Your environment affects your health, even when that environment is indoors at your home. While we’ve all heard of “sick buildings,” many people are unaware that “sick homes” may also negatively impact their health.
Indoor air quality has become a big public health concern, as recent studies have shown that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. Understanding threats to indoor air quality and taking proactive measures to provide cleaner, safer air such as AC and heating repair and replacement can help you enjoy better health.
A “Top Five” Threat
The EPA defines indoor air quality as the air quality within and around buildings and structures, particularly as it impacts human health and comfort. Unfortunately, the indoor air quality of many homes and business facilities is astonishingly poor. The EPA has determined that indoor air quality is often two to five times worse than the quality of outdoor air and can even be up to 100 times worse.
Part of the problem is that, since the 1970s, homes have been built “tighter” to save energy. By reducing drafts and airflow to and from the outside, HVAC systems don’t have to work as hard to regulate temperature on the inside, resulting in energy savings. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in more pollutants being trapped inside our homes.
The many chemicals and other substances used in our homes also contribute to the problem. Volatile organic compounds are a major contributor to indoor air quality problems. VOCs are emitted as gases from various substances found in a variety of household products such paints, varnishes, fuels, cleaners, and more. Even our carpets contain VOCs. When VOCs are released into the air in your home and kept there because of “tight” building practices, they can have a huge impact on indoor air quality.
We spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors, and quite a bit of that in our homes, so it only stands to reason that poor indoor air quality will negatively affect our health. The problem is so serious that the EPA has ranked indoor air quality issues among the top five environmental dangers facing the public.
Poor indoor air quality can contribute to a number of health problems. Common problems associated with poor indoor air quality include:
- Eye irritation
Poor indoor air quality can have some more serious effects, too. Prolonged exposure to poor indoor air quality may contribute to conjunctival eye irritation, severe lung disease, asthma, muscle pain, and other health problems.
Better HVAC systems, along with other commonsense measures, can help improve the air quality inside your home and make you and your family less susceptible to the illnesses associated with poor indoor air quality.
10 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
- Thorough vacuuming and mopping – Dust in your home or business facility may contain chemicals and allergens accumulated over several decades. A routine of thorough vacuuming can help eliminate these pollutants from your air. You should establish a regular schedule for vacuuming and be sure to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help capture harmful particles such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and other pollutants. Vacuums equipped with HEPA filters throw out less dirt and other pollutants into the air than vacuums equipped with regular filters, so it’s a worthwhile investment.
- Mechanical ventilation – Fresh air can greatly improve the indoor air quality of your home. You can improve ventilation and airflow through your home, without running up heating and cooling bills, by installing a mechanical ventilation system. Mechanical ventilation systems bring fresh air into your home without compromising the integrity of the home’s heating and cooling envelope.
- Upgrading air filters – Instead of using cheap standard air filters for your HVAC system, upgrade to better air filters. You should select air filters with a MERV rating between 8 and 12 to ensure your air is properly filtered.
- Mopping also helps to eliminate particles – Mopping tile, hardwood, stone, or laminate floors can help remove particles that vacuuming misses. New microfiber mops pick up far more dust and dirt than traditional mops, so be sure to use these newer models.
- Duct cleaning – Dust, debris, and other matter can accumulate in your HVAC system’s ducts and be re-circulated throughout the home, again and again, negatively impacting indoor air quality. Duct cleaning services from heating and air conditioning repair and maintenance companies can help clear your ducts and improve air quality. Technicians will use vacuums, brushes, and specialized tools to remove dirt and debris, and to test for and repair leaks in the duct system. Not only will this improve indoor air quality, it will also improve your HVAC system’s efficiency.
- Maintain appropriate humidity levels – The humidity levels in your home or business should stay between 30 and 50 percent to help curb mold and dust mites, which flourish at higher humidity levels. A dehumidifier can help reduce excess moisture and control levels of allergens in the air. Other steps to control indoor humidity include venting your clothes dryer outside, avoiding overwatering houseplants, and fixing leaky plumbing.
- Install air cleaners – Electronic air cleaners can help reduce contaminants from your indoor air. The devices work by using physical filters to catch larger particles, while smaller particles pass through the filter and enter the device’s ionization section. In this section, smaller particles become charged and clump together. The clumps then stick to plates in the device. Next, air passes through an ozone generator, where unstable molecules with extra oxygen atoms are created. These molecules destroy microorganisms in the air, which is re-circulated back into your home. Electronic air cleaners come in a portable form or may be installed within HVAC systems.
- Removing VOCs from Your Home – This one requires a fair amount of research on your part. Identifying products in your home and replacing them with other products with few, if any, VOCs can help improve indoor air quality. Rugs and carpets are a good place to start, and it’s also a good idea to research the cleaners and fragrances used in your home.
- Ban smoking – This probably should go without saying, in 2017, but, just in case, homes and businesses can vastly improve their indoor air quality by banning indoor smoking. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals and can contribute to a host of health conditions, including asthma, cancer, stroke, and more. By banning smoking, you will drastically improve the indoor air quality in your home and business.
- Use natural fragrances – Synthetic fragrances in air fresheners and various other products, such as laundry detergents, emit many potentially harmful chemicals into the air. A recent study found that a plug-in air freshener emitted 20 volatile organic compounds, seven of which the government regulates as toxic or hazardous, according to WebMD. Naturally scented products contain zero or few chemicals and are far better for indoor air quality.
By being proactive and performing necessary repairs and renovations, including AC and heating repair, you can vastly improve the indoor air quality in your home, ensuring the health and safety of you and your family.
Kaiser Air Conditioning is a local, family-owned company providing heating and cooling products and services to homes and businesses throughout Ventura and Los Angeles counties. In business since 1981, Kaiser Air Conditioning’s team of highly trained professionals can provide reliable advice concerning HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair.
Kaiser Air Conditioning also offers custom solutions, operating a full-service sheet metal fabrication facility to manufacture specialized ducting, flashing, roofing, and more.