The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that many people spend around 90% of their time inside their houses. That means the air quality inside your home is just as important as the outdoor air. However, indoor air quality (IAQ) is among the things many homeowners often neglect. Most people do not realize that poor IAQ can adversely affect their health. Having fresh and clean air to breathe inside your house is vital to ensuring the well-being and comfort of you and your family. Exposure to low IAQ can result in minor symptoms such as skin irritation, fatigue, and headaches. However, it can also cause major health complications like cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. Here are the common factors that impair indoor air and proven ways to enhance your IAQ.
1. Humidity Levels
Regardless of where you live, humidity is unavoidable. Some areas only experience high humidity levels during the summer season, while others may experience it constantly. Therefore, it’s essential to manage your humidity levels. Excessive humidity inside your home can occur because of many factors, including moisture trapped in the incoming air, moisture seeping in via crawl spaces, or water leaks.
The ideal relative humidity should range between 40% and 50% in indoor spaces. If your indoor humidity level is above 50%, you can experience microbial growth in some parts of your home. Biological growth can compromise your air quality leading to lung irritation, shortness of breath, and respiratory distress. Consider investing in a dehumidifier to solve this issue. A dehumidifier will remove the excess moisture from your air to make your house more comfortable, particularly during the humid summer months. On the other hand, if your indoor humidity levels go below 30%, you may experience sore throat, dry eyes, and skin irritation. To combat this problem, purchase a humidifier to add more moisture to your house.
2. Poor Ventilation
To make residential properties more energy-efficient, many homeowners are making their homes airtight. However, poor ventilation causes contaminated air to recirculate in your house. It can also cause pollen, dust particles, and other airborne contaminants to build up in your living space with nowhere to go, compromising your IAQ.
Poor ventilation can cause health problems, especially for people with asthma and allergies. You need to introduce fresh air inside your house to solve this issue. If the weather is conducive, consider opening some of your doors and windows. You can also fix this problem by installing ventilators in your home. Ventilators remove stale air from your living space. They also filter pollen, dust, and other pollutants from the outdoor air before it enters your home’s HVAC system, allowing you to enjoy clean air all year round.
3. Indoor Particulate Matter
The presence of solid particles in your indoor air can also lead to poor IAQ. Some particulate matter, such as sand, dirt, smoke, and dust, is big enough to see with your naked eyes. However, other particles are so minute that you can only see them with the help of a microscope. Although particulate matter can get emitted directly from sources such as beaches or construction sites, most of the time, it’s the result of complex chemical reactions from contaminants produced when burning fuels.
Exposure to particle pollution can lead to various health problems, such as aggravated asthma, increased respiratory symptoms, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks. People with preexisting respiratory issues like asthma are usually at a higher risk for the adverse effects of particulate matter. An IAQ expert can help you determine your level of exposure and recommend relevant steps to solve the problem.
4. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
VOCs refer to gases produced by some liquids or solids. These gases may result from various household products, including cleansers, aerosol sprays, disinfectants, pesticides, wood preservatives, paints, stored fuels, and air fresheners. VOCs include many chemicals that can have lasting and short-term effects. Common health effects might include irritation of the throat, eye, and nose and constant headaches. The compounds can also cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidney.
5. Carbon Monoxide (CO)
CO is a colorless and odorless gas produced when fossils get burned. While vehicles are the greatest contributors to CO outdoors, gas heaters and kerosene are the main sources of carbon monoxide indoors. When inhaled for a prolonged duration or in large amounts, CO can be fatal to human beings. That’s because it significantly affects the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood. Carbon monoxide reduces the level of oxygen that your body can carry in the bloodstream to vital organs. CO poisoning can lead to unconsciousness, dizziness, and even death.
Carbon monoxide is a common threat in airtight indoor spaces with poor ventilation since high CO levels are unlikely to occur outside. It’s difficult to detect CO on your own since it’s tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home can warn you when dangerous levels of this gas get detected. However, scheduling regular HVAC maintenance is the best way to avoid carbon monoxide buildup within your home. During routine maintenance, your technician will ensure that the flues and chimneys are clear enough to properly vent carbon monoxide out of your residence.
6. Environmental Smoke
Environmental or secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from burning tobacco products like cigars and cigarettes. Experts often refer to exposure to secondhand smoke as passive smoking. According to EPA, secondhand smoke is a Group A carcinogen that contains over 7,000 substances. Cigarette smoke can compromise your IAQ, and prolonged exposure can lead to asthma attacks, stroke, heart disease, and other lung-related complications. Avoid smoking inside the house to keep your indoor air clean. You can have a designated smoking spot outside your home to keep the smoke away from your indoor spaces.
7. Heaters and Cooking Stoves
Your entire HVAC unit plays a major role in your IAQ, but your heater might have more impact, particularly if you have an old unit that needs repair. Ignoring heater servicing might lead to improper filtration of dirt and dust and dangerous gas emissions. You can schedule routine maintenance to keep your heater or furnace in good working condition to avoid these problems. If you have an older unit needing major repairs, purchasing a new one might be more cost-effective.
Your kitchen can also be a source of indoor air pollutants. Gas stoves emit harmful pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. These pollutants are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause health issues. Be sure to turn on the kitchen vents when cooking to prevent these contaminants from accumulating in your house. Opening windows can also help filter out the indoor air even more.
Contact the Air Quality Experts
Having clean and breathable air inside your home is vital, and these are just seven factors that might compromise your IAQ. If you suspect your home has IAQ issues, our air quality experts at Sano Heating & Air Conditioning can help you resolve the problem. Our professionals will conduct air quality tests and provide IAQ solutions tailored to your unique needs. Apart from air quality, we also offer air conditioning, heating, zoning, maintenance, and duct repair and installation services throughout Orange County, CA and its surroundings. Contact us today to learn more about indoor air quality or order any of our services.