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The Inside Story: How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Published by Melanie Riggs

The Inside Story: How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

We often think of air pollution as something you find outside: smog, that haze that hangs in the air in big cities, and all of their negative effects on the ozone layer. But in reality, the air inside our houses, offices, and other buildings we frequent can be even more polluted than the air outside. The air inside your home may be filled with pet dander, mold spores, and so many other substances that affect the indoor air quality, which can be harmful to your health.

Some of these pollutants are tracked into the house; they arrive when we bring in new furniture or start using a new cleaner in which the fragrance causes a chemical imbalance inside. They come when you add a fresh coat of paint to the walls or have your carpets professionally cleaned. Children, people with asthma, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable when it comes to poor indoor air quality – the effects of which can impact their health for years. We don’t mean to scare you but knowing the potentially harmful effects of poor indoor air quality can help you to take steps to improve it. That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today. Let’s hop in!

Improving Indoor Air Quality

While it’s probably not possible to eliminate all the allergens inside your home, you can certainly reduce the number and your exposure to them by making some small changes. Here are some strategies you can use to improve your indoor air quality and, in turn, improve your and your family’s allergy symptoms.

Step #1: Keep a clean house

A clean house is a healthier house. Keeping your home clean cuts down on the amount of dust and animal dander in the air and in your HVAC system, so you should focus your cleaning efforts on reducing the accumulation of dust, mold, and pet particles in your home by doing the following:

  • Regularly wash bedding, curtains, tablecloths, and other items that can be a breeding ground for allergens, especially if you have pets. The American Acadamy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends washing these items in water that is at least 130°F. 
  • Vacuum carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week. If possible, opt for hard-surface flooring rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. 
  • Clear away clutter as it can trap and hold dust that can trigger an allergic reaction. 
  • Consider using dust mite-proof covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs.

Step #2: Maintain humidity

Dust mites and mold love moisture so you’ll want to keep the humidity in your home around 30-50% to keep allergens under control. A dehumidifier and using air conditioning during the summer months can help to reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively keep allergens under control. Here are some steps to help dehumidify your home:

  • Consider having a dehumidifier in areas that are generally damp including bathrooms and basements if applicable. 
  • Ensure that bathrooms are well ventilated as they can be a breeding ground for mold. Scrub any visible mold that collects in the shower, on fixtures, or on the walls.
  • Don’t overwater houseplants. The condensation will just increase the moisture in the air.
  • Use an exhaust fan or open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing. 
  • Vent the clothes dryer to the outdoors.
  • Empty drip pans in your window air conditioning unit and dehumidifier.
  • Fix leaky plumbing. 

Step #3: Use natural fragrances

Many household cleaners contain synthetic fragrances that emit dozens of chemicals into the air in your home. But you won’t see the names of those chemicals on the bottle because the only world these companies are required to include is “fragrance.” Most fragrances are derived from petroleum products and don’t undergo much testing to see if they have adverse effects on human health when inhaled. Instead, the studies focus on whether or not the fragrances cause skin irritation. But you can protect yourself and your family from these harmful chemicals by taking these steps:

  • Look for naturally-scented or fragrance-free laundry products.
  • Stop using aerosol sprays including hairsprays, deodorants, furniture polish, air fresheners, and carpet cleaners.
  • Use sliced lemons and baking soda to get a clean scent in the kitchen. Grind up citrus peels in your garbage disposal for a naturally good smell.
  • Let in the fresh air: open your windows so that toxic chemicals don’t build up in your home. If you or your family members suffer from pollen allergies, keep the rooms ventilated with a filtered air conditioning system.
  • Switch to mild cleaners that don’t contain artificial fragrances.
  • Bring the outside inside: house plants are great at purifying the air inside and improving the indoor air quality. As a reminder though, make sure you don’t overwater them or get plants that could potentially be poisonous if ingested by children.

Step #4: Seek professional HVAC help

If you’ve been taking all the above steps and still aren’t seeing an improvement in your indoor air quality, it may be time to speak to an HVAC professional. In some cases, you may simply need to upgrade your filter while in others, additional products specifically created to help improve indoor air quality may benefit your HVAC system. 

For example, if your filter isn’t cutting it anymore, check out the Trane CleanEffects filter. This 5” filter is up to 100 times more effective than your standard 1” filter, catching approximately 99.98% of allergens. Another option is the Air Scrubber Plus. This weapon in the fight for your indoor air quality is inserted into your existing system. It literally helps your HVAC system scrub the surfaces inside your home. If you don’t believe us, check out how the Air Scrubber Plus works

At the end of the day, if you just want to talk to a real person about your situation, contact us! We would love to help you find a solution to your air quality problem!

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Technician Rick did an outstanding job of completing my annual service check, correcting minor problems and cleaning my system prior to the summer season. What impressed me most is that he took the time to point out other issues in my attic (loose fitting at the hot water heater) and even outside (water spigot leaking) and fixed both on his own since they were easy fixes. What a great service professional and so rare to find someone honest and willing to take a few extra moments to help out. Thanks for a great experience!

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Technician Rick did an outstanding job of completing my annual service check, correcting minor problems and cleaning my system prior to the summer season. What impressed me most is that he took the time to point out other issues in my attic (loose fitting at the hot water heater) and even outside (water spigot leaking) and fixed both on his own since they were easy.

- Mark B.

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