Common Indoor Air Quality Issues
Indoor air quality issues plague Indianapolis area homes for many different reasons, causing various issues for a household’s occupants. To improve air quality in your home, learn how to treat common indoor air quality issues with help from your HVAC system.
The pros at Williams Comfort Air explain the different troublesome air quality problems commonly faced in the home and what to do about them. If you face air quality issues, we have solutions to help – contact us today to learn more and take the first step toward cleaner air inside your home.
Why Is Air Quality Such a Big Deal?
In this day and age, air quality and air pollution are a big concern. Most people consider this only in respect to outdoor air. While not such an issue in the Indianapolis area, you’ve seen the pictures of visible smog looming in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and throughout the world – it’s alarming. However, the air outside should not be your only concern.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollutants are more highly concentrated indoors than they are outside. The air within a home is often polluted with contaminant concentrations 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors! This has greatly increased over the past few decades due to the way we build our homes and buildings for efficiency and the materials we bring into them.
Indoor and outdoor air pollution are both serious issues, but indoor air quality issues have such a big impact on us because most of our time is spent inside – a whopping 90 percent of our time, actually, for most of us. Those who are most vulnerable to issues caused by indoor air quality are often those who spend the greatest amount of time inside, like young children, the elderly, and those who suffer from respiratory or cardiovascular health conditions.
Poor indoor air quality isn’t a benign problem – it can actually cause physical health symptoms. Short-term exposure produces cold-like symptoms, including irritated eyes, nose and throat as well as dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. Contaminant exposure in the home increases the frequency of allergy symptoms and asthma attacks. Long-term exposure to certain pollutants in the home can lead to more serious health conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory conditions.
What Pollutes Indoor Air?
Indoor air pollutants come from a variety of sources, both within and outside the home. Common air pollutants found inside the home include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Pet hair
- Pet dander
- Particulate matter
- Dust mites
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Cleaning chemicals
Once they are introduced, there are other factors that contribute to their concentration at any given time. The behaviors of people inside the home, the climate and weather, along with the air exchange rate and other qualities of the air within your home can all improve or worsen indoor air quality.
Common Indoor Air Quality Issues (and How to Address Them)
Certain indoor air quality issues are more prevalent in Indianapolis homes than others. These issues often play off one another, and indoor air quality solutions address them in different ways. Take a look at the most common indoor air quality issues and what you need to do to prevent problems within your home.
- High contaminant concentrations
- Poor humidity control
- Poor ventilation
High Contaminant Concentrations
Many Indianapolis area homes are susceptible to high indoor concentrations of air pollutants that cause indoor air quality issues, especially newer ones. This is because newer construction places a focus on creating an energy efficient structure, so there is a tight building seal to help the home retain and conserve energy. However, while helpful for energy conservation, this creates indoor air quality issues.
The tight building seal prevents much of the natural ventilation that moves contaminants out of the home. With nowhere to go, they remain inside and collect. Airborne pollutants build inside the home through:
- Indoor pets
- Fireplace use
- Cleaning products
- Fragrances and air freshers
- Burning candles
- Smoking indoors
- Off-gassing of construction materials and furniture
When you’re exposed to increased concentrations of these contaminants indoors, you notice physical symptoms such as itchy skin, irritations of the nose, throat, and eyes, runny nose, and others that mimic those of the common cold – which makes indoor air quality issues that much more difficult to discern. If members of your household have allergies or asthma, they may be especially sensitive to these contaminants and experience increased symptoms.
The first step to controlling contaminant concentrations in your home is to reduce use of certain products.
- Switch to phthalate-free air conditioners and candles, or ditch them all together
- Use cleaning products with low or no levels of VOCs
- Ban smoking indoors
- Use exhaust fans when cooking and using your fireplace
- Regularly groom indoor pets to remove excess fur and dander
- Regularly clean all surfaces in the home
Next comes HVAC solutions that help reduce common indoor air quality issues. When faced with high levels of contaminants indoors, a whole-home air cleaner is helpful, as well as a ventilation system.
- Air cleaners use an efficient media filter to remove particulate matter from the air as it circulates through your HVAC system and into your home. Unlike your furnace filter, which does the job of keeping contaminants out of your HVAC system, the air cleaner is specifically meant to remove contaminants from your home’s air supply. As air passes through, contaminants are trapped within the filter media and prevented from recirculating.
- Ventilation systems remove polluted air from your home, replacing it with fresh, outdoor air. In homes that lack much natural ventilation, it is important to replace it with mechanical ventilation. Whole-home ventilation systems help remove contaminants and prevent high concentrations throughout all your living areas. Additionally, use exhaust fans to remove contaminants created while cooking.
Poor Humidity Control
One of the most common indoor air quality issues is poor humidity control. If your home feels stuffy or muggy, you might have a humidity control issue. High humidity indoor environments are perfect for mold to grow and allergens to thrive. It also increases concentrations of VOCs held in your indoor air.
When the air inside your home is burdened with too much moisture, your body feels it. You may experience:
- Increased allergy symptoms
- More asthma attacks
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy eyes
- Skin irritations
- Lung infections due to mold exposure
High humidity also makes it difficult to balance temperatures in the home. The moister the air, the warmer it feels. You may experience related symptoms like muscle cramps, heat rash, and heat exhaustion.
- Whole-home dehumidifiers remove excess moisture from air circulating through your home, keeping relative humidity levels in the appropriate range of 35 to 50 percent. Balanced humidity reduces contaminant concentrations to decrease related symptoms. A whole-home dehumidifier also protects your home from the risk of mold growth and exposure.
- Exhaust ventilation systems in kitchens and bathrooms reduce buildup of humidity due to humidity-producing activities like showers and boiling water from cooking. Without ventilation, these activities allow humidity in the home to build, which in turn increases contaminant concentrations.
As explained above, poor ventilation in the home allows contaminant concentrations and humidity levels to mount. Air feels stale and you may have trouble keeping temperatures comfortable, on top of the bothersome health issues you may feel.
Poor ventilation causes another troublesome indoor air quality issue – increased radon levels. Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that is undetectable by humans without assistance of a radon detection device. It is a known carcinogen, and the second-most leading cause of lung cancer.
Radon is naturally occurring uranium that forms below ground as soil and rock decay. It infiltrates homes through foundation cracks and air leaks. When ventilation is poor, radon concentrations mount to unsafe levels. Homes tightly sealed for efficiency may be unknowingly increasing radon levels without proper ventilation.
- Whole-home ventilation systems exchange indoor and outdoor air, exhausting polluted indoor air in exchange for fresh, outdoor air. Energy recovery ventilation systems (ERVs) help reduce energy loss as they retain heat energy from exhausted air to treat incoming air.
- Spot ventilation like bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans target specific areas and the activities within them to immediately reduce air quality issues such as humidity and smoke. While these systems do not provide incoming fresh air, they are helpful to clear significant airborne contamination away as it occurs in your home.
Get Help for Your Indoor Air Quality Issues
Don’t suffer the discomfort and troublesome side effects from common indoor air quality issues any longer – Williams Comfort Air is here to help. Let our indoor air quality professionals assess your home and match you to the right solutions that target your home’s specific areas of concern. Our NATE-certified technicians install indoor air quality products that work in conjunction with your HVAC system to deliver cleaner, healthier air throughout your home.
Contact us today to request an estimate for indoor air quality solutions in your Indianapolis area home.