As the weather changes temperature and humidity, it’s relatively normal to feel some discomfort in your throat and sinuses. However, if that discomfort doesn’t leave, and you find yourself with symptoms like headaches, sore throats, and nasal runniness or congestion on a regular basis, you might want to investigate your home’s indoor air quality.
What Is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?
Your indoor air quality (IAQ) is the general “healthiness” of the air you breathe inside your home. The lower the concentration of pollutants, the better the indoor air quality. Optimal indoor air quality for a home also has an ideal range for relative humidity (RH): between 30 and 50 percent. Higher humidity than that can lead to significant mold and pest control problems.
What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality can be negatively impacted by numerous sources, both natural and man-made. Here are some examples:
- Dust, dust mites, dander, hair, pest droppings, and textile fibers
- Byproducts (such as carbon monoxide) from combustion appliances like gas furnaces and stoves
- Mold and mildew spores
- Off-gassing from cleaning supplies, pesticides, paints, and bonding agents in engineered (pressed) wood
- Tobacco smoke
Why Is Good Indoor Air Quality Important?
So you know what indoor air quality is, but why does knowing about IAQ matter? The biggest reason is health. Consider this: back in 1987, the EPA determined that based on their data, the average American spends about 90 percent of their time indoors (where pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations). That was before we started doing everything on computers and working from home.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, more people are spending more time indoors at home than ever before. Breathing clean, healthy air in the place where you spend so much time is vitally important, especially because poor indoor air quality can have adverse short- and long-term health effects.
How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect Health?
The “immediate” symptoms of poor indoor air quality can often resemble a cold or allergies. You can feel fatigue or dizziness and may frequently get headaches and experience eye, nose, or throat irritation. Certain indoor air pollutants--such as dust mites, pet dander, cockroach skins, and secondhand smoke--can also trigger asthma attacks. According to the EPA, there can be some additional long-term health effects from prolonged exposure to poor indoor air quality, including respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.
Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
If you find that your symptoms improve once you leave home and spend some time outdoors or in another environment, it’s definitely time to start looking at what you can do to improve your IAQ.
- Establish a cleaning routine. Cleaning on a regular basis helps keep your home’s dust to a minimum. You’ll want to vacuum or mop your floors every two weeks or take a half hour to focus on one room per day. Don’t forget to dust under furniture as well as other often neglected places, like ceiling fans, window blinds, and lamp shades. Pro tip: we recommend wearing a mask while you perform cleaning activities that kick up dust.
- Maintain your HVAC system. Your HVAC system circulates indoor air throughout your entire home, so a clean system is a must. Change the air filter every 30 to 90 days, and dust the air registers. Make sure to get your heater and your air conditioner maintained once a year by a professional to clear away dust buildup and prevent mold growth.
- Take steps to control your home’s humidity. Don’t forget to run your kitchen’s exhaust fan while you cook on the stove--this will help keep out unwanted humidity and reduce the concentration of combustion byproducts in your home. Remember to also use your bathroom’s exhaust fan or to crack a window to let out excess humidity. This will help prevent mold growth.
If you’re still concerned about your home’s indoor air quality, you may want to invest in a whole-home indoor air purifier, such as the Air Scrubber Plus. Rather than relying on just a filter, the Air Scrubber Plus: 1) purifies oxygen and hydrogen molecules and 2) also uses UV light to breakdown the DNA and RNA in numerous harmful microorganisms, rendering them unable to spread disease.
To learn more about improving your indoor air quality with a whole-home air purifier, call (661) 271-6099. At Monarch Home Services, we offer indoor air quality services in Bakersfield and throughout the San Joaquin Valley.