Is your home’s indoor air quality as good as it can be?
It’s winter and that means most of us have our homes closed up tight to keep out the cold. If you have an energy-efficient house, chances are you are warm and toasty and not thinking about the air quality of your home. This time of year, it is important to preserve our indoor air quality.
Air quality is a much bigger problem than it used to be, in part because of advances in building technology. Advances that let us seal our homes for better energy efficiency have reduced the exchange between fresh outside air and indoor air that can be polluted with things like fuel from stoves or fireplaces, building materials and furnishings, household cleaners, HVAC systems and excess moisture.
Indoor air quality has wide-ranging effects on your health. Immediate concerns such as allergic reactions, odors, sore throat, dizziness and fatigue or more severe problems such as asthma, respiratory diseases, heart disease and some forms of cancer can be related to indoor air quality issues.
So, what can you do? Source control and prevention are the single most effective measure, but there are other measures you can take.
Eliminate the sources of the pollution. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed. Others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions.
Improve your ventilation
We talked earlier about air exchanges — it is important to bring fresh air into the house, and get the stale air out. This used to occur naturally, because we didn’t have the technology to tightly seal the building envelope. Now that this technology is becoming standard, we need to make up for that lack of exchange. This is done through proper ventilation. You can introduce outdoor air and encourage air exchange through natural means, such as opening windows, or mechanical means, such as intakes from your HVAC system. It is especially important to open windows when you are doing a short-term activity that affects the indoor air quality, such as cleaning, cooking or painting.
Prevent mold by controlling moisture. Install carbon monoxide alarms and test for radon.
Use and properly maintain your ventilation system, including things like attic fans, localized bathroom and kitchen fans or even placing a fan in an open window.
It also helps to add houseplants, which consume carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.
Remove as much dust and dirt as possible from your home. A nice deep clean, a few beautiful house plants and properly maintained ventilation systems will have you and your family breathing easier this winter.
If you have concerns about the air quality in your home, the EPA and Consumer Product Safety Commission have teamed up and provided a comprehensive guide to possible contaminants and how to mitigate them, called “The Inside Story, A Guide To Indoor Air Quality,” at bit.ly/2N8NFrn.