December 23, 2014

indoor air qualityBelieve it or not, the air in your home is likely much dirtier than the air outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Indoor air contains gaseous pollutants that include chemicals from household cleaners, combustion fuels, and the off-gassing of synthetic building materials like wood composites and carpeting. Particulate contaminants also are problematic, and these include pollen, mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, bacteria and viruses.

Indoor Air Quality and Your Health

Poor indoor air quality can lead to serious health problems down the road, but there are immediate signs of chronically dirty indoor air as well. These include:

  • Frequent headaches
  • Routine or severe bouts with illnesses like colds and flu
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Coughing and/or sore throat
  • Worsened allergy and asthma symptoms

Improving the air quality in the home is essential for overall good health, especially if children live in the home. There are three factors that affect the quality of the air in your home: source control, improved ventilation and air-cleaning technologies.

Control the Source

The most effective and least expensive way to permanently improve indoor air quality is to keep contaminants out in the first place. Here are some source-control tips:

  • Maintain the HVAC system and other combustion appliances annually to decrease emissions and help prevent dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Use natural pesticides instead of toxic chemicals. Many essential oils are highly effective at controlling insect infestations. Traps can be used for mice and roaches.
  • Clean with all-natural, biodegradable solutions. You can buy green cleaning products or make your own with essential oils, which have strong antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
  • Remove your shoes before entering the house. The soles of shoes pick up pollutants like pesticides and pollen and track them throughout your home.

Improve Ventilation

Ventilation is critical for good indoor air quality, especially if you live in a newer, tightly sealed home.

  • Open the windows on nice days to let in fresh air.
  • Use the kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans when cooking or showering to help remove moisture and chemicals.
  • Consider a mechanical ventilation system such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). These systems bring in fresh air from outdoors, utilizing technologies that heat, cool or dehumidify incoming air to prevent an increase in heating and cooling costs.
  • Use a window air conditioner with the vent control open to help bring in fresh air during the summer.

Clean the Air

Removing particles and gases from the air is a surefire way to improve indoor air quality. The HVAC air filter is the first defense against particulate contaminants, but low-quality filters won’t improve your air quality much. Consider investing in higher quality air filters available for residential use, which are those that score between 9 and 12 on the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) scale. MERV is an industry standard that indicates the percentage of particles of varying sizes that will be trapped by the filter.

In addition to the HVAC filter, there are other technologies that can effectively clean your air:

  • Mechanical air filters are portable units that utilize filter material to trap larger particles in the air.
  • Electronic air cleaners utilize electrostatic attraction to charge particles, which then adhere to a collection plate or land on nearby surfaces to be removed with a dust cloth. Some electronic air cleaners produce ozone, which can irritate the lungs. Opt for an ozone-free model.
  • Gas-phase air filters remove some gaseous pollutants from the air using an absorbent that removes certain chemicals in the air.
  • Whole-house air cleaners are built into the HVAC system. These may include filters or UV lights, which kill biological contaminants like mold, bacteria and viruses.

Additional Indoor Air Quality Tips

  • Use a portable or whole-house humidifier to keep your home’s humidity level in the 30- to 50-percent range. Maintaining the ideal humidity level in the home is essential for good indoor air quality.
  • Dust and vacuum twice a week. Use a vacuum cleaner that has a built-in HEPA filter, and dust with an electrostatic dusting cloth to remove dust rather than just move it around.
  • Wash all bedding in hot water every week to remove dust mites and their droppings and cast skins.

For more expert advice about improving the indoor air quality in your home, please contact us in the Dalhart area at Winkelman Heating & Air Conditioning.

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