In a day and age when a premium is increasingly being placed on clean, healthy air, many homeowners are looking for assurances that their indoor air isn’t dirty or contaminated. While modern homes are built tighter than ever in pursuit of energy efficiency, that paradoxically increases the importance of effective ventilation and air cleaning.
In some homes without proper air cleaning and/or ventilation, the consequences of those deficiencies are obvious. The home’s air may feel stuffy or clammy and harbor unpleasant smells. Home occupants or visitors may show signs of allergic reactions when they spend time in your house, or in a worst-case scenario, people may actually fall ill as a result of contaminated air.
Far more often, dirty air goes unnoticed, and the effects, while negative, are just taken for granted. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something about that contaminated air. Following are some tried-and-true ways to ensure that your indoor air is as clean and healthy as possible.
Suggestions for Better Indoor Air Quality
Is your home well ventilated? Parts of the house where smell- or moisture-producing activities occur, such as the kitchen and bathrooms, should be equipped with working exhaust fans. While natural ventilation works during seasons when you can leave windows and doors open, during other times of the year – the heat of summer, cold of winter – consider mechanical ventilation if your home isn’t already equipped with it. Energy and Heat Recovery Ventilation systems (ERV/HRVs) ensure a constant exchange of dirty indoor air with clean outdoor air, using two parallel airstreams, one incoming and one outgoing. They not only ventilate; they transfer heat and/or moisture from one air stream to the other, depending on the climate conditions.
Consider the source. As much as possible, decrease or eliminate the use of volatile organic compounds in the home. VOCs – when off-gassing fumes over short or extended periods – present a direct threat to the health of home occupants. During hay fever/allergy season, close windows and doors to keep pollen outside. Consider using house plants to filter indoor air. For both safety and indoor air quality, make sure any combustion appliances are properly vented to the outside.
Air filtration that works. Don’t use the cheapest available furnace or AC filters in your forced-air heating and cooling systems. Discuss with your trusted HVAC professional what type of air filter makes the most sense for your home. For most homes, the best choice is a filter that removes a high percentage of airborne particulates, including mold spores, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and carpet and clothing fibers. But you don’t want your chosen filter to be so efficient that it restricts effective airflow through your HVAC system. Once your selected air filter is installed, make sure you check it at least once a month and change it when it looks dirty or clogged.
Air cleaning. A dizzying variety of products that purport to clean indoor air are available at home-improvement and HVAC stores and businesses. But some of them work much better than others to clean indoor air. Some air cleaners produce ozone, which may even erode indoor air quality. The most comprehensive air-cleaning systems work in tandem with your whole-house heating and cooling system, though some stand-alone air-cleaning appliances are very effective in the area where they’re working. The best air cleaning/purifying appliances utilize several discrete strategies to clean the air, including high-efficiency (HEPA) filtration, ultraviolet light radiation, and ionizing purification.