Learn how you can help keep your home healthy with these tips for better indoor air quality.
When you think about pollution, you probably think about the outdoors. Car exhaust, factory emissions, smoke from barbecues and bonfires, pollen and other allergens — all of it can add up to poor outdoor air quality. But did you know that your indoor air quality is also at risk from pollutants?
It’s true, and it’s the reason why HVAC systems, range hoods and vacuum cleaners have filters on them. Allergens, pet fur and dander, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paint, cleaners, and synthetic materials in furniture and building components can all harm your home’s indoor air quality and make you sick.
Follow these tips to keep the air inside your home clean and healthy.
Change Your HVAC Filter
HVAC filters capture airborne dust, pet hair, dander and other irritants using electrostatic materials, but that means they get clogged after a while and need to be replaced. Not only do they lose their effectiveness, but clogged filters can also slow airflow through the system and put unnecessary stress on your HVAC. So, you need to change them for the health of your HVAC system, as well as your own indoor air quality. If you live in your house full-time you should change your air filter at least every 90 days.
Clean Your Ducts
Not everyone needs to clean their home’s ductwork, but over time, dust, debris, mold and mildew can build up inside of the ducts. When that happens, the irritants could be distributed throughout your home via its ventilation system. Having your ducts cleaned can freshen up the air flowing through your home.
Don’t Forget Your Vacuum and Range Hood Filters
When was the last time you replaced the filter in your vacuum cleaner? What about the last time you cleaned your kitchen range hood vent? These common household filters can also have a huge impact on indoor air quality. Change or clean your vacuum cleaner filter about once a year, and clean your range hood filter every six months or so.
Keep Your Floors Clean
Allergens and chemicals collect in household dust. There could be chemicals and heavy metals, like lead, in your household dust that have been there for decades. Vacuum floors at least twice a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. A decent vacuum with a HEPA filter, rotating brush and good suction can help reduce lead levels in your home.
You can use plain water and a mop, or a dry microfiber dust mop, to wipe up dust and allergens from the floor after vacuuming. Have everyone wipe their feet at the door, and even remove their shoes before entering the house. People track in all kinds of things on their shoes, including chemicals, pesticides, lead from ground pollution, pollen and dirt. Removing your shoes at the door is one of the best things you can do to keep your floors clean.
Both gas and electric stoves produce pollutants in operation, including smoke, odors, and even nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Use your kitchen vent hood to keep these pollutants out of your indoor air. Open windows when painting, cleaning or using household products that could produce VOCs.
Mildew, mold, and dust mites love a warm, humid atmosphere, so don’t give it to them. Keep your indoor air at 30 to 50 percent humidity. Use a dehumidifier, if necessary, although your HVAC will probably help reduce indoor humidity, as well as indoor pollen count. Make sure your clothes dryer vents to the outside, and take care to avoid creating conditions for mold growth — fix leaky plumbing, don’t water your houseplants too much, use a bathroom fan to ventilate steam when showering, and empty the drip pans in your dehumidifier and any window A/C units.
Test for Radon
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is a leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It’s linked to an increased risk of cancer, and if you smoke and have radon in your home, your risk is even higher. Radon forms when uranium, an element found almost everywhere, decays in the soil. It seeps up through the soil and comes into your home through tiny cracks in the foundation. Any house can have radon — it’s not just old or drafty houses that get it.
Fortunately, testing for it is easy and cheap. You can buy home test kits that involve leaving the sample collector in your home for some period of time, and then sending it off to a lab. If you do have radon in your home, radon mitigation systems are available, and while they’re not the cheapest, they’re also not the most expensive thing you can buy for a home.
There are more than 4,000 toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, including formaldehyde, arsenic and lead. Secondhand smoke can linger in the air for hours, and it can even stain the walls. If you or your guests are smoking inside, it’s polluting your indoor air with extremely dangerous chemicals. Ideally, you wouldn’t smoke at all, but smoking outside is a compromise that can protect your family from toxic secondhand smoke and preserve your indoor air quality.
Is the air inside your house clean? You might be surprised at how many pollutants can affect the quality of your indoor air. Take steps to improve and preserve your indoor air quality, including changing your air filters and getting your HVAC serviced regularly. With a home warranty from American Home Shield® you can take advantage of the HVAC services we offer.
If you’re already an AHS member, we’re here for you when you need us. You can request service in MyAccount 24/7.