Colder temperatures are upon us, and most people keep windows and doors shut to keep the chill out. But in closed-off rooms and homes, indoor air contaminants build up over time.
The problem? Poor air quality has been linked to health effects in everyone, especially infants, children, seniors and pets.
We listed 10 easy ways to improve IAQ.
1. Open windows regularly
Even if it gets very cold in the winter months, experts suggest regular “air freshening” sessions at home. Simply open the windows for a few minutes and enjoy fresher air instantly. Time it for the warmest part of the day to keep heat loss to a minimum. (And no one will blame anyone for not opening windows when it is -22℉).
2. Use natural air “fresheners”
Who doesn’t love the smell of cinnamon, orange and evergreens?
Take advantage of natural materials to add non-toxic scents to the home. Avoid commercial air freshening products, including candles, plug-ins and sprays. These only cover up existing smells and add potentially harmful contaminants to the ambient air.
Some plants also have natural air purifying tendencies.
These include garden mum, spider plant, aloe vera and bamboo. Add a few, but not too many, plants throughout the house to help improve air quality.
3. Keep the house clean
A clean and tidy house minimizes the risk of smells in the home. This means we all should be cleaning up messes right away and use non-toxic cleaning products to avoid toxic fumes. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will keep dust levels down.
4. Try baking
It may not be 'cleaning' the air, but it certainly adds a few layers of wonderful to the home. What smells better than a loaf of freshly baked bread? Or apple pie? Just don’t eat it all right away.
5. Ban smoking indoors
This should not even have to go on a list nowadays, but better safe than sorry: No. More. Smoking. Inside. The chemicals and particles in cigarette smoke are persistent and have been linked to a wide range of health effects, including asthma, cancer and respiratory disease. It’s bad in terms of health and IAQ.
6. Test for radon levels
Radon is a naturally occurring odorless gas that seeps into homes through cracks and might build up there. Exposure to the radioactive gas has been linked to cancer, so experts recommend getting a home tested. A long-term test kit measures radon levels for three months to allow for natural fluctuations.
7. Use air filters
If the home has a built-in HVAC system, change the filters regularly and enjoy cleaner air. Stand-alone air purifiers with HEPA and carbon also help remove common household contaminants and provide cleaner air.
8. Control humidity
A house with too much humidity may harbor mold, while not enough humidity often feels uncomfortable to mucous membranes. A good bet is around 30-50% humidity, depending on individual preference. Get a dehumidifier or humidifier if needed.
9. Use proper ventilation
Whether its for cooking, renovations or hobbies - most activities inside the home require adequate ventilation to control humidity, fumes and particles. The ventilation hood comes in handy in the kitchen, and electric fans also help. It is generally a good idea to keep the air moving. Leave doors inside the home open, if possible, and turn on fans once in awhile.
10. Get an EPA certified fireplace insert
If the fireplace inside the house is old, it might be time for an upgrade. The EPA has released standards for fireplaces in order to minimize air pollution and asthma risks. It can be pricey, but it may be a worthwhile investment to enjoy the charm of a burning fire without making others suffer.