Many people believe the air pollution outdoors is the greatest threat to their health, but recent studies have shown that indoor could be up to five times worse. Our indoor air can be polluted with contaminants, such as radon, formaldehyde, fire retardants, and other chemicals that are used in furniture, floor coverings, and cleaning products. Other contaminants, such as dust, dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander, are present in the home or tracked in from outdoors. All of these factors affect the IAQ in your home, and in this article, we will look at ways that you can improve the situation.
The Importance of Good IAQ
The most at risk groups are young children, the elderly, and any people residing in the home with allergies and respiratory diseases. Even healthy adults can suffer from the effects of poor IAQ after long periods of exposure. The effects of poor IAQ could include allergic reactions, feelings of fatigue, breathing difficulties, and other illnesses. In many cases, the problem of poor IAQ can be solved with a few lifestyle changes and some regular maintenance tasks. But, if you have especially bad IAQ consult a local HVAC specialist and ask about high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration for your home. When your IAQ is improved, you may be astonished at how clean and fresh your indoor air is and how much healthier you feel.
7 Tips to Improve Your IAQ
In no particular order of importance, here are seven tips that will help you to improve your IAQ at home.
- Keeping Your Floors Clean
The allergens and chemical pollutants in dust can accumulate over a prolonged period of time, and they are persistent until they are removed. Adding a HEPA filter to your home will help you to reduce the levels of dust and contaminants it contains. High traffic areas should be vacuumed daily, and don’t forget any carpet edges and furniture to remove those dust mites. On harder floors, mopping is essential to catch the dust deposits that may be left behind after vacuuming. Even plain warm water will suffice, and a microfiber mop is more effective than a traditional mop head. Investing in high traffic mats at each doorway into your home is a great way to prevent contaminants from being tracked into your home. Simply clean the mat on a regular basis, and you can avoid a lot of extra cleaning around your home.
- Keep Your Home at 30-50% Humidity
All dust mites and mold spores thrive in a moist environment, and so it’s important to watch your humidity levels. The home should be kept in the 30-50% humidity range to prevent the growth of these contaminants. Adding a dehumidifier to your home will help you to keep excess moisture at bay, and an exhaust fan in the bathrooms and kitchen will be helpful. It’s a good idea to regularly open windows to vent excess moisture during the coolest parts of the day. If you’re using a dehumidifier, don’t forget to empty the drip pans regularly or that moisture will recycle back into your indoor air.
- Test for the Presence of Radon
Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that can significantly increase the chances of contracting lung cancer. This is a potential problem in new and old homes, and it is caused by the natural decay of radium found in building foundations. This is particularly noticeable in buildings with cracks and holes in the foundations, but it can be a problem in any home. A Radon test is inexpensive, it’s quick, and you can carry it out yourself with a kit. If you find that you do have a Radon problem, visit the EPA website where you can find a handy guide on how to reduce Radon levels.
- Give Up Smoking
One of the primary contributors to poor IAQ is cigarette smoke, and this contaminant is recirculated throughout the home if you don’t have a HEPA filter system. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals that can increase health problems, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Consider making your home a non-smoking area, and if you cannot quit, smoke out on the deck instead. Protecting your family against cigarette smoke is a great way to improve the IAQ in your home.
- Switch to Natural Products
Many people enjoy the manufactured fragrances found in certain detergents, air freshener, and cleaning products. But, these types of products are filled with chemicals the degrade the IAQ in your home. Most of these artificial fragrances are manufactured from petroleum, and many have never been tested for how they might affect human health after inhalation. The best way to avoid these types of issues is to switch to natural alternatives that are kinder to your home and the environment. If you want to have a fresher smelling home, address the underlying IAQ issues, and you will notice a difference. It’s also a great idea to add plenty of indoor plants to boost oxygen levels, avoid using any aerosol sprays, and use an AC system with good filtration.
- Get Your Ductwork Professionally Cleaned
We rely on our air ducts to deliver the treated air throughout our homes. This helps us to maintain a stable and comfortable indoor temperature, and if the ducts are dirty, any contaminants are carried along with the air. Dirty ducts are a prime source of particulate contamination that can lower the IAQ throughout your entire home. If you have an HVAC system that has been working for some time without duct cleaning, it’s likely that there is a lot of dirt, dust, and perhaps even mold growth lurking there. Clean ducts are also vital for the health of your HVAC system, and they can significantly extend the useful lifespan of your heating and cooling equipment.
- Add Dedicated IAQ Systems
There are a variety of IAQ products on the market, and adding one or more of them will make a significant difference. Some of the best options include UV anti-bacterial lights, electronic filtration, electrostatic filtration, in duct odor eliminators, and whole home humidifiers.
If you’re interested in improving your IAQ, speak to a local HVAC specialist for further help and advice.