Indoor air quality in your home impacts the health, comfort, and overall happiness of your loved ones more than many people realize. Air pollutants affect the body much more inside your home versus the air pollution issues present in outdoor air. Pet dander, dust mites, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide gas, radon, mold, smoke, chemicals and fumes from cleaners, and other allergens regularly live within the indoor air of a house and often at higher concentrations than they exist within outdoor fresh air, causing allergy symptoms and respiratory health problems, among other issues.
Improve indoor air quality to improve the health and well-being of your family members. Williams Comfort Air explains why indoor air pollution is a concern and how you can improve air quality in your home. Invest in an air quality solution that will reduce indoor pollutants and particles using air quality technology, and improve humidity issues that impact comfort control from heating systems and air conditioning units.
Why Is Indoor Air Quality so Important?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the indoor air is typically 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Pollutants and airborne particles are able to exist in much higher concentrations within the indoor environment due to a few key factors:
- Outdoor air has the benefit of wind and weather to circulate fresh air and disperse air pollution. The average house, especially a newer one, lacks sufficient ventilation, leading to high indoor air pollution and poor air quality inside your home. It’s not feasible to open windows all the time to let in fresher outdoor air, and much of a home’s natural ventilation is lost these days due to air sealing for energy efficiency. The result is that air in your home stays filled with contaminants most of the time without other interventions.
- The windows, walls, roofs, and doors of a home hold heat and humidity inside, creating an environment that increases concentrations of certain allergens as well as moisture. High humidity can cause off-gassing of toxins from household items and cleaning chemicals.
- Outdoor air is regularly exposed to ultraviolet energy from the Sun’s light, which is powerful enough to kill certain pollutants like mold or infectious pathogens. Indoor air doesn’t receive this natural air treatment without specialized equipment.
Indoor Air Quality and Health
The concentration of indoor air pollution inside your home is all the more concerning when you consider exposure. The average American spends around 90 % of their time indoors, with much of that time being spent inside their homes. When exposed to harmful chemicals and pollution inside the house, especially for a considerable amount of time each day, this near-constant contact can result in health problems such as increased allergy and asthma symptoms, respiratory symptoms, and even certain cancers.
Exposure to poor air quality and indoor air pollution can cause people to feel mild to moderate symptoms that are similar to allergies or the common cold, such as:
- Irritated Noses, Throats, and Eyes
Long-term exposure and exposure to certain pollutants in the home can cause more serious health issues, including respiratory diseases and heart disease, as well as cancers. Radon is naturally occurring and the second leading cause of lung cancer. Short-term exposure to dangerous pollutants, such as carbon monoxide gas, can even be deadly.
Top Air Contaminants in Homes
There can be a number of different types of contaminants impacting air quality in your home. Inside your home, the most common indoor air pollution issues and indoor air pollutants include:
- Hair and Pet Dander From Indoor Pets
- Dust and Dust Mites
- Tobacco Smoke Due to Indoor Smoking
- Wood Smoke From Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
- Chemicals From Air Fresheners, Personal Care Products, and Cleaning Products
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Building Materials, Furniture, and Other Household Items
- Carbon Monoxide Gas Due to Faulty or Unmaintained Gas Appliances, Including Heating Equipment
- Mold Spores From the Air Supply As Well as Growth in the Home
- Legionella Bacteria Growing in Faucets, Showerheads, and Water Heating Systems
- Radon That Seeps Through Cracks in the Home’s Foundation
- Pesticides Used Indoors and Outside the Home
- Lead From Old Paint and Antique Items
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Home
The best strategies to improve indoor air quality in your home are multifaceted. The EPA recommends a three-pronged approach to improve air quality and reduce indoor pollution: control the source of pollutants, improve ventilation, and use air purifiers and air cleaners.
Control the Source
- Make sure all gas appliances and gas or wood fireplaces are properly vented to an outdoor space to avoid the buildup of combustion byproducts within indoor air, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide air pollution.
- Have air conditioning and heating systems professionally maintained each year to ensure proper ventilation of exhaust gas and prevent mold growth within the system. Fireplace chimneys and flues should also be cleaned and inspected annually.
- Change air filters in your heating and cooling system regularly.
- Regularly clean surfaces throughout the house to combat indoor air pollution. Dust surfaces high and low, including ceiling fan blades and housings. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air) to capture smaller particles and more of them, like dust, dust mites, and other allergens.
- Eliminate clutter throughout the house as these items trap dust, dander, and other allergens.
- Wash bedding, curtains, and other linens weekly using hot water at least 130 degrees hot. Washing removes allergens and indoor air pollution that build up in fabrics such as pet dander, dust mites, and even dead skin cells.
- Replace pillows about every two years. Cover mattresses and box springs with allergen barrier covers. Replace mattresses about every 10 years.
- Keep windows closed during periods where outdoor air pollution or the pollen count is high to stop particles from entering your indoor air supply.
- Swap cleaning chemicals, air fresheners, perfumes, candles, and other household products with natural alternatives that do not give off strong odors or fumes to reduce indoor air pollution.
- Do not allow smoking inside the home.
- Fix any plumbing and appliance leaks that allow excess moisture into the home. Clean any mold you find growing in sinks, appliance seals, and in any other area of the house.
- Pot indoor plants with sterile soil. Only water house plants when their soil is dry. Place plants in locations with more light and set a fan nearby to circulate indoor air around your plants. Remove dead leaves and old growth by regularly trimming indoor plants. While some say filling the home with plants will provide a natural improvement in air quality, this information is incorrect. The amount of plants that would be needed to provide a notable improvement in indoor air quality is simply not manageable, and housing plants indoors can actually contribute to poor air quality due to moisture and mold issues.
- Use nontoxic pesticides, natural alternatives, and physical pest control methods to rid the home of unwanted bugs and vermin.
- Choose building materials and household products that are labeled low VOCs, and only use these products in areas with plenty of ventilation. Allow new items with chemical treatments to off-gas outdoors before bringing them inside your home.
- Open windows on mild days for ventilation, which allows fresh outdoor air to circulate inside, forcing out the stale, polluted air inside your home.
- Use a fan to blow air out of an open window, which sends particles and pollutants out of your living areas.
- When using portable fans, point them away from people in the space. Pointing a fan at someone sends pollutants directly towards them.
- Use attic fans or whole home fans to circulate fresh air into the home.
- Use exhaust fans when cooking and bathing to expel odors, fumes, and moisture caused by hot water use.
- Make sure all supply vents and return air registers throughout the house are open and unblocked.
- Seal leaks in the duct system to prevent energy loss and additional air contamination.
Best Indoor Air Quality Products to Use
Using air-quality equipment that works with air conditioning and heating systems may also be necessary to provide the level of improvement you wish to achieve. Invest in an air quality solution for your HVAC systems, such as an air purifier, air cleaner, or dehumidifier to gain whole home coverage throughout all of your living areas. These systems reduce particles with advanced air filters, add or remove moisture to control humidity, and clean the air of mold and other natural pathogens.
- Air cleaners use high-efficiency air filters to trap airborne particulate matter and remove it from the indoor air supply. Air cleaners are installed along the duct system and all air circulating through the HVAC system must pass through its filter. These air filters provide better removal of pollutants than a standard disposable furnace filter to minimize indoor allergy asthma trigger exposure.
- Air purifiers sanitize the air of harmful contaminants such as mold, smoke, bacteria, viruses, allergens, and more. These pathogens are neutralized by the air purifier so they can no longer reproduce or spread and infect people in the home. Different types of air purifiers are available using various technologies to clean the air, such as ultraviolet light or fans and ionization paired with superior air filters.
- Dehumidifiers control indoor humidity levels by removing moisture from the air as needed. Installed alongside the home’s HVAC system, whole-home dehumidifiers extract water vapor by chilling the air before it passes into the air conditioning unit.
- Humidifiers add moisture to the air when needed to prevent issues related to dry air, such as cracks in wood materials, chapped lips, dry skin, and other health side effects. Depending on the type of humidifier installed with a home’s HVAC system, the unit either adds moisture to the air as air passes through a water panel or the unit creates steam which mixes with indoor air to raise humidity levels.
Get Indoor Air Quality Help from the Pros
Williams Comfort Air serves Indianapolis area homeowners with superior indoor air quality solutions and services. Turn to our team of knowledgeable Comfort Consultants and NATE-certified HVAC installers to find the best equipment choices for your home backed by quality installation for your new system. Contact us today to request an appointment and learn more!