When you think of air pollution, you may be thinking about big cities and factories, car-clogged traffic, or power plants. Only a few people are aware that air pollutants can also affect indoor spaces. Low household air quality can have effects on your health and mood big time. In fact, your indoor air quality can be 10 times worse than outside. The World Health Organization estimates that about 3.8 million deaths annually are attributed to indoor air pollution. Not because your air is clear of smoke, your air is also healthy. Unfortunately, most of the existing laws, regulations, and policies concerning air pollution are overwhelmingly focused on improving air quality of outdoor communities.
Indoor air pollutants can either originate from the inside and some from the outside. Some of the toxic chemicals affecting indoor air quality include:
- Outside Pollutants, which can enter the building through open doors, windows, and ventilation systems.
- Carbon Monoxide from fireplaces, dryers, and other fuel-burning combustion appliances
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), such as air fresheners, paints, and cleaning and disinfecting agents
- Asthma Triggers, including moulds, dust mites, and pet dander
- Radon, a radioactive gas emanating naturally from the soil
Given that most people spend 90% of their time indoors, it’s important to keep your sanctuary safe and healthy. Here are 9 quick tips to help you do just that:
Open the Doors and Windows
Ventilate! This is the easiest way you can ensure that you keep indoor air pollutants at a minimum. Good airflow through your house removes stagnant air.
If you live in a busy urban area, the outside air quality may be worse at certain times of the day, like rush hour. Carefully choose the time of day you open your windows. Open your doors and windows early in the morning or late evening when traffic levels are at their lowest. You can also invest in a ventilator. This device allows outside air to flow inside through a filter, cleaning impurities.
What you have to keep in mind is only open your windows and doors when circumstances allow it. Unfortunately, natural disasters, like wildfires or dust storms, can make open ventilation impossible. How do you improve air quality at home during wildfires?
The Environmental Protection Agency suggests closing the doors and windows. If you live near an area that experiences frequent wildfires, purchase a portable air cleaner or high-efficiency HVAC system filter to keep your indoor air breathable. However, note that it’s best to evacuate as soon as it is recommended by local authorities.
Maintain Your AC Filters
Air conditioning systems provide your home with the perfect temperature year-round and, at the same time, helps improve your indoor air quality by drying the air out and refreshing the stale air. During this cycle, they also filter out some of the air pollutants. It’s only a matter of time before more contaminants than the air filters can handle build up. Not only will it affect your indoor air quality but it can also cause trouble for your air conditioning system.
To prevent this, clean your filters regularly. Additionally, those who have allergies or are living in a dense metropolitan area should get an air conditioning service plan for scheduled check-ups and maintenance.
Don’t Forget to Dust
Chemicals and allergens can accumulate over time in your home. They may settle on top of furniture or cabinets or within the crevices of your floors. Doing a monthly general cleaning can go a long way to guaranteeing that the air you breathe inside your house is as clean as possible.
Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to reduce lead concentrations in your home, as well as other pollutants like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Mopping after vacuuming also helps pick up particles left behind. Leave a floor mat outside the door to minimize the dirt people can track into your home.
Clean Your Sheets and Clothes
Outdoor pollutants can adhere to sheets and clothing. Dust mites can also linger in your bedding, cushions, and curtains while pet dander can stay on your bed and sofa. You must clean these items as often as possible to remove any potential build-up.
Control Humidity in Your Home
Dust mites and moulds are attracted to moisture, so keeping your indoor humidity around 30% to 50% helps keep them under control. Depending on where you are, hot summer months can bring extremely humid conditions. Reduce air moisture by placing dehumidifiers in strategic areas of your home.
Other ways you can dehumidify your house are:
- Use an exhaust fan or open a window when cooking, dishwashing, or bathing
- Direct the clothes dryer vent to the outside
- Don’t overwater houseplants
- Fix leaking pipes
- Always empty the drip pans in your air conditioner and dehumidifier
Invest in Air Purifiers
Air purifiers are another way to neutralize the threat of indoor air pollutants. They contain a fan and multiple filters that suck the air in. As air moves through the filter, pollutants are trapped, and the clean air is pushed out into your living space. You can also improve indoor air quality more naturally by using items like beeswax candles, salt lamps, and activated charcoal.
Air pollutants, such as pollen, dust, and dirt, carry a positive charge. By burning a beeswax candle or lighting a salt lamp, they release negative ions that either suck these positively charged particles or fall them from suspension. People with asthma have even reported a decrease in symptoms after using these products.
Keep Your Home Smoke-Free
Tobacco smoke is probably the single most common source of indoor air pollution. Cigarette smoke is known to contain more than 4000 chemicals and is linked with numerous illnesses. These toxic tobacco particles can remain at harmful levels for approximately 5 hours. Just by keeping your home smoke-free, you are already keeping your indoor air quality safe tenfold.
Avoid Air Fresheners
Air fresheners help mask foul odours, but it is also full of synthetic chemicals. For every squirt of freshener, you may unwittingly release a torrent of pollutants into your home. Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets may also emit such gasses. This is because most fragrances are derived from petroleum products and not generally tested to see if they have significant health effects on humans when inhaled.
Instead, swap fake fresheners with natural fragrances. Go fully natural by using organic room diffusers or essential oils. For unpleasant room smells, like in the kitchen after cooking, leave a bowl of white vinegar overnight or microwave slices of water in lemon, or simply open your windows. You can even create your own air freshener by mixing baking soda and lemon juice with hot water.
Place Indoor Plants
Just as plants are noteworthy for improving air quality in the environment, they too can provide similar benefits to your home. Houseplants have notable air-purifying characteristics. They take in toxins while providing additional oxygen. Placing indoor plants not only improve air quality but they can also serve as room décor. But before you go stacking up some, know that not all plants are created equal. The top houseplants for improving air quality are:
- Aloe vera
- English ivy
- Monstera deliciosa
- Snake plant
- Peace lily
Ensuring that the indoor air quality in your home is pure and breathable involves lots of diligence and regular maintenance. Knowing the steps that you need to take to reduce indoor air pollution, consider talking to a professional.
HVAC Link has over 10 years of experience, helping the General Toronto Area meet their air quality goals. We have a range of service offerings, including preventative maintenance packages for residences. Call our hotline at (416) 567-3498 for our 24/7 emergency service.