7 air quality threats and 5 ways to fight them.
Today’s homes are more energy efficient than ever. And while that’s great news for your utility bill, it’s not necessarily conducive to healthy breathing. Because when a home is more tightly sealed against air leakage and the elements, it tends to have the unintended consequence of trapping indoor air.
That air contains particles and moisture that can adversely affect your health. Without proper air quality measures, that trapped air and its particles are recirculated through your home, and your family.
But once you understand the sources of poor air quality, and the ways to combat it, you can enjoy a healthier, more comfortable environment every day.
Some of the worst offenders in your air come from nature itself. These particles include pet dander, pollen and dust. If left unchecked, they can aggravate asthma symptoms, and cause sneezing, coughing, hives or more serious health problems.
2. Bacteria, germs, mildew and mold
They can trigger allergic reactions, stain walls, cause illness and create unpleasant odors in the air. If left unchecked, they can even cause structural damage to your home.
3. Household chemicals
Often completely invisible, household chemicals create harmful vapors in the air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency*, these vapors can come from new carpet, household cleaners and solvents, paints and varnishes, and even gasoline stored in the garage.
These chemicals can cause eye, throat and lung irritation, and pose a greater risk to young children, the elderly and anyone with a respiratory issue.
Air quality isn’t just dependent on the pollutants floating in the air. Humidity also plays an important role, and regulating it properly can have a substantial effect on the air in your home, and your health.
Not enough humidity: Dry air can cause dry, itchy skin, which in turn can increase the levels of dust in your air. Low humidity also causes painful shocks from static electricity, and can also dry out and damage furniture, leather, wood floors and other furnishings.
Dry air is also known to cause breathing difficulty and even nosebleeds, while increasing your risk of contracting respiratory viruses.
Too much humidity: Too much moisture in the air encourages the growth of mildew, mold and bacteria. It can also damage furniture, books, clothing and leather items over time.
What’s more, air that is too humid will feel sticky and heavy, making your home far less comfortable.
Your sense of smell is designed to protect you from things that can be harmful. Lingering odors from cooking fumes, pets and smoke can cause breathing difficulties, irritation, headaches and even dizziness and nausea.
Unfortunately, chemical air fresheners used to combat these smells will only mask the problem, and can even release harmful or irritating chemicals into the air themselves.
Ozone is a form of oxygen that’s found naturally in the earth’s atmosphere, where it helps to block certain forms of radiation. However, when it gets into your home, it can be dangerous.
Ozone is created by devices in your home that use electric motors, like vacuum cleaners and even your refrigerator. Another common source of ozone production in the home is the use of certain home air purifiers, which actually aggravate the problem they were designed to solve.
Breathing ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain, while repeated exposure can lead to chronic respiratory issues.
When the air in your home can’t circulate, it can stagnate. This creates unpleasant, lingering odors and a stuffy, unpleasant feeling in the room. Stale air also allows moisture to linger and collect on windows and walls, where it can encourage the growth of allergens and other harmful particles.
Fighting the threats to your air.
There are five main types of technology used in controlling the quality of your air. Three that involve floating particles, and two that focus on maintaining proper humidity levels.
When you think “air filter,” this is probably what comes to mind. Replaceable filters are usually made of folded paper or fiberglass, and are typically mounted in the furnace or air handler of your home comfort system.
When air passes through a disposable filter, the particles in the air stick to the filter material, and are then taken out of circulation. As their name suggests, disposable filters are designed to be discarded after use, and replaced with a fresh filter. Disposable filters should be changed on a regular basis.
Examples of filters in this category include Healthy Climate® Merv 16, Merv 10 and Merv 8 filters.
These filtration devices don’t rely simply on paper or fiberglass to attract particles. Instead, they generate an electric field through which air passes. This gives the suspended particles in the air a positive or negative charge, causing them stick to either metal or plastic plates mounted inside the electrostatic filter.
Electrostatic filters are more effective than disposable filters because they can charge and, therefore, collect particles that are small enough to pass through regular disposable filters.
Electrostatic filters aren’t disposable. Instead, they should be cleaned regularly by you or your dealer.
The best way to combat organic particles in the air, such as molds and bacteria, is to kill them off. One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of a germicidal light. By blasting the air with a powerful ultraviolet light as it passes through the furnace or air handler, these organic particles are rendered harmless.
Only one product on the market combines filtration electrostatic filtration and germicidal lighting. The PureAir Air Purification System from Lennox.
Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
The level of moisture in your air can be controlled fairly easily by the addition of a humidifier or dehumidifier that will remove or add moisture to the air to make it healthier and more comfortable.
Heat- and energy-recovery ventilators
An energy-recovery ventilator or heat- recovery ventilator helps solve the problem of stale and stuffy air by moving it to the outside—without wasting the energy you’ve spent heating, cooling and dehumidifying it. So your home smells and feels better, and you can breathe easier.