With the winter season upon us, many OKC homeowners are busy sealing up and insulating their homes for better energy efficiency and comfort. What you may not realize, however, is that sealing your home often leads to increased indoor air pollution.
Is My Home Too Insulated?
While you continue to weatherize your home, it is important to keep indoor air quality in mind. After any major air sealing project (such as caulking, insulating, and weatherstripping), it is recommended that you consult with an HVAC professional to determine if you have proper ventilation for your home.
Sealing up your home won’t add toxins to the air, but it may trap them inside. The major negative consequence of insulating and air sealing your home is an increase in the level of indoor air pollution.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air is 2 to 5 times (and occasionally as much as 100 times) as polluted as the air outside. And considering that the average American spends over 90% of their time indoors, it is especially important to consider the overall health of the air you are breathing.
In the winter, we spend more time indoors and typically have tighter homes due to closed doors, windows, and other winterization tactics. Tightly sealed homes combined with more time spent indoors is a large contributor to winter-borne illnesses.
Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Children and older adults tend to spend the most time indoors and also have weaker respiratory systems. If you or a family member is experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have an indoor air quality problem that should be addressed:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation.
- Nausea, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and drowsiness.
- Respiratory problems, airway infections, allergies, and fever.
- Long-term health effects: asthma, heart and respiratory disease, and cancer.
Due to the recent improvements in energy efficiency design for homes and buildings, indoor air quality problems have been on the rise.
See this image from the U.S. Center for Disease Control for various indoor air pollutants and their corresponding danger levels:
Where Does Indoor Air Pollution Come From?
There are many sources of indoor air pollutants, some coming from inside your home and others coming from outside. The most harmful pollutants, however, are produced from the inside. Here are the common means for pollutants to find their way into your air and lungs:
- Allergens and pollutants that enter through your windows, doors, and air leaks around your home.
- Radon and other pollutants that enter through building foundations.
- Harmful smoke and combustion gases can reenter the home if not properly ventilated.
- Pollutants that attach themselves to shoes and clothing.
- Combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water vapor.
Signs of an Indoor Air Quality Problem
As mentioned earlier, poor indoor air quality is often the result of inadequate ventilation. The combustion gases from your furnace and fireplace need proper ventilation to maintain healthy indoor air quality levels.
- Experience of the health conditions mentioned above.
- Condensation/water vapor on walls, ductwork, and windows, especially near your HVAC system.
- Visible dust and floating particulates in the air.
- Causes such as tobacco smoke, mold, chemicals, renovations, and general cleanliness.
- Dirty air filter and heating and cooling equipment.
- Overall sense of stuffy, smelly, and unhealthy air.
- Radon and carbon monoxide detectors go off.
- If you feel better when you leave your indoor environment or worse when you enter.
- Consider an indoor air quality inspection and air testing from a professional.
Air Quality Inspection Checklist
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
One of the best and easiest things you can do to improve indoor air quality is to ventilate your home. As with other safety and health concerns, it’s best to consult with a professional.
- Eliminate the sources of poor indoor air quality, such as mold or poor ventilation.
- Increase the amount of ventilation your home is receiving. Sometimes, just opening a window for a couple of minutes can improve your indoor air quality. Running a ceiling/attic fan and using your bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans help as well.
- If you can, painting, welding, soldering, sanding, and other short-term activities should be conducted outdoors.
- Replace or clean your air filter every 30 days.
- Mechanical ventilation systems, such as outdoor air intakes from your heating and cooling equipment.
- Consult this list of houseplants that improve indoor air quality.
Air Cleaners and Purifiers (Nature’s Home)
Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning has experience with many different home air cleaners and purifiers, but we have found one that is more effective than the rest: Nature’s Home.
We are a licensed dealer of Nature’s Home Superior Indoor Air Quality Solutions:
- Fantastic Filter (Danger Level 1) – This 1″ pleated air filter has a MERV 12 rating and is designed to trap indoor air particulates for greater efficiency and indoor air quality.
- MicroPower Guard (Danger Level 1) – This electronic 1” Polarized Media Air Cleaner removes harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and odors. Since there is an electrical charge, this filter is able to attract and trap indoor air pollutants. This commercial filter is now available to residential consumers.
- PureSept HEPA Bypass Filter (Danger Level 1) – This filtration system uses a fan and three levels of filtration, the same used in many hospitals and clean rooms. It has an efficiency rating of 99.97% for particles down to 0.03 microns. Comes with a Seven Year Warranty and is very easy to maintain. Filters are easily accessible.
- MicroGuardian AirScrubber III (Danger Level 1, 2, and 3) – This air cleaner must be installed by a qualified professional and attaches directly to your existing duct system. It uses a 4” oscillating UVC germicidal light to provide superior germicidal protection. If you are looking for a great indoor air cleaner and purifier, this is the system for you!
- Quantum® Central Purifying Unit (Danger Level 1, 2, and 3) – This is the premier whole-house purification system, using the latest Photocatalytic Oxidation technology. Three levels of control are used. After going through a powerful filtration system, particulates and biological contaminants are destroyed with two dual UVC lamps. This system is very easy to service and requires no maintenance, cleaning, or replacement. A useful control panel tells you if the system is operating at optimum levels. A professional installation is required from a Nature’s Home provider.
Interstate’s indoor air quality experts can help you identify the sources of your indoor air quality problems and recommend the best solutions for you and your family. For additional resources about IAQ facts and solutions, follow these links:
- Carbon Monoxide Home Horror Stories
- Heating Season Tips
- HVAC Maintenance Checklist
- How to Inspect Your Air Ducts
- 5 Overlooked Indoor Air Pollutants
- Nature’s Home Filtration Facts
- Nature’s Home IAQ Facts
- EPA’s Improving Indoor Air Quality
- CPSC’s Biological Pollutants in Your Home
- How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Call Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning today for an in-home IAQ evaluation: (405) 794-8900
We offer professional indoor air quality diagnoses and solutions, using the superior products offered by Nature’s Home. If you suspect dangerous indoor air pollutants in your home, such as gas or carbon monoxide, or are experiencing excessive exposure to harmful fumes, get out the house immediately and contact 911 to request an ambulance and the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Breathe easier with indoor air quality solutions from Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning! Healthy air should be expected. We can help.