10 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality (and Wellbeing)
Following these indoor air quality (IAQ) tips won’t necessarily stop your allergies or sickness, but they will certainly help. To improve the health and comfort in your home, there are three main strategies for improving indoor air quality:
Unfortunately, the solutions mentioned in the above articles by the Environmental Protection Association usually require the services of a professional.
10 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Although many IAQ solutions require professional solutions, here are 10 DIY tips for boosting the quality of your indoor air:
- Use your heating and cooling system. Your central HVAC system has built-in air filtration, so whenever you run your air conditioner or furnace, you are effectively cleaning your indoor air. Mold, mildew, and dust mites, which thrive in warm and damp environments can also create indoor air quality problems. You can remove unwanted humidity from the home by running your heating or cooling system. Moisture from the air condenses when it passes over your evaporator coils and drips into a drain pan where it is taken away by your condensate drain line. Also, be sure to take advantage of your ventilating and exhaust fans when you are using the bathroom or kitchen. Consider using a dehumidifier, however, the most effective way of handling humidity problems is by talking with your HVAC contractor about installing a whole-home humidification system.
- Change your air filter. Your HVAC system can help clean your indoor air, but only if you have a clean air filter. Remembering to change your air filter every 30-90 days is essential for combatting indoor air problems. Set calendar reminders and write the date on your air filter with a Sharpie so you know exactly how long it has been since your last replacement. Learn how to replace your air filter and which air filtration type is best for your home here.
- Seal your home from pollutants and allergens. There are many ways you can bring in pollutants from outdoors, but the most common method of entry is through air leaks and gaps in your building’s structure. Ventilation is good, but overventilating is not. Speak with your local HVAC contractor about your home’s ventilation levels and learn how to seal air leaks here.
- Improve your ventilation. Although sealing air leaks is a good idea, there is the possibility of having a home that is too tightly sealed. If the weather permits, try opening up a door or window to let some outdoor air into your home. If you are painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding, it is highly recommended that you allow adequate ventilation in the home. If you can, conduct these activities outdoors. There are also mechanical means for ventilating your home. Talk with your HVAC contractor about your ventilation options.
- Remove your shoes. The countries that require you to remove your shoes before entering the living space, like Japan and Sweden, may be on to something. Consider having a “genkan,” a traditional Japanese entryway for the home, to house your shoes. According to an EPA study, herbicides and other contaminants can enter the home via the dirt and debris on your shoes. Put a mat down in front of all your entry ways and instruct your household members to remove their shoes before entering the living area.
- Dust, vacuum, and clean frequently. Leaving shoes outside helps, but you’ll want to supplement this effort with some in-depth cleaning. Many vacuums stir up more dirt than they catch, so consider investing in a HEPA vacuum cleaner, which removes 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns (0.0003 millimeters) in diameter or more. When dusting, avoid the pretty but ineffective dust feathers, and opt for microfiber dust cloths or electrostatic dusters (like Swiffer) instead. Use a dust mask when vacuuming or dusting to prevent breathing in floating particulates.
- Install a germicidal UV light system. Part of the reason why the outdoor air contains less contaminants than the air inside your home is because things like the sun and plants work to naturally purify the air outdoors. One of the chemical compounds created by nature is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a powerful oxidizer that helps to naturally purify the air outdoors. We can introduce germicidal UV light waves into your home to help kill viruses, bacteria, and germs in your home, rendering them unable to reproduce. Not only will this help keep your home cleaner and your family safer, but it will also extend the lifespan of your heating and cooling unit. We recommend the Air Scrubber Plus® filtration system, which uses germicidal UV light waves along with ActivePure™ scrubbers to reduce99.9% of surface micro-organisms and 90% of airborne micro-organisms. Ask Pacific Air Systems about the benefits of the Air Scrubber Plus system.
- Seal your air ducts. In addition to saving you money and improving airflow and comfort, sealing your air ducts also has indoor air quality benefits. The cracks and gaps in your ductwork allows fumes, chemicals, dust, and debris to collect in your duct system. This worsens any allergies or asthma problems your household may be experiencing. Learn how to seal your air ducts to reduce the amount of airborne contaminants that are floating around your home. Remember, duct tape is not a good material to use. Instead, use mastic sealant or aluminum foil tape. Keep in mind, however, that some areas of your duct system are inaccessible. Consider professional Aeroseal Duct Sealing to ensure that every duct opening is fully and properly sealed. The sealant gets pumped into your system and seals holes from the inside. Call Pacific Air Systems for more information about this new duct sealing technology.
- Frequently wash and replace bedding. The bedroom is a huge problem area for allergy sufferers. Humans spend an inordinate amount of time in bed and on sofas. Dirt, dust mites, oils, dead skin cells, and other critters and debris get trapped in your pillows and bedding. As a rule of thumb, clean your pillow case every 1-3 weeks and clean the pillows themselves every 3 months (down-synthetics can be placed directly in the washing machine while down feather pillows should be dry cleaned). Don’t forget your sofa pillows and try to keep pets off the beds and furniture! Consider purchasing dust mite pillow cases as an extra barrier against allergens such as dust mites and pet dander. You may also want to put dust mite covers on your comforter, mattress, and box spring. As far as your sheets and other bedding are concerned, this tends to be a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to launder your sheets every week to get rid of dirt and other buildup (check the label for washing instructions).
- Eliminate chemical pollutants.This includes banning smoking from the home, avoiding wood-burning, and choosing low-VOC (volatile organic compound) cleaning products. Some more specific tips include: buying cloth shower curtains instead of the plastic vinyl ones, using natural cleaning products (look for GREENGUARD and Green Seal products), and avoiding painting, soldering, welding, paint stripping, gluing, and other polluting activities in the home. Also, this should go without saying, but NEVER run any fuel-burning equipment in or near the home or garage without proper ventilation (idling cars, gas lawnmowers, backup generators, barbecues, and more). Some common exhaust fumes include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, polycyclic hydrocarbons and formaldehyde. To help protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure you know where CO detectors should be installed and remember to test them every month!
If you cannot avoid some products that contain VOCs, make sure to read the instructions carefully and store them in a tightly sealed container in a well-ventilated space like your garage or shed.
Finding out about the dangers associated with VOCs and indoor air quality can cause some to panic about the safety of their home and family. Although it can seem overwhelming, it’s important to keep a level head and tackle these projects one at a time. Start with the easy adjustments outlined above, and remember that we are here for you if you have any questions or concerns!
In addition to the steps you can take right now, remember that your stoves, heaters, fireplaces, and chimneys need to be professionally inspected every year!
Where can I find more information on indoor air quality?
- Environmental Protection Agency – Indoor Air Quality
- National Institute of Health
- Sick House Syndrome: Indoor Air Quality Solutions & Stats
- Choosing the Right Air Filtration System
- Air Filtration Solutions
- Indoor Air Quality Solutions
- Give the Gift of Clean Air with Air Scrubber Plus
- HVAC Maintenance Checklist
- HVAC FAQs | Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement
For more advice on heating and cooling systems, indoor air quality, and air filtration systems, call Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling at (253) 292-3995 for a professional indoor air quality consultation!
Since 1984, we’ve proudly served homeowners throughout Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.