Bad indoor air quality is more the rule than the exception in U.S. homes, especially those that are energy efficient. Tighter homes have less air infiltration, which leads to a concentration of particles and gases indoors that can have mild to serious health effects. Fortunately, you can improve the air inside by choosing products carefully and by employing ventilation and filtration solutions indoors.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Unless you buy products carefully, your home could have a high load of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds come from many products found in your house including:
- New furniture, carpets and flooring
- Wood finishes and paints
- Some vinyl and plastics
- Air fresheners and cleaners that use ozone
- Cleaning products
- Makeup and other cosmetics
- Exhaust from vehicles and fuel-powered yard equipment
VOCs affect people differently. Some have no or slight reactions to the products that contain them, and others can suffer serious health issues, like central nervous system or organ damage.
Dust and Particulates
Most of the dust in your home comes from dead skin cells and fine particles of lint shed from your clothing and any fibers from carpeting, furniture and window coverings.
Particulates like pollen and pet dander can trigger allergies or asthma attacks. Mold spores, viruses and bacteria can be a problem, especially if the humidity is high in your home. High humidity also creates the perfect environment for a thriving population of dust mites, a common allergen for many people.
Solutions for Indoor Air Pollution
Curtailing products and activities that create indoor air pollution will immediately improve air quality. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Purchase products with labels that indicate they have low VOCs.
- Seal the common wall and door between your home and an attached garage.
- Have gas appliances, especially your heating system, inspected and maintained annually. Besides improving its safety, the inspection may turn up ductwork leaks that can degrade air quality and drive up energy bills.
- Observe a zero tolerance policy for smoking indoors.
Fortunately more solutions exist to manage or eliminate problems associated with poor indoor air quality, such as the following.
Open windows bring in plenty of fresh air, but in our climate, they’re not an option for certain months of the year. One of the most energy efficient ways to ventilate your home year-round is with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that pulls in fresh air and exhausts the same amount of stale, indoor air simultaneously. HRVs use technology that transfers the thermal energy of your home’s air to the air coming indoors. Energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) work the same way that HRVs do, but also strip the incoming air of its humidity, which helps homes feel more comfortable in the summer.
Upgrading the air filter for your HVAC system will stop many particles from circulating through the air and improve indoor air quality. Look for pleated filters that have higher efficiency ratings, noted on the packaging as MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value).
Filters with MERV ratings over 5 will trap many more particles than the fiberglass filters with MERV ratings that run between 1 and 4. Before installing a filter with a rating over 8, check with your HVAC contractor or the owner’s manual. Too dense a filter can slow the airflow through the HVAC system, which can damage the system just as much as running the system with a dirty filter.
- Portable air cleaners will improve the air in individual rooms, but a whole-house system will filter or clean the air throughout your home. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration traps the most and smallest particles. These appliances need to be installed by an HVAC professional to make sure they provide the precise airflow your system needs.
- Electrostatic filters use electric charges to pull small particles to a metal plate where they’re held until you wash the plate off. These devices are reusable, unlike most high efficiency air filters.
Ultraviolet (UV) lights inside your blower or ductwork will lower the population of mold spores, viruses and bacteria by mutating the DNA.
Professional duct cleaning will remove any debris and particulates that have collected inside the ducts and improve air quality.
Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning can help you solve any poor indoor air quality issues you face. Please contact us to learn more. We provide exceptional HVAC services for the Deerfield, Glenview, Highland Park, Glencoe, Wilmette, Winnetka, Evanston, Lake Forest and Kenilworth areas.
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