Indoor Air Quality

cartoon house indoor air

The average American spends over 90 percent of their time indoors, where the air can be five times more polluted than outdoors. Homes have become more airtight in an effort to save energy, and as a result we have trapped pollutants inside.

Follow these steps for healthy indoor air

Eliminate

The number of products commonly found in homes that contain potentially harmful chemicals is growing. New furniture can contain urea formaldehyde or vinyl that will release dangerous pollutants. Household cleaners typically found under the kitchen sink might qualify as a mini hazardous waste site.

Look at the content of everything you bring into your house. There are safer alternatives available on the market for paint, wood products, cleaning products, flooring, etc. If it is not clear if a product will affect your indoor air quality, ask the sales person or use online product guides like Green Guard.

If you are replacing carpeting, think about installing a hard surface floor that will not harbor dust and dirt. Learn more about carpet and air quality.

Pollutants can literally walk into your home. Remove your shoes at the front door so pollutants and dirt aren’t spread throughout the house. Install a six-foot long, synthetic “walk off mat” outside all entry doors. It will help knock dirt off shoes before people get to the door.

Ventilate

Use bio-based cleaning products. If you have to use stronger products, open a window and run an exhaust fan to air out quickly.

To reduce moisture, run your exhaust fan in the kitchen when cooking and unloading the dishwasher. Run the bathroom exhaust fan for 10 to 20 minutes after taking a shower. Moisture can find its way into wall cavities and can cause rotting and/or mold growth.

If you have a large gathering at your house, open a couple of windows. Your house’s fresh air ventilation system is designed for a limited number of family members, not a crowd.

Finally, if you have a forced air furnace, check out brochures on furnace ventilation systems to make sure your system is working properly. We have two brochures: Whole House Ventilation for homes built after 1990 (PDF) and Whole House Ventilation for homes built after 2010 (PDF). Heating and ventilating contractors can also check your fresh air supply system and service your furnace to make sure it’s running safely and efficiently.

Filtrate

Change or clean your furnace filter every one to three months depending on where your house is located and the habits of your family, including whether you have pets.

Invest in quality furnace filters. Many filters will have a MERV rating. The MERV Rating System goes from 1 (which is the least effective) to 16 (which is the most effective).

Most furnace systems can handle the tighter filters. However, you should check with your furnace technician if you want to use a MERV 8 or above to see if your furnace can handle the greater resistance of the higher efficiency filter.

People with asthma or other sensitivities may benefit from a home air filter.

Separate

Keep pesticides, paint, gas cans and other noxious chemicals in a shed or other type of out building that is not attached to your house. About 20 percent of the air that infiltrates into a house comes from the attached garage.

Keep it dry

Check for and repair plumbing leaks immediately. Leaks can go undetected for a long time and can cause serious damage to your house and encourage mold growth. Learn more about the cause and cure for mold.

Make sure gutters and downspouts drain properly and carry water away from the house. Roof leaks at plumbing vent pipes and chimneys can also bring water, and the possibility for mold, into your house. Check the caulking on doors and windows, as the more exposed they are to rain and sun, the more likely they will need maintenance.

Test

Clark County is designated as a high radon potential area. Radon is gas that is produced naturally by decaying rock. You can easily test your home to see if radon gas is present.

There are two types of radon test kits available: charcoal canister and an Alpha Track kit. Charcoal canister test kits test the air in your home over a short period of time (a week or so). Alpha Track test kits require at least three months, but are more accurate.

Links

Indoor Air Quality House
Mold, Moisture and your Home USEPA (PDF)
Home Ventilating Institute
US EPA Publications and Resources
US EPA Indoor airPlus program
A Citizen’s Guide to Radon
For kids: Chemicals in Your House
Healthy Indoor Air (PDF)

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