When we think about ‘air quality’, images of factory smoke and thick brown smog over busy highways come to mind. But poor indoor air quality actually poses a greater risk to our health over the long term, because we spend so much time indoors. In South Florida, we pay so much attention to cooling our homes that we rarely give a thought to the quality of the air we are breathing. Yet improving the quality of your home’s air is one of the best long-term investments you can make in your home and your family’s health.
There are many reasons why your home’s air quality might be poor because unfortunately, there are many possible pollutants and contaminants out there. More common sources include dust, pet hair, dander, pollen, and mold spores, which may cause allergies, congestion, and headaches. Certain cleaning products may have a lingering effect on air quality after use. Sometimes, even everyday household items – such as composite wood furniture – can emit harmful gases (such as formaldehyde) over time.
These risks are all made worse by the fact that modern homes are more effectively sealed than ever before. While this is important for the energy efficiency of your air conditioning system, it also means that our homes are not naturally ventilated, making it easier for pollutants to build up indoors.
There are a number of simple and effective steps you can take to improve the indoor air quality of your home. These include regular vacuuming and cleaning of surfaces, drapes, and carpets, and washing your linen in hot water (at least 130° F) to remove dust mites. Frequently brushing your pets outside to remove hair and dander is also important. Investing in a dehumidifier to reduce indoor moisture and mold growth is another good place to start, especially in humid places like Florida.
Since it’s usually not possible to detect indoor air pollutants with the senses, the first step to taking ‘air care’ seriously is to test your home’s indoor air quality. There are many ways to do this. For example, a particle counter allows you to test the size and number of particles suspended in your home’s air. When indoor particulate matter is below a certain size, it can be especially dangerous for your health. A particle counter test will give you a good indication of the PM levels in your home.
If your concern is that contaminants are entering your home from a nearby source of pollution, a duct leak test can reveal whether there are leaks in your ducts through which outdoor air is entering. A blower door test, which measures the air filtration rate of a building, can also be useful to test where and how much outdoor air is infiltrating a space.
Depending on the type and level of particulate matter in your home, a HEPA filter could help improve your indoor air quality. HEPA filters can remove up to 99.97% of particles measuring 0.3 microns or more from the air. Installing a HEPA filter in your home’s ductwork or on your HVAC unit can significantly reduce the levels of contaminants in your home. HEPA filters are especially effective at removing dust, pet dander, mold spores, and smoke particles from the air.
Air purifiers also target these types of contaminants but work through ionization rather than filtration. They charge the air with negative ions, which then attach to positively charged particles like dust and smoke. This makes the pollutants easier to extract through the air purifier, although some of the charged particles settle onto floors and surfaces instead where they can be cleaned away. Air purifiers are not as efficient as HEPA filters, but they do reduce the level of contaminants actively floating in the air.
If you’ve discovered your home’s ductwork is leaking and your concern is outside contaminants getting in, resealing your duct system will go a long way to protecting your indoor air from contamination. Even if your ductwork isn’t leaking, a thorough inspection and cleaning of your ducts will improve air quality. An inspection of your home’s ducts and HVAC unit can also determine whether hidden mold growth is causing poor air quality, in which case it’s time to give the mold remediation specialists a call.
If you’re concerned that the quality of the air in your home is not what it should be, Art Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electric is here to help. Our Home Comfort Specialists will test the air quality of your home or office space, and tailor an air treatment solution for you based on the results. Call us at 561-391-1048 today and we’ll help you to breathe easy!