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How Can You Prevent Air Quality Issues from Building Up Within Your Home?

Air conditioner behind a ficus to imrpove air quality - Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing

Unfortunately, many Cincinnati area households are negatively impacted by common indoor air quality issues without even knowing it! Just because indoor air quality issues aren’t clearly seen does not mean they don’t produce issues that affect your family. 

Luckily, there are some HVAC solutions that target the most common indoor air quality issues Cincinnati households face. The heating and cooling pros of Thomas & Galbraith explain why air quality is so important and how to fight back against these common household problems. If you experience any of these problems in your home, give us a call to learn more about the solutions we have to offer.

Your Indoor Air

When you think about the term ‘air quality’, air pollution in our outdoor environment probably comes to the top of your mind. If you have ever seen a photo of smog looming over a major metropolitan area, air quality issues become easy to visualize. However, this isn’t just an outdoor problem – the quality of the air inside your home is just as concerning.

Did you know that the air inside your home can have much higher pollutant concentrations than the air outdoors? As much as 2 to 5 times more, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This happens for a few reasons – your home is a smaller, contained area, and most homes are tightly sealed to improve heating and cooling efficiency. Plus, families bring a lot of pollutants into the home, whether its realized or not.

Indoor air quality issues are of particular importance because of our exposure to them. The overwhelming majority of our time is spent indoors (90 percent for the average American). With so much time spent indoors, the health of your indoor environment has a real impact on your personal health – constant exposure to indoor air quality issues creates physical symptoms as well as discomfort. Indoor air quality issues are an even bigger problem for more susceptible populations, such as children, older folks, and those with cardiovascular or respiratory problems – and often times, these people are the ones who spend the most time indoors.

Indoor air quality issues cause real issues – just because you cannot visually see the problem does not mean it’s not there. Short-term exposure to poor indoor air quality causes people in the household to experience health effects such as eye, nose, and throat irritations, headaches, fatigue, and more. Those with asthma or allergies are exposed to more triggers, so the frequency of their symptoms increases. Long-term, exposure to some indoor pollutants has been linked to serious conditions such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and even lung cancer.

Indoor Air Pollutants

So many things we bring into our homes and use everyday are sources of pollution and common indoor air quality problems. Even some naturally occurring things become a problem in the home. Common household air pollutants include:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Radon
  • Pet hair
  • Pet dander
  • Mold
  • Lead
  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Pesticides
  • Fragrances
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

When certain conditions exist inside the home, the concentration of pollutants increases and indoor air quality issues develop. Additionally, activities within the home, the Cincinnati climate and weather, and more all impact your indoor air quality, all the time. With so many variables, indoor air quality issues are difficult to control without help.

Indoor Air Quality Issues & Solutions

Below are three big problems that Cincinnati households face when it comes to indoor air quality. It’s often difficult to detect these issues until you feel the symptoms they produce, so be mindful in order to quickly address the problem and take control of your indoor air quality.

  1. Introducing contaminants to the home
  2. Poor humidity control
  3. Lack of ventilation

Introducing Contaminants to the Home

Many of the airborne contaminants that cause indoor air quality issues in the home are ones we bring in ourselves, one way or another. We introduce them into our home environments, and the building tightness in place to help us save energy works against us by keeping more of those contaminants indoors, too. 

Contaminants come in and build up in our homes from everyday sources, such as:

  • Indoor pets
  • Using the fireplace
  • Cooking
  • Burning candles
  • Body fragrances
  • Air fresheners
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Smoking inside
  • Paint
  • Construction materials

As contaminant levels build up inside the home, occupants are susceptible to health issues that mimic symptoms of the common cold or allergies, including eye, nose, and throat irritations, runny noses, itchy skin, and more. Because these symptoms so closely resemble those of other common issues, it can be tough to tell if your home has indoor air quality issues.

The first step to control contaminant levels in the home is to limit the amount of contaminants you introduce to this environment. Change habits and switch products to lessen contaminant concentration.

  • Stop using air fresheners and candles (if you must, choose phthalate-free products)
  • Stop smoking indoors
  • Choose low- or no-VOC cleaning products
  • Keep pets groomed
  • Clean surfaces frequently
  • Use exhaust fans when needed

Additionally, there are HVAC solutions to common indoor air quality issues. To reduce the concentration of contaminants in your Cincinnati home, consider the following:

  • Air cleaners: Air cleaners trap contaminant particles as air circulates. The filter media pulls these particles out so cleaner air travels back into your living areas. Don’t rely on just your furnace filter for cleaner air – its job is to protect your HVAC system from contaminants, not to improve air quality.
  • Ventilation systems: Ventilation systems pull the polluted air out of your living areas as they bring in fresh air from outdoors to replace it. With natural ventilation diminished through a tightly sealed home, you may benefit from mechanical ventilation to help control air quality. 

Poor Humidity Control

A home’s relative humidity levels need to be kept balanced between 35 and 50 percent. When relative humidity becomes too low or too high, air quality issues arise. High humidity increases the risk of mold growth while also increasing concentrations of household pollutants in the air.

Air that is too moist creates physical symptoms that include:

  • More frequent allergy symptoms
  • More frequent asthma attacks
  • Itchy eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Lung infections
  • Skin irritations

In addition to these symptoms, high humidity also creates comfort control issues. When air is too moist, it feels warmer. Because of this, you may feel the need to increase use of your HVAC system, which makes your energy bills grow.

Luckily, these indoor air quality issues are addressed through the use of HVAC products including:

  • Dehumidifiers: A whole-home dehumidifier pulls excess moisture out of the air that circulates through the HVAC system and your home. It runs automatically to remove moisture as needed and keep relative humidity levels perfectly balanced. Reduced humidity lessens the likelihood of physical symptoms and mold growth.
  • Exhaust ventilation: Certain areas of the home generate a great deal of humidity at certain times – you know how steamy your bathroom gets during a hot shower! If this moisture isn’t removed, it just increases the humidity levels in your home. It’s important to use exhaust ventilation systems, like your bathroom exhaust fan or kitchen range hood, when you perform activities that add moisture to the air inside your home.

Lack of Ventilation

Many Cincinnati homes suffer from poor ventilation, leaving the household with stale, polluted air. In addition to high concentrations of contaminants, indoor air quality issues related to poor ventilation also make it more difficult to regulate temperatures in your home.

Another issue that stems from poor ventilation is radon exposure. This colorless, odorless gas seeps into homes through foundation cracks and other air leaks. Radon is naturally occurring uranium and is radioactive – it is formed as soil and rock decay below ground.

If your home has poor ventilation, radon can increase to unsafe levels. Exposure to this carcinogen is a known cause of lung cancer.

Improving household ventilation alleviates indoor air quality issues as well as comfort issues. The following indoor air quality solutions are helpful for addressing this challenge.

  • Ventilation systems: Exhaust the buildup of contaminants outside and bring in fresh air periodically with a whole-home ventilation system. Don’t worry about wasted energy when you utilize an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) – this system extracts energy from outgoing air and uses it to condition the air brought in.
  • Spot ventilation: This type of ventilation system addresses increased ventilation needs due to activities occurring in the home. Bathing, cooking, even some types of garage shop work introduces contaminants into your air, which are left to linger in the home if not exhausted away. 

Address Indoor Air Quality Issues Now

Take control of the indoor air quality within your walls with targeted solutions that address your home’s indoor air quality issues. Thomas & Galbraith helps you identify problems and implement solutions that help you take control of air quality to produce a healthier, safer, and more comfortable indoor environment. Talk to our indoor air quality specialists today about the health of your home’s air – contact us now.

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