How To Improve Indoor Air Quality Naturally
Air makes up the overwhelming majority of planet Earth’s atmosphere. Roughly 98% of air consists of just two elements, nitrogen and oxygen, with just less than a percent coming from argon. What little remains comes from a combination of hydrogen, krypton, helium, neon, and xenon. Although pollutants aren’t a big ingredient in the recipe for air, they can still have unwanted effects on human health. These side effects range from minor inconveniences such as eye irritation, runny nose, and sore throat to life-changing cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Believe it or not, indoor air quality can impact human health more than outdoor air quality. Follow these tips to boost your humble abode’s indoor air quality.
Outdoor Air Pollutants Aren’t the Same as Indoor Air Pollutants
The concept of air quality is simple. Substances that travel in the air are often considered pollutants. Gases from combustion or that come from off-gassing petrochemicals are also pollutants. Since the human body isn’t used to them, these pollutants can cause health problems.
Although the underlying principle of air quality remains the same, outdoor air pollutants differ from the causes of poor indoor air quality. Common outdoor air pollutants include nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. Even though particulate matter affects all air, the most common outdoor particulate pollutants come from factories, power plants, and cars. Northern Georgia isn’t home to very many dust storms or wildfires, though these events can also have major effects on outdoor air quality.
Common Causes of Bad Indoor Air Quality
As mentioned above, particulate matter has long been and always will be a major contributor to poor air quality.
In terms of space heaters, electric heaters are much more popular today than gas heaters. Still, many homeowners use gas-powered heaters. Unlike HVAC systems, gas and kerosene heaters don’t have vents.
Despite being an effective way to generate heat, combustion releases many byproducts that can be harmful to human health. Unvented gas and kerosene heaters can release carbon monoxide into your home, potentially leading to permanent health problems or death. Other particulates released by ventless gas-powered heaters include nitrogen dioxide and soot. Stoves, fireplaces, and other heaters also release similar particulate matter into homes.
Another cause of indoor particulate matter is tobacco smoke. Even if you don’t smoke inside, particles can cling onto your clothing, in turn being released throughout your home after returning inside.
Living organisms can impair indoor air quality. Just like humans, dogs, cats, and other furry animals shed skin flakes. Although most people aren’t allergic to their own skin, pet dander frequently causes allergies and other short-term side effects.
Mold is another common culprit of subpar air quality. A type of fungus, mold spreads by discharging microscopic spores. These spores easily spread through the air, in turn causing an allergic response in those who breathe them.
Although this is becoming less of an issue, some building materials negatively affect air quality. Whether you’ve learned about it from mesothelioma class-action lawsuits, in-house construction industry education efforts, or from somewhere else, you’re well aware of the fact that asbestos can cause serious health complications.
Asbestos was widely used for well over 100 years for building materials such as insulation and fire retardants before the United States government took legislative measures to ban the material in the 1970s and 1980s. While your home probably doesn’t contain much asbestos, it might contain other toxic materials, including:
- Formaldehyde, which is sometimes included in adhesives that are used to make pressed wood products. Examples include cheap tongue-and-groove flooring and particleboard shelves.
- Lead, which can lead to renal system problems, neurological damages, birth defects, and anemia, was widely used in paint until the late 1970s.
- Isocyanates have been used in spray-on insulation. Although this insulation is typically only used in attics, isocyanates can evaporate from insulation over time, potentially getting into your home’s air supply.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are another major type of indoor air pollutant. Although hundreds of common household products contain VOCs, all of them easily emit gases into your home’s air supply. These gases often cause allergic reactions. Some can even cause long-term adverse side effects such as memory loss and visual problems.
Products that contain VOCs include markers, paint pens, air fresheners, disinfectant wipes, all-purpose cleaners, pesticides, and wood preservatives.
If You Have Fireplaces, Stoves, or Gas Heaters, Prioritize Ventilation
There isn’t one clear-cut way to eliminate pollutants from fireplaces, stoves, or gas-powered heaters. However, these general strategies are all good places to start.
When cooking, turn on your kitchen’s exhaust fan. If you use gas-powered heaters in rooms with exhaust fans, always turn them on while running your heaters.
If you have a fireplace, equip its opening with tight-fitting doors. Use them whenever possible. Another surefire indoor air quality improvement method is installing a fresh air vent into your fireplace. You can install vents through your wall or through your roof. If you already have a chimney, installing a roof-based vent will likely be easier and cheaper.
Get Rid of Products With Volatile Organic Compounds
Natural doesn’t always mean safe. For example, tobacco use can cause cancer, COPD, and cardiovascular disease. Many other plant-based products can have similar consequences if ingested.
While man-made products aren’t always bad, many household products contain volatile organic compounds. From now on, hold yourself to read through product labels before buying them. If you can’t find much information about products via their labels, research them online before bringing them into your home.
Although VOCs are common across consumer goods found in supermarkets, you can find loads of helpful insights on the internet and in books. If you truly value the power of nature, look for natural replacements for these VOC-infested household products.
Start Removing Your Shoes Before Entering Your Home
Dating back to elementary school, you might’ve heard the halfway-serious saying that “dirt doesn’t hurt.”
It turns out that, when it comes to indoor air quality, dirt can hurt. While you can’t always avoid dirt, you can always remove your shoes before entering your home.
After dirt dries, it can easily become airborne and reduce indoor air quality. You could also track in other organic particulates such as pollen and dander, both of which can easily go airborne.
While you’re at it, make a habit of regularly cleaning your doormats or anywhere else you store shoes.
Boost Your Home’s Relative Humidity
You don’t need a humidifier to raise your home’s humidity. Anything that releases steam or water vapor into the air will welcome additional humidity into your home.
Some examples of natural humidity-boosting techniques include regularly watering your houseplants, not using exhaust fans after taking baths, and boiling water on your stovetop.
If you’d like additional indoor air quality assistance, have us help out. Located in Alpharetta, Georgia, 4 Seasons Heating & Air provides whole-home heating, ventilation, and cooling solutions. To set up an appointment, reach out to us at your earliest convenience.