How to Improve Indoor Air Quality: A Guide for Homeowners

 A staggering 135 million people in the US live in areas with unhealthy outdoor air. That’s a whopping four in 10 folks exposed to high levels of particle or ozone pollution.

As if that’s not bad enough, indoor air can be as polluted or even more so than outdoor air. Indoor air quality studies found some pollutants to exist at elevated levels indoors. Their concentrations can be two to five times, even 100 times higher than outdoor air!

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Fortunately, air quality at home is modifiable with healthy indoor living practices. We’ve outlined some of the best ways you can improve your home’s IAQ, so be sure to keep reading.

Keep Your Home Clean

Did you know that shoes can contain more dirt and germs than a toilet seat? Researchers found that footwear can harbor E. coli and other disease-causing bacteria. So if you bring your shoes inside, you can spread all those dirt and pathogens all over your home.

That’s a good enough reason to have a regular home cleaning schedule. Sweep, mop, and vacuum at least once a week or more often if you have a large household. Don’t forget to disinfect the entryway, living room, kitchen, and bathrooms.

If you have carpets, be sure to vacuum them at least once a week, too. Scientists say that they can hold more dust and germs than hardwood floors.

Proper Ventilation

Since indoor air can contain more pollutants than outdoor air, ventilation is a must at home.

Ventilation is the process of bringing fresh outdoor air inside a building. The outdoor air then displaces and replaces indoor air, pushing it outside. This movement is also what allows air to circulate within a home.

There are two primary ways to ventilate and improve home air quality. These include natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation. 

Natural Ventilation

You can achieve natural ventilation by opening doors and windows. Before you do this, be sure to check your area’s air quality for the day first. You can use the government site AirNow to check your area’s outdoor air quality, such as its pollen or ozone rate. 

Mechanical Ventilation 

Mechanical ventilation involves the use of machines. This is usually carried out by heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

HVAC systems usually have outdoor air intakes that pump outdoor air into a home or building. The air then passes through a filtration device that captures and traps pollutants.

From there, the HVAC unit cools or heats the air and then circulates it throughout your home. The equipment brings the stale, warm indoor air and expels it outdoors.

Note that some US states require mechanical ventilation for new and existing homes. For instance, California law requires all new homes to install mechanical ventilators. The same goes for existing homes that undergo alteration or addition.

Maintain Your HVAC System

HVAC filters exist to protect the system’s sensitive components from residue-building pollutants. Standard filters can catch visible contaminants like dust, debris, pollen, and pet dander. Some may also be efficient enough to filter molds, mold spores, and dust mites.

Although they’re for HVAC systems, air filters do help improve air quality in homes. They have a limited lifespan, though, ranging from one to three months. You need to replace them as soon as they get all clogged up.

Otherwise, you and your HVAC system will suffer from impaired airflow. The residue build-up will also reduce the equipment’s energy efficiency and performance.

Worse, the filthy filter will no longer be able to catch air pollutants as it should. Worst, the contaminants may just go back to the air and re-circulate throughout your home.

So if you haven’t had your HVAC system serviced for more than a year, now’s the best time.

Don’t worry, as many HVAC companies offer discounts and rebates for their services. These include Service Express Heating and Air Conditioning in IL, Gilmore Air in CA, and All Comfort Services in WI. Regardless of where you live, you’re sure to find money-saving deals on HVAC services.

Consider Adding HVAC UV Lights

UV lights are devices that emit UVC, one of the three types of ultraviolet rays. It has disinfecting effects, killing microorganisms that cause diseases and infections. Many healthcare facilities use UVC lights to help reduce the spread of disease.

You can also get UVC lights for your home, but it’s best to have them installed by an HVAC professional. They’re helpful, yes, but they can damage the skin and the eyes if mishandled.

Let Your Kitchen Breathe

Cooking appliances, whether electric, gas, wood, or coal, can produce air pollutants. The regular use of electric stoves can generate particulate matter and formaldehyde. Burning natural gas, propane, and wood can emit carbon monoxide (CO) and formaldehyde.

Wood stoves also release smoke and soot that contain many air pollutants.

With that said, improving air quality in the kitchen can be as simple as opening your windows each time you cook. If you have a bigger budget, consider investing in a high-efficiency range hood. These ducted exhaust fans remove odors, moisture, and combustion pollutants from cooking.

Invest in an Air Cleaner That Meets EPA Recommendations

Air cleaners, also called air purifiers, can filter particles or gases. These portable machines clean the air within a specified room size.

Air cleaners that use high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters can filter particles. Those with an activated carbon filter can filter both particles and gases.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a guide you can use to choose the right air cleaner. Note that these devices can help boost IAQ, but you shouldn’t rely on them alone. They provide the best results when used as a supplement to other good IAQ practices.

Breathe Safer Air by Enhancing Indoor Air Quality

Ensuring your home has good indoor air quality is vital to your family’s health and safety. This is even more crucial nowadays, as more folks spend time indoors. So, as early as now, clean your home, get your HVAC system tuned up, and follow the rest of the tips outlined in this guide.

Interested in more hacks and tricks to keep your home and fam safe and healthy? Then browse our other categories for more informative posts like this! 

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