Category: Air Quality
Finding ways to improve your indoor air quality (IAQ) has become a hot topic. More and more research is being done and studies are finding that when you improve your indoor air quality it can have some very beneficial results. Almost everyone can agree that better IAQ is good, but how do we get there? There are a lot of “solutions” on the market today. Some good, some not as good, and some that might be good but need more development. In this post, we are going to focus on the time-tested ways you can improve your IAQ.
As a result of our daily living, contaminates build up in our homes. Each time we exhale we release CO2, when we cook all kinds of contaminates are released into the air, we use cleaning chemicals, and the list goes on. We can choose to stop breathing, cooking and cleaning, or have a strategy to combat these contaminates. A first line of defense is ventilation. It is a very simple concept – take the bad stuff and get it out of the home. Using a kitchen range hood that exhausts to the outdoors can be one of the most effective ways to instantly increase your IAQ. Add to that utilizing your bathroom exhaust fans and now that IAQ score is going to continue to rise.
2. Dilutions / Fresh Air
Now that we know we have contaminates in the home, another effective way to combat them is diluting them by bringing fresh air into the home. There are many ways to accomplish this and it will look different depending on what area of the country you live. In mild climates, simply opening a window or door is an effective way to bring fresh air in – especially if you are utilizing your ventilation fans properly. The fans will draw the bad air out and the fresh air coming in will replace it. In areas that have more extreme temperatures a mechanical solution might be needed. This is basically a fan that brings air into the home. We have written many post about fresh air and you can learn more by reading through them. One large caution is in areas that frequently have forest fires or consistently bad outdoor air quality. In these cases, some type of filtration might be necessary for the air coming into the home.
For homes that have central heating/cooling systems, making sure your air filters are changed on a regular basis can have a big impact. Filters typically have a MERV rating. The higher the MERV rating the more pollutants it filters. A typical furnace filter is about a MERV8 which is effective for filtering out general pollutants including pollen and mold spores. A higher MERV rating will filter out more pollutants but be sure to consult your furnace manufacturer to see what it is rated for. You can read more about filters in our post – The Air Filter Debate – Is Too Much Too Much? The next time you check your filters (or your HVAC technician does), take a look at how dirty they are, and then realize that if the filters weren’t in place, you probably would be breathing that.
Ever walk into a laundry room and immediately are hit with a chemical smell that almost knocks you out? That is because the items you are storing in there are releasing contaminates that are just not good for you to be breathing. We already talked about using ventilation fans to take those contaminates out, but an even more effective solution is to store them outside of the living area if possible. We understand that it is not always possible or feasible to store these outside of the home but the more you can remove, the better your IAQ will be.
Resist the temptation to utilize air fresheners and candles. These are effective at replacing the odors in the home with better smells but at what cost? No matter what type of candle you use, it will be releasing carcinogens of some type into the air. In the same way, almost all air fresheners (especially the more popular brands) are going to put chemicals into the air that are just not good for you. A good way to think about this is if you are trying produce the cleanest, purest air possible do you want to remove all the “bad” things or keep adding more things to it? Now before you go and tackle the next person in your house that tries to light a candle or excommunicate your kids because they sprayed an air freshener (okay that might be a little extreme), take a deep breath. If you are going to us candles make sure you are using them in a well-ventilated room (goes back to our first point) and use them for a limited time. Taking a bath with a candle or two lit in a bathroom with a properly functioning exhaust fan can be a good balance.
For more information about how to improve your indoor air quality we suggest reading through the other Air King blog posts on related topics.