Most of us don’t regularly consider the air quality in our home, but we should. Indoor air pollution has actually been ranked as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. In the short-run, chronically poor air quality inside your home can cause headaches, congestion, and respiratory illness. Over time it leads to much more serious conditions like asthma and a weakened immune system. Poor air quality also exacerbates pre-existing sicknesses, making winter an especially important time to keep air quality clean. The reason why your lingering cold just won’t go away might be the air inside your house! The winter months do not have the same challenges posed by humidity that the summer months do, but don’t let that fool you. Pollutant producing hazards do still exist and must be addressed. Read on to learn what is causing poor air quality in your home this winter and what you should do to fix it.
The best way to improve air quality in your home is to take steps towards reducing or eliminating the source of the air pollution. The following are the causes of (and solutions to) the most common air quality hazards during the winter months:
Dryers can release harmful fumes when not maintained properly. For starters, make sure the exhaust vent is securely fastened to the back of the dryer unit at all times. The vent should also be inspected and cleaned at least twice per year. Not only is a clogged dryer vent a significant fire hazard, it can also be a main cause for air pollution in your home. See our past post about how to properly clean your dryer vent.
Water heaters are another appliance that creates combustion, and therefore are a risk to the air quality in your home. A common hazard is a water heater that isn’t properly ventilated. Water heaters are often connected to the same ventilation system as your furnace. If the diameter of the vent tube isn’t wide enough, exhaust will escape into the air whenever both the heater and the furnace are running simultaneously. To perform a simple test, carefully put your hand near the top of the water heater where it vents. Hold it there while both appliances are operating and venting. If you feel hot air drafting out that is an indication of a problem that needs to be addressed.
Dust is a naturally unavoidable contaminant to air quality. Regular cleaning and vacuuming is the simplest and most straightforward remedy. Make an effort to do a deep clean every so often. Cleaning and dusting trim work and other easily overlooked areas are an easy way to improve the air quality in your home.
Pets are so lovable, yet largely contribute to poor air quality. Naturally, pets are indoors more often in the cold winter months. Let the air quality of your home be motivation to get your pet outdoors more often in the winter. The same regular cleaning and vacuuming as you do for dust is otherwise your best bet for minimizing pet dander and other contaminants.
Paint, sprays, heavy cleaners and any other heavy duty chemical products can be necessary, but know that they do release a shocking amount of harmful particles into the air. Try to limit the use of these products, especially in the winter when it is much more difficult to open windows and air out a space. Some cleaning products have natural and chemical free substitutes usually labeled as “VOC Free” (Volatile Organic Compounds). Avoiding harmful contaminants can make a real difference, and the difference does matter.