Most people believe that breathing in air when outdoors can be more hazardous to your health than the air you breathe in your home. Of course it depends on where you are outside. Forest and mountain air can be clean, fresh, and relatively pure. In comparison, air in urban areas tends to be high in pollutants. However, the quality of the air that you breathe inside of your home can be somewhat dangerous as well.
According to the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) the air in some houses can be two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors!
Common In-Home Air Pollutants
Here are some of the more common air pollutants that you might find in your home:
- Fumes from gas-fired appliances (e.g., fireplaces, space heaters, stoves, furnaces)
- Pet dander
- Dust mites
- Mold and mildew
- Carpet fumes
- Paint fumes
These in-home air pollutants can result in such reactions as itchy eyes, runny and/or stuffy nose, and rashes. In some cases this bad air can result in asthma, headaches, colds and other respiratory reactions.
Improving In-Home Air Quality
There are some simple steps that you can take to immediately improve the air quality in your home:
- Open your windows! Not surprisingly, opening your windows promotes cross-air circulation. People refer to this as “airing out your house.”
- Get air conditioning! Air that is cooled is easier to breathe. Air conditioners can also remove pollutants that can cause respiratory issues.
- Install a HEPA filter. HEPA refers to high-efficiency particulate air. HEPA filters can be included in air conditioners. You can also purchase a separate unit called a HEPA air cleaner that does clean the air, removing harmful particulates.
- Use the stove fan hood, especially if you are cooking with gas. Turning the fan hood on and cracking the window open slightly when cooking will help vent the kitchen making it easier to breathe.
- Use products (paints and carpeting) that have low VOCs. VOC refers to volatile organic compounds that tend to be very smelly making it difficult to breathe and may cause headaches. By purchasing products with low VOCs or ones that are fragrance-free will help a great deal in keeping your indoor air clean.
- Identify and get rid of mold and mildew immediately! Typically you will find mold and mildew in wet, damp, hot areas of your home, such as in an attic or in a basement. Whether located in the attic or basement, damp, wet air is dispersed throughout your house through vents. Breathing this in can result in severe respiratory illnesses.
- Pets (dogs and cats) can be a source of pet dander or hair and dirt that float through the air and sticks to clothing, bedding, carpeting, and furniture. Solutions to reducing pet dander include: keeping pets outside of the bedroom and/or in carpeted areas of the home, grooming your pet on a regular basis especially if they shed, and have pets that do not shed.
- Get rid of dust mites! Dust mites are almost not visible to the naked eye, but do appear in dust and dirt found around the home. Dust mites can be almost anywhere, but are most prevalent under couches and beds as well as in carpeting. To reduce dust mites, wash bedding and clean upholstered furniture and carpeting on a regular basis. Vacuum and dust often. Replacing carpet with hard floors reduces dust mites tremendously.
- Have the vents throughout your house professionally cleaned. Vents can even be quite filthy in brand new homes that have just been built. This is because contractors do not often clean out the vents before the home is finished. As a result, vents can be cluttered with dust, sawdust, pieces of wood, and other items such as nails and screws. Of time, vents also collect day-to-day dust and pet dander. Having vents professionally cleaned once per year goes a long way to keep the air in your home clean and fresh.
The air in your home should also be at low humidity – below 35% is recommended. Air conditioning helps with this. You can also purchase a dehumidifier for your home. Keeping your home smoke-free is also a necessity for clean air.
Using an Air Purifier
Many homeowners have installed an air purifier in their home to keep the air continually cleaned. There are two types of air purifiers: HEPA filter air purifiers and activated charcoal air purifiers. The filter in HEPA air purifiers usually lasts about a year. In comparison, activated charcoal air purifier filters need to be changed every three to six months.
Whether you purchase a HEPA air purifier or an activated charcoal one, make sure that the Clean Air Delivery Rate (or CADR which measures how much air moves through the filter) is at least 250.
Plants: The Natural Method
If you do not want to invest in technology to clean the air in your home or you want to add other options, then consider purchasing plants! Plants do in fact help to clean the air that we breathe. The plans most recommended for this task include ferns, English Ivy, spider plants, Snake Plant, various types of dracaena, and Golden Pothos. English Ivy grows especially well in rooms with little sunlight. Snake Plants are also good in this type of environment. Golden Pothos grows really fast so it is best planted as a hanging plant.
It is recommended that you have two plans per every 100 square feet of space. The plants should be planted in pots that are 10- to 12-inches.
Does This Work?
Yes, taking one or more of these steps above and implementing regular cleaning routines dramatically improves the quality of air in your home. As a result, you should see those who have frequent colds, asthma, headaches, or other respiratory-related symptoms diminished and in some cases completely disappear. Many of the strategies provided above do not cost anything or are very low cost with a large significantly positive return!