Many homeowners unwittingly suffer with poor indoor air quality, and the health issues that come with it. You can’t control Mother Nature or air pollution, but you can improve your indoor air quality by not inviting or concentrating allergens and pollutants inside your home.
Without buying a new house, here’s some ideas which can work in almost any home. You may not find every one of these ideas affordable or practical in your home, but any one of them can make a huge improvement.
Lower humidity and reduce moisture.
Use of a dehumidifier is probably a must-do thing in most homes and is especially helpful if you can connect a hose to direct the condensate to a floor drain or sump, as opposed to sporadic emptying of the built-in reservoir.
Molds and other organisms thrive in dark, damp conditions. Eliminating these conditions is paramount to improving your indoor air quality. Try to locate and identify any sources of moisture in your home. Repair leaky faucets and other plumbing and keep all your appliances in good working order. Dripping fridges, washing machines and other everyday appliances can add to your problems.
Even if your basement appears dry, ensure storm water is directed well away from foundations and use bathroom exhaust fans to lower humidity. Cooler conditions prevailing in basements, even when insulated and finished, can lead to often unseen condensation and encourage the growth of mold.
Install a central vacuum system.
While frequent vacuuming might seem like a helpful thing to do, most vacuums filters allow the same dust, pollens and other irritants to be exhausted back into your living space. Central vacuum systems are more powerful, can be exhausted to the outdoors and most have a self-cleaning filter. Be sure to install a sound baffle on the cannister exhaust pipe, to limit the noise pollution in your neighborhood!
Freshen air without opening windows.
While Granny threw the windows open and hung the quilts outside, in today’s world open windows are not always the best way to bring in fresh air. In addition to dust, when outdoor levels are high, pollen and spores float into your house and might not float out.
During hot weather especially on high-allergen days, exchanging air with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) and cooling with fans, or running an air conditioner can help. HRVs as well as other central air exchange systems are designed to exchange indoor for outdoor air about four times every 24hrs. As much as we might want to keep pollen and other irritants out of our homes, we still need fresh air to breathe.
Using a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter in your central heating and cooling system is another way to capture much of what might be flying around inside your house.
Other things to consider
When it comes to indoor air quality, chemical air fresheners and dryer sheets are not helpful. Neither is the chemical cocktail under your kitchen sink.
Attached garages are notorious for the introduction of not only foul odors and pollutants, but dust from automobiles and unsealed concrete floors - and you only need to look under your lawnmower to find a veritable garden of fungal growth.
In addition to their own fluff, Rover and the cats can also track in a lot of other stuff. Unkept fish tanks, litter boxes and moldy, buggy house plants are other potential sources of indoor irritants.
The Bottom Line
You may never entirely eliminate all the airborne intruders in your home however controlling even one or two sources might be all it takes to improve your indoor air quality, gain some relief and better enjoy your home.
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.