While summer brings warmer days and time to enjoy the great outdoors, it also brings with it a number of air quality concerns. In many areas, the air quality is poor during summer months. If you live rurally, farmers around you stir up the earth in the spring, adding dirt to the air that can, in turn, come into your home. No matter where you live, you likely have to deal with pollen and environmental pollutants.
People spend about 90 percent of their time inside, but the air in our homes has more pollution than the air outside in a highly polluted city. Fortunately, you can do a number of things that will keep the air in your home cleaner. Even if the air quality outside is rated poor, you can escape inside, stay healthy and breathe freely. Here are seven ways to keep inside air clean.
1. Invest in Radon Detectors
This odorless but deadly gas is naturally occurring but can easily build up in crawl spaces and basements. A number of studies link radon exposure to risk of developing lung cancer, so investing in an inexpensive radon detector is worth the investment to protect your family.
Some states have a higher occurrence of unsafe radon levels than others. For example, in some states, radon tests positive over four pCi/L in one out of every three homes. Some solutions reduce the radon in your home, and some are quite cost-effective compared to the risk of developing health issues.
2. Air Your Home Out
Grandma was really onto something when she insisted on opening the windows in the spring to “let in fresh air.” Since the air quality in homes can be more polluted than it is outside, allowing a good cross breeze in can push some of the unhealthy air out and enable fresh air to circulate.
An added bonus is that your home will smell fresher and you’ll save money on electricity, as the cool breeze will negate the need for air conditioning during mild weather. Aim to air your house out at least once for each season, even if only for an hour or so. Doing so will push that stale air out.
3. Install a Dehumidifier
Installing a dehumidifier is a great idea for high moisture areas where mold is likely to take root and grow. Black mold presents health risks to those breathing the air in a home filled with mold. A dehumidifier controls moisture levels, which also reduces the workload on your HVAC system. This perk reduces energy costs because your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard.
In addition to reducing the risk of mold, a dehumidifier lowers mildew and even dust mites and similar allergens. You can install a whole-home dehumidifier or simply purchase one for specific areas of your home, such as a room a child with asthma sleeps in.
4. Add HEPA Filters
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters use very fine mesh screens. This fine mesh grabs many of the indoor pollutants that cause issues for people, such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites. HEPA filters cost quite a bit more than a standard filter, but many of them are washable and reusable. You can also buy vacuums with HEPA filters, which reduces the irritants a vacuum cleaner expels back into the air.
HEPA filters are typically found in air purifiers, which you can purchase for just one room or the entire home, attaching a purifier to your HVAC system. Simply using a HEPA filter on your HVAC unit is not a good idea, as air flow would be too restricted, and your unit would not function properly. Most HVAC professionals install a whole-home purifier, or you can purchase a small, one-room unit at any home improvement store.
5. Clean With a Vengeance
If your family suffers from allergies, clean your home with a vengeance on a set schedule. Even if you don’t own a single pet, dead skin cells from human skin escape into the air, and dust mites abound. You can reduce the numbers by dusting a couple of times a week, mopping your floors every few days and deep cleaning items like drapery and bed linens.
Houses with poor ventilation as well as older homes tend to build up dust more quickly than newer construction, so you may need to dust more frequently. Get the whole family in on the activity so that all the cleaning isn’t a huge chore for one person.
6. Bring in Plants
Some green plants help clean the air. Adding a plant every 50 feet reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are simply chemicals released from everyday things, such as cleaning products, building materials and other common items found in the average home.
A healthy indoor plant reduces moisture in the home, helping humidity levels and reducing CO2 by taking in carbon and releasing oxygen. NASA did a study and came up with a top 10 list of healthy air plants, including plants such as bamboo palm, gerbera daisy and peace lily.
7. Install a Shoe and Coat Rack
When people go outside, they pick up all types of things on their shoes and clothing. If you’ve gone in a public restroom, for example, you might pick up bacteria. Installing a shoe and coat rack and teaching family to take off coats and shoes at the entrance of your home reduces the pollutants you carry in.
Instead of tracking that bacteria all through the home, you can ensure that it’s contained to a single spot and more easily cleaned. If you don’t have a mudroom or entry area, consider installing these items in an attached garage or back porch area.
Keep a Healthy Home All Summer Long
Summer is a time filled with fun memories and family outings, but it’s hard to enjoy the fun if your family is ill. Spending a bit of time reducing some of the risks of poor air quality pays in big dividends. Take advantage of the warm weather — open your windows more, and spend more time cleaning and adding a few plants to your home.