Did you know there are ways to improve indoor air quality? When you think of air pollution, your first thought probably goes to outdoor air. Most of us don’t consider that we could have poor indoor air quality. Most of us notice when there is an unpleasant odor in our homes, but we tend to light a candle or plug in an air freshener as a remedy. There are actually many factors that can pollute your indoor air and should not only be monitored but actively prevented for a healthy living environment.
What Indoor Air Quality Means
The air you breathe inside your home is either clean, not so clean, or worse. If you’re doing nothing to address your indoor air quality, you should be. The air you are breathing affects the health of you and your family. So indoor air pollution is something that should be controlled. Pollutants, allergens, and irritants all essentially float through your air, unseen and mostly unnoticed by everyone. Indoor pollution can trigger allergies, asthma attacks, lung irritation, and more.
Factors that Affect Indoor Air Quality
We work hard to keep outside air outside by sealing up our homes to the elements. That’s a good thing, but it also makes it more likely that dirty and stale air will get trapped inside your home. The factors that affect your indoor air quality the most are:
- House plants
Most Common Indoor Air Pollutants
We all have pollutants in our homes. They come from pets, cleaning products, personal care products, and just the environment in general. Some of the most common sources of air pollutants are:
- Personal care products
- Some building materials
- Flooring, carpet, and upholstery
- Certain pressed wood products
- Excess moisture and high humidity levels
- Carbon monoxide (odorless gas)
- Carbon dioxide (odorless gas)
- Gas appliances
- Some household cleaning products
- Cigarette smoke
- Excessive moisture
- Pet hair/dander
- HVAC systems
- Humidification devices
- Mold or other volatile organic compounds
- Dust mites
The five main factors that affect indoor air quality are the humidity level, poor ventilation, pets, dust, and volatile organic compounds. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that poor indoor air quality is a health hazard and should be addressed.
Proper ventilation systems may be the most important factor in good indoor air quality. If the air in your home cannot be circulated and replaced with fresh air regularly, your indoor spaces will become stagnant and of poor quality. This prevents harmful chemicals, pet dander, and other airborne particles from being circulated and getting caught in your air filter or by another filtration system. Your HVAC system should provide a good ventilation system for your home, but if it isn’t working efficiently, it can also be the cause of air quality issues.
Also, remember to utilize the exhaust fan in your bathrooms to ventilate the moisture showering. As well as kitchen fans to ventilate cooking fumes and moisture. These areas are prime for mold growth, especially in your bathrooms. Inadequate ventilation in these areas will reduce the air quality in your entire home.
Plants for Cleaner Air
If you read the words “volatile organic compounds” above and got worried, have no fear. Interestingly enough, your indoor air problems from these harmful pollutants can be solved by indoor plants. A study completed in 1989 by NASA found that there are a couple of common house plants that are effective at filtering all five of the most common volatile organic compounds that cause health risks. These compounds are benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia, all found in common household items, personal care items, and building materials. The two plants capable of protecting us from those compounds are the Peace Lily and the Florist’s Chrysanthemum.
Other good choices include the Red-Edged Dracaena, the Variegated Snake Plant (toxic to pets), and English Ivy, all of which filter benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene. All of these plants will have a positive impact on your air quality.
Poor Air Quality Warning Signs
Some pollutants don’t stand out as harmful, such as your cleaning products, personal care products, or the building materials in your home. Those things will either have no smell or a nice smell that doesn’t alert you to a problem. There are, however, some signs of poor air quality to look for from other pollutants.
- Bad or unusual smells. If your home feels stuffy or stale, like air that hasn’t been circulating or is unventilated, that can be a sign that your air quality is low.
- Health issues exasperated or triggered. Issues such as asthma or allergies worsening or coming on when you never had them before is a sign of pollutants in your home.
- New physical sensitivities. Ailments such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue or irritation of the nose, eyes, or throat can be a sign that you have poor air quality.
Moisture and Mold Growth
Mold is everywhere because it’s an important part of our ecosystem. Outdoors, it’s responsible for breaking down decaying matter. Since it’s everywhere, it is normal for there to be trace amounts of it in your home. We all notice it trying to creep into our bathrooms since they are typically the rooms with the most moisture in our homes. If you begin to smell the musty and stagnant smell of mold, you’ll want to remove it as quickly as possible. Mold can be removed by wearing a mask and gloves, and using mold cleaner like bleach on the affected area. If you smell it but cannot see it, it is important to find the source.
Mold can cause many health issues ranging from common allergy symptoms to much worse if there is substantial mold growth and there is prolonged contact with mold spores in the air.
Mold that is out of site could potentially be in walls, ceilings, under floors, but it could also be growing inside of your home’s HVAC system. If your system has been malfunctioning or is overdue for maintenance, this increases the chances of moisture forming where it shouldn’t. That moisture is a potential source for mold growth.
You may be able to tell if your HVAC system has mold growth by checking these things:
- A musty odor when the AC is on
- Black or dark-colored dust on or near air vents
- Visible mold buildup on AC or air vents
- Visible mold in other parts of your home
Your HVAC system plays a very important role in mold prevention in your home by removing humid air. If you suspect that you HVAC system isn’t operating efficiently at air circulation and controlling mold, reach out and have a professional discuss repairs or upgrades that you may need to keep your home mold free.
Preventing Mold in Your HVAC System
It’s normal for your AC unit will create moisture when it’s running. The key is to prevent excess or a build up of moisture. To avoid this, create a routine of inspecting drains, drip pans, intake vents, and air vents. It’s also important to have regular maintenance done to your HVAC system to prevent clogs.
The Importance of a Clean Air Filter
When you have an HVAC system, all of the air in your home passes through your air filter. This filter’s job is to remove particles from the air that you don’t want floating around outside of the system. There are a variety of AC filter options available, but there are certainly not all created equally.
Your air filter catches dust, dirt, mold, animal hair, bacteria, and microorganisms. As you can imagine, some filters do a better job than others at this task.
Air filters have what’s called a MERV rating, which is the “minimum efficiency reporting value” of the filter. This is a measure of how effectively a filter removes those particles from the air that passes through it. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles the air filter will catch. Although the highest MERV rating may be the best option for your air quality, it may not be the best option for your particular HVAC system.
A higher MERV rating means a denser filtration material. The highest MERV rated filters will require a powerful system to force air through the fibers of the filter. That is why you should not begin using a high MERV rated filter without knowing if your HVAC system can handle it. Using a filter that is not suitable for your system will cause your system to run inefficiently, Make sure you ask a professional before installing a filter with a higher MERV rating than is currently in your system.
Why Your AC Filter May Get Dirty Quickly
It is typically suggested that you change your air filter at least every 90 days, some homeowners may find their filters getting pretty dirty faster than that. The time it takes for a filter to be ready to be replaced will vary from home to home. It’s a good idea to check your filter regularly, especially if you or anyone in your family has health problems that could be worsened by poor air quality. Here are some reasons a filter may get dirty prematurely.
When you own a pet, their hair is everywhere in your home. Your HVAC system is circulating the air, which moves the pet hair into your system and right into your air filter. Homes with pets will see their air filter get dirtier much faster.
Very hot or very cold temperatures will keep your system running almost continuously. This may mean you’ll have to change your air filter more often during those seasons but not in more mild seasons.
Your Fan Settings
If your fan settings are set to “on” instead of “auto” this may be causing your filter to get dirty prematurely by forcing the system to run continuously.
A Dusty Home
If your home has excess dust in areas you don’t use or you live in a dusty area that makes it way indoors. Any of that dust that isn’t going into your vacuum cleaner or being wiped up, will make its way into your air filter.
A High MERV Rating
As mentioned, a high MERV rated filter will prevent more particles from passing through it. This could mean your filter gets dirtier faster.
How to Extend the Life of Your Air Filter and Improve Air Quality
If your filter gets dirty in a matter of a couple of weeks, you may want to consider an air purifier. An air purification system will remove any particles on its own before they can reach your filter. An air purification system is a great option if someone in your home has severe allergies or you have multiple pets.
UV Light for Cleaner Air
As an additional precaution, UV light can create pure air naturally. It adds an additional cleaning element to a standard filtration system. Learn more about our Supco UV Light Kit.
Ensure You Have Healthy Indoor Air Quality
If you suspect that your indoor air quality is not up to par, have a professional inspect your HVAC system. Your home should be a safe place and we’re here to make sure you feel confident and comfortable in your home. Contact us today for more information.