Thursday, July 18, 2013

Home Air Quality is Worse than You Think

We do all of the right things. We double check to make sure the doors are locked at night. We wash all of our meats and veggies before we cook them. We drink filtered water and buy toothpaste with fluoride. I find it strange that no one ever thinks about the air that we breathe when we are home. We breathe much more than we eat or brush our teeth but we do nothing to improve the air in our own homes.

Did you know that there are often more contaminants inside of our homes than there are outside? It’s true. Our homes are sealed and contain less “fresh” air than outside. The use of air conditioning and heating systems compound this problem making our safe haven a less healthy environment than the great outdoors. Here are some ways to improve the air that we breathe at home.

Information is Power
Understand what causes the air in your home to be unhealthy. There are many contributors including pets, moisture, cleaning products, appliances and even the very material that our home is constructed of. The consequences of these pollutants can include asthma, allergies, even cancer.  Warning signs may include unusual odors, poor ventilation, mold and mildew and poor air flow. Also pay close attention to damaged pipes, heating or ac systems or excess moisture. Standing water is always a problem.

If you are currently remodeling or making improvements to your home, make note if you or your loved ones have not been feeling well or have flu like symptoms. The contaminants contained in the dust that is created during these activities may contain particles that we should not be breathing. It’s best to “seal off” the work area in our home from the rest of the house and to wear respiratory protection when working in these areas. Here are some important steps that you can take to ensure that the air in your home is healthy.

Keep Your Home Clean
Keeping your home free of dust and dirt is key to maintaining good air quality. Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner as well as your HVAC system(s) and clean the filters at least once every 4 months. If the filters are not dirty this is a sign that something is wrong with the equipment and it is time to have it checked by a professional.

Reduce Moisture
Humidity is your enemy. Mold and dust mites thrive in moisture. The healthiest moisture levels in your home are between 35% and 55%. Use the ventilation fans in your kitchen and bathroom, especially after taking a shower. Empty the tray in the bottom of your refrigerator often and be sure that any AC units are draining properly. All water pipes in your home should be insulated properly and all doors and windows should have the proper weather seal as well. Finally, have any roofing or plumbing leaks fixed immediately to prevent the build-up of bacteria.

Use Only Natural Air Fresheners
Did you know that many air fresheners on the market today contain toxins? Some candles do as well. It’s best to use natural ingredients to rid your home of unwanted odors. Lemon juice and water make an excellent air freshener in a spray bottle and sprinkling baking soda on carpets before vacuuming is also very effective. My favorite is to add cinnamon or allspice to simmering water on the stove. You might also consider installing an air purifier in your home. It’s best to speak to a professional to determine which system is best for your home before making a decision.  

Increase Ventilation
Nothing improves indoor air quality better than good ole’ fresh air! Open doors and windows on nice days and let Mother Nature do the work. Be sure that all the necessary appliances have the necessary ventilation to the outside (such as your gas dryer). If you have a chimney this is especially important. These fumes are not only unhealthy; they can actually cause a fire.

Protect against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
As you already know, Carbon Monoxide is deadly and has no odor or color. Low levels however are still detrimental to your health and are a serious concern. Any item in your home that uses fuel to operate produces this lethal gas. Be sure that all such equipment is properly vented and use certified professionals to inspect and repair these appliances on a regular basis. NEVER use any equipment in your home that is powered by gasoline or kerosene and install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.

If you follow these simple instructions you will dramatically improve the quality of the very air that you breathe in your home and you may even feel better and have increased energy!

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