According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Due to COVID-19 even more of that time is being spent at home. Our home’s air quality is vital to our health and well-being, and especially important for those with asthma and allergies. An adequately insulated and sealed home with proper ventilation is key, but there are also things you can do on your own to improve indoor air quality.
May 18, 2021
Let fresh air in: Opening your windows from time to time allows fresh air to move through the house and clear out accumulated contaminants from everyday activities and household products. Taking pollen levels and other local factors into consideration, take advantage of the mild spring temperatures and crack those windows when possible. On particularly humid days, however, it is better to keep windows closed and the HVAC system set to a comfortable temperature as the excessive outside humidity can raise humidity levels too much inside, and even promote mold and mildew.
Use bathroom and stove vents: Get in the habit of flipping bath and kitchen fans on every time. Bathroom vents remove moisture and help maintain a healthy level of humidity in your home. Too much humidity can encourage mold growth and dust mites, and trigger asthma and allergies. Low humidity can set you up for dry, itchy skin and nostrils, leaving you more vulnerable to colds and infection. Stove vents remove cooking odors and smoke, both of which can be irritating and affect health over the long term.
Remove chemicals when possible: Are you holding onto to a half-used gallon of paint from a months ago project? Do you have a stockpile of household cleaners under your sink? Dispose of items you no longer need and store cleaning supplies, paint, or other chemicals in an outside shed or patio box when possible.
Keep it clean: A cleaner house improves indoor air quality by reducing dust and animal dander. Carpets and rugs accumulate more dust and dander than hardwood floors so focus on regular vacuuming even if the floor coverings do not appear significantly dirty. Other fabrics like bedding, drapes, and upholstery also tend to attract allergens. You may want to consider implementing a no shoes household policy and placing a mat or rack by the front door for shoes. Removing shoes prevents the tracking of outdoor contaminants through the house.
Use circulate or continuous fan mode: Some thermostats have a Circ fan mode that runs the indoor fan of your heating and cooling system for about 15 minutes of every hour even if the system is not running. Others have an On fan mode that runs the fan continuously. Sending indoor air through your system’s filter every hour reduces dust, odors, and other irritants in the air. It can also even out hot/cold spots in the house. Circ or On fan mode will use energy and incur some cost, usually minimal, but depending on your household’s health needs, the added small cost could bring large benefits. One thing to keep in mind is that a continuously running fan could increase the humidity in your home especially in more humid southern climates. If humidity is an issue you may want to instead run your system at a a moderate temperature so it is not running continuously but is managing the humdity.