How Clean is your Home Air?
How Clean Is Your Home Air? It’s something that you don’t really think about, myself included. People spend a lot of time indoors, upwards of 90% of their time, and the quality of the air you breathe is important. For your wellbeing, your continued health, your pocketbook, and for the efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment. If you’ve ever wondered why your house doesn’t smell fresh even though you’re a clean freak read this article and find out what pollutants could be contaminating your air, and what to do to help keep it clean.
What am I Breathing?
The air you breathe isn’t made of pure oxygen. It’s actually made up of a few other things like nitrogen and particulate matter. It’s mostly the particulate matter that you have to worry about when dealing with indoor air pollution. But what is causing it?
Top Causes of Indoor Air Pollution
Pet hair and dander
Dust and mold
Household cleaning products, paint, hobby materials
Combustion materials, space heaters, wood stoves/fireplaces, candles
Air fresheners, automatic spraying devices, aerosols
You can find most of the things listed above in your home. You make indoor air pollution yourself, just by living your day-to-day life. If you’re a smoker or own pets, then you’re getting a double whammy because they’re the leading cause of indoor air pollution. Even if you don’t have a fur baby, or indulge in a cigarette or two, you have and use household cleaning products and probably have at least one air freshener. Creating indoor air pollution is just part of life.
Why is this Such a Problem?
Years ago, houses weren’t built as airtight as they are now. They were draftier and a lot less energy efficient. This was a good thing when it came to air pollution because it was very easy for fresh air to get in and bad air to get out. Nowadays a new home, like mine, is sealed up tighter than a drum. This is great for saving money on heating and energy, but can bottle up the bad stuff too. I have a surplus of construction dust and pet hair if anyone is interested.
Allowing these pollutants to remain in the home is not a good thing. For one, your house won’t smell fresh or clean, no matter what you do. It is also not great for people with allergies, asthma, or breathing in general. You may notice that your nose or sinuses feel congested, but you’re not getting sick and don’t have allergies. This is an indication you may have some indoor air pollution.
Don't Worry, There are loads of Easy Solutions!
I know that all of this sounds scary. Don’t panic! I’m not going to tell you to get rid of your pets, completely change your habits or buy crazy things from Ron Popeil. Far from it. With some quick and simple changes, you can improve the quality of your indoor air in no time.
We have said it before and we will say it again; if you haven’t done this recently, or at least in the last three months, you need to do this now. Change your air filter. Go. We can wait. Your air filter is in the mechanical room, attached to your furnace. It is your first line of defence against indoor air pollutants. It should be checked and changed frequently, every couple months if you don’t have pets, and once per month if you have furry companions or smoke. This has the added benefit of keeping your house cleaner and helps keep your heating and cooling system working in top condition for longer. Having your ducts cleaned should be done every six months as well, before you turn the furnace on for the winter season, and once in the spring too.
A Filter is Fine, but What Else can you do?
It is hard to give up a habit, and if you aren’t ready or willing to quit, that is okay. Smoke outdoors instead. It is better for the health of everyone in the household that you do this anyway. There is the added bonus of quiet personal time, and possibly experiencing beautiful things like sunrise, sunset, and maybe even catch a glimpse of some wildlife that you wouldn’t otherwise see, though hopefully not the neighbour in his bathrobe getting the paper.
Use the venting in your bathroom, over the stove, and even your attic fan. Don’t forget to open a window on nice days. This lets fresh air into your home and vents out unwanted moisture which can lead to mold.
A fantastic addition to your heating and cooling equipment setup would be an ERV or Energy Recovery Ventilator. This fantastic piece of equipment lands smack in the middle of providing fresh, clean air and helping manage humidity. While it is an upgrade to the system you currently have and a little pricier than, say, getting a houseplant or three. ERV’s bring in fresh air from outside, extract the humidity from that air while ventilating stale indoor air outside. This helps keep your home cool when it is hot and is helpful in keeping the home at ideal humidity.
You want humidity levels between 30% and 50% in your house at all times. Not a sweltering jungle, but definitely not the Sahara either. This means that you want to remember the fan when using the shower or sauna and definitely when cooking. Use a dehumidifier in the summer and a humidifier in the winter to keep things balanced.
Keep it Clean
Vacuuming, mopping, and dusting on a regular basis is a great way to keep the air clean. Hair and skin, dander, and dirt are all heavy and settle, you can suck and sweep up a majority of it before it gets into your vents and spread everywhere. Speaking of cleaning, a HEPA filter on the vacuum is a great way to suck up and trap visible air pollutants like fur and dust. Keep a good mat outside to wipe your feet on before entering the house. This will help keep the exterior dirt and spores to a minimum. That will help cut down on the vacuuming too, ’cause let’s face it, who likes doing chores?
Invest in Greens
Getting houseplants is a great way to add much needed clean to your air. They suck up the carbon dioxide you work hard to create and expel fresh oxygen as a by-product. Chrysanthemum, spider plants (they are plants and do not grow spiders, we promise), and the coconut palm are some great ones for cleaning your indoor air. Consult your local garden centre for plants that are safe for animals and hard to kill if you have brown thumbs like me.
Go au Naturel
Household cleaners and aerosolized fragrances are huge culprits, putting many unseen particulates into our air. Switching to cleaners that are green or natural will help. Dumping that automatic fragrance sprayer will help too. Instead, simmer a pot of cinnamon sticks and lemon slices for a fresh smell or bake some cookies, everyone loves cookies. Though some chemicals are unavoidable, you can keep those chemical leaden things like paint, adhesives, and similar in the garage and out of your living spaces.
There are other ways to clean the air. Coupled with the above, easy solutions, you can add mechanical ones like the UV Air Purification for your heating and cooling system by Napoleon. The UV light disrupts the DNA of the microbes, viruses, and spores before they can reproduce, killing most of the harmful things hovering unseen in your air. These are easily installed in your furnace.
Your house is your castle, and it should be the place where you feel safe and secure. By following the steps outlined above you are ensuring that you home stays safe and clean, secure and fresh. You spend a lot of time indoors, intentionally or not, so why not do everything you can to make your home even more comfortable. For more tips and ideas on keeping your heating and cooling system working at peak performance, watch our Facebook and Twitter pages, and follow us on Pinterest.