What Every Homeowner Must Know About Indoor Air Quality
How clean is the air inside your home? If you're like many Atlanta-area homeowners, the air you breathe indoors could be dirtier than the air outside - even if you live in an urban environment or near a busy traffic corridor.
Thankfully, more homeowners are becoming aware of the factors that impact indoor air quality (IAQ) and are taking action. While you can't prevent 100% of all air pollutants from entering your home, you can definitely reduce and control them. Let's take a look at some common sources of poor indoor air quality. We'll also show you some steps you can take to optimize your home's IAQ.
How air pollution enters your home
You might be surprised at how easily - and how often - environmental and industrial pollutants make their way past your home envelope. Some of the most common sources of indoor air pollution include:
- Air circulating from a vented crawl space: If your air handler is in your crawl space, a significant amount of the air circulating in your home comes from below you. Unfortunately, vented crawlspaces with dirt floors are notorious for harboring mold, pests, and runoff that contains pesticides, herbicides, or industrial contaminants. When the air inside your crawlspace isn't clean, the air inside your home probably isn't very clean either.
- Building products and household chemicals: Many products inside your home contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause allergic reactions, coughing, and skin irritation. In extreme cases, they can even cause cancer. New carpets or products containing plywood or particle board emit these VOCs during the off gassing process. Other sources of VOCs include paints and household cleaners.
- Carpets: Your carpet holds dirt, pet dander, fungus, and dust mites, not to mention whatever you've tracked in with your shoes.
- Open windows: While an open window allows air to circulate through your home, it also enables the entry of environmental pollutants, like pollen, and industrial contaminants from the outdoor air.
The good news is that you don't have to expose yourself or your family to these pollutants. There are several ways to reduce or eliminate indoor air contamination.
Increase home comfort and improve health
When it comes to improving your home's IAQ, you've got to commit yourself to three specific goals:
- Eliminating all sources of indoor air pollution, to the extent possible
- Filtering air to remove harmful (and potentially harmful) particulates
- Exchanging indoor air through a very intentional, controlled method
Encapsulating your crawlspace is a good start for eliminating many sources of indoor air pollution. Proper crawlspace encapsulation involves sealing all floor penetrations, covering the dirt floor with a plastic vapor barrier and securing it to the foundation walls, and, when necessary, installing a dehumidifier. This process prevents mold and pest-related contaminants from penetrating your home envelope and polluting indoor air.
The next objective is to properly filter your indoor air. Changing your pleated, 1-inch filter on a regular basis is one way to do it, although keep in mind that pleated filters can have a negative impact on the performance and lifespan of your heating and air system. HEPA filters, on the other hand, can do a better job of cleaning indoor air without restricting air flow or reducing HVAC system performance.
After eliminating sources of pollution and filtering your air, you've got to properly exchange your indoor air, too. The best way to do that is to install a fresh air system that:
- Brings in outdoor air, similar to opening a window
- Filters the outdoor air before it enters your home, unlike opening a window
- Balances the humidity of air entering your air handler
- Routes stale indoor air outside of your home
Basically, the system continuously removes unhealthy air - think household chemicals and product off gassing - from your home and introduces clean, filtered air in its place. In warm, humid climates like ours, energy recovery ventilation (ERV) fresh air systems will also remove moisture from incoming air, so the air inside your home stays clean and comfortable
Taking these steps will deliver top-notch indoor air quality and improve your family's health and comfort by leaps and bounds. Contact PV Heating & Air today to discover the best IAQ improvements for your home!