In the winter, being snug as a bug in a rug in your home can be cozy, but it can also play havoc with your indoor air quality (IAQ) here in Virginia, creating some significant health problems. At Air Handlers, we recommend taking precautions to avoid the common issues associated with winter indoor air quality.
Why Does Winter Cause Problems?
During the warmer months, you open your windows and let the fresh air in to your Chesapeake home. During the colder months, you do the opposite, locking everything up tight, caulking and blocking anywhere cold air can seep in.
While this keeps you toasty, unfortunately it traps your indoor air inside containing all the impurities from your home. With homes being built more and more energy efficient, there are less ways for outdoor air to infiltrate your home and help ventilate it.
What Are Some Common Issues?
All this confined air leads to a host of issues. An early pioneer of indoor air quality, Dr. Marilyn Black found after years of research “poor indoor air quality was directly related to the 500 to 1,000 volatile organic compounds [VOCs] coming from everyday materials, such as paint, floorings, furnishings and printers.”
In addition, it’s been shown pet dander, cleaning products, environmental tobacco smoke, mold, dust, mildew, personal-care products, asbestos, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and a host of other factors also contribute to your indoor air’s pollution.
As a result of poor indoor air quality, you or someone in your home may experience some of these common symptoms on a regular basis:
• Flu-like symptoms
• Itchy eyes, nose, and/or throat
• Worsened asthma, allergies, or chronic illnesses
Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality in the Winter
Just because it’s winter, do not assume you have to suffer through poor indoor air quality. There are things you can do to help improve it. Here are some of our recommendations:
Get your ductwork inspected and cleaned. Having your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system’s air ducts inspected can alert you to leaks, where unconditioned air could be leaking and contributing to your problem. Then having your ducts cleaned will remove any dust-and-debris buildup, preventing it from entering into your airflow.
Have your furnace cleaned and checked. Ensuring your furnace and its filter are clean helps alleviate more dust and debris from making it into your lungs. Your furnace is an integral component in your home’s HVAC system, so having it regularly checked and tuned up keeps things working efficiently for a long time.
Consider installing an air purifier. Your HVAC system’s air filter can only stop so many types and sizes of particles. Many particles are not visible to the human eye yet can still do harm. An air purifier can eradicate them from your home’s airflow.
Check your home’s humidity levels. Optimally your home’s humidity level should remain between 30 to 50 percent all year long. During the colder months, your home’s air becomes drier. Be sure your humidifier is keeping your home humid enough while not over humidifying. Too much moisture, amongst other things, breeds mold and mildew that are both toxic to your body.
Open your windows every day (or at least a few times a week) for short bouts of time.
During the winter months, your home’s ventilation does not bring in as much outdoor fresh air as other times of the year. Your home is shut up tight to keep the cold out. An easy measure to take is simply to open your windows daily for a short time, even for a few minutes. This will bring some much-needed fresh air into your home and help diffuse the stuffy air.
Use more natural cleaning and personal-care products. Chemicals from cleaning and personal-care products will linger longer in your home’s winter air without the flow of fresh air. Concentrated like this, they can do real damage over the long term to your body. Look into substituting healthier alternatives.
Decorate with houseplants. Houseplants clean and purify your home’s air. Adding more to your home can only help remedy the toxins and stuffiness present during the colder months.
Clean your home regularly, paying special attention to carpets, floors, and dusty areas. Cleaning your home once a week goes a long way in keeping dirt and dust from entering your home’s airflow. Carpets are particularly bad for harboring unwanteds. Vacuuming regularly, especially with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum, can dramatically cut down on your air’s pollution.