With winter in full swing, most of us will spend a considerable amount of time indoors. If you live in a climate with a harsh winter, you’ll be spending upwards of 90% of your day inside. And if you’ve looked into air quality before, you know that indoor air quality is often much lower than outdoor air quality.
And why is this? Indoor air is often less diluted than outdoor air, and the pollutants inside take a significantly longer time to dissipate. This is due to low airflow and poor air circulation within the home. Unfortunately, this is the case with many modern homes.
Many older homes have been air sealed so as not to let cold air in and warm air out. While this is GREAT for our energy consumption, it often leads to poor indoor air quality. The fresh air cannot get into the house except through an open door or window.
While you’re cooped up inside this winter, take an opportunity to check off this list of ways to improve your indoor air quality. Many of these are small, inexpensive projects you could tackle on a weekend morning. You might be surprised how these simple adjustments can help you feel better and stay healthy this winter season!
Change Air Filters
Winter is a great time to change out your furnace filters. This is an incredible tool to help remove allergens and, in some cases, bacteria from the air. Changing your furnace filter every 3-4 months is ideal, especially if you have pets or you do much renovating in your home.
Changing the filter often is a MUST. Pets often shed dander and hair that will get pulled into your furnace system through the venting and can build up on your filter quickly. The same goes for dust from renovations and home projects.
The type of filter you choose can play a big part in your indoor air quality. I recommend a furnace filter with a MERV Rating of 12 or higher. This stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, referring to the filter's effectiveness. Personally, I recommend Nordic Pure as they are cost-effective and high quality.
TIP: Buy a box of filters, so they are on hand all year-long. This will help you remember to change the filter often.
Change Your Cleaning Strategy
Not only is our indoor air laden with dust and allergens, we also introduce harsh chemicals to the air through our cleaning and disinfecting routines. One way to minimize the addition of chemicals is to eliminate them from our daily routines. This may feel overwhelming — but it’s just a few simple steps. And the great thing is you can replace many of those bottles with just one or two simple cleaners.
My best advice is to find a concentrated cleaner that you can use in multiple ways around your home. And remember, when making natural homemade cleaners: it is important to remember that the cleaner will not disinfect and a disinfectant will not clean.
Reduce Moisture Inside
While the winter air outside may be dry, it’s important not to keep your indoor air at a humidity level that is too high. Excessive moisture can raise your indoor humidity levels a considerable amount. When indoor humidity levels are too high, you run the risk of creating an environment where mold, mildew, and dust mites will reproduce and grow.
The optimal indoor humidity level is between 30% and 40%. If it’s too low, you might begin to feel irritated skin and nasal passages from the dry air. If it’s too high, well, you’ll start to see its effects in a poor indoor air quality level.
Some common daily activities that increase the level of humidity in your home:
Cooking without lids
Line-drying laundry inside
Bathing without a vented fan/window
Wet-mopping floors without drying
By reducing the extra moisture in the air, you can prevent the spread of dustmites and mold and keep your indoor air quality.
Remove and Prevent Dust
Dust is not only an allergen, but it can also contain bacteria and viruses, depending on where it comes from. Reducing dust doesn’t mean dusting your house every day.
NO THANK YOU! No, there are easy ways to reduce dust and prevent it instead.
First and foremost, every few winters it is a great idea to have your HVAC venting cleaned if a forced air furnace is your main form of heating. This is an especially good idea if you have pets. Homes with pets tend to see a lot more dust and debris from animal dander and shedding.
Second, double-check and make sure your dryer vent is properly vented outside without any connections coming loose. And if you’re getting your HVAC venting cleaned it’s not a bad idea to have them clean your dryer vent as well, which can be a fire hazard on top of introducing lint and dust into your air.
Last, do a little dusting here and there to remove the particles that settle on surfaces. This all-natural spray and a microfiber cloth can actually prevent dust from settling in the future as well.
Contain Craft + Paint Supplies If Stored Inside
If your home has a craft corner that is stocked with paints, glues, and solvents, then you may want to consider changing how you store your products.
Even when contained in a jar, bottle, or can, many paints and solvents continue to off-gas harmful chemicals into the air. Spray paint cans are notorious for this problem.
As you know most paints in cold climates will become ruined if left outside or in the garage in the freezing winter. If you plan on keeping your craft essentials indoors, I strongly recommend keeping them out of living areas and putting them in a sealable tote. This will ensure your indoor air is affected as little as possible.
Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector
The time of the year when furnaces are on and homes are sealed up tight to prevent winter air from coming in is also the time of the year we hear about deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.
When gas appliances are vented improperly or venting is blocked, carbon monoxide can enter the air during the combustion phase. Carbon Monoxide is odorless and is impossible to detect on your own.
By equipping your home with at least one carbon monoxide detector, you will prevent any chance of carbon monoxide poisoning this winter. By working through just a few of these small tasks this winter, you can greatly improve the indoor air quality in your home. A healthy house is a healthy family.
By, Amanda Klecker Certified Building Biology Advocate & Certified Professional Inspector
While there are SO many ways you can improve your indoor air quality, these are some of the most simple and cost-effective ways to make a big impact. Remember, each and every step you take towards a healthier house is unburdening your body and supporting your health and wellness.