Energy-efficient homes are more common than ever. Although they provide many benefits, including reducing overall energy usage and a smaller carbon footprint, they come with some disadvantages as well.
What Disadvantages?The most significant disadvantage is poor indoor air quality. Tightly sealed midwestern homes prevent heated and cooled air from escaping as easily, but they also contribute to the buildup of indoor air pollutants.
Since most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, this can be a significant problem if the air inside your home is two to five times more polluted than outside air, which is common. Our HVAC teams want to help you understand the risks of indoor air pollution as well as steps you can take to reduce it.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , indoor air pollutants can contribute to a host of short- and long-term effects. Because typical symptoms can be mistaken for allergies, an illness, stress, or many other causes, it’s easy to overlook indoor air quality as a main culprit.
Possible short-term effects and resulting symptoms of indoor air pollution include coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, sore throat, and respiratory congestion. In addition, poor indoor air quality can make some existing illnesses worse.
For instance, if you suffer from asthma, heart disease, chronic lung illness, or other infections, indoor air pollution may exacerbate your symptoms.
Certain indoor air pollutants can cause additional serious illnesses or even death. Secondhand smoke and radon cause lung cancer, and carbon monoxide poisoning can silently kill unaware residents.
Common Indoor Air PollutantsDaily living contributes to a great deal of indoor air pollutants. Dust, dirt, pollen, and mold are common in just about every home. In addition, pet dander and hair, smoke, and chemicals from common cleaning products can contribute more gas and particles to the indoor air. During cold and flu season, you may add bacteria and viruses to the mix.
If your home has inadequate ventilation, you won’t be able to sufficiently exchange outside and inside air regularly, which can lead to buildup of indoor air pollutants. Failing to maintain your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in a suitable manner can also lead to indoor air problems.
For example, a clogged air filter can no longer trap more particles as they move through your system. An antiquated HVAC system can also introduce further serious problems like incomplete combustion and gas leaks.
Solutions to Improve Air QualityAs a homeowner, it’s understandable to be concerned about your indoor air quality. You can take several steps to improve your air quality right now. First, replace and maintain the air filters in your HVAC system regularly. If you have family members who suffer from allergies or asthma, consider using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that can remove very small particles which often trigger reactions.
Second, have an HVAC professional clean, inspect, and tune up your heating and cooling equipment twice a year. Our trained technicians will ensure no dangerous gas leaks exist and all your fuel-burning appliances have adequate ventilation. We will also provide safety checks on all your equipment.
Be sure you take extra precautions when you are cleaning with chemicals or embark on home improvement projects such as construction or painting. Your working area should be well ventilated during and immediately after the work is completed.
Consider investing in a humidifier and/or dehumidifier to help keep your home at an optimal humidity level. This will help discourage mold growth and keep your home more comfortable in all seasons. Be sure to clean this equipment according to the manufacturers’ recommendations to prevent buildup of pathogens and to keep your warranty intact.
If you’re a smoker, take your habit outdoors to prevent secondhand smoke buildup inside, and be sure to test for radon in your basement every two to five years. Install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, and don’t try to remove asbestos yourself.
Finally, keep your home clean using a HEPA vacuum and wash your bedding, curtains, and other household items regularly.