How much time do you spend indoors?
Even the outdoorsy among us find ourselves inside quite a bit – in fact, the average American is at home, at work, or otherwise protected by walls, floors, and roofs 60% to 90% of the time. Hopefully, much of that involves you lounging and living in your comfortable, beautiful house! But even so, indoor air quality is a pressing issue.
What do you need to know about the air in there, and how can you work towards the safest and healthiest home possible?
Take a Deep Breath
When we think of pollution, many of our minds go to smog, smoke-laden air, exhaust, emissions. We’re more likely to think of bumper-to-bumper traffic, jets, and factories as the biggest culprits – and that we can escape by closing our front doors. Unfortunately, according to the EPA, the concentrations of some pollutants are two to five times higher indoors than out.
Subpar indoor air quality can cause and/or worsen illnesses, including infections, asthma, and other lung diseases. And the people who tend to spend more time indoors – the elderly, young children, and people with preexisting conditions – are even more vulnerable.
This isn’t a matter of “cleanliness,” of scrubbing a little harder, or of having Jo Malone-scented air; indoor pollutants have been on the rise in the past few decades because we’ve become more efficient in terms of construction. Energy efficient builds (without adequate ventilation and air exchange), the integration of more synthetic materials, furnishings, and finishings, and the use of household cleaners and even personal care products all contribute to the problem.
Top Tips for the Best Indoor Air Quality
So, what do we do? We become even more efficient and conscientious of how construction and design may impact our health. We become ultra-selective when it comes to the products we invite into our homes and of the vendors, partners, and companies who put them there. Then, we really can breathe easier.
Start here. Research shows that HVAC plays a role in the majority of indoor air quality issues, as well as a role in the health of millions of Americans. Over 50 million of us suffer from allergies; for one out of every six, the problem can be traced back to (and blamed on!) bacteria and fungi in air duct systems. Considering that Indiana ranks 48th in the nation for air quality, paying attention to your HVAC system is critical.
The best step for an existing system is to get an indoor air quality assessment to determine how safe your home is and to create a customized plan to… clear the air. Trusted local companies like HomeSense are happy to do this for you (in addition to offering a variety of other heating and cooling services), while partners like Ductz specialize in duct cleaning and HVAC restoration.
Whether you are optimizing an existing system or installing new, call the pros in for help.
Don’t Forget the Fire
Nothing’s cozier than a crackling fire on a cold night, but like gas-, oil- and other combustible heating options, burning wood can impact your indoor air quality. You’d never light up a cigarette in your home, but breathing wood smoke can be just as harmful. It contains fine and ultrafine particles, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and our old nemesis, formaldehyde. Further, smoke from the chimney can recirculate back into your home (and even into your neighbor’s homes).
If you choose to burn wood, make sure your chimney is in top repair and that you have it, and your fireplace or woodstove, thoroughly and professionally cleaned annually. Brick + Ember’s Certified Chimney Sweeps will make short work of the task, and the team is fully equipped to handle any of your chimney and fireplace needs
Be Choosy with Flooring, Furnishings, and Finishes
Yes, HVAC is crucial, but your indoor air quality is also directly affected by the products you use to decorate and remodel your home. Your flooring, fabrics, carpets, etc., could be off-gassing hazardous toxins (e.g. VOCs, BTE flame retardants, PFAS, phthalates, and even formaldehyde and arsenic) and harboring pollutants, irritants, dander, dirt, and bacteria. This is the carpet your children play on, the sofa you snuggle up on, the painted/finished surfaces you run your hands across untold times a day.
Fortunately, a clean HVAC system that functions properly will help deal with a lot of this, and there are options available on the market that have a far less dangerous impact on health and on the environment at large. Look for products that are certified as low-emitting and for materials that are inherently safer (solid wood, tile, etc.).
Know What You Are Putting Into Your Home
Do the window treatments you’ve chosen emit higher levels of toxins? Do the fabrics you’ve selected harbor bacteria and other irritants? Does the paint or stain on your furniture and flooring contribute to poor indoor air quality?
These are all critical questions to ask when designing, remodeling, or upgrading your home. Make sure you get the right answers. ACo, for example, works with Shaw Flooring, which offers FloorScore Certification. This widely recognized air quality certification reassures homeowners that their flooring
meets stringent requirements and will promote healthier, cleaner air. No ortho-phthalates, no formaldehyde, low off-gassing, and low VOCs means you can truly breathe easier.
Indianapolis’s Priority Painting, too, is committed to healthier interiors. Using Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams products with very low VOCs, for example, not only delivers stunning results but cleaner air.
Looking for other home industry professionals who can guide you through your selections, helping you choose products and supplies that benefit your family’s health? Make Home Artisans of Indiana your first stop.
Close the Door on Pollutants
It’d be nice if bacteria, fungi, germs, irritants, and other pollutants were like vampires – they couldn’t come into your home unless you invited them! Unfortunately, they’re going to come in whether you like it or not… But you can fight back with your doors and windows. These features allow for air exchange and help remove indoor pollutants (such as the aforementioned off-gassing toxins). Natural ventilation is key in creating and maintaining a healthy indoor environment.
Additionally, doors and windows:
● Affect indoor humidity levels. Excess humidity can lead to mold and mildew, exacerbating respiratory conditions. With proper selection, installation, sealing, and insulation, you have another barrier against excessive moisture.
● Enhance natural light. UV-containing natural light can help kill bacteria and purify the air.
● Help regulate temperature. This is a comfort (and budget) issue, but regulation is also important in a safe, healthy space.
The Best Routes to the Best Indoor Air Quality
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of your household. Home should be your refuge; when you take smart steps, and trust smart people, you can achieve an optimal environment for living, for making memories, and for making the most of each day (sneeze- and cough-free!). Visit Home Artisans of Indiana to find the best of the best in the home industry. These professionals are here to help you live better