The easiest way to improve the indoor air quality in your home is to throw open the windows for some breezy cross ventilation. Unfortunately, this isn’t so easy to do in the winter! Indoor air quality is notoriously bad in the MD-DC area, and it’s 10 times worse when it gets cold out! While modern homes are being constructed with special care taken to improve ventilation as well as efficiency, many homes built within the last 20 years were built as tightly as possible to maximize furnace efficiency. The result? Homes with dirty, pollutant-filled air, locked in for months at a time.
Fortunately, there ARE ways to improve your home’s indoor quality during the winter that don’t require you to keep windows open or invest in costly home ventilation systems!
“Eliminate, Isolate and Ventilate”
The keys to improving indoor air quality are simple:
- Eliminate – eliminate unnecessary chemicals and other pollutants in and around your home
- Isolate – isolate pollutants you can’t eliminate by keeping them out of your living space
- Ventilate – ventilate your home as much as possible to reduce moisture and pollutants
Let’s take a look at these in more detail:
Improve Winter Air Quality: Eliminate
You may or may not already know this, but your home is chock full of toxic, dangerous chemicals – way too many to list! Everything from your paint to your carpeting to your cleaning supplies emits some kind of harmful chemical. While this isn’t something to be afraid of, it is helpful to take steps to limit your exposure, especially during the winter.
The best way to eliminate harmful chemicals from your home is to swap them out with “healthier” versions of the same products. Swap out as many of your household cleaning chemicals with low pollutant varieties as soon as possible. You can also switch to low- or no-VOC paints and chemical free carpeting, textiles and furniture, though these tend to be bigger expenses. And, of course, if you smoke in your home, take it outside – cigarettes are a major contributor to poor indoor air quality, especially in the winter.
Improve Winter Air Quality: Isolate
As much as we’d like to encourage you to get rid of every harmful chemical in your home, often this is simply not possible. When it comes down to it, some chemicals are going to have to be diverted rather than eliminated. Two big players in this category are radon and exhaust from gas-burning appliances. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that emanates from the ground all over the world, in varying degrees – and is the number two cause of lung cancer in the US, after smoking! Simply by virtue of being on the ground, your home basically acts like a radon trap. Fortunately, there is a way to reduce the amount of radon going into your home (though it’s not a DIY project!). Basically, you’ll need to have a series of pipes hooked to an outdoor fan that continuously sucks the air out and exhausts it above your house.
Other prime sources of poor indoor air quality include your furnace, hot water heater and any other gas burning appliances. When gas burning appliances run, they emit toxins such as carbon monoxide that must be vented out of your home. While this is normally done automatically, it is possible your vents can get kinked. Have an HVAC serviceman come out and inspect your gas furnace and other gas burning appliances once or twice a year so you can make sure they’ll run safely at all times.
Improve Winter Air Quality: Ventilate
A slightly more complicated, but highly effective, way to improve your indoor air quality is installing a mechanical ventilation system in your home. Mechanical ventilation systems consist of electric fans that circulate and exhaust air from your home 24/7 (the fans are highly efficient, don’t worry!). A well-balanced mechanical ventilation system can greatly improve your indoor air quality without compromising your home’s heating efficiency – call Michael Bonsby Heating & Air Conditioning for more details!
Indoor air quality is a problem in many homes in Maryland and Washington, DC – and it’s much worse in the winter! If you want more tips on how to improve your indoor air quality during the winter, or if you want to install a mechanical ventilation system, call Michael Bonsby Heating & Air Conditioning today!