The air supply in your Asheville home may be even more polluted than the outdoor air. Many homeowners are unaware that a variety of airborne contaminants may be circulating through their indoor environment. How does poor indoor air quality occur? A surprising amount of pollutants originate from inside the home and aren’t easily flushed out due to a tight home envelope.
What’s Polluting Your Indoor Air?
Homes today tend to be well insulated and fairly airtight for energy efficiency reasons. Unfortunately, this traps indoor pollutants like chemicals from cleaning fluids, personal care items like deodorant, carpet fibers, adhesives, pet dander, dust, particles from the burning of fuels in the fireplace or furnace and more.
These contaminants can accumulate in the duct system, along with irritants like pollen and dust mites. Mold spores can form in various spots in the home, including inside air conditioning equipment. These chemical and biological pollutants can be easily re-circulated throughout your house.
Microscopic particles are constantly settling on surfaces and being disturbed as you walk or sit. They’re also redistributed through the HVAC system. All these factors contribute to unhealthy indoor air quality.
Contaminant Categories and Health Risks
Indoor air pollutants fall into the following major categories:
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – VOCs are emitted from chemicals in paint, turpentine, cleaning fluid, building materials, pesticide products, permanent markers and other office supply products and even dry-cleaned clothing. Some are even known to cause cancer in humans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Combustion by-products – Wood stoves and gas appliances produce airborne particles that irritate lungs, cause infections and can contribute to lung cancer over the long term.
- Radon – You won’t see it or smell it, but this known carcinogen can seep into your home through foundation cracks, piping, drains and other ground level openings.
- Pest control chemicals – Pesticides, which are semi-volatile organic compounds, can be harmful to humans, too. Residue may lead to increased risk of cancer and other serious health problems.
- Biological contaminants – Examples include mildew, mold spores, bacteria, pollen, rodent droppings and dust mites. These may induce allergy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, fatigue and could lead to illness.
How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can be improved with a multi-pronged approach, including:
- Source control – Reduce usage and storage of chemicals in and around your house. Purchase only non-toxic, VOC-free or low-VOC paint products, green building materials and home furnishings whenever possible. Minimize or eliminate the use of pesticide products, chemical cleansers, air freshening chemicals, solvents and paint thinners. If you must use these, do so in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to follow manufacturer directions when using, storing and disposing of these products. Don’t mix products unless instructions say it is safe to do so.
- Ventilation – Talk to your HVAC contractor about home ventilation solutions to balance your home’s fresh airflow. Use exhaust fans, window fans or attic fans. Make sure appliances are properly vented to the outdoors. If you have an attached garage, pay special attention to proper venting there. Car exhaust contains benzene which is known to cause cancer.
- Indoor air testing – Have the radon levels in your home tested, along with checking the overall air quality. Contact your local home comfort professional qualified to test your home’s air and recommend solutions to any problems found.
- Humidity control – Your home’s humidity level should be between 30 to 50 percent to minimize the occurrence of mold due to excess humidity. Maintaining this level will also help prevent dry sinuses, skin and throat irritation, and may even reduce your risk of catching the flu due to overly dry indoor air.
- Frequent dusting and cleaning – Using a vacuum with HEPA filtration can help keep dust at bay and make cleaning more pleasant and sneeze-free.
- Duct system inspection – If significant dust, dander, mold or insect infestation is found, consider having your home’s ductwork cleaned and sealed.
- Air cleaners – Ask about a whole-house air cleaning system integrated with your home’s heating and cooling system. A UV light system can help keep the HVAC system mold free, too.
- Frequent air filter replacement – Use the highest quality filter compatible with your home comfort system and recommended by the system manufacturer or your local HVAC professional. Replace or clean the air filter monthly, particularly during seasons of heavy use.
Call on Gentry Heating, Inc. for complete home comfort and indoor air quality services. We’re happy to provide professional advice and are dedicated to keeping your Asheville area home healthy and comfortable year round.
Image Provided by Shutterstock.com