The holidays are here. Your house is clean. You have air fresheners. You have just changed your furnace filter. Guests are soon arriving.
You typically open the windows on pleasant days. Yet, today its frigid and while you have read about concerns over indoor air quality (IAQ), you are confident that there is no way this would be an issue in your home. But, you may be wrong.
Why Improve Indoor Air Quality?
While studies have showed that we spend over 90% of our time indoors, good ventilation is a necessity. While overventilation can result in higher energy usage and costs than which are necessary; poor indoor air quality can lead to severe negative health effects, for you and your family.
While it always feels more comforting to not worry about it, the quality of air you breathe indoors is more important than you realize. And, if you don't address the problem studies have shown that the accumulation of CO2 indoors can lead to dizziness, fatigue, headaches, illness, and even the airborne viruses.
When we look at the effects of monitoring air quality at home, not only are there positive effects on personal health, there are also clear benefits in energy savings too.
5 Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality in your Home
1. Change your AC 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 too. It's remembering to do so that 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.
2. Control the Humidity in Your Home
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%.
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. Buy Indoor Plants to Freshen the Air
One of the easiest ways to improve indoor air quality is by purchasing indoor plants. This is because indoor plants have been known to purify the air the most and adding in plants such as chrysanthemums or peace lily's can eliminate common toxins - as well as ammonia!
Smaller indoor plants can also enhance your quality of air like ferns and lilies that can easily pull harmful contaminants from the air.
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 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.
Here are the CO2 levels you should know:
- 400ppm – Normal outdoor air level.
- 400 ~ 1,100ppm – Typical value level indoors with good ventilation. If CO2 levels are low when the building is sealed and occupied, check for over-ventilation (too much fresh air = energy wasted).
- 1,100ppm – the OSHA/ASHRAE recommended maximum level in a closed room.
- > 1,200ppm – Poor air quality – requires ventilation to the room.
- 2,000ppm – According to many studies this level of CO2 produces a significant increase in drowsiness, tiredness, headaches, lower levels of concentration, and an increased likelihood of spreading respiratory viruses like colds, etc.
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.
About Indoor Air Quality Monitors
One should understand that when using an air quality device whether it is a desktop, wall-mount, or handheld unit, you should never place the instrument near an air conditioner vent, open window, or anywhere that ventilation can have a direct effect.
When discussing wall-mounted CO2 mounted IAQ devices, these should be mounted at the same height as a thermostat - about 48 inches from the floor.
Like your thermostat, the CO2 sensor should not be mounted or set near outside doors or windows as this can make space appear to have more fresh air than it actually does.
Another key factor when choosing a location for your CO2 monitor is that people breathing on the device will negatively affect the reading. You will want to take that into consideration and mount the device in a location where visitors will not congregate.
If you are looking for further information on indoor air quality solutions for your home, office, or classroom; contact us today.