With warmer weather here, most of us expect to be spending a lot more time outdoors. Nevertheless, we still spend up to 90% of our time inside. And that means, just like when it’s cold, indoor air quality (IAQ) is vitally important to maintaining good health.
What exactly is indoor air quality?
It usually refers to the air quality within buildings we live in, work in or spend any time in. If the quality of that air isn’t what it should be, the effects can be serious, both immediately and over the long term.
Immediate effects, which may only be noticeable after several hours, could be caused by a single or repeated exposure to an allergen and could lead to irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing and mucus build-up as well as dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath or other allergic reactions.
Long-term effects could be even more serious, debilitating or even fatal – including respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer, as well as Sick Building Syndrome, in which building occupants face a number of different illnesses or get sick frequently due to poor indoor air quality.
Remember, if you have symptoms that you suspect may be the result of poor indoor air quality, speak to your doctor or allergist, as well as an IAQ specialist.
What causes poor air quality?
There a number of allergens and substances including dust, cigarette smoke and other particles in the air that reduce the quality of the air we breathe indoors. In fact, mould alone is responsible for over 4.6 million cases of asthma in the U.S. each year.
It’s such a big problem that a variety of government organizations and NGOs, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, as well as the Government of Canada, have published articles and guidelines for sustaining air quality indoors.
How to improve the air you’re breathing
While poor air quality could wreak havoc with your health, there are many effective steps you could take to significantly improve your indoor environment.
- Consider installing a recovery ventilator: The air outside of your home is on average 3 times cleaner than the air inside your home. Therefore, the best way to improve your indoor air quality is to improve your ventilation and provide more clean outside air to your living space. Consider adding a heat recovery (HRV) or enthalpy recovery (ERV) ventilator to not only supply clean, fresh air, but recover the energy and humidity from the exhaust air.
- Clean your ducts: Having your housing ducts professionally cleaned can help reduce triggers to asthma like mould, dust, animal dander and other allergens.
- Filters and cleaners: Ask your home comfort advisor or HVAC specialist about upgrading your furnace or air conditioning system with high-efficiency and HEPA air filters. Installing ultra-violet lamps and electrostatic filters could also be effective.
- Find the right humidity level: Humidity levels exceeding 50 or 60% can promote mould growth and exacerbate asthma while low levels could dry the eyes, nose and throat and increase susceptibility to upper respiratory infections. Try to keep humidity levels in your home to around 50% in the summer and 20-30% in the winter dependent on the temperature outside. If your home is too humid, a dehumidifier or an efficient air conditioner could help in the summer months.
- Open your windows: Letting your house breathe doesn’t just lower indoor humidity in the winter, it circulates and refreshes the air and removes stale smells, too.
If you have any questions about indoor air quality or if you’re interested in talking to a professional about improving your home with a humidifier or dehumidifier, don’t hesitate to call or book a no-obligation in-home consultation.