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How to Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Your home Home

We think about the cleanliness of our homes but do we think about the cleanliness of our indoor air? According to the EPA our homes can be up to 5 times more polluted on the inside than outdoors. Since most of us spend the majority of time indoors - it's easy to see why making sure the air you breathe while in your home is clean and pollutant free. Here are five tips that will help you keep the indoor air quality of your home healthy for all of its occupants.

01. Remove the sources of pollution in your home

Daughter helping father to clean floor at home

Mold, Radon, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals in your home can have adverse effects on your health and result in eye irritation, headaches, allergies, asthma and even more serious respiratory problems. Addressing the sources of these is always the best strategy for optimizing the indoor air quality of your home. 

  • Resolve water issues and leaks quickly - water infiltration, if not remedied, can lead to mold, mildew and even major structural damage

  • Have your home tested for Radon - if there is a problem with high levels you will need to consult with a specialist

  • Keep cleaning products, pesticides, household chemicals and paint in the garage or in a well- ventilated room that is separate from the main living and sleeping areas

  • Check your home furnishings and paint for VOC's and formaldehyde - look for low VOC and PVC carpeting, flooring and soft furnishings when replacing

  • Be careful about the toxins you bring into the home - read the labels, look for less-toxic alternatives or just keep them out of your home altogether

  • Have your ducts cleaned periodically - dirty ductwork can circulate illness-causing viruses and bacteria around your home

  • Change the filter on your furnace regularly

O2.  Install an Energy Recovery Ventilator 

An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) exchanges fresh outdoor air for stale indoor air, while imparting the energy and moisture content of the outgoing (tempered) air to the incoming air. Imagine a bitter cold winter day. In a typical heating system, freezing air will be brought into the furnace from the outside. The furnace takes the cold, dry air and heats it from 32°F to 70°F and, if you have a humidifier, adds moisture into the air. On the exhaust side - all of that heated and humidified air gets pushed out back outside. With an ERV installed - instead of the normal intake and exhaust of air, the two streams are connected via the ERV so that the heat and humidity from the exhaust is used to heat and humidify the incoming air. The opposite goes in the summer when bringing in hot exterior air that your HVAC system cools and dehumidifies.

ERV and Efficient HVAC and Hot Water Heating Equipment

ERV's can make a huge difference for air quality in the home - especially now as the residential construction industry is building tighter and tighter homes. A tighter home means more energy efficiency, but it also means that less outside air is coming into your home, thus the need for mechanical ventilation and air purification systems. 

While an ERV is an extremely efficient way to improve the air quality in your home and also save energy, they can be expensive to install or not practical for some existing homes. There are "spot ERV's" that take care of 300-500 SF of living space and go in somewhat like a bathroom fan, Panasonic, Broan and other companies make them. There's also through-the-wall ductless ERV's  that go through an exterior wall that will work for small applications and are relatively cost effective. 

03. Remove Gas-Fired Appliances and Mechanicals with All-Electric versions

Studies have shown that gas cooktops and ovens can significantly increase the levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde when in use. If your home has a good hood venting system that exhausts to the outdoors, these elevated levels are manageable. However, if your kitchen is like the majority of kitchens in the U.S. that just have recirculating hood vents that just pull the air through a filter, then this can be problematic - especially for children. With Induction heating technology taking the forefront in cooking technology, there is just no reason to stick with a gas stove. 

FUGE19004-KITCHEN-INDUCTION-COOKTOP

If you’re in the market to replace your HVAC system or a hot water heater, do your homework and look into versions that use electric heat pumps. In the last decade these have become more and more efficient. While these definitely will save you money in your monthly energy bills, they also will help to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Going all-electric is going to be a common discussion going forward as some communities in California have already started to change their residential building codes to require all-electric appliances and mechanicals in new construction.

04. Insulate and air-seal your house

This may seem counterintuitive, but as long as your home as adequate air exchange from a mechanical device like an ERV or spot ventilation systems, a tightly sealed and insulated home will result in less dust, less condensation and less mold spores - all these will help to create the best indoor air quality. Make sure your insulation contractor uses a blower door test to ensure that your home is ventilated properly.

Air Sealing YOUR HOME

05.  Manage the humidity

The ideal range for indoor humidity is dependent upon the season, but in general, most experts will tell you that somewhere in the 30%-50% range is the goal. Humidity in the extremes will not only adversely affect your comfort, but can also cause problems to you and your home's health. And when looking at proper humidity levels - don't forget your attic as poor ventilation in your roof can cause condensation resulting in mold and mildew.

Energy-efficient ventilation systems, if installed correctly, can manage the humidity in your home regardless of the season, save you energy and improve the indoor air quality and comfort of your home.

Condensation on a glass window

Low Humidity Problems

  • Dry skin, cracked lips, nose bleeds and sore throats

  • Aggravated allergy symptoms

  • Cracked wood trim/flooring and drywall

  • Cracked furniture

High Humidity Problems

  • Mold and mildew creation 

  • Condensation on windows can cause window and door frames to rot

  • Peeling paint or wallpaper

  • Poor sleep due to overheating - high humidity can prevent your body's natural evaporation cycle for cooling down body temperature

If you are considering doing a major update to your home, then this is the perfect time to incorporate some or all of these tips into your renovation. The result will be not only a healthier home, but a home that will save you money, be more comfortable to live in and will be easier to maintain. 

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