Indoor Air Quality: What’s The Big Deal?
There was a time when humans breathed much better air. They were an outdoor species by nature, designed to breathe fresh air. We spent the majority of our time outside — shopping (hunting) and working (building simple tools to make fires and protect our family from wild beasts).
That’s not the case anymore. We live in complex structures that have, like ourselves, evolved over time. As energy costs have risen, homes are sealed tighter for better efficiency. But that comes at a different cost.
Indoor air quality is important for good health, because the average human spends the majority of their life indoors – 87% on average, according to the EPA. With homes taking in less fresh air than ever before, it’s more important than ever before to ensure your home is “breathing” properly – so you and your family can too. Moore Solar / Heating / Cooling recommends using your house as a home air treatment center. Want to know how? See below.
The Most Important Characteristics of Indoor Air Quality
According to the EPA, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. While headlines are centered around outdoor pollutants such as smog, ozone deterioration and the the wildfires in our region, it’s generally accepted that fresh air is better than inside air in most places. Depending on where you live, outdoor air may seem like an unlikely help (think Los Angeles). However, your home’s air is always better with fresh air running through it.
Proper Air Ventilation
Have you ever been in a room that just felt “stuffy?” There might just be too many people crowding the air. But a lack of ventilation can also cause humidity levels to rise, leaving you feeling like you need fresh air. Likewise, poor ventilation promotes condensation on cooler building materials, such as carpeting, exterior walls, windows and toilet tanks. And condensation is not good inside your home. So how can you achieve humidity control with your ventilation?
Run your ventilation fans often – in the bathroom (especially while showering), and in the kitchen when using the stove. Think of this as allowing your home to exhale stale air, while pulling in fresh air through natural leakage cracks or fresh air inlets. Just be mindful that this creates negative air pressure, and your home can pull in soil gasses such as radon as well. However, you can balance this pressure by allowing your home to inhale as well.
Using a window fan or built-in fan device allows your home to “breathe in”, creating positive pressure. This pushes stale air out through leakage cracks or natural air outlets. It can also create a high-pressure environment that keeps harmful substances out. However, moisture issues can arise from stale air being forced into wall and ceiling cavities. Too much positive or negative pressure is not good for proper air circulation. Like many things in life, you need balance – inhale…then exhale.
Think of the best type of ventilation for a home operating exactly as a person – it breathes in and breathes out. When you can have both fans that both push in and exhaust airflow – a balanced airflow system – you are likely to see the best results.
Airflow in Your Duct System
If your ventilation system is ducted, it should be pointed to the areas lived in the most – living room, kitchen, bedroom. If your HVAC system is the proper size, condensation and humidity issues in your air ducts should not be an issue. Are you purchasing a new home? There’s something else you should know.
If you think your home inspector will take his good old time looking for moisture in crawlspaces or below ground areas, think again. Dirt and moisture in your duct system can be bad news, and it typically goes undetected in home inspections.
Change Your Air Filters
You should change your air filters at least every three months for single occupancy homes, and even more often if you live with family. Don’t forget to include your pets in this count. Air filters can catch all types of airborne particulates. The more buildup, the less efficient the filter becomes and the more restricted your airflow. Clogged air filters can also lower the performance of your HVAC system.
Installing air filters with a higher MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) helps to ensure that pollen and other large particulates stay out of your HVAC system. Also, use HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, and change them once per month during allergy season. You can find them at your local big box retailer or hardware store.
HVAC Indoor Air Quality for Allergy and Asthma Sufferers
Do you feel like you’re getting sick? Many parents and children often find it hard to distinguish between a cold and allergies. Immediate health effects of poor indoor air quality include fatigue, dizziness, headaches and eye, nose and throat irritation. Long-term effects can range from severe lung issues to a higher risk of cancer.
Do you believe you have an indoor air quality issue? With the exception of colorless, odorless gasses such as radon and carbon monoxide, you can typically narrow it down based on your symptoms and home environment.
Pet Dander – When Your Loved Ones Make You Sneeze
Can you imagine being allergic to your spouse or child? Moms, dads and children alike suffer from being allergic to beloved family members living under their roof. In fact, an estimated 10 percent of people are allergic to household pets. Likewise, cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Pet allergies can lead to nasal congestion, runny nose and intense sneezing. Worse, dander sticks to your clothes and can transfer to work, your children’s schools and other public areas. If you just bought a pet, you’ll learn quickly if you are allergic.
Some of your options include immunotherapy or air cleaners. If you don’t own a pet but have these issues, know your triggers so you can make due accordingly in social environments. Read more below to find out more specific treatment options.
Pollen in Your Home’s Ventilation
One in five adults and children are affected by hay fever in their lifetime. Pollen is a source of poor air quality that comes from the outdoors – through ventilation, and on our clothes or shoes. Some things you can do to prevent pollen tracking into your home:
- Sweep your porch(es).
- Keep your windows shut.
- Keep your car in the garage.
- Take off your coat and shoes immediately upon entrance.
- It’s in your hair! Shower before bed to avoid pollen-covered pillows.
- Brush your pets off upon entering your home.
- Dust twice per week.
If you are the early morning run type, you may find it ruined during allergy season, as pollen counts are highest between 5 and 10 a.m. Likewise, if your grandma still dries her clothes outside, it’s time for a sit-down with grandma. However, if you have trees in your yard that produce pollen – you either have to cut it down, or deal with it.
Mold in Your Home’s Duct Vents
Mold has become – perhaps more than any other known organic pollutant – an issue due to the way new homes are built, with the purpose of optimizing for efficiency.
“They’re too green,” Nelson Barnes Jr., a mold remediation expert, told the Washington Post. “Houses need to breathe.”
Mold can grow in or around your duct vents due to condensate from your air conditioner. If you find a black substance in or around your vents:
- Make sure you test to ensure it is actually mold.
- Identify the cause. Damp baseboards and wet wall interiors are common causes. If you can’t fix at the source, it will regenerate.
- If mold makes its way into the insulation around your ductwork, you will need to replace it.
- Hire a professional cleaner. Rest assured you won’t be able to reach all of the mold yourself.
It’s well-known that a rainy season can ward off outdoor allergies such as pollen. But it can have the opposite effect on your home with mold, which feeds off moisture and dirt.
Mold thrives in moist conditions with a food source such as dust or dirt. Symptoms from mold, no matter the type, vary from person to person. Some experience typical allergy symptoms such as itching and sneezing, while others develop serious lung issues.
Dust Mites: Bed Bugs’ Ugly Cousin
Dust mites are in nearly every home – you can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them unless you clean every day. Lung.org says four out of five homes have the dust mite allergen in at least one bed. These are microscopic organisms are also in upholstery and carpeting. Some other things to consider:
- An air conditioner or dehumidifier are top weapons in your arsenal to fight dust mites as they love warm, humid areas.
- Use hypoallergenic covers on your pillows and mattresses.
- Wash your bedding once per week in hot water.
- Use a damp rag to remove dust and a vacuum to remove allergens.
Combustion Sources: Smokers and Carbon Monoxide
The good news is that smoking is down among U.S. adults, from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2016. The bad news is smoking is still just as harmful as ever on asthma sufferers.
Next time you’re walking through that crowd having a smoke break, don’t hang around to chat too long. A newer concept is third-hand smoke – residue from tobacco smoke particles that latch on to people or pets, carry indoors and make their way through the HVAC system.
Tobacco smoke chemicals can make their way from one room to everywhere through ventilation. Peter DeCarlo and colleagues at Drexel University wrote: “HVAC systems recirculate and disperse air throughout the multiple rooms of the zone served by the system, meaning what happens in one room affects all of the other rooms in the zone.”
How Much Is Indoor Air Quality Testing?
Testing for contaminants can be a pain, as the number of issues in your home could be far-ranging. Measurement is most useful when a specific contaminant is a suspect, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
- Order detectors that take care of undetectable, harmful contaminants such as carbon monoxide and radon for under $20.
- For dust mites, order a spray that is typically under $20/bottle. Ventia offers an allergy test you can purchase online for $49.99.
- For Volatile Organic Contaminants such as formaldehyde, third-hand smoke particles and other chemical or biological contaminants, a test can range from $109.95-209.95
- DIY test kits for pollen and other allergies come with mixed results. Many people visit their primary care physician for allergy tests.
- Testing for specific types of mold (which you need to send off to a lab) is $40-50.
- Wisdom Panel breed testing for dog allergies costs $79.99. You can get a skin-prick test for more than $200 for more clinically accurate results, and get vials/injections to protect you from your pup for a six-month period for around $150. Cat testing can be more complex. See an allergist for best results.
How Moore Solar / Heating / Cooling Can Help With Indoor Air Quality
Moore Solar / Heating / Cooling Offers two great indoor air quality packages to keep you and your family breathing the best air! Are you receiving a replacement or installation? Our IAQ packages cost less when bundled with new equipment. Talk to us today!
The Fresh Start Air Quality Package*
1) activTek Air Scrubber Plus Induct 2000 – the most effective technology for removing airborne particles and disinfecting your home.
- Installed in your HVAC system, this can purify up to 3,000 square feet.
- Studies at the University of Cincinatti found that you can eliminate air partcles up to 250 times faster with the activeTek Air Scrubber.
- Studies at Kansas State University found that activeTek air scrubber can clean surfaces and eliminate germs, viruses and bacteria on surfaces in your home – doorknobs, keyboards, countertops, everything!
Check Out This Video To See The Difference!
***LIMITED TIME OFFER*** You can save 23% on a activTek Air Scrubber Plus Induct 2000. Fill out the form below!
2) RSP Media Filter
- Helps you and your family with respiratory conditions related to indoor air quality.
- Helps to keep you and your family safe from known allergens by removing dust, animal dander, pollen and mold.
- Energy efficient: these filters cost less than $5.00/year to operate.
3) Receive a full Roto-Brush Duct Cleaning and Antimicrobial Duct Fogging from our Diamond Certified HVAC Technicians
*seasonal pricing. Ask a Moore Solar / Heating / Cooling representative for further details.
The Clean Air Combo*
- activTek Air Scrubber Plus Induct 2000 with RSP Media Filter (no duct cleaning included)
*seasonal pricing. Ask a Moore Solar / Heating / Cooling representative for further details.
If you’ve just had an AC installed or replaced, or a furnace replaced by Moore, we always preform a complimentary four-month tune-up. If our technicians notice dust and dirt during this inspection, we will make sure to let you know your options and health benefits. Sonoma County in particular has some of the worst allergy indexes around, and the recent string of wildfires in the area have not helped.