in new and older homes. It’s released due to radium decay that occurs in the soil where the house is built. This is a natural process, but radon can significantly increase the chances of contracting certain types of cancer. Radon gas enters the home through cracks in the foundation, and testing for it is a quick and easy process. There are many ways to reduce radon in your home, and you can find detailed instructions on the EPA website.

  1. Switch to Natural Products

Some people like the synthetic “natural” odors of cleaning products, detergents, air fresheners, and other household items. But, the fragrance of these products is caused by the release of chemicals into the air, and they lower the IAQ. Many of these chemicals are derived from petroleum, and how they can affect our respiratory systems has not been studied extensively. So, if you want to improve your IAQ, it’s a good idea to switch to natural alternatives that don’t use harsh chemicals. In fact, you can use store cupboard ingredients and other items in your home to create your own cleaners. If you search online, you can find many recipes for cleaners that use baking soda, white vinegar, lemons, and more. Also, consider adding some houseplants to increase the oxygen levels throughout your home.

  1. Duct Cleaning

The air ducts are where the treated air is distributed throughout your entire home. If the ducts are dirty or poorly installed, it can affect the efficiency and cleanliness of the air. Remember that your HVAC system can circulate the same air multiple times in a single day, and any dirt, contaminants, and odors will travel with it. Ducts are an ideal breeding ground for mold, and the spores distributed by the system can trigger allergic reactions. Contact your local HVAC professional and ask them about professional duct cleaning services.

  1. Install Systems That Improve IAQ

There are a number of systems designed to improve the IAQ in any home. Some of the more popular options include electronic filters, electrostatic filters, in-duct odor elimination units, whole-home humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and UV antibacterial light systems. Speak to your local heating and cooling specialist before you make a final decision. Some solutions will be better suited to your home than others, and there is no sense in wasting money.

As you can see, you don’t have to suffer in a home with poor IAQ, and your local HVAC specialist can help.