There are a lot of pollutants that could be dirtying up the air inside your home. Many people think of smog, exhaust, and smoke when they hear the word “pollution”, but most forget about indoor air pollutants. In fact, dust, mold, bacteria, pet dander, and volatile organic compounds could have just as damaging effects on your lungs and health as outdoor air pollutants. Older homes may also battle radon and asbestos on top of everyday indoor pollutants.
If your indoor air isn’t as clean as you would like, what can you do about it? Spending all your time outdoors probably isn’t a viable option, especially when the weather gets cold or it rains. How can you improve your indoor air quality to provide a cleaner environment for you and your family inside your home? See our top tips below for a few ideas.
1. Open the windows.
It may seem counterintuitive but opening a window or two can improve the air quality inside your home, especially if it has been feeling musty, stuffy, or dusty inside lately. Letting some fresh air circulate through your home can help dilute the indoor air pollutants and create an easier escape for them. If you can’t open your windows very often due to adverse weather, smoke from fires, or allergens floating around outside, then you can invest in an air purifier to help filter and circulate the air more often inside your home.
2. Invest in an air purifier.
An air purifier can greatly affect your residential air quality, no matter if you are an avid window-opener or not. Single room air purifiers are an affordable option for most homeowners, but they may not be as effective as a whole-home purifier installed directly in the HVAC system. Free-standing air purifiers may also be loud and take up space in each room. These will also require filter replacements to work effectively. However, they may be the only option for homes without HVAC systems.
3. Clean your HVAC ducts.
The best way to combat indoor air pollutants is by addressing them at the source. When your HVAC system is turned on, most of the air inside your home will flow through it. An air filter will have no effect on the contaminants inside of your ducts. If your ducts are dirty, dusty, or moldy, the airflow could be picking up contaminants on its way out and circulating them through all the vents in your house.
A professional air duct cleaning will get rid of these contaminants and ensure that the air flowing through your system isn’t starting off with a disadvantage. If your ducts are especially dirty, there could be a hole, tear, or gap in a seam that is introducing more dust to your system than you realize. When you call about duct cleaning, see if a thorough inspection can be performed at the same time. Patching any breaches in the ducts can also help improve the efficiency of your system.
4. Regularly replace the air filter in your HVAC.
The air filter in your HVAC system has an important role in keeping the air inside your home clean. Sometimes it may be a homeowner’s only defense against air pollutants. For best results, replace your air filter about once every two to three months, or more often if you have pets in the home or suffer from intense allergies.
A professional technician will often replace the filter at the annual furnace tune-up or AC tune-up appointments. However, these shouldn’t be the only times the filters are replaced. Homeowners should swap them between these checks as well.
The higher quality air filter you choose for your system, the more particles it will filter out of the air, and the small particles it will trap. If you go with the cheapest filter option, it may filter hardly anything out of the air. Before buying your next air filter, research which kind is best for your home and needs. Keep in mind that those higher than a 15 MERV rating may cause too much air resistance inside of your system and strain the mechanics. HEPA filters are best used in commercial HVAC systems but aren’t necessarily fit for residential systems.
5. Avoid adding to the problem.
Of course, preventing air pollutants in the first place is always a good idea. Common avoidable indoor air pollutants include smoke, byproducts of burning candles or wood indoors, volatile organic compounds such as hairspray and paint, excess dust, and mold growth. You can minimize these risk factors by keeping the house clean, choosing low or no-VOC products, and keeping windows closed tight when fires are nearby.
6. Minimize chances for mold growth.
Airborne mold spores can trigger asthma attacks and other breathing difficulties. Keeping an eye out for mold growth around areas of high humidity or water concentrations can help you more easily mitigate this risk and keep your air free from nasty mold spores. Homeowners can vent the bathrooms during or after showers, fix leaky pipes right away, and install a dehumidifier in their HVAC system to stabilize humidity levels within the home and prevent unwanted mold growth.
7. Consider UV light filtration in HVAC.
In addition to a regular air filter in your HVAC system, homeowners can also install a UV filtration device to zap any viruses and bacteria that escape through the filter. This can be especially helpful for people who are more sensitive toward illness and those who simply don’t like the idea of pathogens floating around their house.
UV filters denature the pathogens, so they are inactive as they pass through your vents. An air filter will still be required to use in your HVAC system even if you have a UV filter. The air filter will trap other particles as the first layer of defense, and the UV filter kills those smaller pathogens as a secondary defense.
8. Keep the house clean.
Your carpets and furniture may be harboring more dust than you realize. Walking across the carpet and simply sitting on furniture could disturb the settled dust enough to lower the air quality in your home. Regularly vacuuming furniture and keeping the house clean in general can help prevent indoor air pollutants. Of course, cleaning supplies may also contribute to the problem, so choose ones with more natural ingredients if you want your indoor air to remain as clean as possible.
9. Use detectors.
If you are concerned about extremely harmful pollutants such as radon or carbon monoxide, you can order a test through your local government or purchase a device that detects these gases in your home. If levels are too high, take steps to mitigate these leaks before disastrous health effects take place. Repair work or appliance replacement may be the best way to resolve these issues. The biggest culprits for carbon monoxide leaks are gas-powered appliances. Radon may seep into your home through the foundation from the surrounding soil.
If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air, then employing just one strategy may not be as effective as you are hoping. Combining strategies will strengthen the effectiveness of the individual steps and help you achieve the cleaner air you are looking for.
Many of the above options are low-cost and easy to implement in your daily life. Others require attention just once per year or once every few months. Simple switches can significantly improve your home’s indoor air. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to benefit from cleaner air today.