Winter is a great time to focus on indoor air quality!
Now that it’s winter, we are spending more time indoors, and we’re exposed to all of the dust, dirt, and allergens in the home. These pollutants get recirculated throughout the house when we run our furnaces and have the potential to cause respiratory and other health issues.
In fact, the EPA lists indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health, noting that indoor pollution levels can be 2-5 times higher than outdoor levels.
Here are 7 tips to greatly improve your home’s air quality and your quality of life!
1. Steam Clean your Carpet
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to keep your floors clean. I am mostly talking about carpet cleaning. Carpet is a dirt sponge! If you want to keep your carpet clean and have it last longer, it should be professionally cleaned at least once a year. If you have pets or children, once a year is the minimum and twice a year is recommended.
Vacuuming is not enough. Neither is steaming carpets yourself. Professional steam cleaners, with their industrial strength equipment and much greater cleaning power is the best way to remove all of the dirt and allergens and protect your investment.
We maintain a list of qualified carpet cleaning companies that have done great work for our clients, so please reach out if you would like us to share a couple of carpet cleaning companies that you can depend on.
2. Clean your Furnace Air Ducts
Cleaning all of the components of your furnace’s air circulation system is something that experts recommend be done every 3-5 years. If you have no issues with allergies or respiratory issues, you may put this one off longer. However if you are moving into a new home where there were smokers or pets, this is probably an important item to put on your to-do list.
When undertaking this work, you will want to be sure you are hiring a company that is qualified. The State of Michigan requires that all air duct cleaners must be certified by the state and must have a category 3 mechanical contractors license.
Check if they are using any chemicals and if so, exactly what they are. Have a conversation with the contractor about what they are using and why.
Also, make sure they are not allowing any dirt or contamination to spill over into the home.
3. Upgrade your furnace filters
This is one of the easiest and most important things you can do for yourself. Most home furnaces have a simple one-inch filter system, but you can have an HVAC company install a 4 or 5-inch media filter holder. This will greatly reduce the number of particles that are missed by the filter.
If you want to keep your system running efficiently, change out the furnace filters once a month. It is a simple matter to pull out the old filter and put in a new one – it takes only a few minutes. It’s helpful to have a system for this, for example buying six or twelve filters at one time on a regular schedule. I order mine online and have them set up for auto-replenishment. Mark the date on each filter in advance and put a reminder on your calendar to go to the furnace and replace the filter! When you have a system, things happen. When you don’t, it’s out of sight out of mind!
4. Room Air Purifiers
Consider buying a room air purifier if someone in your household is particularly sensitive to irritants in the air. There are many good brands and many different size units you can purchase. Here are a few recommendations:
- Buy a high-quality unit that circulates a lot of air. A unit that is too small will just be a waste of money and not make much of a difference in your air quality.
- Check the noise ratings – find a unit that is quiet!! Usually the quieter it is the more expensive it will be, but you will find it well worth the investment.
- Replace the filters regularly
I like blue air room air purifiers. I have owned one for years and recommend them.
5. Install a humidifier if you have a forced-air furnace.
Getting your home to the proper humidity level will make a noticeable difference in how comfortable your home feels. This is something an HVAC contractor can take care of for you.
Ideally, a home should have about 35-45% humidity. If it dips below 30%, it’s much too dry, and if it’s above 50%, you will notice condensation on your windows and windowsills. If your home humidity level stays around 45%, your living environment will be cleaner, safer, healthier, and more comfortable. You can read more about HVAC systems here.
6. Check for Mold and mold-producing conditions in your home.
Mold is the greatest enemy of indoor air quality. Mold and mildew need only a damp, moist environment and organic material to establish themselves and thrive. Common causes in the home are:
- Roof and foundation leaks
- High interior humidity
- Overflowing washing machines
- Leaking plumbing fixtures under sinks and floors
- Poor exterior grading or water management
To prevent mold and mildew, you can:
- Dehumidify and heat the air in your basement. Air condenses as it cools and turns into water. Eliminate moist air in your basement by running a dehumidifier all summer and if possible keep the air temperature in the basement close to that of the rest of the home.
- Check to be sure there is no seepage of water along the foundation. Check gutters and downspouts to be sure they keep water from the foundation. Also, make sure that water flows away from the foundation – maintain a positive grade away from the house.
- Check your attic for any roof leaks. If you have not checked your attic in many years, it makes sense to hire a roofing company to check for any moisture in the attic from improperly vented fans, or leaks along with the flashings and soffits. Make sure that the bathroom fan ducts are discharging property to the outside.
7. Check Your Radon Levels
Radon can pose serious health risks, including damage to lung tissue and potentially lung cancer. According to the EPA, it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the risk becomes even larger for smokers who are exposed.
The most important actions you can take to make sure your home is free of unsafe levels of radon are:
1. Do a radon test
- If your home is in Ann Arbor or Washtenaw County, you can purchase a radon test kit for just $10 from Washtenaw County Environmental Health.
- If your home is in Ypsilanti, radon test kits are available from the Township Supervisor’s Office in the Tilden R. Stumbo Civic Center.
- Or, you can order a test kit online
2. Install a radon mitigation system
You can visit this site for more information about radon mitigation in Michigan. The cost of radon mitigation in the home is generally around $750 to $1,000.