Have you looked outside lately? It’s murky out there. It seems like there are fires burning all around us right now. Between the soot, smoke, dust and wind, many of us have been thinking a lot about the quality of the air we breathe.
The fires have given us a visual reminder of contaminants in our outdoor air. Surprisingly, indoor-air quality is ranked as one of the biggest concerns among homebuyers.
The average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors. As we age, indoor-air quality becomes more and more important, especially for baby boomers like me. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has even listed indoor-air pollution among the top five environmental health concerns.
Baby boomers seem to be leading the craze for healthy living. We spend a signifi cant amount of time and money on our health, buying exercise equipment, vitamins, supplements, gym memberships, etc. Parents are starting to think more about indoor-air quality as well as more children are being diagnosed with allergies, asthma and other breathing disorders at an early age.
With all the money we spend trying to improve our health, it just makes sense to spend a little time and money looking at ways we can improve the quality of the indoor air we breathe.
Here are three ways the EPA recommends to easily improve the air quality in your home.
Control pollution sources
Cutting off the pollutants at the source is a great place to start improving air quality. This is an area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It will cost you a lot more to clean your air than it will to remove the source of contamination.
If you are building a new home, this can be as simple as selecting non-toxic or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) building materials. There are many seemingly harmless building materials that contain toxic and harmful substances. Ask your homebuilder about using non-toxic paint, flooring, cabinetry and more. The slight increase in the cost of non-toxic materials will definitely payoff in health benefits, especially if someone in your family struggles with asthma.
For existing homes, you can look for ways to seal off or enclose the sources of contamination. For contamination sources that can’t be contained, such as a gas stove, you can adjust the settings to decrease the amount of emissions.
On an even more basic level, you can begin purchasing green and non-toxic household products. There are a variety of affordable options on the market today. Just using newer environmentally friendly cleaning products in your daily life will help improve the quality of the air in your home.
Ventilation can increase your energy costs as conditioned air is vented out.
However, improving ventilation will pay off in health benefits. Since outdoor air is actually less polluted than indoor air, ventilation is a great way to improve indoor-air quality.
Most cooks these days prefer a gas cooktop, but appliances that burn gas can cause particulates and carbon monoxide.
Incomplete combustion and poor ventilation of appliances such as cook stoves, gas furnaces, gas boilers and gas water heaters can increase the amount of indoor contaminants.
Make sure your gas stove has an adequate fan that exhausts outside your home. Also, have your gas or wood-burning fireplace checked to make sure it is properly sealed and vented.
Making sure the spot-vents around your home, such as bathroom vents, are properly installed and functioning will help to remove particulates from your indoor air.
Filtration is the third way you can help improve your indoor air quality.
While ventilation is extremely important, drawing outdoor air into the house can cause another source of indoor air pollution through particulates and allergens that are drawn indoors through your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system. This is especially true of older evaporative cooling systems. This can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.
Most home HVAC systems today have a filtration system.
Experts recommend using filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value of (MERV) 6-8. The higher MERV level, the better, especially for those with asthma or other respiratory concerns.
In addition to proper HVAC filtration, there are many other types and sizes of air cleaners on the market. A huge selection of portable household air purifiers can be found at home stores ranging from $20 to more than $300. Selecting the right purifier will be based on how large an area you want to filter and how much money you want to spend.
Portable air purifiers may not remove enough of pollutants for individuals with specific heath concerns. If that is the case, you can also elect to install a whole-house air purifier, which is generally more effective than a portable system.
Whichever system you select, make sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on upkeep and maintenance to get the optimal benefits.
We may not be able to control the wildfires raging around us, but eliminating pollutants, proper ventilation and air purification can help us make sure our homes are a safer, healthier place to live.