The Best Advice for Indoor Air in Winter
Picture it: you step into an elevator. Someone has indigestion. You know what happens if that person loses all discretion in that six-by-six-foot space!
Now picture yourself at home in front of the fireplace. It’s one of those cold snaps here in North Texas, and the temperature has dropped to 20 degrees by the time you’re done with dishes after dinner.
The flames lick the fresh log you set on the bed of soft ash and embers. Just take it all in…the color, the warmth…that crick-crackling sound…and the smell.
It’s a much more pleasant scene than the elevator, isn’t it?!
Each scene is a strong sensory reminder of how indoor air works. You are hermetically sealed in your home, just like those doors that close ominously around you in an elevator…if something harmful is in your air at home, you WILL be taking that toxin in with every breath.
As it turns out, indoor air quality takes a big nosedive in winter. To keep your indoor air quality right where it should be this season, here’s what you need to know.
Winter Air 101: Winter Drought
The summer heat is not the only reason why we get so sweaty in warmer months.
You KNOW that humidity we complain about in Texas summer…turns out that humidity actually adds to your sweat volume!!
The dry air in the winter helps keep you from getting sweaty even more than the drop in temperature. Less humidity in the air does ultimately mean that your skin, nose and throat will get MUCH drier, too.
But hold on! This can leave your mouth, nose and nasal passage more susceptible to indoor air pollution!
Controlling the humidity levels in your home to an ideal, Goldilocks standard is step one in indoor air quality…
Here’s what you can do:
- Run a humidifier
- If you don’t have (or want) a humidifier, get houseplants! Their process of “transpiration” is where the moisture evaporating from the leaves and stems add humidity instead to the air around you…
- Seal your home properly—the air outside will be even drier than your indoor air, especially when that next cold snap comes…so check your doors and windows for proper sealing BEFORE that next cold front hits!
Lifestyle Effects on Indoor Air Quality
The air inside our HOMES (and inside other buildings) is more polluted than outdoor air, usually by eight or nine TIMES.
We also spend around 90% of our time indoors…that number gets higher in the winter, too.
There is some silver lining!! Now that so many of us are working from home…exercising from home…taking care of kids or schooling them from home…we can control the air quality in our home to ensure MINIMAL exposure to air pollution indoors throughout the day.
The most common pollutant sources are often obvious, but when you put them all together it starts to paint a MUCH dirtier picture than you might have imagined before…
- Anything that burns in the home (from a candle to a fireplace)
- Tobacco products
- Asbestos-containing insulation
- Cabinets or furniture made of certain pressed woods
- Wet or dam carpet
- Household cleaners
- Personal care products
- Outdoor air that gets in
- Mold and mildew
- Animal dander and cat saliva
- Dust mites
Testing 101: How to Identify Indoor Air Problems
There are key signs to watch for that can signal BIG indoor air problems, especially if they show up after you moved into a new house OR started to spend more time in your home…
Problems with your ventilation almost always cause air quality problems, for starters. If the moisture isn’t leaving your bathroom efficiently, for instance, and you feel that dampness every time you walk in or start to see mold, your bathroom could be a hotspot for the lowest air quality in your whole home.
Other signs you have ventilation problems in any part of your home include:
- Smelly or stuffy air
- Condensation on windows or walls
- Shoes or books that become moist or moldy
- Dirty HVAC ducts or equipment
If you see any of these signs, or even if you don’t…try one of these 3 simple ways to test your air quality at home.
What to do?
If you DO test your indoor air quality and learn that you’re living between four walls of toxins, IMMEDIATE ACTION IS NEEDED.
Depending on the level of air pollution, here are the six best options to begin…
- Source control: eliminate the sources of pollution OR reduce their emissions, if you know what the primary sources are…
- Improve ventilation: increase the amount of air movement—not just the outdoor air coming in, but the movement of air through fans with exhaust pointing outdoors…this might be time for an upgrade on your kitchen oven hood, too, if it doesn’t have its own external-facing exhaust.
- Air cleaners: the market has PLENTY of these, including sophisticated whole-house systems. Be sure to read up on your options, because some are not designed to remove ANY gaseous pollutants. Dig deep into the “percentage efficiency rate” of each product and available customer reviews to find the best option…
- Ventilate the attic and crawl spaces: keep the humidity areas in these levels below 50%. There’s a lot of exposed wood up there to get moldy!
- Clean up: keep your house clean! (As though you needed another reason to do this!) Pollutants like dust mites, pollen and animal dander will build up if you don’t clean regularly.
- Clean your ducts: speaking of cleaning…if your ducts haven’t been cleaned in three years or more, you are moving dust and pollen AND other pollutants around every room of your home. Clean your ducts at least once every five years to avoid pollutant build-up. Learn more about duct cleaning…
This just scratches the surface of indoor air quality. Now that your home is serving SO many roles, there is no reason not to give your family the best shot at health.
Have you ever had an indoor air quality issue in your home? Have you tested for it? Do so today and let us know what you learn!!