Why Improve Indoor Air Quality?
Every day, millions of us travel from our climate-controlled homes to jobs in climate-controlled buildings or classrooms in climate-controlled schools. Being cool in the summer and warm in the winter is something we all take for granted.
But did you ever wonder, “I know what closed windows keep out, but what do they keep in?” The truth is that closed windows trap recycled air filled with contaminants that can not only cause discomfort, but can even be hazardous to you and your family’s health.
During the cold-weather season in the north, homes are buttoned up tightly to reduce heating bills. This is called "closing the envelope". While reducing drafts and leaks saving on energy, it also traps stale air from our exhaled breath as well as dust, mold, dander and volatile organic compounds which can lead to negative health effects like colds and the flu.
The same goes for individuals living in southern climates that use air conditioning during the warm, summer months too.
While many individuals are concerned with IAQ because of asthma, allergies, or dust particles in the air, they may not be as concerned about the levels of CO2 in their home.
Although the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) we exhale individually is very small – about 0.02 cubic meters per hour – over a full day a sealed home's CO2 level will rise. For example, sleeping in a bedroom with the doors and windows closed, the CO2 level will double or triple over the normal CO2 level in fresh, outdoor air.
While you can not change the air outside, here are 5 ways you can improve the indoor air quality in your home, office, or classroom during both the winter and summer months.
Here are 5 easy and low-cost ways to improve indoor air quality in your home.
- Replace your furnace air filter
- Control the humidity
- Pay attention to what you bring indoors
- Have your furnace inspected
- Use an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
1. Replace Your Furnace Air Filter
Experts recommend that you change air filters in your central air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump every month they are in use. The air filter’s job is not only to keep the air clean from contaminants, but it also keeps dust and debris out of your heating, ventilation, air conditioning system as well as your duct-work.
Dirty air ducts can be a breeding ground for mold spores in the air. It is far more cost-effective to change your filters regularly than to pay for duct cleaning too.
Replacing air filters is easy - remembering to do it is difficult. Here’s a tip: purchase several air filters at a time, and stack them next to your furnace or HVAC equipment. Next, set an alarm on your smartphone calendar to remind you on the first day of every month to change or clean your filters. Don't have a smart phone? Write the date you've changed the filter on the edge of the filter so you'll know the last time you changed it.
Another common question is, which air filter should I use? According to the experts, the higher the minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, the better. MERV ratings signify an air filter’s effectiveness at decreasing airborne particles and contaminants which will improve the indoor air quality in your home.
Learn more about MERV ratings here.
2. Control the Humidity
Your home’s relative humidity should be high enough to prevent coughing and nosebleeds, but low enough that you don’t create moisture problems like mold growth.
Indoor relative humidity levels need to take into account the temperature change between summer and winter. In colder climates, wintertime humidity levels should be 30-40% to prevent condensation on windows and other surfaces. In the summer, humidity can be higher, up to 50-60%.
Learn more about the impact of proper humidity levels in your home.
If you do not have a humidifier or dehumidifier connected to your home’s furnace, you should invest in a humidifier to use in the winter and dehumidifier to use in the summer.
The simplest way to measure your home’s humidity is with a hygrometer. These can be purchased inexpensively, or are included in most IAQ monitors. The important point is to use them away from the bathroom or kitchen which may have higher humidity levels than the rest of the home.
3. Pay Attention to What You Bring Indoors
So many indoor air quality problems can be solved by using a bit of common sense.
- Thinking about new paint or carpet? Don’t do it until the weather allows you to open the windows and release the volatile organic gases (VOCs) like formaldehyde they produce.
- Are you ready to replace your bedding? Look at latex foam mattresses and pillows instead of ones made from cotton or natural fibers, and encase them with dust mite proof covers.
- Need a new vacuum cleaner? Purchase one that includes a HEPA air filter instead of a paper bag.
For people with allergies or asthma, indoor air quality is critical to their overall health and comfort. Here are some additional recommendations from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
4. Check Your Furnace Yearly
You visit the dentist for regular cleanings, you see your primary care doctor for checkups, and you change your car’s oil regularly too. It is all called preventative maintenance. Your HVAC system needs regular maintenance too. It’s the technician’s job to make sure that your system is operating effectively and that it is burning fuel at 100% efficiency so that no carbon monoxide is leaking into your home.
In addition, a clean heating system will save you money on fuel and prolong your furnace’s life too.
5. Use an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
An indoor air quality monitor that measures CO2 levels can be used as an "early warning system" for poor indoor air quality.
A CO2 Monitor like the IAQMini CO2 Monitor or Aranet4 Home Indoor Air Quality Monitor can be placed in an office, on a school desk, nightstand, or in a central area of the home. What makes it so helpful is the ability to see your air quality in "real-time".
Are CO2 levels too high? This means your HVAC system isn’t working properly, and your air is filled with airborne chemicals, pollutants, and microorganisms that spread colds or can inflame allergies.
Simply put, ask your HVAC contractor to have your system "bring in more fresh air."
Too little CO2 means you have too much fresh air and are wasting heating or cooling energy. A quick and simple way to make
sure you’re enjoying the best air quality available is by using an indoor air quality monitor.
Understanding the importance of carbon dioxide levels and poor indoor air quality is the first step to improving an individuals' overall well being and performance in any home, office, or classroom setting.
For more information or for technical sales contact CO2Meter at 877-678-4259 or Sales@CO2Meter.com.