A Guide to Poor Indoor Air Quality and How to Improve It

One of the most frightening things for any homeowner to stumble upon is an intruder — especially if they’re completely invisible. One of the most common types of trespassers in many homes across the country is poor indoor air quality. This “unwelcome guest” arrives when you least expect it and can bring more bad than good in your home.

So, how exactly can you tell if your home has poor indoor air quality? Let us explain:

Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Large Accumulations of Dust

Do you feel as if you are constantly dusting your home? If so, it may seem like no matter how many times you might be picking up an old t-shirt or cleaning cloth, the dust just keeps building up non-stop. This, friends, is a common sign of having poor indoor air quality in your home. The reason being is that if there isn’t enough fresh, clean air being pumped into a living space, then dust can be considered your new roommate.

Indoor Allergies

No matter what the season may be, do you think that your allergies are lingering around much longer than you’d like for them to? Typically when this happens, it’s a result of (you guessed it!) having less-than-stellar I.A.Q. present. Signs of indoor allergies include but aren’t limited to:

  • Headache

  • Runny nose

  • Itchy, dry eyes

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

Strange Smells

Another startling sign of having poor indoor air quality is the air smelling rather unusual. And in most cases, that smell is caused by the formation of mold — which, no matter how big or small the amount may be, it can be dangerous to your well-being. On average, mold forms when:

  • A window is poorly sealed

  • Hot showers are frequently taken without proper ventilation

  • A pipe burst is lingering behind a wall or ceiling, which makes the dark space damp

And all of these factors, and more, that lead to mold, will continue to bring down your indoor air quality. Of course, there are some other ways that homeowners are contributing to the poor indoor air quality — which they might not even know they’re doing.

Ways Homeowners Diminish Indoor Air Quality

Opting for Chemical Cleaners

A “must” on any homeowner’s to-do list is cleaning their most significant investment: their home! And while it might seem easy to spray some cleaner on a rag and wipe down every surface, there’s a chance that you’ll be doing more harm than good — how so? Simple: by using chemical-based cleaners.

It’s possible that anything that comes in a spray bottle in your home is jam-packed with them — whether it’s a streak-free window cleaner or a tile cleaner. And when you use these, the chemicals within them can linger (invisibly) in the air, gradually bringing down the quality.

Of course, there’s more than one way that indoor air quality can be brought down — we’re looking at you, pet owners.

Not Grooming Shedding Pets Often

Does your fur baby tend to shed often? You know what we’re talking about, pet parents: needing to use a lint roller, daily, and covering the furniture with a protective blanket to make sure that it’s not covered in strands of their coat. However, although those pieces of fur can not only cling to fabric, they can also stick to the walls of your air ducts, too.

And just think, the minute that your HVAC unit kicks on, that fur and pet dander will go airborne, floating throughout your home.

Not Taking Shoes Off

It can be rather simple to come in from a long day at work and trek inside your home with your shoes one. Regardless of where you walked or what type of footwear you’re wearing, there’s a chance that you’re bringing in some “unwanted guests” on the sole of your shoe — which can be quite alarming.

Especially if you think about some of the places you’ve been (a public restroom, parking garage, etc.), any germs that were on the floor now inhabit your footwear and can be left behind on any flooring in your home. Furthermore, these particles linger around much longer than you’d like for them and even have the chance to go airborne.

Using Air Fresheners

Remember how we spoke about using chemical cleaners earlier? Well, on that topic, if you happen to be using spray or gel air fresheners, we have some bad news for you: these can also bog down your indoor air quality. Think about it: there’s a very slim chance that a company was able to break down actual sugar cookies and put them in a can for you to spray.

The scent you’re inhaling is entirely composed of chemicals — which aren’t the best to inhale or have lingering around in your home. And no matter how much of the air freshener you’re using, any amount at all isn’t the best to have dispersed in your home.

If you’re shaking your head in disbelief at this very moment, there are some ways that you can take charge of the situation and improve your overall indoor air quality.

Ways to Improve Your Poor Indoor Air Quality

Replace HVAC Filters Regularly

When was the last time you replaced your HVAC filter? For some, that could have been the other day, while for others, that might have been a few months ago. Regardless, it’s essential to make sure that your filter is replaced approximately every two-to-three months. This will not only keep your HVAC unit in great shape but will also help keep many airborne allergens out of your air ducts — which brings us to the next important point: selecting the correct MERV rating for your filter!

Choose the Proper MERV Rating

If you’re not familiar with “MERV,” it’s okay — we’re here to explain! MERV, which also stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is provided to an HVAC filter and rates how big or small pores are within them (which, depending on the size, helps block airborne debris from entering your ductwork). And depending on the type of unit you’re replacing the filter on, your MERV rating will come in handy!

When selecting a MERV rating for your unit, there will be a number between 1-16 — you’ll want to find one with a rating between 7 and 12 for most residential properties. And if you happen to pick something a little higher than 12, there’s a chance you could cause a strain on your system — and that’s never a good thing.

However, when you receive your annual HVAC tune-up, don’t hesitate to ask your technician what rating would be the most efficient for your system’s filter; it can help out in the long run!

Open the Windows

Depending on the season, you might not want to open the windows in your home. And while this might seem like a good idea, keeping your living space wholly-sealed shut isn’t a good idea either. There’s a chance that the air quality will get “stale,” which will allow for the accumulation of dust and debris. That said, it would be beneficial to open the windows (when you’re home, of course) a few times a week to help freshen the air that resides in your living space.

Stop Using Air Fresheners

As mentioned earlier, chemically-produced air fresheners can hinder your indoor air quality. And no matter how good they may smell, spraying them isn’t a wise choice. Therefore, you should opt to use essential oils instead!

Coming in an array of scents, these will make for the perfect alternative since they don’t carry a variety of harmful chemicals. Now, regarding how you use them, it depends on your preference. However, one of the most popular methods is getting an essential oil diffuser, putting a few drops of your favorite oil in there, and letting the aroma take over!

Leave Shoes at the Door

If you’re guilty of walking inside of your home with your shoes on, then it would be best to leave them at the door altogether. If you do feel inclined to have some sort of footwear on in your home, then place some slippers or house-only shoes by the entrance — that way, you can take off one pair of footwear and opt for another.

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuuming regularly is rather essential. And no matter if you have hardwood floors or carpeting, this will help make a difference in your home. Especially if you have a vacuum with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, this will remove the most debris (visible and invisible) from your flooring, helping protect your indoor air quality.

Groom Your Pets Regularly

If your fur baby tends to shed a lot, then it’s best to groom them regularly! For example, bathing your dog at least once a month, followed by brushing them a few times a week, will help control their shedding (depending on the breed). Although this won’t stop their shedding altogether, it will make a significant impact on not only your dog but your home!

Not Too Sure What's Bringing Down Your I.A.Q.?

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of replacing your filters, having your air ducts cleaned, and sealing any leaks in the ductwork that may be present. And with a team of highly-skilled professionals, that can all be done with the utmost of ease.

For assistance, give Proactive Comfort a call at (603) 239-2346 and schedule your appointment!