The winter season means spending more time indoors. While outdoor air quality is often poor due to smog and pollution, the fact is that the air we breathe inside our home is often more polluted than the air outside.
At UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we are dedicated not only to providing quality services but also to educating homeowners on ways to improve the safety and comfort of their homes.
There’s growing evidence that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues are already a significant problem in the United States, based on public health science research over the past few decades, and more recent government and academic reports.
According to the studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times higher than outdoor levels, and occasionally even as much as 100 times higher.
The main sources of poor indoor air quality in homes are usually lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners. Other causes include inadequate ventilation in your home, high temperature and humidity levels, and indoor pollutants such as mold and microscopic dust mites. Since most modern homes are built airtight, these irritants tend to stay inside.
Public health science research has shown that health effects of indoor contaminants and with indoor conditions such as dampness and poor ventilation include upper and lower respiratory issues, headaches, skin problems, fatigue, neurological impairment, developmental disorders, and cancer.
Children, people with asthma, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to the indoor pollutants. Data by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that many indoor pollutants that can cause or trigger asthma may have especially harmful effects on the nearly seven million children and 18 million adults in the U.S. who suffer from asthma. However, everyone may be affected after years of continued exposure to indoor pollutants.
Indoor dampness and mold are common problems throughout the U.S, and over the past several years public health science has identified it is linked to a range of respiratory diseases and symptoms.
Additional indoor sources that recent scientific reviews found include combustion pollutants from the increased use of alternative heating sources such as unvented heaters and residential wood burning.
We put together a list of some basic ways to improve IAQ in your home:
Control the Source of Pollutants
Generally, two out of three indoor air quality issues involve the improper functioning of the HVAC system. Since some very harmful pollutants come from faulty appliances emissions, such as a stove or furnace, it’s crucial to have trained technicians evaluate your home equipment annually.
Test for lead. If you live in a home built before 1978, there’s a good chance it’s within the wall paint, and if your home is newer, you may be exposed to lead from lead dust brought in from outside. Lead dust can be harmful to health, especially children’s, as it can damage the brain, central nervous system, and kidneys.
Test for radon. This colorless, odorless, radioactive gas typically moves up through the ground and into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation, but can be found even in airtight homes, and in granite countertops. Radon can significantly raise the risk of lung cancer. The good news is that testing is inexpensive, quick and easy, and even high radon levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
Test for carbon monoxide, the “The Silent Killer” in your home. A UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing technician can service your furnace annually to prevent problems such as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Clean your home regularly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter you can reduce concentrations of lead and get rid of other toxins, like PBDEs chemicals, and allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites, and remember to do walls and upholstered furniture, as well. Use a mop to pick up the dust left behind the vacuuming; new microfiber mops and dust cloths capture more dust and dirt than traditional fibers.
Improve Ventilation and Reduce Humidity
Vent your space to improve IAQ. Open windows when weather permits, especially when vacuum-cleaning, to increase the amount of outdoor air coming into your home; install the vent of the clothes dryer on the outside; use an exhaust fan or open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing to help reduce the humidity level. A qualified HVAC contractor can help look for ventilation issues as well.
Humidity level should ideally be kept at 30%-50% – this level will help keep dust mites, mold, and other allergens under control. To prevent mold, take steps to ensure there aren’t any leaky plumbing. We offer whole-house humidification control solutions if you’re looking to improve this aspect of your indoor air quality.
Purified air is especially important to people suffering from asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities, and good air purifiers will improve IAQ by removing allergens, harmful particles, and odors.
It’s recommended to ideally have air purifiers in all bedrooms as well as the main living areas of your home. We recommend the following:
- Filters that include electrostatically-charged dust collection grid, which effectively traps charged particles & pollutants.
- High-efficiency HEPA filter – most effective way to capture dust and allergens.
- Activated carbon filter, which traps chemicals, gases and odors.
- Germicidal UV lamp, which destroys micro-organisms.
- Photocatalytic oxidation (TiO2) filter, which effectively reduces chemicals, bacteria and odors.
- Air-cleaning negative ions that are circulated throughout the room, completely safe and scientifically proven to be effective and to enhance filter efficiency.
- Washable pre filter, which does not require replacement, and enhances the durability and performance of the other filters.
- Sensor Technology, which monitors air quality.
There are many tools to help make your IAQ healthier – from relatively inexpensive table-top air cleaners to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems, and the very first step is to get your home tested to determine the exact needs and solutions. Our qualified Comfort Consultants can help you find the right solutions for your home.
When searching for HVAC companies, trust UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, who has been providing a full range of high-quality home comfort products and services for over a century.
Improve the air you and your loved ones breathe and the comfort of your home – all you have to do is be proactive and give us a call today!