You may pride yourself on keeping your place tidy and your windows sparkling clean. But if the air inside your house is dirty, your housekeeping skills may not be as effective as you initially thought. Fortunately, we can control a great deal about the air quality in your homes.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the air inside our houses can be up to five times more polluted than the air we breathe when we’re outside. On average, Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.
Inside concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent years as energy-efficient building practices tightly seal airflow to the outdoors. The EPA also points to synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners as contributing factors to indoor air pollution.
Six Ways To Improve Air Quality In Your Home
Hoffner Heating and Air Conditioning cares about your family’s health. We’ve provided six practical ways to keep the air quality in your house as healthy as possible. Layering each approach will improve your home’s indoor environment.
1. Keep Pollutants Out Of Your Home
Many chemicals people bring into their houses to clean or release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) when used and stored. The EPA says concentrations of many VOCs are up to ten times higher indoors compared to outdoors. Sources of household products that emit VOCS include:
- • Aerosol sprays • Air fresheners • Cleansers containing • Bleach and ammonia • Detergent and dishwashing liquid
- • Furniture and floor polish • Oven cleaners • Paints, paint strippers, and other solvents • Wood preservatives • Dry cleaning chemicals
You can lessen the impact of VOCs by:
- Air out dry cleaning outside before bringing it in your home
- Buying fragrance-free cleaning products
- Choosing low VOC interior paint
- Cleaning with vinegar and baking soda (whenever possible)
- Opening windows when using bleach or ammonia
- Taking tasks such as varnishing or paint-stripping outside because they emit high VOCs.
An Environmental Health Perspectives study cautioned that “even products advertised as ‘green,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘organic’ emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones.” According to the study, scented products are especially problematic. For more information, click on this list of safer cleaning products from the EPA.
2. Properly Ventilate Your House
Although it’s more efficient to cut pollutants off at the source rather than to eliminate them once they’re inside, proper ventilation will also improve your air quality. Consider taking the following steps to enhance airflow:
- Open windows and doors when the weather permits
- Properly vent gas stoves
- Operate window and attic fans
- Avoid sealing every crack to allow for natural air circulation
- Make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated to cut down on mold.
- *Pro-tip: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggests running a bathroom fan for at least 15-20 minutes after showering.
- Run a dehumidifier in damp areas, such as a basement, to prevent mold growth.
3. Enforce a No-Shoes Policy
While it’s good to open windows to let fresh out from the outside in, sometimes it’s best to keep the outside, outside. The shoes we wear outside can track in pollutants, such as fecal matter and pesticides. If you can keep pollutants from coming inside, you reduce the risk of inhaling them.
If you can’t convince others in your household to remove their footwear when coming home, consider adding large mats to every entryway to catch as many pollutants as possible.
4. Dust and Vacuum Regularly
By removing dust and pet dander from your home’s surfaces, you can keep them out of the air circulation. To remove small particulates, choose a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter.
Furthermore, eliminate dirt by:
- Cleaning higher surfaces first and working your way down to catch any dust you missed
- Vacuuming carpets and area rugs at least once a week
- Dusting ceiling fans
- Routinely washing drapes and cleaning blinds
- Grooming pets regularly
- Using your vacuum’s extension tools to clean hard-to-reach corners
- Storing stuffed animals in plastic bins to avoid dust
- Removing carpet altogether and replacing with hardwood flooring if you have severe allergies or asthma
5. Monitor Radon and Carbon Monoxide Levels
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas found outdoors in harmless amounts. It can sometimes seep into homes and expose occupants to small amounts of radiation. According to the American Cancer Society, this can damage your lungs’ cell lining and increase your risk for lung cancer. For more information about how to test for radon in your home, visit the EPA’s site.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning every year, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. Like radon, carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. The CDC recommends installing a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector. You should place it in an area where it will wake you up if you’re sleeping, and be sure to replace the batteries routinely.
6. Maintain Your HVAC Unit
Your HVAC’s filters remove dirt, pollen, allergens, and other air pollutants from the air. Without a filter, you and your family would be breathing in all of that harmful particulate. Change your filters regularly to optimize your HVAC’s performance.
Your HVAC unit should be inspected, cleaned, and serviced at least once a year, or better yet, each season!
Who Is Most Susceptible to Indoor Air Pollution?
Some people are the most susceptible to the adverse effects of pollution, including the very young, older adults, and those with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases such as COPD or emphysema. Unfortunately, they tend to spend even more time indoors.
Children exposed to air pollution face particular risks because their lungs are still developing and because they are more active than adults and thus breathe in more air. Cigarette smoke is a pollutant that particularly harms children. According to the EPA, secondhand smoke “can cause or worsen asthma symptoms [for children] and is linked to increased risks of ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).”
According to the CDC, there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Some of the health problems secondhand smoke causes in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
Hoffner Heating and Air Conditioning Is Here To Help
Maintaining your home’s air quality is essential, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Click here if you’d like to speak with one of our highly-trained staff members about the caliber of air in your house.