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How To Improve the Indoor Air Quality of Your Home

Updated Dec 26, 2022

Updated Dec 26, 2022

Home > Maintenance & Renovation > How To Improve the Indoor Air Quality of Your Home

It can be easy to pinpoint sources of outdoor pollution. For example, it’s not hard to imagine how cars and factories contaminate the air you breathe. However, it’s also important to consider the air quality inside your home.

You’re not alone if you haven’t considered your indoor air quality. Nonetheless, the effects of bad indoor air quality can be sobering. Poor air quality can lead to health risks like lung cancer or respiratory illness. 

We’ve created this guide to help ensure you have fresh air in your home. Read on to learn more about why indoor air quality is important, signs that you might have bad indoor air quality, and how to improve it if you do.

Why Is Good Indoor Air Quality Important?

healthy family smiling on couch
Image Source: Canva

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors. The concentration of some pollutants is much higher indoors than outdoors. Because so much time is spent inside, it’s important that the air you’re exposed to is clean if you want to avoid potential health problems. Most indoor air pollutants come from within the building, though some originate outdoors.

Indoor Sources

Pollutants that are generated indoors include the following:

  • Building materials
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Combustion sources
  • Insecticides
  • Mold
  • Paints
  • Pet dander

Building Materials

Building materials can be a potential source of indoor air pollution. Older buildings may be susceptible to pollutants caused by degradation, like asbestos fibers. Newer buildings use materials like pressed wood, with glues that can off-gas chemicals like formaldehyde.

Cleaning Supplies

While disinfecting and keeping a clean home can help improve air quality, it’s important to note that some household cleaning supplies can contribute to indoor air pollution. Often emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some cleaning products and air fresheners contain things like glycol or terpenes, which can harm the respiratory system.

Combustion Sources

Wood and coal-burning appliances and fireplaces can produce particulates and harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide in an indoor environment. Carbon monoxide, also known as the “silent killer,” is an odorless and colorless gas that can damage the respiratory system and even be fatal if prolonged exposure occurs.

Insecticides

Insecticides, like other chemically based products, emit harmful chemicals and VOCs damaging the respiratory system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) data, most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs indoors. Some studies have found measurable levels in the air inside homes.

Mold

Mold and mildew are generic terms for fungal growth in an indoor environment. Certain mold spores can harm humans, causing allergic reactions, immune responses, infectious diseases, and toxic effects. Allergies and mycotoxins are often airborne and can affect the indoor air quality of your home.

Paints

Indoor paints contain VOCs. With a fresh coat of paint, indoor VOC levels can be significant — up to 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels. Most of the time, people paint a whole room at once, leading to a high concentration of VOCs at one time. 

Pet Dander

Pet dander is one of the biggest indoor air pollutants. Any mammal sheds dead skin cells or dander. Microscopic and jagged in shape, pet dander tends to linger longer than other air pollutants, as it can cling to furniture and other surfaces for a long time.

Outdoor Sources

Outdoor air pollutants can enter buildings through open windows, doors, ventilation systems, or cracks in the building or foundation. Some indoor air pollutants are naturally occurring, like radon, which can enter a building through structural gaps.

Volatile chemicals in soils can enter a building through the same process of structural infiltration. Volatile chemicals found in water can enter through water, for example, when cooking or showering.

It’s also possible for indoor air pollutants to enter from outdoors through surface transfer. Soil or dust stuck to clothing and shoes can carry harmful pollutants.

Signs of Bad Indoor Air Quality

woman coughing in front of her computer
Image Source: Canva

Gaining an understanding of why good indoor air quality matters and what causes pollution is important. However, knowing how to tell if you have poor indoor air quality is critical if you want to remediate it. Below, you’ll find some common signifiers of bad indoor air quality.

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Dust buildup
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Skin irritation
  • Sneezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unpleasant odor

Any of these signs could indicate bad indoor air quality, and you should take steps to improve the air quality as soon as possible.

Methods To Improve Air Quality

woman changing an air filter
Image Source: Canva

If you’ve noticed that you have bad air quality inside your home, you’ll want to take steps to improve it. But how should you do that? 

Change HVAC Filters

Changing your air conditioning filters regularly is a good home maintenance practice and will help keep indoor pollutants down, especially if you use HEPA filters. Once filters fill up, they stop being effective, so changing them on a schedule is necessary if you want a clean airflow. Plus, clean air filters allow your central air system to function more efficiently, lowering heating and air costs and creating a longer life span for your HVAC system.

Manage Humidity Levels

Humid conditions can be an ideal environment for the growth of mold and mildew. Respiratory issues like asthma can be activated by mold, so keeping its growth at bay by controlling humidity levels is essential. Running a dehumidifier is an easy way to maintain healthy humidity levels in climates conducive to mold and mildew growth.

Perform an Inspection of Your Air Ducts

Air ducts can be a prime location for collecting dust, debris, and other irritants. Check your air ducts for a buildup of anything potentially suspicious, as you don’t want the buildup to be distributed throughout your home. If you’re unsure what to look for or want to ensure your ductwork has been installed properly, you can always solicit professional help.

Clean Soft Surfaces Regularly

If you have carpets or rugs throughout your house, cleaning and vacuuming them often will help keep allergens and dust mites to a minimum. Though they function as a filter by collecting dust and other particulates, you want to clean the dust out of them. The same goes for couches and other potential dust and dander collectors.

Turn on the Exhaust Fan When You Cook

Stoves, particularly gas stoves, produce pollutants like carbon monoxide. Turning the vents on or opening a window can help keep harmful indoor pollutants to a minimum when cooking.

Decorate With Plants

In addition to adding some visual appeal to your space, houseplants provide natural filtration and improve indoor air quality. If you want to decorate with some of nature’s best air purifiers, opt for indoor plants like ferns, palms, or lilies.

Final Thoughts

Good air quality is essential for the health of your home and its inhabitants. Luckily, there are simple solutions to improving and maintaining good air quality in your home.

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