While outdoor pollutants have long been a subject of concern, the quality of our indoor environment is now receiving much-needed attention, too. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is America’s most serious environmental health problem, with indoor air quality reported as three to five times worse than outdoor air quality due to pollutants such as animal dander, dust mites, mold and pollen. The good news is that homeowners can control the indoor air they breathe, and measures for improving it are not always complicated or expensive. Here are six proven methods for improving indoor air quality at home:
Improvements in energy efficiency are a boon for homeowners. But tightly sealed windows, doors and walls that let in very little outdoor air can have their downsides. I open windows now and then to air out my home and release the buildup of fumes and pollutants from carpets, upholstery, paint and household cleaners.
Get a Handle on Humidity.
Too-high levels of indoor humidity create a breeding ground for dust mites and mold, and tend to concentrate levels of other pollutants. Keep humidity levels at about 50% inside your home, and use a dehumidifier in the basement unless it is bone dry. I recommend running fans in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry areas during use to eliminate steam as well as smoke and odors that result from cooking.
Check Your Shelves.
I choose non-toxic household cleaning products whenever possible. At my house I store paint, solvents, adhesives, pesticides, gasoline and kerosene safely and securely in an area that is not inside the house.
After checking your furnace manufacturer’s recommendations, install a furnace filter with a MERV rating between 8 and 13 to trap particulate matter and prevent it from re-circulating throughout your home. I like to use a portable air purifier, but remember they are effective only in the size room noted by the manufacturer.
When in Doubt, Test the Air.
Radon gas and carbon monoxide are odorless and invisible but can be dangerous or fatal if they reach high levels in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors and radon test kits are inexpensive and readily available from your local hardware or home improvement store.
Consider installing a central vacuum system.
That familiar “just vacuumed” smell in your home is actually the result of small, airborne dust and dirt particles stirred up by your portable vacuum cleaner, and those particles trigger significant allergy symptoms. I bought a central vacuum system which prevents re-circulation of particles by removing all of the dust and dirt to a central canister situated in a garage, basement, attic or closet.