Humans, like all mammals, breathe air as a means of survival. Although you breathe thousands of times every day, you probably don’t think about air quality all the time. Even if you don’t live in a bustling cityscape with profound industrial activity, air quality — specifically indoor air quality — is something that affects you on a daily basis.
What Is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality, also known as IAQ or indoor environmental quality, covers airborne chemicals, pathogens, substances, and other particulates near and within manmade structures that are known to impact the health and well-being of occupants, including humans and pets.
Why Is Indoor Air Quality Important?
Every building, even those in rural areas with few air pollution issues, is liable to contain airborne matter or be subject to other air quality issues that have been proven to adversely affect the well-being of humans. Short-term, immediate adverse effects, ranging from asthma and allergy flare-ups to long-term, fatal diseases like cancer, can result from indoor air quality issues. Even if you aren’t prone to air quality-related issues, your cohabitants, loved ones, peers, coworkers, and community members may be. You should also care about IAQ because there’s not much awareness among Americans regarding the health issues that can result from indoor air quality issues.
What Symptoms Can Indicate Poor Air Quality?
You should know that not all problems caused by bad indoor air quality are immediately recognizable. Here are some of the most common immediate symptoms of air quality issues:
- Ear, nose, throat, eye, and skin irritation
What Diseases or Long-Term Outcomes Can Result From Failing Indoor Air Quality?
You may notice that many of the issues below are consistent with long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or are found in many long-term smokers. This is true. Keep in mind that while smoking indoors is a dangerous and preventable pollutant, exposure to structures in which tobacco isn’t smoked can still cause these issues:
- COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Heart disease
What Are the Most Common Causes of Indoor Air Pollution?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sources of indoor air pollution. However, most cases of poor air quality indoors are caused by a few known culprits. Many cases don’t just feature one source of pollutants that are potentially harmful to humans; rather, negligent residents, businesses, and building owners allow multiple sources of bad air quality to build up over the years.
Fireplaces, wood stoves, and other appliances that use combustion to burn fuel are common offenders. Although no longer produced, insulation containing asbestos has caused many cases of lung disease over the past few decades. New carpet and flooring may present issues as well. Other sources of indoor air pollution include:
- Furniture or cabinets containing pressed wood products
- HVAC systems, fans, and humidifiers
- Uncontrolled moisture that harbors mold and mildew
- Household cleaning products
- Driers, stoves and other appliances that run on gas
How Can You Improve Indoor Air Quality?
Fortunately, if you are both aware of indoor air quality issues and are willing to make beneficial changes, you don’t have to live with bad air quality any longer. The strategies below are affordable, readily available, and easy enough for anybody to take advantage of.
Clean Your Home’s Air Ducts
Air ducts, which carry heated and air-conditioned air throughout homes, are some of the most neglected areas of residential buildings. Especially in homes with poor indoor air quality, air ducts are often caked with pollen, pet dander, and dust from nearly every unwanted source imaginable. Hiring a professional to clean your air ducts is recommended as most people don’t have the expensive equipment required to properly clean out the ductwork or the know-how to get the job done right.
Make Use of Local Exhaust Systems
Exhaust fans, also known as local exhaust systems, are some of the most widely underutilized tools for maintaining good indoor air quality. Most homes have an exhaust removal fan over the stove and in each bathroom. If your home has these exhausts, run the one in the bathroom after showering for at least 45 minutes. You should also run your kitchen’s exhaust while cooking, especially if you’re using the stovetop, and for at least a few minutes after you’re done.
Regularly Change Your HVAC System’s Air Filters
Every central HVAC unit pulls air from inside homes using large, grated air intakes. These intakes are equipped with air filters that prevent dust, debris, and other unwanted particles from entering home ventilation systems. Unfortunately, many Americans fail to change these filters as often as they should. Aim to change your air filters at least four times per year. If you’re looking to save money, consider buying washable, reusable air filters. These indoor HVAC filters should be washed every three months and replaced once per year. It’s a good idea to consult your HVAC professional to find out if reusable filters are a good fit for your system.
Don’t Forget About Other Fans, Heaters, and Air Conditioners
You probably have at least one box fan, ceiling fan, space heater, wall-mounted air conditioner, or ductless HVAC system in your home. These heaters, air conditioners, and ventilators need to be cleaned regularly. Aim to thoroughly dust them every month during periods of peak usage. Don’t forget about the filters used by air purifiers, ductless HVAC systems, or air conditioners — these also need to be swapped out for new ones every three months. Again, if you’d rather use washable filters, that’s fine; just make sure to clean them regularly and to change them when necessary.
Welcome Outdoor Air on a Daily Basis
If your residence suffers from poor indoor air quality, dilute the air by simply welcoming fresh air inside. Be careful not to run heating or cooling systems while windows or doors are open as this wastes energy and adds unneeded stress on HVAC systems. Don’t forget to keep seasonality in mind, either; if you or your housemates are sensitive to pollen, avoid airing out your house in the spring.
Rugs and Carpets Can Harbor Pollutants
Rugs and carpets can act as beautiful additions to any home. Carpets are comfortable to walk on, to boot, and rugs keep your cohabitants from tracking dirt into your residence. However, rugs and carpets are notorious for harboring particulates that can reduce indoor air quality. The solution to this is keeping them clean. In addition to regularly vacuuming your carpets and rugs with a high-quality vacuum, shampoo them at least twice a year. Don’t be afraid to throw out old, dirty rugs either.
Have you tried all these remedies but still suffer from poor indoor air quality? Believe it or not, this is a common issue. At Honest Air Conditioning, we’ve resolved countless air quality issues, putting smiles on hundreds of customers’ faces across the greater Mesa, Arizona, area in the process. What are you waiting for? Visit our website or social media pages to get on top of your home’s air quality today. We can also help with heating and cooling repair, installation, and maintenance!