As the weather grows colder, we naturally spend more time indoors. It may seem “safer” to stay inside your house, but if you’re not breathing clean, pure air, it can cause all sorts of serious problems.
Back in 2019 (AKA before COVID), Americans spent 90 percent of their time inside—where pollutants can range from two to five times higher than outdoor concentrations. Just imagine how that percentage has likely risen during this unprecedented time. Since we’re encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, we need to take some extra precautions to stay healthy and prevent the spread of illnesses.
Your indoor air quality is vitally important to your short- and long-term health and wellbeing. Here’s a rundown on how to improve the air quality inside your home or office to help you remove the bad stuff and replace it with fresh, clean air.
What is indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the condition of the air inside a building or structure. The better your IAQ is at home or work, the more comfortable you’ll be. Conversely, if you have bad air quality, you may experience some adverse side effects. If you’re exposed to poor IAQ over a long period, the consequences can be severe.
What is indoor air pollution?
Indoor air pollution is anything that contaminates your air. It includes chemicals, gases, bacteria, and viruses, all of which can contribute to poor health.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution (American Lung Association)
- Dust mites
- Carbon monoxide
- Dirty carpets
- Water damage
- Mold or mildew
- Pet dander
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
- Household cleaners
- Burning wood
- Nitrogen dioxide (from improperly vented gas heaters or stoves)
Why is indoor air quality worse than outdoor air quality?
As we mentioned above, IAQ can be two to five times worse than outdoor air quality. According to the EPA, it can be up to 100 times worse.
One reason for this is that many homes and businesses have inadequate ventilation. Polluted air doesn’t have a way to escape, so it gets stuck inside. This happens most often in the winter, when we close our doors and windows and make everything as airtight as possible to prevent drafts. Keeping the cold air out and the heat inside sounds great, but it also traps dangerous pollutants.
As we weatherize our homes for winter, we reduce ventilation and increase the amount of stagnant air throughout our indoor environments.
What are some signs of poor air quality?
If you don’t have clean air inside your home or office, you could be continually breathing in all kinds of dangerous air pollutants. If you notice any of the following signs, you may need to take steps to address poor air quality.
Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality
- Damaged chimneys
- Stuffy environment
- Too much humidity
- Lack of ventilation or air movement
- Health reactions
- Sinus congestion
Here are some of the dangerous side effects that you may experience as a result of poor air quality.
Potential Health Effects
- Lung cancer
- Eye irritation or dryness
- Shortness of breath
- Heart disease
- Respiratory problems
- Irregular heartbeat
- Premature death
- Skin problems
- Premature aging
How can I improve my indoor air quality?
Here are several ways to deal with poor air quality throughout the year so you can breathe freely.
1) Deal with the source.
If possible, locate the source of the problem. For example, the source could be your wood-burning stove, mold growing behind your sink, or asbestos-containing insulation. These types of issues can usually be cleaned up or contained to improve your IAQ. Dealing with the source itself can be the most effective way to deal with an air quality problem.
2) Set up an air purifier.
Whole-house purifiers are much more sophisticated and effective in keeping your indoor air clean than small portable ones. Smaller air purifiers help remove particles from the air in a single room, but they typically won’t remove dangerous gases. Whole-home systems are designed to purify the air throughout your entire building, eliminating unwanted particles and gases.
3) Improve the ventilation.
There are several ways to increase the ventilation throughout your home or office. One of the best (and simplest) solutions is to open some windows! Many people underestimate the power of natural ventilation, but it can be one of the most effective ways to let out pollutants and let in the fresh air.
Another effective way to remove indoor pollutants is to turn on the exhaust fans throughout your space. These are most often located in bathrooms and kitchens.
You can also turn on an attic fan if you have one or install a whole-house ventilation system or heat recovery ventilator. These solutions will help bring in fresh air from the outdoors to replace the stale, polluted air inside.
4) Turn on the air conditioner.
Your air conditioner not only cools you down on warm days. It also contributes to better indoor air quality. That’s because it both filters the air in your space—removing dust, dander, and other particles—and regulates humidity levels. Just make sure you change the filter regularly to keep it clean.
How do I test my IAQ levels?
To test the quality of your air in your office or home, you have a few options.
- Buy an electric monitor that tests pollution levels in the air.
- Call a professional to conduct a mold test to see if you have excessive levels in your building.
- Conduct a radon test.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors.
- Call a pro to test your IAQ levels and tell you how to best proceed.
Pacific Sheet Metal specializes in HVAC and indoor air quality. For more tips and educational content, subscribe to our blog!