Ventilate!

Now that you are aware of why HVAC system maintenance is important and how indoor air quality affects your health, we are going to discuss strategies for how to improve indoor air quality.

The EPA Recommends Three Strategies

Step 1: Eliminate the source

The single most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate the factor that is corrupting the air. Sources of indoor air pollutants include building materials, combustion sources, furnishings, household cleaning products, pesticides, smoking, and even outdoor air pollution. Some building products contain asbestos, and many building products and furnishings give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Many sources of indoor pollution can be eliminated by switching to non-toxic alternatives to everyday products and services. Toxic household cleaning products should be replaced with non-toxic or plant-based cleaners. Request that your pest control company switch to non-toxic alternatives for indoor use.

Other sources of indoor pollution can at least be reduced through a few simple steps. Do not smoke or allow others to smoke inside your home. Limit the use of indoor space heaters that burn kerosene or oil. Have your chimney cleaned and ensure that it draws properly to prevent smoke from backing up into the house.

Sometimes it may not be possible to eliminate a source of pollution. For example, exhaust fumes from a nearby road and certain building products in a rented home or apartment can only be “eliminated” if the occupant moves to another location free from these pollution sources.

Step 2: Improve Ventilation

If the source of pollution can’t be eliminated, then the next best step is to improve ventilation. You may have heard the old adage, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” This is the name of the game when it comes to reducing the concentration of pollutants indoors through improved ventilation.

Methods of improving ventilation include exhausting indoor air outside the structure and introducing fresh air from outside the structure or even from areas inside the structure that are not affected by the pollution source. Exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms may be used to reduce the level of pollutants inside the home as long as the fans are exhausted outside the home and not into the attic or simply filtered and recirculated into the room. Opening windows and doors on a pleasant day and running an attic or window fan will draw fresh air inside and aid in necessary air changes. Do keep in mind that increasing ventilation through running fans may increase energy consumption and associated costs.

Step 3: Clean the Air

Air cleaners or powered air filtration devices may be used in conjunction with improved ventilation if the source of pollution can’t be eliminated. When shopping for an air cleaner, look for one with the highest efficiency rating you can afford. Also ensure that the airflow rating, expressed as cubic feet per minute (CFM) is matched to the size of the room in which you plan to use it. In general, air cleaners are more effective at removing dust and particulate matter from the air and less effective at removing gaseous pollutants.

 

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