4 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

Each day, thousands of Floridians go from our climate-controlled homes to jobs in climate-controlled buildings. Indoor air quality and being cool in the summer and warm in the winter is something we all take for granted.

But did you ever wonder, “I know what closed windows keep out, but what do they keep in?” The truth is that closed windows trap recycled air filled with that can not only cause discomfort but can even be hazardous to you and your family’s health.

While you can’t change the air outside, here are 5 ways you can improve the indoor air quality in your home:

Replace Your Air Filters                    

Experts recommend that you should change air filters in your central air conditioner, furnace or heat pump every month they are in use; or every 3 months if you are using pleated filters. The air filter’s job is not only to keep the air clean from contaminants, but it also keeps dust and debris out of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and duct-work. Dirty evaporator coils in you’re A/C unit and dirty air ducts can be a breeding ground for organic organisms.

Replacing air filters is easy. Remembering to do it is hard. Here’s a tip: purchase several air filters at a time, and stack them next to your furnace or HVAC equipment. Next, set an alarm on your smart phone calendar to remind you on the first day of every month to check your filters.  Or do what I did; have a media air filter cabinet installed on your HVAC system that accepts a 5” thick media air filter.  The filters are available from MERV 10 to MERV 16.  The higher the MERV rating the more (and smaller) particles it will remove from the air.  Due to the larger surface area of these filters, they can be expected to last anywhere from 6 to 12 months before replacement is necessary!

 Control the Humidity                  

Your home’s relative humidity should be high enough to prevent coughing and nosebleeds, but low enough that you don’t create moisture problems like mold growth. Indoor relative humidity levels between 40-60% are commonly recommended. Here in Central Florida we recommend 52% as ideal, but 50-55% is fine if your system doesn’t allow 1% increments.

If you don’t have a dehumidifier connected to your home’s AC system, and humidity is a problem in your home, you should invest in a whole house ducted dehumidifier to use in the spring, summer and fall.  It is particularly helpful in the spring and fall when the AC runtime isn’t enough to dehumidify your home.

Check Your AC system & Heating system twice per year

You visit the dentist, you get checkups and you change your car’s oil. It’s all called preventative maintenance. Your HVAC system needs regular maintenance too. It’s the technician’s job to make sure that your furnace is burning fuel at 100% efficiency so that no carbon monoxide is leaking into your home. In addition, a clean heating system will save you money on fuel and prolong your furnace’s life.  Electric furnaces need the heating coils checked out, heat sequencers, fan motors and fan relays.  Heat pumps, just like air conditioners, rely on a proper refrigerant charge to work at maximum efficiency.  When the system is low on refrigerant, it may still heat and cool, but you are giving extra money to the utility company every month to operate your system inefficiently!

Pay Attention to What You Bring Indoors

So many indoor air quality problems can be solved by using a bit of common sense. Thinking about new paint or carpet? Don’t do it until the weather allows you to open the windows and release the gases (VOCs) they produce or try one of the low VOC paints or flooring.   Are you ready to replacing your bedding? Look at latex foam mattresses and pillows, and encase them with dust mite proof covers. Need a new vacuum cleaner? Purchase one that includes a HEPA air filter instead of a paper bag.  Animals in your home?  For dogs, buy bedding that can be washed in hot water to rid them of dust mites.  Use cleaners that are non-toxic in your home.  EWG.org has rankings for cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products, make-up, etc…

Even new furniture, cabinets, draperies and blinds can be a significant source of VOC’s.  Just be aware of that and try to allow for a little more fresh air introduction into your home when you do make those purchases.  If you have a fresh air intake on your air conditioning system, set it to run for a longer period of time until that “new” smell is gone.

Tom Roberts