The World Health Organization warns that most people are at greater risk of indoor air pollution than outdoor air pollution. Reasons for this include indoor air pollution generally being more concentrated due to much less natural ventilation and many people spending as much as 90% of their time indoors. In recent years, many public health organizations have placed great emphasis on indoor air quality and what you can do to monitor and improve it. With that in mind, let us consider the core recommendations from the EPA.
Monitor the Air Quality Index in Your Area
Air Quality Index is a metric developed by the EPA in order to warn citizens about air pollution, which is not static but rather changes seasonally and even day to day. Through its website, the EPA lets you check the daily and historic AQI values for your region. Note that without air purification equipment, air pollution in your house will generally be higher than the outside air due to greater concentration levels. Knowing your AQI serves two purposes: historic indices and daily forecasts. If you live in an area that often experiences an AQI above 50, then you should strongly consider investing in a whole-home air purifier. You should also monitor AQI on a daily basis. On days when the AQI is forecasted to be above 100, it is best to remain indoors, keep your house closed up, rely on your HVAC system, and use any air filtration that you have available.
Install an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
An air quality monitor is a device that monitors particulate matter and provides you with real-time data. Such devices are often combined with other sensors in order to detect carbon monoxide, smoke, and so forth. You can purchase a monitor that is handheld or that you mount on your wall. There are also smart thermostats available that feature air quality monitoring or can be expanded with various sensor add-ons. Smart monitors not only provide you with real-time feedback but also log that data so that you can compare it to your regional AQI and identify any problematic patterns in your indoor air quality.
Schedule an Indoor Air Quality Test
While an air quality monitor is an excellent investment, it does not replace the need to have a professional IAQ test performed. In fact, you should schedule testing every two years because this is how often the EPA recommends testing for radon. Professionals can test for radon and many other contaminants that are not detected by most monitors designed for home use. A professional test is also a good opportunity to have your air quality monitor assessed and calibrated.
Dust and Vacuum Regularly
Many homeowners do not realize that dust is the most dangerous threat to their indoor quality. Dust is a mixture of environmental contaminants. Much of what dust comprises is harmless albeit disgusting, but it also contains allergens and pollutants. Many of the pollutants found in dust are legacy substances. In other words, a chemical from a cleaner you used months ago can be trapped in dust particles and remitted into your air over and over again. It is recommended that you dust your house extensively at least once a week. Dusting should be performed from the ceiling to the floor using a microfiber duster or similar tool and be followed by vacuuming. It is important to have a vacuum with strong suction and to use HEPA vacuum bags in order to ensure that most of the dust is collected.
Schedule Duct Cleaning and Ventilation Testing
The ventilation system in your property is integral not only to heating and cooling but also indoor air quality. Ideally, a house should be sealed tight and have adequate intake and exhaust. If a residence is sealed tight but has inadequate ventilation, pollution in the home will become more concentrated than the outdoor pollution in the area. If a house is not sealed tight, that leakage will undermine the ventilation system and introduce allergens and other contaminants. It is therefore recommended that every three years you have your ventilation system tested and your ductwork cleaned and inspected.
Vet All Products Used in Your House
You have to be careful not to pollute and contaminate your own air, and doing so is easier than you might imagine. In fact, many people do it unknowingly with some of the most popular household cleaners and deodorizers on the market. Likewise, many of the most popular candle brands release toxins into your air. For these reasons, it is important to examine all the products you use and consider the potential impact on your indoor air quality. This is true with big purchases as well, such as furniture that can off-gas volatile organic compounds into your home for up to a decade.
Consider Installing a Whole-Home Air Purification System
As mentioned in the AQI section, it is generally not possible to have indoor air that is less polluted than your outdoor air unless you have some form of air purification. One option is a whole-home air purification system. Such a system will be integrated into your HVAC system and clean all the air that is distributed throughout your house. While such systems can be relatively expensive upfront, they are very effective and can last for decades with proper maintenance. A less expensive alternative is a portable air cleaner, which will allow you to carry it to whichever room you are currently using.
Monitor Your Humidity
Many modern thermostats now track relative humidity in addition to temperature, and if yours does not, you should consider upgrading to a model that does. Humidity is a measure of water vapor in the air. If the humidity is high, that excessive water vapor can lead to mold. If the humidity is low, it can irritate your entire respiratory system. Low humidity will also make you feel colder, which will often result in you running your furnace more often than would otherwise be necessary.
Schedule HVAC Maintenance and Replace Filters Often
It is also important to have your HVAC system inspected and tune annually. Schedule air conditioning maintenance in the spring and furnace maintenance in the autumn. While a malfunctioning air conditioner can reduce air quality, the bigger concern here is the furnace, which can reduce air quality but also lead to serious health risks. Many people mistakenly believe that electric furnaces do not produce pollution. While gas-burning furnaces create more pollution, electric furnaces still create enough to be a potential problem.
Your Indoor Air Quality Experts in Upstate New York
Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning in Jamesville has been serving residents in Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, and the neighboring communities since 1983. That means we have more than 35 years of experience helping our neighbors maintain the best possible indoor air quality. Our team performs quality indoor air quality testing. We also install, maintain, and repair a full range of air quality equipment, including electronic air cleaners, UV lamps, HRVs, dehumidifiers, and humidifiers. Our technicians can install, maintain, and repair all manner of residential heating and cooling equipment as well. Call Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning today to learn more about our services and to schedule an appointment.