When you ask someone about air quality, odds are they’ll talk mainly about their outdoor environment and air pollution as it relates to that. However, the reality is that most of us are probably much more affected by indoor air quality. Indoor air quality measurements take into account both pollutants and thermal conditions that can affect the people within the building. There are tons of things that can affect indoor air quality, including cleaning products, pesticides, paints, tobacco products, appliances, office equipment, and, of course, all of the things that get tracked in from outside. But did you know that even the materials that make up the structure of your home could be reducing the quality of the air inside? It’s true.
Everything from carpet (and the adhesive it’s installed with) to plywood to insulation can pollute the air in your home. Many building materials release volatile organic compounds (or VOCs). Building materials can also create and/or harbor dust, dust mites, mold, pollen, etc. This can be a nightmare for someone with a respiratory condition like asthma. But even if you and your family don’t have chronic issues, you could still experience headaches, congestion, and eye/nose/throat/skin irritation.
Unfortunately, you can’t have a building without building materials, so what can you do to mitigate some of the risks? The answer is to ensure that your home has good ventilation. There are a few things to consider here. First, you need to maintain your HVAC system. Make sure that it is clean and running efficiently. That starts with clean filters. Regularly replacing your filters can significantly reduce the concentration of pollutants in the air inside your home.
You may also want to consider having your HVAC system professionally cleaned and serviced annually. If you don’t feel like filter changes alone are doing the job, you could look into a whole house air cleaner. These are generally incorporated right into your existing HVAC system and can remove particles as small as .003 microns from the air.
If a whole house air cleaner seems like a bit much or, perhaps, too expensive, you could also look into individual room air cleaners. These work much the same way as a whole house air cleaner, just on a smaller scale. There are many models to choose from in a wide range of prices. While they may not eliminate all pollutants, they can certainly reduce them in the rooms you spend the most time in, thereby significantly reducing the overall amount of indoor pollution you breathe in.
The truth is that virtually everything in your home is contributing to lowering the quality of the air around you. But you don’t have to be afraid to breathe. With a little research, a little maintenance, and maybe a small investment in an air cleaning system, you and your family can breathe easy.