Awareness and concerns about air quality have increased in recent years, especially when discussing pollution and our outdoor environments. You’ve likely heard discussions about air quality ratings in the news, on the radio, on your phone’s weather app, and even in daily conversations. What many people don’t realize is how drastically air quality, especially home air quality affects your health.
You spend a substantial portion of your life inside your home so it’s important to be aware of what’s in the air you’re breathing. The growing remote workforce and virtual education have caused people to spend much more time in their homes than before. Plus with the winter months coming, you want to be sure you’re breathing the highest quality air as you and your family spend more time inside to escape the cold. With people spending time inside their homes more than ever before, in-home air quality becomes even more important. Read on to learn about the importance of air quality to your health and how to improve your in-home air quality.
What is Air Quality?
In the United States, air quality is rated on the Air Quality Index (AQI). Air pollution can be caused by fine particles, ground-level ozone pollution, and certain gasses. These gasses include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
The AQI has values that range from 0 to 500, with 0 being the best quality, and 500 being the worst quality.
To check your area’s air quality, you can visit your local weather website, your phone’s weather app, or your daily news forecast. Both indoor and outdoor air quality are degraded by emissions from burning fuels and other particles in the air. We burn fuel very frequently in our daily lives – for example, through automobiles, cooking, and manufacturing. Besides fuel emissions, airborne particles such as dust, fires, pollen, and mold also contribute to poor air quality. While there’s substantial overlap in what is found in indoor and outdoor air, there are a few distinct factors that affect indoor air quality specifically.
What Makes Indoor Air Quality Different?
Indoor air quality (IAQ) has different causes than outdoor air quality, many of which you’ll have greater control over. Carbon monoxide in the home comes from heaters, fuel-burning stoves, and other appliances. Other gasses come from the burning of natural gas and kerosene, especially when space heaters are used. Additionally, radon is a pollutant that seeps into your home from the rocks and dirt under your foundation. Indoor air quality testing can help you determine if these pollutants exist in your home.
Other common pollutants are:
- Secondhand smoke
- Dust and pollen particles
- Home remodeling products
- Household cleaners and personal care items
- Formaldehyde (found in preservatives and adhesives)
You can use an air quality monitor to check your air quality at home. Regular indoor air quality testing is needed to track your progress in improving your home air quality.
How Does Air Quality Affect Your Health?
Both indoor and outdoor air quality can affect your health in many different ways, causing short and long-term issues. Air pollution harms everyone, but children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions and disabilities are at greater risk. It can cause shortness of breath, difficulty breathing deeply, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, sore throat, and chest pain. Some conditions like asthma, COPD, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and emphysema will be especially triggered by poor air quality. It can be hard to avoid poor air quality outside, so maintaining high standards for your home air quality is vital.
Why Should You Improve Your In-Home Air Quality?
Whether you’re already a homeowner or are saving towards becoming one, home air quality is something that you should keep in mind. If you own a home already, you’ll want to consider what areas are problematic and contributing to poor air quality. However, if you’re currently on the hunt for a new house, you’ll want to ensure that your potential new home’s indoor air quality is up to par before making the purchase. If it isn't, you’ll want to make sure you have the budget to pay for the necessary renovations to fix the issues causing poor air quality inside. If the house needs a large number of air quality improvements, you may want to refinance your home or consider having a longer mortgage term. With a longer mortgage repayment period, such as a 30-year mortgage, your payments will be lower, allowing you to put more money towards improving your home’s health. If the house is meant to be your “forever home,” your safety is a worthy investment.
The kitchen is one room in your home that you should optimize for better air quality. People in the home who are responsible for household labor tend to be exposed to pollutants from cooking and cleaning, putting them at a higher health risk. To reduce poor air quality in the kitchen, consider switching to an electric stove, as gas stoves have higher emissions. Install a range hood if possible, but make sure to use some type of exhaust fan and open windows. Also, we recommend using cleaners free of harmful chemical emissions as well.
Bathrooms can have a lot of poor air quality triggers as well. When searching for your new home, or improving your current one, make sure there’s a ventilation system in each bathroom. The humidity that lives in your bathroom is a breeding ground for mold and mildew that produce spores that hurt home air quality. Bathrooms also tend to have lots of aerosols, such as hair spray and air fresheners, which you should avoid. Additionally, avoid highly chemicalized cleaners in the bathroom. Being such a small space, these cleaners can be extra harmful to your health.
To improve your in-home air quality, you may want to renovate or install an HVAC system. Having an HVAC system can come with a lot of benefits. Usually, it’s mounted on the roof or next to the home, so it saves you interior space that would have been taken up by the HVAC unit. It’ll bring you comfort, and if you ever sell your home, central air will draw buyers to it. It can also help you reduce utility costs, and be easier to install and maintain. If you didn't have central air already, an air conditioner is a worthy investment. Reducing carpeted areas in your home will also improve air quality, as carpet picks up dander more than hard floors.
How Can You Maintain Your Home Air Quality?
There are numerous ways to maintain your home’s air quality, especially if you own your home. For renters and those working with a limited budget, there are also affordable and easy to implement these changes to keep indoor air clean. Whatever your living situation is, be sure to check your air quality at home with an air quality monitor first. Regular indoor air quality testing is suggested to keep your air safe and clean.
First, make sure to change the air filters in your house’s HVAC system regularly. Not only can this improve your in-home air quality, but also reduce electricity bills. If you use candles, make sure they’re made of beeswax, which is less harmful than other candle waxes. You can also use humidifiers, or dehumidifiers, to control the moisture in your home’s air depending on the climate. Buying an air purifier can be helpful as well! As mentioned, using natural cleaning products without harmful chemicals can make a big difference in your home. Avoiding aerosols which only cover up the smells in the air instead of fixing them, will also harm your IAQ. If you have pets – and even if you don’t – make sure to clean carpets, couches, comforters, and sheets regularly, as they can pick up dust mites and pet dander. When you do this cleaning, bathe your pet as well.
You may want to consider having a smoking ban in the house. Secondhand smoke can be harmful to humans and pets in your home and will worsen your air quality. Open the windows for a few minutes per day to let the fresh air in. Even just a couple of minutes will make the air less stale and help reduce air pollutants inside. Some other ideas for improving air quality indoors are to have a shoes-off policy indoors, which will help keep outdoor pollutants from coming into the house.
A popular way to reduce air pollutants indoors is to bring houseplants into your home! Some of the best plants to improve indoor air quality are:
- Aloe Vera
- Boston Fern
- Peace Lily
- Palm Tree
- Spider Plant
- Snake Plant
- Red-Edged Dracaena
- English Ivy
- Broadleaf Lady Palm
- Golden Pothos
If you have pets, make sure that the houseplants you purchase are non-toxic. For example, peace lilies can be deadly for cats.
Why Home Air Quality Matters
Air quality is beyond important to your health, and poor home air quality can cause permanent damage to your lungs. While controlling outdoor air pollution may be difficult for one person, your home is much more manageable. With this knowledge, you can make the right choices in your home, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Even if you’re renting, some of these adjustments can easily be made within your lease! These changes, both big and small, can help support you on your journey of creating a healthy space for an improved quality of life.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to improve your in-home air quality, we highly recommend changing your air filters regularly. Filterbuy offers the highest quality, U.S.-made air filters in whatever size you need, plus get your order shipped FREE! If you’re looking for other quick ways to improve your home air quality, check out this article for some more tips!