When it comes to indoor air quality, we're sure you would go above and beyond to keep your family safe and breathing the best air possible.
The solutions are simple that will bring more fresh air into your home and improve your indoor air quality and reduce those pesky household contaminants.
If you're looking for actionable tips that you can use today, then you'll love this article.
Many homes fall short when it comes to healthy indoor air quality.
According to CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), "In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities."
"Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors."
21 Indoor Air Quality Solutions That Will Change the Way You Feel
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Bring Nature Indoors for Clean Air
The benefits of houseplants cannot be overstated. Houseplants clean the air. Houseplants actually breathe. They take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. People and animals take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. By bringing plants into your home, you're creating a symbiotic relationship, filtering the air, creating fresh oxygen, and beautifying your home. Here are some good houseplants you may want to consider:
Aloe Plant - the Aloe plant is a great choice because it's pleasant to look at and it's easy to care for, but it has some other great attributes:
it is great for cuts, burns, and detoxing your body
its leaves will show brown spots when there is an abundance of harmful chemicals in the air
English Ivy - English Ivy is another easy to care for houseplant, with amazing attributes. NASA scientists have rated English Ivy as the best houseplant for filtering air. It is also the best known houseplant for filtering formaldehyde.
Rubber Tree - Rubber trees clean the air, thrive in poor lighting, do well in cooler climates, and require minimal care. They also efficiently remove toxins from the air.
Snake Plant - the Snake plant is unusual because it releases oxygen during the night, while most plants only release oxygen during the day. It doesn't need much water or light.
Red-Edged Dracaena - this vibrantly beautiful plant is great for adding some flair to your decorating, as well as cleaning toxins from the air, such as xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.
Crack the Windows and Keep the Floors Clean
Your home, especially if it is newer, does not breathe well. It re-circulates the same air, over and over. This can be a real problem for indoor air quality. By cracking the windows, you are letting fresh air into your home.
By keeping the floors clean, mopping, vacuuming, and utilizing doormats, you are removing particles that will eventually end up in the air.
Turn Your Furnace Blower On
One of the best indoor air quality tips that will keep your air quality at optimum levels is to just turn your furnace blower on. This serves to re-circulate the air, in your home, through your intake and back out of your home's supply ducts.
Also make sure your furnace has a filter system with UV lights. UV lights kill microbial bacterial and mold spores. A furnace equipped with a UV light filtration system cleans your air as much as 90% better, which dramatically increases your indoor air quality.
Make certain your furnace has been serviced. If your furnace isn't working up to par, it will not clean your air as well. It can also cause more maintenance problems or even stop working altogether. It is important to keep your furnace serviced regularly. Contact your furnace service provider for the best maintenance program for your unit.
Change Your Air Filters According to Your Manufacturer's Recommendations
The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day.
A clean filter effectively removes airborne particulates, ranging from dust to invisible microscopic particles. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air.
During both the heating and cooling season, change the air filter monthly. Instead of cheap, throwaway fiberglass panel filters, choose quality pleated fabric filters rated to trap airborne particles down to a size of 3 microns.
When your air filter is clogged, your air handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of air flow. In addition to driving up your utility bill, the reduced air flow through your heating and cooling system can cause your heat exchanger to overheat and shut off too quickly.
Clogs Contribute to Unhealthy Air
"A clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
If you own pets or keep many chemicals around the house, the indoor air quality will be even worse with a clogged filter. You might not notice a sniffle here or there, but over time, poor indoor air quality will impact your health in a very negative way."
Changing your HVAC air filter could prevent serious problems.
How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?
Change your air filters according to your manufacturer's recommendations.
Changing your air filter is a simple task that will save you money and keep your air cleaner. You can't afford to skip this easy undertaking.
Keep Your Ventilation System Clean
Replacing stale indoor air is another option for homeowners asking how to improve indoor air quality. Simply opening doors and windows isn’t a viable option in frigid winter weather or the heat of summer.
The goal of proper ventilation is balance. Remove stagnant, unhealthy air and replace it with an equal amount of fresh, filtered outdoor air to dilute indoor contaminants and restore healthy air quality. Heat recovery ventilators (HRV) are now the gold standard for residential ventilation.
Utilizing small diameter dedicated ductwork connected to a central controller, an HRV removes stale air from the kitchen, bathrooms and utility rooms while adding a precisely equal volume of fresh outdoor air to bedrooms and other living spaces. Inside the controller, a heat exchange core also helps preserve indoor temperatures by pre-warming incoming fresh air in winter and cooling it in summer.
Not enough ventilation or poor upkeep of your ventilation system can cause or contribute to the development of infections, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases like asthma.
In previous decades, older homes had their own source of ventilation. They were "leaky". Homes came with little or no insulation in the walls, so fresh air could easily enter through gaps, cracks, and holes in the building.
Reduce Humidity and Mold Using Dehumidifiers and Exhaust Fans
Humidity accumulates in tightly-sealed residential environments due to activities like cooking, bathing and simply breathing. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends indoor humidity levels between 30 percent and 60 percent. High indoor humidity creates a breeding ground for toxic mold and bacteria.
High humidity will make your home IAQ take a considerable effort to maintain. Using a dehumidifier will help you manage the quality of your air that can trigger health issues in your home.
The optimum humidity level in your home depends on your personal preferences, clothing, and level of physical activity.
ASHRAE* suggests a range of 45% - 55% humidity to manage health effects and illnesses.
Comfortable: 30% - 60%
Recommended: 45% - 55%
High: 55% - 80%
[Infographic] How to manage home humidity levels through the seasons.
Active growing mold releases airborne reproductive spores by the millions, contaminating household air. If household humidity is consistently above recommended levels, consider installing a whole house dehumidifier inside your HVAC ductwork to maintain healthy indoor air quality.
Controlled by a wall mounted humidistat, just like the thermostat that operates your furnace or A/C, a wholehouse dehumidifier treats all the air in the home as it passes through the ductwork continuously day and night.
Install and Monitor Carbon Monoxide Levels
We've all heard about the colorless, odorless, and may be one of the most toxic substances you could potentially come in contact with known as carbon monoxide.
The best defense against this very deadly toxin is a carbon monoxide alarm. When we talk about indoor air quality as a whole, most don't usually think of this as a top priority.
"Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, such as gas. This can occur in inadequately maintained or badly fitted domestic heating appliances, such as boilers and gas fires. If your flue or chimney is blocked, CO will be unable to escape your home, allowing a dangerous concentration to quickly build up." [diy.com]
How to Install a Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Step 1: Choose a location where the alarm is free from children and pets and will stay clean. Place near heating, for example your gas furnace.
Step 2: Measure the distance between the mounting holes on the back of the mounting bracket.
Step 3: Mark the distance on your chosen location.
Step 4: Drill small holes on the marked spot.
Step: 5: Attach mounting bracket to the surface with the screws supplied.
Step 6: Mount the rest of the detector. Also applies to smoke detectors.
Always make it a priority to routinely test your detectors. And change the batteries twice a year. Good rule of thumb is spring and fall (when you change your clocks).
Please take note of the instruction and guide that came with your specific brand of detector. Also important to note, you should have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
Vacuum Regularly to Reduce Dirt and Dust Mites
Sounds simple right?
Studies show that regular dusting and vacuuming on a weekly basis can significantly reduce the harmful allergens, dust and mites that pollute your home and lungs. The best vacs for asthma and allergies feature several technologies, among which one may count a sealed system that uses a special HEPA filter.
It's no joke.
Indoor air pollution has become a leading source of environmental pollution. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ranked indoor air pollution among the top 5 environmental dangers.
No matter how clean you think your home is, those pesky microscopic "relatives of the spider" exist. They can be found on your bedding, carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture.
We may not be able to totally eliminate them but we can use these 5 preventative strategies to keep them at bay.
- Use a dehumidifier or your A/C to maintain a healthy humidity level. According to Platts-Mills, a leading dust mite researcher, the most important plan of attack is to make sure your home is too dry for the mites to survive. Maintain a humidity level of between 40 and 50 percent and don't live in basements if you're mite allergic. Basements are hard to keep dry.
- Your mattress and pillows can be encased in allergen impermeable covers. Studies at NIEHS found significant reduction of dust mites when allergen-proof covers were combined with properly laundered bedding, dry steam-cleaning, and vacuuming.
- Wash all your bedding at least once a week in hot water. (at least 130 -140 degrees Fahrenheit) source: medicinenet.com
- If you can, replace wall to wall carpeting with bare floors.
- Remove dust with a damp cloth. A dry one does nothing but stir them up.
Have Your Home Checked by HVAC Technician Annually
If you are concerned about the air quality in your home or office you may want to have an air quality test performed.
An indoor air quality test done by a trained professional can help you figure out what kind of airborne problems you might be having, and what you need to do to fix it.
The 5 main steps in the test are:
- Selecting test sites
- Receiving the control sample
- Gathering the test samples
- Shipping and analysis
- Report delivery
While you can purchase a DIY indoor air testing kit, these generally just serve as an indicator as to whether or not you need to have professional testing done.
Some DIY kits may miss contaminants that a professional will catch, which makes it dangerous to rely on if you suspect something is wrong. Once a professional gives you their final report, you can rest knowing your air quality is good, or take action to make it that way.
Installing a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV) is one way you can help improve the air quality in your home. An HRV or ERV system will replace stale indoor air with fresh outside air.
Trained professionals can identify problem sources and help create a plan for the best indoor air quality solution for you.
Use a Whole Air Home Purification System
The air inside your home is essential for more than comfort, it's essential for life. For those that suffer with asthma and horrible reactions to allergens you know exactly what I'm talking about.
It can get tricky. Proper balance is hard to find. We can suggest air purifiers because they can remove airborne contaminants and allergens.
They will trap approximately 98% or more of pollen and mold spores depending on the unit your home requires. According to the Mayo Clinic, 93% of Chronic Sinus Infections have been attributed to mold. As we breathe in the spores that float through the air, that mold can actually grow in our sinus cavities and lungs.
Mold has a way of prevailing. Humidity, dampness, leaks and condensation in the right conditions can cause mold to grow almost anywhere.
Try a Air Duct Cleaning Service
Air duct cleaning is a maintenance service provided by some HVAC companies, with the promise of cleaner air and better HVAC system efficiency.
Significant amounts of dust or large obstructions in the ductwork are two concerns of some homeowners considering this service.
Keep in mind, the easier it is for the air to flow through your air ducts, the easier it is for your system to deliver that air to your living spaces.
There is evidence that checking your air ducts can help to identify specific problems that may help you take steps to keep your HVAC system running efficiently.
Make Your Home a No-Smoking Zone
For so many reasons, smoking is bad. Tobacco contains pollutants that are harmful. It's been noted that the smoke you exhale contains more than 4,000 different chemicals.
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a major contributor to indoor air pollution. Since decades it is well documented that ETS can be harmful to human health and causes premature death and disease.
Have your smokers...step outside.
Test Your Home for Radon
Radon gas can be emitted naturally by the ground in certain areas.
"Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer. Although radon may be released from building materials, in most cases the source is natural radon found in the soils and rock on which your home is built.
A house can act like a chimney: warm air rising inside causes a negative pressure in basements or at the slab level. This negative pressure can suck in gases, including radon."
Use Non-Toxic Household Cleaning Products
"95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum (yep, crude oil) and include benzene derivatives (carcinogenic), aldehydes, toluene, and many other known toxic chemicals". [source]
Probably not so good for the air you breathe.
Couple of tips...
1. Choose "unscented" and "fragrance-free" products for laundry and cleaning purposes. Traditional household cleaning products are one of the leading contributors to indoor air quality problems.
2. Look for scents that are plant-based.
3. Use baking soda to eliminate odors in the house (works well in the refrigerator).
4. Try to use less aerosol spray products.
Be Aware of the Furniture You Purchase
Make sure new cabinets, furniture, and building materials such as plywood, particle board, and oriented strand board (OSB) used in your home are not made with adhesives that contain formaldehyde. [Today'sHomeowner.com...]
"Formaldehyde is a toxic gas that is given off by a surprising number of items in our homes. As a constituent of many manufactured items, formaldehyde can be found in:
One of the primary uses of formaldehyde is in adhesives, so if your furniture is made out of “wood” that is something other than solid natural wood, it is likely to be emitting formaldehyde. Items like plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), chipboard, and particle board all rely on glue to hold them together, and each of these can be high in formaldehyde."
Purchase Eco-Friendly Paint (No or Low VOCs)
VOC equals volatile organic compound.
Because they're volatile, these compounds vaporize and emit gasses, even long after they've dried. Paint, for example, emits only half of its VOCs in the first year. It can cause symptoms such as headaches and dizziness.
"For a paint to actually call itself "low-VOC," the EPA requires that it have no more than 250 grams per liter (g/l) of VOCs for flat and latex paint -- oil-based paints can have up to 380 g/l. (Some places, like California, have even stricter standards.) To call itself VOC-free, paint can have no more than 5 g/l of VOCs."
VOC rich air in your home can increase the risk of developing asthma or allergies. If possible, use paints in VOCs or contain no VOCs.
Groom Your Pets More Frequently
When your pets shed, their fur can become airborne and clog your filters. I already addressed the issue of a clogged air filter in tip #4. It will hinder your system's efficiency.
But with pet hair comes dander...
"Pet dander is composed of tiny, even microscopic flakes of skin shed by cats and dogs. Many people are allergic to dander, and suffer as a result of poorly cleaned air filters which become inundated with pet hair and dander.
Duct work is made of metal, which causes it to attract pet hair and dander. When the furnace or cooler turns on, a little of the mixture of dander and hair blows through the system, and you and your family end up breathing it in."
Clean Your Ceiling and Floor Fans
Fans, like your air filters collect alot of dust. Dusty fans circulate ... dust.
Take the time to clean your ceiling fan blades and while you're there, reverse the direction of your ceiling fan.
Here's a quick money saving tip:
image source: indoor air quality
Give Your Stuffed Toys and Pillows a Deep Freeze
Hard to think those cute teddy bears or your pillow you use daily, could have dust mites.
Service Master Clean suggests "to get rid of them, put the stuffed toys and pillows in a waterproof laundry bag and place it in a freezer. Let it cool for a few hours. The low temperatures will kill all the dust mites and this will tremendously contribute to cleaner indoor air."
Another how to clean your pillows because they are grosser than you could possibly imagine...
Throw them in the wash. Pillows are ideal breeding grounds for dust mites and the flu.
"Research stated that after two years, approximately 1/3 of a pillow’s weight contains dead skin, dust mites (which eat the dead skin), and droppings (poop from all those mites). Additionally, 10% of people and 80% of allergy sufferers are allergic to proteins found in waste and decomposed dust mites!"
Adopt a "Shoes-off" Policy
Shoes can carry bacteria into your home. This can cause all types of infections.
While carpets and doormats reduce dirt and other outdoor air pollutants from getting into your house, it is more effective to adopt a “no-shoe” policy in your home.
Install a Quality Range Hood Vented to the Outside
Install a quality range hood vented to the outside with the recommended CFM (cubic feet per minute) air flow for your stove.
You may be thinking, “But my microwave already has a fan. Why do I need a vent hood?”
While over-the-range microwaves are convenient, they don’t extend far enough over the stove for proper venting, and they often aren’t vented to the outside.
Following these indoor air quality tips isn't all that difficult, but it does require some effort. By bringing in houseplants, opening your windows, keeping your floors clean, and circulating the air through a maintained furnace, you're taking the proper steps to care for you and your family.
The question of how to improve air quality in your home is a year round issue. The answer lies in a multi-faceted approach that addresses the sources of poor air quality. Controlling the dust, mold or lack of ventilation and maintaining your homes humidity will help improve the air quality in your home as well.
There are a number of factors that can cause indoor air pollution and trigger asthma, allergies and a plethora of other illnesses. The 21 indoor air quality solutions listed is a refreshing start to improving your air.