Since we spend so much time in our homes and other indoor spaces, good air quality is essential. What many Spring cleaners may not know is that the problem can be much more foundational than just tidying up. Below we list best home practices for how to improve home air quality, but keep in mind that a good home air sealing could be in order.
We spend nearly 90% of our lives indoors, so it’s essential to increase ventilation for fresh air flow and seal your home from air contaminants. In the meantime, besides switching out air filters or cleaning air vents, here are other ways to improve the air quality of your home.
To avoid stuffy spaces that contribute to poor indoor air quality, read on and discover simple yet effective ways to introduce fresh air into your living space throughout the year.
Clean Air Is Essential for Healthier Living
Cleaner indoor air feels like a breath of fresh air, especially during the dark, cold winter months. The added benefits of improving your home’s indoor air quality include reducing the risk of spreading respiratory viruses. Poor ventilation is associated with several health effects that impact your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to catching more illnesses throughout the cold season.
Poor ventilation and dirty vents can spread many particulates throughout your home, like:
- Dust particles
- Pet dander
- Cooking fumes
- Chemicals released by furniture
Most modern homes have features that “seal” cracks and leaks to prevent less air exchange with outside. While this improves energy efficiency, it also makes it harder to remove indoor air pollutants during cold seasons when homeowners don’t regularly open windows. That’s why it’s essential to ensure you’re improving your air quality inside to reduce the health risk associated with indoor air pollution.
Four Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
The American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) sets the U.S. standard for acceptable indoor air quality. While most residential and commercial buildings need to follow these standards, they, unfortunately, fall short of what’s needed to protect against influenza and other major respiratory illnesses.
ASHRAE officials urge people to combine additional ventilation, filtration, and air disinfection to reduce transmission risk. Homeowners can do this by following the four main pillars of improving indoor air quality: adding better ventilation, filtration, disinfection, and source control.
Calculating a home’s ventilation refers to how much fresh outdoor air is being brought inside. This fresh air helps dilute the concentration of indoor air to help “flush out” harmful particles that may be lingering in the air. The easiest way to improve ventilation is by opening windows. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option for some, especially those trying not to rack up large energy bills in the extreme cold or heat.
Have a Proper HVAC System
Another great source of indoor airflow is a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Quality HVAC systems allow for greater fresh air intake; then again, many buildings, especially before the pandemic, had theirs set to recirculate old, stale air. To actually reduce indoor air pollution, the best practice is to have at least six air exchanges per hour.
HVAC systems are great for increased ventilation, but did you know that it’s also essential to assess your roof and attic ventilation? This is the area of your home where air can easily escape. Not only does this raise your energy bill throughout the year, but it can negatively impact your health. Air needs to move freely throughout the attic. When it’s not properly vented, the attic will start to smell musty and become a breeding ground for harmful air pollutants.
How to Assess Ventilation
Using a carbon dioxide monitor is a great way to assess how well-ventilated a space is. Humans exhale CO2 as we breathe, which leads to greater CO2 levels in shared indoor spaces. According to the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention, indoor spaces that have CO2 levels below 800 parts per million indicate potentially well-ventilated air quality.
Another key component to having healthy indoor air quality is filtration. This process involves removing pollutants and other harsh particles from the air. A gold-standard filter is a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. It can remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles that are 0.3 microns in size and other larger and smaller particles. HEPA has minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) rating of 17 or higher. For reference, most indoor filters are recommended to have at least MERV 13 or higher for optimal indoor air.
If your home doesn’t have an HVAC system, a great way to add filtration is through a portable air purifier. They can run at full speed to filter air faster at certain times, such as:
- Cleaning with chemicals
- If someone is sick
- During a party
- To reduce pet dander
Be mindful that portable air cleaners are not cheap-with some starting around $150 and up. Keep your eye out for sales and opportunities to snag these for greater air filtration in your home.
3. Air Disinfection
If ventilation and filtration are the standard practice, then air disinfection is the icing on top of the cake. Air disinfection works by inactivating viruses with ultraviolet light. Heavily trafficked areas like hospitals or schools have used UV light to help disinfect these spaces. This process works by shining a UV light in these spaces–some creating ozone– which neutralizes airborne pathogens.
Some UV lights can help disinfect the air from several particulates, including:
- Mold spores
- Volatile organic compounds
- Dust mites
- Insect eggs
- Some respiratory viruses
Keep in mind that some high-intensity UV lights that create ozone are harmful to humans if directly exposed, which is why they are often used when no one is in an enclosed space. Thankfully, there are other UV disinfectant lights, known as UVC, that may be a safer option for people to use to improve air quality inside.
4. Source Control
Lastly, when it comes to greater indoor air quality, let’s start at the source. Preventing harmful chemicals and other particulates from circulating in your home starts by limiting potential sources of it. For example, using an electric burner reduces the number of particles generated compared to gas stoves.
There are plenty of small ways to reduce indoor air pollution, like:
- Switching to soy or natural beeswax candle
- Not using harmful cleaning supplies
- Regularly washing sheets and soft surfaces
- Dusting surfaces
- Brushing animals (outdoors if possible)
Remember that even with your best efforts, your space will occasionally have poor air quality. That’s why it’s key to mix all of these efforts–especially ventilation and filtration–to improve indoor air quality.
Invest in Better Indoor Air Quality
While making upgrades to your home for greater indoor air quality can be expensive, it’s vital to reduce indoor air pollution. Over time, those harmful particulates can weaken your immune system, trigger allergy symptoms, and create an unpleasant living experience. Consider making small changes, such as adding an air purifier or properly venting your attic, to reduce your indoor air problems.
If you’re looking for ways to improve home air quality, the team at First American Roofing & Siding is here to help. Our team can assess your attic insulation to see if there is proper air circulation, any rust around your exhaust fan, or if there are air leaks.
By taking this step, you will not only be protecting your roof’s structure and reducing your energy bill, but you will also be adding to your overall air quality inside. Contact a specialist at First American Roofing & Siding today to get started.