Breathe easy by following these steps.
We spend a lot of time indoors. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average person spends 90 percent of their life indoors. That statistic alone might be enough to make you want to take a long walk outside! But that’s also why it is very important to ensure the quality of the air we breathe indoors isn’t compromised in our quest to make our home exceptionally efficient.
When you seal and weatherize your home to improve energy efficiency, it can inadvertently lead to the accumulation of indoor pollutants, which may affect your health and well-being. The thought of breathing in pollutants can be scary.
The good news is there are ways you can easily improve the air quality in your home while still being efficient. With proper ventilation and air quality maintenance, among several other things, you can ensure you and your family will have healthy indoor air.
Here are nine tips to help you breathe a bit easier:
- Ventilation is Key. Proper ventilation is critical to ensure a steady supply of fresh air while expelling stale and polluted indoor air. Consider the following options:
- Mechanical Ventilation: Invest in mechanical ventilation systems like energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) or heat recovery ventilators (HRVs). These devices efficiently exchange indoor and outdoor air while preserving energy.
- Window and Door Management: Regularly open windows and doors to let fresh air circulate, especially during mild weather conditions. Use window screens to prevent insects from entering.
- Regular HVAC Maintenance. A well-maintained heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is essential for good indoor air quality. Change air filters regularly, ideally every three months or as recommended by the manufacturer. Clogged, dirty filters reduce the amount of airflow and the HVAC system’s efficiency. When a filter becomes too clogged, the excess dirt and dust are sent through your air ducts, adding unnecessary allergens and other unwanted particles into your living space. Regular HVAC maintenance not only improves indoor air quality but also ensures your system operates efficiently.
- Regularly vacuum carpet and rugs. This is especially important if you have furry friends. The cleaner the home, the healthier the home. Vacuuming carpet and area rugs once a week can greatly reduce the accumulation of pet dander and dust inside your home. Frequently clean other areas that collect dust, like drapes, bedding and cluttered areas.
- Use vents to remove cooking fumes. Those exhaust fans aren’t just for when you burn the bacon. Fans help remove fumes emitted while cooking and eliminate unwanted moisture and odors. They may be a bit noisy, but these handy tools can help you improve indoor air quality while you’re preparing that culinary masterpiece (or even a grilled cheese sandwich!).
- Get a handle on humidity. Summer months typically bring more humidity than we’d like, especially if you live in a high-humidity climate zone. Moisture in the air can carry bacteria and other unwanted particles that you eventually breathe in. Dehumidifiers work to remove that moisture from the air, reducing bacteria, mold and other allergens in your home. The use of exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens year-round can also cut back on humidity in these areas of your home.
- Incorporate air-purifying plants into your living space. There are several varieties of indoor plants that can help detoxify your home from dust and germs found in a variety of home products, furniture and other materials. A few low-maintenance, air-purifying plants to consider are snake plants, aloe vera plants and pothos plants (also known as Devil’s Ivy). These vibrant, lush plants are eye-catching and beneficial for any home. Remember to review care conditions and think about placement for any new plants you add to your home.
- Keep harmful toxins out. Some building codes allow homes to be built with unvented gas fireplaces, since homes that are not sealed tightly will allow air to flow in and out of the cracks and eliminate these harmful toxins. However, extra care should be taken if you decide to run these unvented fireplaces in your home. To maintain good air quality in a home that has been well-sealed and weatherized, you may not want to run them at all. Additionally, if you or anyone in your household smokes, make it a practice to do so outdoors. Smoking indoors releases harmful toxins that linger in the air and affect indoor air quality.
- Test for Radon. Consider testing your home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can seep into buildings and become a health hazard. Radon test kits are readily available at hardware stores and online.
- Professional Assessment. Consider seeking a professional energy audit that includes an evaluation of indoor air quality. They can provide personalized recommendations for your home's specific needs.
Incorporate these tips into your daily routine to maintain a healthy indoor environment while still enjoying the benefits of an energy-efficient home.
If you have questions or need further guidance on improving indoor air quality while making your home energy efficient, contact your local electric cooperative.
Visit our Energy Efficiency page for more excellent tips on how you can use less energy and save.
Need info on the go? Check out the Power for Your Life podcast to find more ways you can save energy, stay safe around electricity and make the most of your cooperative membership.