Air pollution in Orange County has emerged as a pertinent topic for the 21st century. According to a study from the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), a combination of greenhouse gas emissions, smog, and soot has made the outdoor air quality in Southern California rank among the worst in the nation. Outdoor air pollution is now one of the top public health dilemmas of the region.
But as upsetting as the statistics about outdoor air may sound, the quality of indoor air may represent an even greater concern. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Since studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that we spend up to 90% of our time indoors, improving household air quality is a high priority. Fortunately, there are a range of viable strategies to clear the air.
1. Change Air Filters
It is imperative to consistently change the filters within your home. Common contaminants like dust, pet dander, household cleaning products, shedding carpets, and fiberboard furnishings can create particles that pollute the indoor air. Changing the air filter is one of the simplest ways to improve your indoor air quality (IAQ). When choosing an air filter, you may also wish to consider its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, MERV is the measurement system for efficient air filters. It is the industry standard for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers to notate the effectiveness of air filters. The MERV scale ranges in rating from 1 to 20, and most household filters have a MERV rating between 6 and 13. If you need help choosing filters, consult with an HVAC professional to select the best filter for your household.
2. Invest in Indoor Plants
Several studies have shown that the absorptive traits of indoor plants may help purify air. Plants naturally filter carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as a byproduct. Humans can then inhale this oxygen to breathe easier. But in addition to carbon dioxide, plants can also filter toxins like benzene, trace carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. Plants are also efficient in absorbing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine particles. Houseplants that are scientifically recognized for removing toxins include the following:
- Aloe vera
- Peace lily
- Boston fern
- Golden fothos
- English ivy
- Chinese evergreen
- Weeping fig
- Bamboo palm
- Gerbera daisy
3. Monitor Humidity Levels
Humidity levels in Orange County can vary wildly depending on outdoor weather and regional climate systems. For this reason, it is important to monitor the level of humidity, dampness, and moisture within your home. High humidity can create a breeding ground for mold, algae, bacteria, or mildew. Dust mites also thrive in moisture.
On the other hand, extremely low humidity can dry out the nasal cavity and harm your skin. For some individuals, dry air can cause everything from chapped lips to nosebleeds.
Most HVAC professionals recommend keeping humidity levels between 30% and 60%. Anything lower than 30% tends to be too dry, and levels above 60% are usually too moist. You can consult with an HVAC expert on whether you need a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air or humidifier to boost moisture levels.
A professional can also help you identify other potential causes of moisture imbalance. For example, an inspection might reveal that a household has undetected leaky pipes, areas with pooling water, or low ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens. The professional can then correct the issue or offer the best recommendations for prevention.
4. Get an Air Purifier
In addition to your standard household air filters, you may also wish to invest in an air purifier. Home air purifiers are important for removing particles like dust and pollen. The first step that many individuals take is to look for air filters with the highest clean air delivery rate (CADR). The CADR measures how much air a unit can purify per volume. Generally speaking, a higher CADR number indicates a faster purification rate.
You may also wish to consider both ionic air purifiers and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers. Ionic purifiers use negatively charged molecules to attract and hold pollutants. HEPA purifiers use a combination of finely woven filters and fans to remove tiny particles from the air. Because HEPA purifiers can catch particles as small as 0.3 micrometers, these units are especially popular in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other areas where clean air is crucial. An HVAC expert can help you determine what type of purifier will work best for your household.
5. Monitor Your Heating Systems
In Orange County, it is understandable that much of our focus is on warm weather and hot summers. It is important to enlist an HVAC professional for routine AC maintenance services. However, Orange County also has its fair share of rainy seasons and low-temperature weather. For this reason, it is essential to monitor any heating system in the home.
OC homes with wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can release harmful particles and carcinogens into the air. One study indicated that emissions from wood burners may expose a family to pollutants than driving through traffic during rush hour. To reduce the risk, talk to a professional about installing solar or electric appliances instead. Similarly, some gas-powered heating systems can emit chemicals like carbon monoxide. You can speak with an expert about installing direct vent-gas appliances to keep pollutants from contaminating fresh indoor air.
6. Dust, Vacuum, and Wash Regularly
One of the most important ways to improve indoor air quality is to minimize the presence of dust. Vacuum your rugs and carpets with a high-quality vacuum cleaner equipped with HEPA filters. This is one of the easiest ways to remove dust, pollen, and hair from the floor. Similarly, you can use a microfiber duster for removing particles from tables and furniture.
In addition to carpets, fabrics like bedding and drapes can also attract dust and pollutants. Create a schedule for washing sheets, pillowcases, and curtains. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends washing drapes and blankets in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to remove contaminants like mites or dust. You can also invest in hypoallergenic pillows or impermeable mattresses to lower the risk of mites.
7. Use Natural Cleaning Products
Many commercial cleaners release toxins that are harmful to respiratory or skin health. For example, some products contain high quantities of harsh chemicals like ammonia and chlorine. These chemicals then settle into carpets and upholstery thereby contaminating the home. Even traditional housekeeping goods like mothballs and air fresheners can contain carcinogens. By switching to natural cleansers like baking soda, white vinegar, or lemon juice, you can keep your home pristine while reducing exposure to toxic chemicals.
8. Make Your Home a Smoke-free Zone
Smoking indoors is detrimental to air quality. Cigarette smoke releases thousands of chemicals that studies have linked to cancer, respiratory problems, and even heart attacks. Secondhand smoke is also harmful to vulnerable populations like children, pets, family members with autoimmune disorders, and the elderly. In addition to cigarettes, other products like cigars, vapes, bongs, and hookahs can produce smoke that remains trapped in rooms and harms all occupants. If anyone needs to smoke, keep this activity outside and far away from the residence.
9. Use Beeswax Candles
Did you know that many candles contain chemicals that can harm air quality and spread throughout your home? Whether you want to light that candle for yoga or general serenity, you may wish to consider using beeswax candles instead. Beeswax is 100% natural and barely emits smoke when lit. In addition, this organic wax naturally contains ions that trap small particles like pollen and dust in the candle itself. Beeswax is a great addition to your plan for purifying the home.
10. Clean Your Air Ducts
Air ducts are conduits or passageways that deliver conditioned air to your rooms. Unfortunately, ducts that are improperly installed or poorly maintained can distribute contaminated air to your rooms instead. Even within the best ducts, particles like dust or mold can gradually accumulate and obstruct airflow. Contact a professional to inspect and clean your ducts so that they can continue to circulate the freshest air.
Indoor air has an important impact on your quality of life in Orange County. Fortunately, there are empowering steps that you can take to improve the environment indoors. Sano Heating & Air Conditioning can provide the expert help you need to take indoor air quality to the next level. We provide air purification, air balancing, and duct repair services to homes in Anaheim and all of Orange County. We also provide comprehensive heating and cooling services. Contact Sano Heating & Air Conditioning for the best in air quality and care.