Indoor air quality may not seem like a big concern, but did you know that the air in your home is up to five times more polluted than the air outdoors? Poor indoor air quality is linked to symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing, congestion, and allergic reactions. Here are five common myths you may believe about the quality of your indoor air and the truth behind them.
1. Air Pollution Is Only a Problem Outdoors
You hear a lot about smog and air quality concerns in big cities, but did you know that air pollution isn’t just an issue outside? In fact, indoor air quality is usually worse than outdoor air quality. According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants are usually two to five times higher than pollutants outdoors. They can be even higher in some cases.
Most of the pollutants affecting your indoor air quality come from inside your house, including cigarette and cooking smoke, burning candles, hair spray, household cleaners, pet dander, and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from paint.
2. A Humidifier Is Always a Good Idea to Solve Dry Indoor Air
During the winter, relative humidity decreases and the air indoors can become dry and cause itchy skin. While the use of a humidifier can help, it’s a good idea to think twice. Low humidity in your home is a result of indoor air leaking outside. This is a problem that should be addressed rather than simply adding moisture into your house.
If you increase the humidity above 40% indoors, you’ll actually decrease your indoor air quality by allowing bacteria, fungi, and mold to thrive.
3. You Only Need to Worry About Unpleasant Odors
It’s a common myth that as long as your indoor air smells good, the quality of the air is good. While musty and unpleasant aromas do correlate with bad air and pollutants, candles and air fresheners also introduce indoor air pollution. In addition, there are odorless contaminants you should consider such as carbon monoxide and radon.
4. Air Conditioners Only Cool Air and Can’t Improve Air Quality
Your air conditioner is designed to circulate the air inside your home through a filter and over a cold coil to make the air cooler. This process doesn’t just improve comfort during the summer months; rather, your air handler and air conditioner also help to remove pollutants from the air you breathe. Larger particles are trapped in the air filter, while the air handler removes many water-soluble particles.
If you notice your indoor air seems stale or stuffy, your air conditioner may need a tune-up. There are three primary ways to improve the ability of your air conditioner to filter your indoor air:
- Adjust and clean the air ducts
- Clean your evaporator coil
- Change your air filters
Changing your filters on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to improve indoor air quality and prevent unnecessary strain on your air conditioner. When filters become clogged, they reduce airflow to the air conditioner, which makes it harder for the unit to filter the air or even operate properly.
The higher the MERV rating on the air filter, the better it is as filtering pollutants. Filters with a MERV rating of 13 and above can remove up to 90% or more of even very tiny particles like bacteria and tobacco smoke, while filters with a MERV rating of at least 8 can filter particles such as mold spores and pet dander. Just remember that a higher MERV rating isn’t always better. If your heating or cooling system can’t support the higher rating, it will only reduce airflow to the system and potentially cause damage and inefficiency.
Evaporator coils should also be cleaned when the system is tuned-up to make sure they can properly chill the air.
The air ducts that distribute air throughout your home and return it to the air handler should be inspected occasionally as well. Air ducts can become loose over time and allow air to escape and pollutants like dust to enter the system. Your air ducts may need to be professionally sealed and tightened, too.
5. Improving Indoor Air Quality Is Challenging and Expensive
There are actually many ways to boost the quality of your indoor air, including methods you can do on your own and with the help of a professional. For example, you can improve ventilation in your house by opening windows, using ceiling fans, and turning on kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. Ventilation is most important when you’re doing an activity that introduces air pollution such as painting, sanding, or cooking.
Installing an air cleaner can also be effective whether it’s a smaller tabletop model or a whole-home air cleaner. Your house’s humidity may need to be adjusted to within an ideal range that keeps you comfortable without encouraging mold and bacteria growth.
Interested in improving the indoor air quality in your home? Call us at Bratcher Heating & Air Conditioning today to learn about indoor air quality products and duct cleaning in your Peoria, IL, house. We’ll strive to make your indoor air fresher and cleaner. We also offer heating, cooling, geothermal and fireplace installation, maintenance, and repair for residential and commercial properties.