Your home should provide a place of comfort, safety and rest for your family. But, an invisible nuisance may be standing between you and the ideal comfort of your home retreat — indoor air pollution.
Indoor air pollution has become a leading source of environmental pollution. In fact, the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ranked indoor air pollution among the top 5 environmental dangers. Considering that most Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, this is a major concern.
Pollutants like chemical odors, cigarette smoke, mold, pet dander and cooking odors can all affect the quality of the air inside your home, and can also cause harmful health effects to your family. If family members are experiencing frequent colds, allergies or other respiratory issues, it’s time to address and improve the indoor air quality at home.
Common Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality often stems from commonplace household items and fixtures that are in your home. Some of these items are:
- Wood furniture and/or cabinets: Wood may contain formaldehyde gas which, if unsealed, will disperse into the air via the natural process of off-gassing.
- Carpeting: Carpets and rugs are a common host for pollutants and allergens. The microscopic particles will embed into the nap of the carpet, and even penetrate through to the padding below.
- Floor tiles: Tiles, especially older ones, may contain asbestos, which is released into the air if the tiles are worn or damaged.
- Tubs/showers: The moisture that is inherent to tubs and showers creates a natural breeding ground for mold and mildew. All homes contains some mold and mildew. Air Quality Testing can determine the type(s) of mold present and the respective spore counts to determine if they have exceeded acceptable levels. People with allergies, respiratory problems, or underlying health issues may be particularly sensitive to mold, even at lower levels.
- Fireplaces: When in use, fireplaces emit carbon monoxide and other outdoor pollutants that can cause poor indoor air quality.
- Cigarette smoke: Tobacco contains many pollutants that are harmful and can negatively impact your indoor air quality.
- Pets: The dander from pets is lighter in weight and smaller than most airborne allergens. Dander may also embed into carpets and furniture, and is among the most common and widely pervasive allergens in the home.
- Household chemicals: Cleaning products, aerosols, and artificial fragrances contain thousands of pollutants that negatively impact your indoor air quality.
Tips To Improve Indoor Air Quality
- Keep humidity level within a healthy range: Dust mites and mold both flourish with humidity. Keeping humidity between 30% – 50% helps to keep them under control. A dehumidifier during the winter months and air conditioner during the summer months will help reduce moisture and improve air quality.
- If you have any water leaks or drips from plumbing fixtures or pipes, contact a professional for immediate plumbing repairs.
- Don’t smoke in your home: Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals that are harmful to your health and your families health.
- Use natural cleaning products: Synthetic cleaning products emit dozens of chemicals and gasses into the air. All-natural products are widely available commercially, or more often than not, household items such as vinegar, baking soda and lemons can make for a completely organic alternative to commercial cleaning products.
- Vacuum selection: Using a vacuum that has strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter can reduce allergens and pollutants that have settled into carpets, upholstery and furniture, where dust and dander accumulate.
- Source control: Some sources of harmful fumes or pollutants, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is a cost-efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality.
- Clean HVAC filters and ducts: Removing the dust and particles that build up in your HVAC filters and ducts will not only improve your indoor air quality, but annual duct cleaning will also allow your heating and cooling system(s) to run more efficiently.
Indoor Air Quality Products
Air Filtering Systems
Look for air filters that handle particulate matter, such as dust and dander, as well as chemical matter. Central air cleaners that operate when your furnace fan is on work well. The best kinds of filters for people with allergies are high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are specially designed to remove allergens from the air.
Ionic air cleaners generate an electrical charge (negative ions) that makes the pollutants in the air become ‘sticky’. The ions attach to airborne molecules, making them negatively charged and attractive to the positively charged particles nearby. Ionic air cleaners are particularly effective at removing odors. They are also quiet, energy efficient and don’t require replacement filters.
Ultra-violet (UV) lamps installed on your heating and cooling system are extremely effective at destroying pollutants like bacteria, mold and viruses. The UV rays “incinerate” particles as they pass through, making it easier to breathe for those with asthma, lung complications and allergies. The effectiveness of the UV lamps is based on molecule’s direct line of sight contact with the lamp and the proximity (closeness) the molecule has with the lamp.
Contact a Professional to tune up your A/C, check your plumbing fixtures and install air cleaners
While there is a lot you can do by yourself to improve your home’s indoor air quality, it is best to contact professionals when it comes to maintaining and servicing your AC units, repairing plumbing fixtures, and/or installing air cleaners and UV lamps. Contact us for advice and free estimates on systems and services that fit your budget and needs.