If you live in a cold weather climate, keeping your home’s indoor air healthy can pose some challenges. When the windows are constantly shut tight against the elements, very little fresh air enters the home. Skin, nails and hair can easily turn brittle from the warm, dry air constantly being pumped from the furnace. Nasal passages, too, become irritated easily when constantly exposed to over-heated, dry conditions.
I like to follow these easy strategies for better air quality during cold winter months:
• If your furnace doesn’t have a built-in humidifier, you can still create the effect of one with simple steps. Keep a cool mist humidifier in the bedrooms, especially in the rooms of young children prone to colds and ear infections. At the very least, you can place bowls of water on the floor near warm air registers to add to the humidity level and comfort of your home. Replenish water frequently.
• Travel Tip: Hotels are infamous for dry, hot rooms in winter. Try soaking a towel in water, wringing it of all excess water, and then lie it across the heat register. Your skin and sinuses will thank you.
• Add moisture to the air while you work in the kitchen. Fill a teakettle with water and heat the water to boiling on your stove top. Then open the whistle, lower the heat and let the water simmer away into the air. Just don’t walk away and let the teakettle boil dry.
• Keep the thermostat set at 68 degrees F during the day, and lower it to 65 degrees at night. Not only will you save heating dollars, the lower temperatures are better for sleeping, as well as throat and nasal health, even for children–especially if you have snorers and mouth breathers.
• Good insulation and efficient windows are excellent for saving money and energy, but sometimes a detriment to healthy indoor air. On milder winter days, briefly open a few windows to freshen the air and eliminate built-up toxins from carpets, dust and poor air circulation.
• A good vacuum system is especially important during these cooped-up months, when dust and dirt can settle in vent systems and re-circulate through the ductwork constantly. Use a vacuum installed with a HEPA filter, or better yet, install a central vacuum system in your home—it takes less than a day, when done by a pro. Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners which re-circulate some of the vacuumed dirt back into the air, a central vacuum system removes virtually all dirt and allergens, transporting them through a series of connected tubing behind your walls to a sealed canister separate from your living space, such as a basement, closet or garage.