You have probably heard it said one way or another that the first step in fixing a problem is identifying the problem. The same holds true with our home’s indoor air quality (IAQ). Home contaminate identification is the first step on the path to improving it. Here is a list of our top 5 contaminates:
- It sounds a little silly but one of the largest sources of contaminates in our homes is us. We breath, we bring in contaminates from the outside on our clothing (pollen, dirt, dust, etc.), viruses and so forth. Other than never leaving the house and stopping breathing (not really an option), there isn’t much we can reduce. Maybe leave the dirty shoes outside before coming in the home but not much more. What we need to look at is how to mitigate. A regular cleaning schedule is a good start. Using natural cleaning agents that do not give off harmful gasses is a must, otherwise you might be doing more harm than good. Also a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will prevent you from putting all the “bad” stuff right back into the room. Lastly, having a good system in place to ventilate the home as well as bring in fresh air is a must. The ventilation fans will help remove contaminates replacing them with fresh air coming in.
- The kitchen and cooking. While there might be some out there that never use their kitchen, our guess is the vast majority do. Cooking is one of the top contributors to bad indoor air quality. You have steam, grease, smoke (some of us more than others) and all kinds of other contaminates generated during the cooking process. If these are not mitigated it cannot only be bad for the indoor air quality, it could also be dangerous. The good news is there is a simple answer – your range hood. Ideally, your range hood should vent to the outdoors rather than return the air to the kitchen after going through a filter. In previous blog posts we listed a lot of reasons why people do not use their range hoods. Moral of the story – USE YOUR RANGE HOOD!
- You might say – wait, you just told us to clean our homes in the first point. You are correct, but we need to focus on the way to properly clean. Cleaning agents are some powerful things. If you have ever used toilet bowl cleaner, the smell can knock you back a bit. It does its job but it is also giving off more bad gases than you probably want to know about. The same holds true with a lot of the other items we use to clean – furniture polish, bleach, laundry detergent and the list goes on. So we know we need to clean but how do we do it without negatively affecting the IAQ of the home. There are a lot of “natural” cleaners on the market today. We are not necessarily endorsing these as so many make claims but after a little investigating are not as advertised. What we do advocate is utilizing the exhaust fans of the home when cleaning. Do you turn the bathroom exhaust fan on when you clean? If not you should. Even turning the kitchen range hood when you are cleaning in or around the kitchen will help. Slightly opening a window when you can is another easy and effective way to bring fresh air in, diluting the concentration of cleaners.
- The bathroom. This is another area of the home that is a necessity but can also have a negative effect on your indoor air quality. When we shower it produces moisture. Moisture leads to mildew which leads to mold, which is bad. For the sake of those around you, please continue to shower but lets look at ways to reduce the moisture generated. The number one thing you can do is to properly utilize the exhaust fan. A properly sized and functioning exhaust fan will greatly reduce the amount of moisture in the room. Without moisture it is very hard for mold and mildew to grow. The key is making sure your fan is powerful enough and runs long enough. Exhaust fans have progressed a lot in the past few decades and now you can get them with integrated humidity sensors that automatically turn the fan on when the humidity rises and then turns off when the humidity drops. A mistake many people make is not running the exhaust fan long enough after a shower or bath. In some cases it might take more than an hour to clear out all the humidity that has built up. Air King has a full line of effective and affordable humidity sensing exhaust fans. Opening windows is another solution but you need to be careful. Not sure if you live in a northern state you want to open windows in the middle of winter, same holds true for southern states in the middle of summer.
- Candles, incense, diffusers. This is probably the one that gets the most push back. We are writing this blog at the beginning of November right in the heart of pumpkin spice season. We enjoy a nice smelling candle as much as the next person but we need to stop and think about what is happening. When we light a candle, or more accurately, burn a candle it is releasing all types of contaminates as well as scents. At its root, we are burning something that releases carcinogens into the air. You might see “Clean burning candles” but generally all that means is the wax gets burned up with the candle instead of dripping all over everything. Another one is “naturally made”. This is great, but it still needs to be burnt. Wood is “naturally” made but if you light a bonfire in your living room, you’re going to have some problems (okay, maybe a little extreme but you get our point). Now if you still want to light candles, a way to lessen the impact on your indoor air quality is to utilize them in well-ventilated areas. Taking a bath? Make sure the exhaust fan is on. If using in the main living area, is there a way to have a flow of fresh air coming in to dilute it?
BONUS: Pets. Yes we love them as they are part of the family but they can be a menace to the indoor air quality of the home. There is the dander, the hair, what they bring in on their fur (pollen, dirt, etc.). Don’t get us wrong, we love pets but it is important to have a strategy to keep their impact on the indoor air quality of the home as little as possible. Oh and guess what, pets benefit from good IAQ as well. The good news is the strategy with pets is mostly the same as the other items we have been talking about, cleaning, proper ventilation and good airflow.
Now, if you have been paying attention, you probably noticed a common theme through all of these points on home contaminate identification – ventilation and fresh air. If you can properly ventilate your home while replacing the stale “bad” air with fresh, your indoor air quality will be the best it can. Now also add in regularly changing your air filters if you have central heating/cooling, you’re really going to see a noticeable difference.
For more information about Air King’s line of indoor air quality solution including exhaust fans, range hoods and fresh air intake, utilize the menu links at the top of this page. Also check out our other posts about indoor air quality.