HWH009: Health: Improve Your Health And Your Home With Better Indoor Air Quality

Is your home making you sick? Many people don’t even realize that the headaches and allergies that they are experiencing could be due to the pollutants inside their home. There are a number of ways that we can eliminate the dangerous air pollutants in our home to make indoor air quality much better. Some of the ways are very simple and cost very little while other ways are more expensive and can take more resources. All of the tips I’m going to give you will help you and your family breath easier and be a little healthier.

A number of years ago I was working in the construction industry building new homes and I wanted to learn more about building green. One of the components of building green is building a home that is safe to live in. Now, you might be thinking to yourself “Aren’t all homes ‘safe’ to live in?” and I would respond with “No, actually not all homes are ‘safe’ to live in due to the poor indoor air quality.” There are many things that you should consider in order to make the indoor air quality better for yourself and your family.

One area of your home that could be making you sick is your heating and cooling system aka HVAC system. If the air filter has not been changed in a while or the venting system has not been cleaned in a while it may be time to get those items checked out. If you’re buying a home I recommend having the venting system and air filter changed right when you get into the home. This way you know for sure that it’s been recently cleaned and that it will not be blowing dusty air throughout your home. For cleaning your vents, also known as ducting, you can call a local HVAC contractor and they will likely know of someone who has the equipment to do the job. It’s important to have your ducts cleaning every few years because the ducting can be a place where dust, dander, and other nasty pollutants can hide and be put into your home at a later time. Also, rodents and other living things can sometimes use ducting for passageways and nesting. Just removing the rodents is not enough. If they’ve been living in your ducting for some time then there are likely droppings that you will essentially be breathing in unless your ducts are cleaned. After the ducts are cleaned get a HEPA rated air filter or a filter with a MERV 16 rating to replace the filter that you currently have for your furnace. The HEPA rated air filter is the top-of-the-line when it comes to air filters and these will likely be pretty spendy on the cost spectrum of air filters for your furnace. If the HEPA air filter is out of your budget then look at other filters that have a MERV 16 rating. The MERV rating is used to categorize how well the filter traps particles in the air and the rating goes from 1 to 16, with 16 being the best. So, the higher the MERV number you get the smaller the particle your filter will be able to trap, and thus, the cleaner the air in your home will be.

Another danger inside the home that can cause poor air quality is mold. You might not think that mold is in your home but I think that you would be surprised if you did some investigative work. Mold as we all know is an outcome of damp places. These places can be anywhere there is water on a regular basis. The way to rid your home of mold is to eliminate any water sources like leaky sinks or fixtures. Even a sink that just on occasion is leaking water in the cabinet below can create mold issues. Check below your sinks like the one in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. Look for any water marks below the sink. If there are water marks tighten the pipe fittings so that they stop dripping. If you can’t get the pipe fittings to stop dripping then call a plumber or handyman to help you out. Another place that I’ve found mold in the past is around the bottom of windows. In the winter condensation builds up and can accumulate at the bottom of windows. When this happens you need to be intentional about wiping up the moisture and making sure that mold isn’t growing. Bathrooms seem to be a good place for mold to grow because of the hot water during a bath and shower puts off steam. Make sure to properly ventilate your bathroom when someone is taking a hot shower. Poorly ventilated bathrooms are going to trap that moisture and mold will soon start to grow. If you do have a mold issue, then you clean it with bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar. There are tons of tips on the internet for more specific instructions on cleaning mold. However, I think the best way to clean mold is to never let it start growing in the first place.

One of the worst sources of air pollutants can come from the products and materials that you put into your home. For example, paints and sealer can off gas what’s known as VOCs. According to the EPA  VOCs (volatile organic compounds) may have several negative health effects such as: headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, and are known to cause cancer in humans. This is big deal! It is incredibly important to your health, the health of your family, and the health of those who enter your home that the air in your home is safe and VOC free. To reduce the potential of bringing VOCs into your home make sure that when you buy new paint that it is VOC free. Also, if you plan on refinishing floors or cabinets or trim work that the sealers and stain that you use are VOC free. Another source of VOCs is the carpet in your home. If you get new carpet in your home look into the low VOC or VOC free options. Many times carpet manufactures will offer a “Green Label” certified product. This means the carpet has been made in a way that minimizes VOCs.

In summary, I encourage you to research the indoor air quality of your home. Improving this could make a big difference in the level of health for you and your family. Keep in mind that some of the health issues caused by poor indoor air quality do not show symptoms right away. However, the damage being done to your body could have long-term affects. You can do a lot of different things that either do not cost money or are very inexpensive to make sure that your indoor air quality is the best that you can make it. Doing a simple internet search for improving indoor air quality will help you on your way to making sure you’re providing good indoor air for everyone in your home.