How clean is the air inside your home?
When we see the buildup of air pollution over the city, we are reminded that the outdoor air may not be as fresh as we think. Have you ever wondered how your indoor air compares to the outdoors? Which one is actually “fresher?” Some studies have shown that indoor air contaminants can be as high or higher than outdoor air in large cities! Clean air is an essential component of health, just like nutritious food, clean water, and regular exercise. So, how clean is the air inside your home and could it be affecting your health?
Sources of indoor air pollutions include glues and binders used in building materials, furniture, and carpet, chemical-based cleaning products, cooking, allergens, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from poorly vented combustion appliances, radon gas, and let’s not forget, the off-gassing of humans and pets. Poor indoor air quality can trigger a number of symptoms including congestion, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, sneezing, respiratory issues, and other allergy symptoms (1). Some individuals can also become sensitized to repeated or high-level exposure to certain chemical and/or biological pollutants (1). If you go in for a checkup and ask your doctor about these lingering symptoms, the doctor may or may not think to question your indoor environment as a cause for concern. But needless to say, indoor air quality can have a major impact on your health.
Insufficient ventilation is a very common cause for poor indoor air quality. It is necessary for exhausting stale, contaminated air from your home. Do you have a sufficient number of exhaust fans and are they functioning optimally? If not, you may notice that your house feels stuffy, and it may be difficult to flush out odors. E3 recently ran an indoor air quality test for a homeowner who was experiencing odors and stale air. We found that after cooking, small air particulates (those small enough to get stuck in the deepest part of the lungs) increased 20 times over the baseline in the master bedroom – the room furthest from the kitchen – and it took four hours for levels to return to pre-cooking conditions. The kitchen was missing the exhaust fan necessary to carry these particulates outdoors.
Now, proper exhaust isn’t the whole story. What happens while you suck air out of your house through an exhaust fan? Air from somewhere else must move in to make up the difference in air pressure. The question is, from where are you getting that air?
If your home is leaking, you could be pulling unconditioned air in from the outdoors. If your ducts are leaky, or if a duct has disconnected from the register boot and is lying on the ground in the crawlspace (a situation we find more often than you’d think), then you will be pulling air in from the crawlspace. In either of these examples, the air you are sucking into your house could be carrying with it moisture, allergens, dust, mold spores, odors, and other unwanted pollutants.
If your indoor air quality is poor, installing an exhaust fan might not solve all your problems. In fact, there’s a chance it could make it worse. Before you install an additional exhaust fan in your kitchen or bathroom, make sure you check the leakage rate of your home and your duct system.
Are you interested in checking the indoor air quality in your home? Give us a call. We can help you “see the invisible” with particulate, humidity, and CO/CO2 sensors.
(1) EPA. Introduction to Indoor Air Quality, available at http://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/introduction-indoor-air-quality.