The air we breathe in also plays a big part to good health, so here are 22 tips to improve the air quality in your home.
We all want to be as healthy as possible; we’ll follow an exercise regime and eat healthily to keep ourselves in shape and our bodies in good condition. While it is important to keep moving and keep ourselves hydrated, the air we breathe also plays a big part to good health. In fact, our home’s air quality can play a large part in our overall health.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. And even indoors we can be affected by poor air quality. Indoor air pollution has been linked to respiratory diseases like COPD, lung cancer and pneumonia. It can also cause asthma and allergic reactions for some people with certain triggers.
No doubt, we’ll all agree that the “cleaner” the air in the home, the better. Particularly when we are spending 6 and a half days a week indoors.
Are you struggling with the air quality in your home?
There are many reasons why air quality in the home is not as good as it should be.
Natural Plant Solutions.
We understand that the first port of call when it comes to improving air quality would be to try natural air purifiers. Natural solutions are simple, inexpensive and surprisingly effective. Some natural options include:
- An Aloe Vera plant is not only great for putting on cuts to the skin and applying to irritated skin, the leaves of the plant will show brown spots when the air is impure.
- A rubber tree will look great in a porch or entrance hallway. Not only that, rubber trees clean the air by removing toxins. They thrive in poor lighting and you do not need to be an expert to keep one.
- Bamboo Palm is another plant that will look lovely in a porch or hallway. Not only that, it is a NASA- approved plant for air purification. It removes benzene and trichloroethylene from the air. Benzene is one of the most used chemicals in the United States and is used as an industrial liquid. Trichloroethylene, like benzene, is potentially hazardous to humans.
- The Snake Plant is a good plant to have in the home for air purification because it releases oxygen during the daytime and night time. An increased level of oxygen can improve the air quality in the home.
- English Ivy. NASA has described English Ivy as potentially the best houseplant for air filtration. It is renowned for filtering formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a toxic gas that is given off various wood furniture products including desks, beds, wood shelves and more.
Buy New Furniture That Is Free Of Formaldehyde
Be sure to think about the following items in your home that could potentially give off formaldehyde as it is not safe to breathe in:
How can you tell which pieces of furniture release formaldehyde gas?
The adhesive in wood furniture is the part that tends to release formaldehyde. Therefore wood products that are made of anything other than solid natural wood could contain formaldehyde.
While you may be less familiar with the name, the Red Edged Dracaena is a vibrant plant that can detoxify the air by removing xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde.
A bright and pretty blooming flower, Chrysanthemums can remove benzene and ammonia from the air- these flowers are often found in plastic and glue.
Spider plants are perfect for those who are new to the indoor plant scene. They are fairly hardy and resilient plants. They are also not harmful to pets (unlike many house plants which are toxic for pets). They fight toxins like carbon monoxide and xylene.
Home Maintenance Solutions
In addition to various houseplants, there are other things you can do to keep air quality good within your home. These actions are:
Keep the floor clean. Particles from the floor will inevitably end up in the air. Keep the floor clean using dustpan and brushes, mops, steamers and vacuum cleaners to keep the home environment as particle-free as possible.
It is worth knowing that tile, laminate and wood floors can harbour even more bacteria than carpeted floor (nationalgeographic). Despite the belief that these harder floors can be cleaner.
Open the windows. Although there is the issue of polluted air outside the house, opening the window in the home can certainly improve the quality of the air within a property. While we might first think of aeroplanes and congested roads being the biggest culprits of pollution, our homes cannot be given the “all clear”. After all, in the modern world that we live in, outdoor pollutants are part of life. Vehicles such as cars, minicabs and motorcycles cause pollution in cities, while country areas can also fall victim to pollution. Farming machinery, factories and trains pollute the country air with fumes. Not to mention the cost the world pays for overseas travel.
Indeed, it would be nice to think that when you get home and close the door to the outside world, you will be also saying goodbye to pollutants out there too. Unfortunately though, the outside air enters our home as soon as we open a window or door to our property. With that on top of indoor pollutants, the indoor air quality of a home can be worse still.
In fact, the EPA claims that air quality inside the home is often two to five times worse than it is outdoors. This is thanks to a number of things.
First of all, we rely on gas and electric for heating, cooking and general daily activities.
Fumes from cooking dinner in the evening, toasting bread or waffles for breakfast, cooking pancakes, lighting the fire and more can all reduce air quality in the home. How you cook also plays a part. If you often burn your food so smoke appears, your air quality will be worse still.
You know who you are!
That’s one reason to get better at cooking, right?
Other things that can reduce air quality in the home include:
- Dust and dirt- Dust accumulating in the home can have a negative effect on the atmosphere. Dust tends to pile up in areas that can’t always be seen including at the top of skirting boards, shelves, window sills, around air conditioning ducts and underneath equipment like the washer dryer.
- Pets- While our furry friends are our family members and an important part of out home. They do affect the purity of our home. Pet hair is a big culprit of poor air quality.
- Dampness in the home- Damp spots are most common in the bathroom but can affect the entire house too in some cases. Homes near the coast are most likely to become damp.
- Poor ventilation- If your home is not well-ventilated, indoor air quality is significantly reduced.
How To Test The Air Quality In Your Home
There are various symptoms we can experience as humans, associated with poor air quality. These include: Dry eyes, coughing, sneezing, dizziness, shortness of breath, allergies and sinus congestion. All of these can be tell-tale signs of poor air quality.
You don’t have to wait until you experience these symptoms to test the standard of air in your home though, you can also try the following methods to test air quality:
- Purchase an air quality monitor to install in your home. They cost around $150-250 US. The monitor will test the temperature of the air, humidity, PM2.5 levels (how much dust or debris is in the air) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
- Check for any signs of mold.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home.
- Perform an at-home radon test.
- Hire a professional to check the air quality in your home.
Install and/or Maintain Your HVAC System
Change the air filter in your HVAC system.
A dirty filter in the HVAC system can actually make air quality worse. Air from a property enters and leaves the filter numerous times a day. If the filter is dirty, it is merely circulating dirty air around the house. Clogs in the air filter can be particularly problematic. Clogs can cause allergies to become more severe (due to circulating dust and debris) and can lead to a halt in the filtering system. If you think the filter is faulty and no longer functioning properly, then you may want to call an engineer who can come and assess how it can be fixed. You’ll notice that, once the filter is fixed or replace, the air’s condition will improve again. It may just be that your air filter needs to be updated more often- your manufacturer guidelines on your filter will inform you of how often to change it.
Keep your ventilation system clean. While opening the windows and doors in the home can be a great way to refresh the air in a property, this can be ineffective on cold winter days and very warm summer days. In such cases, it is best to rely on the ventilation system. Many US homes have a ventilation system installed. They are excellent to warm homes during cold winters and cool homes in the summer when it is very warm. The great thing about ventilation systems is that they keep air clean, as well as regulating temperature.
In order to keep the air clean though, the ventilation system must be clean. The manufacturer will provide you with instruction to keep the system clean. It is important to abide by any safety precautions and cleaning tips that are outlined in the guide.
Monitor carbon monoxide levels
Install a carbon monoxide detector it will help ensure that carbon monoxide levels are safe (as long as the detector is functioning efficiently and stored in an appropriate location within the property).
Wood burners can be a source of carbon monoxide so it is a good idea to have a detector close to the fireplace. It is generally recommended to have a carbon monoxide detector on every level. Carbon monoxide tends to be released from poorly fitted heating appliances in the home like boilers, heaters and gas fires. It is highly important such appliances are fitted by professionals to avoid the toxic effects of carbon monoxide.
Switch The Furnace Blower On
Turn your furnace blower on. Turning your furnace blower on is a great way to refresh the air in your home. Turning the blower on will pump out any old air and pump in any fresh air.
A furnace with a UV filter system is a great way to ensure bacterial spores and mold are eliminated. In fact, a UV filtration system is 90% more effective! Don’t forget to make sure the furnace blower has an up to date service. It is important to know that it is running efficiently for optimal function.
Clean The Ventilation System
Make sure the ventilation system in your home is clean. No matter what type of ventilation system you have in your home, it is highly important that is cleaned on a regular basis. Dirty ventilation systems will only pump more debris into the air and further reduce air quality.
Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) are a good choice of ventilator if you are not sure what to opt for. They connect to a central controller and circulate air in each room of the house, through a small duct.
Use dehumidifiers and exhaust fans. The humidity of the home should be around 30-60% (according to the EPA). There are a number of factors that affect the home’s humidity.
Taking showers and baths, as well as cooking, drying laundry and simply breathing in the home will all affect it’s humidity. Anything above the humidity guidelines from the EPA can cause mold to appear and bacteria to multiply. This can cause potential health problems to those living in the house. A de-humidifier can help to reduce the humidity in the home. Install a dehumidifier in certain rooms to prevent steam and moisture building up.
Exhaust fans are another option. They are effective when installed above the oven or in the bathroom to remove moisture quickly from the air.
If your home is too humid. It would be worth installing a whole house dehumidifier inside the HVAC system. This can be controlled by a whole house humidistat.
Take your shoes off!
Did you know that shoes can bring unwanted bacteria into the home? Having a strict “shoes-off” rule will prevent further contamination in the home. Keeping a shoe rack by the front and back door are good reminders to yourself and visitors that shoes are not to be worn inside.
Monitor The State of Fans
Clean ceiling and floor fans. Similarly to the air filters in a HVAC system, fans in the home can be a harbor for dust and debris. When dirty fans are switched on, all they do is circulate particles around the home. Make an effort to clean ceiling and floor fans to avoid dirt circulating the home.
Keep Pets Clean
Groom your pets more often. Pet hair is not the only culprit when it comes to how your pets affect the home’s air quality. Pet dander follows closely behind on the contamination scene. Pet dander is microscopic sheds of skin shed by cats and dogs.
Many people are indeed allergic to dander. In a home that has poorly managed ventilation, dander can impact air quality for the worse. Grooming pets more often (outside where possible, or in a designated area like a porch) can help prevent problems from dander and pet hair.
Keep Soft Items Clean
Wash and/or freeze pillows and cuddly toys. Unfortunately comfy pillows and cuddly toys can be a home for dust mites. This, in turn, impacts air quality in the home. Putting them through the wash is a good way to keep them fresh. While freezing them will kill any dust mites. This is because dust mites cannot live at low temperatures.
Consider a Quality Range Hood
Install a quality range hood vented to the outside Find out the recommended cubic feet for your stove and get a quality range hood installed. The fact that these are vented to the outside dramatically improves your air quality
Opt For Paint With Minimal VOCs.
Purchase eco-friendly paint (that has low or no VOCs)
We’ve all painted various rooms in our homes and then had to suffer with the poor air quality post-painting. Purchasing paint with low VOCs can help fight against poor air quality. VOC stands for volatile organic compound. VOCs are emitted even when the paint has dried, it emits most in its first year. VOCs can cause asthma and other allergies. Opting for paint with low VOC is another way of improving air quality in the home. There are guidelines outlined by the EPA that state whether or not a paint can be classed with a low VOC.
While poor air quality indeed affects a number of homes, it doesn’t have to be inevitable. The 22 tips above prove that a home’s air can be improved. They make for an excellent starting point to improve air quality. It will take some effort and consistent monitoring but there is nothing to say that a home’s atmosphere will worsen over the years. Adopting just one of these tips can make a positive impact on your home’s environment. If you want to make the air optimal in your home, why not adopt all 22 techniques? Start from point 1 and move down the list. We’re sure that you’ll notice a marked improvement within the home.
The great thing about most of these points is the fact that they are not expensive. So really there’s no excuse not to enjoy good air quality.
Here’s to better air, homes and health!