Your lips are chapped, and your skin is dry. It’s annoying, for sure, but the less noticeable results of poor indoor air quality in winter can be much more severe. With closed windows and doors, we are exposed to more allergens, asthma can worsen, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is higher, and so are the levels of radon and volatile organic compounds. Quite scary. But don’t get discouraged. Here are eight simple ways you can improve the air quality in your home this winter.
Clean More Frequently
We started with this one because it’s easy and it’s free. Dust gathering on surfaces throughout your home can seem innocent enough, but once you know what dust is made of, you’ll be inspired to wipe down surfaces and objects with a damp rag and vacuum your carpets and upholstery more often. Dust consists of skin cells, bacteria, dust mites, soil, pollen, and — brace yourself — dead insect particles. Take the time to wipe down your air vents or use a vacuum cleaner attachment.
Invest In a Whole-House Humidifier
We can’t promise you younger-looking skin, but we can help it feel more comfortable. A whole-house humidifier connects to your heating and cooling system, where it will release water vapor into the ductwork and then into the air. The humidity level is monitored and controlled by your thermostat. We can install the unit and show you how to set and adjust it for the conditions of your home.
Plus, the proper amount of humidity can make your home feel warmer even at a lower temperature, it will help noses and throats to feel less scratchy, and it can even protect your wood floors, plaster, paint, and furniture.
Today’s heavily insulated homes are great for energy savings. Still, in winter, the air quality worsens when bacteria, viruses, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites have no way to escape, and fresh air isn’t coming inside to dilute these air pollutants. A simple way to increase ventilation is to open a window for a short time each day. Ventilate during the warmest part of the day when the contrast in temperature between indoor and outdoor air is less extreme or before sleeping when our bodies prefer a cooler environment. Force stale air outside your home by running your kitchen exhaust fan and bathroom fans.
Control Pet Dander
If you’re experiencing itchy, watery eyes, or perhaps even have trouble breathing, a build-up of pet dander and fur could be the cause. This is another excellent reason to vacuum carpets and upholstery more often. You can brush your pet’s coat to help release dander and fur in a controlled way and location, where you can follow up with a spot vacuuming. If the increased exposure to pet allergens is getting to you, think twice about allowing your pets on furniture or your bed — just for now.
Reduce Volatile Organic Compounds
Hold off on specific home improvements and repairs until the spring. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are released by paints, wood stains, caulks, adhesives, solvents, carpet, vinyl flooring, and many other sources. If you must use any of these products, be sure to open windows and run your kitchen and bathroom fans.
Schedule a Mold and Mildew Inspection
You can also improve indoor air quality in winter by asking your local heating and air conditioning contractor to perform a mold and mildew inspection. Although the air in your home will be drier in winter, areas that tend to retain moisture (like bathrooms and basements) can still be an ideal environment because now, with less ventilation, spores can collect and proliferate. A professional air quality inspection can identify the source (or sources), enabling recommendations to improve your health and comfort. Charlottesville area residents can contact Fitch Services.
Purchase Radon and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
This simple, easy step could save your life. With less ventilation in winter, radon and carbon monoxide levels can increase to dangerous levels. Radon is an odorless gas that can lead to lung cancer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. You can purchase a basic radon test kit at a local hardware store or order one online, or you can buy a wi-fi and blue tooth-enabled radon detector that continuously monitors levels and can send alerts to your phone.
Carbon monoxide is another colorless and odorless poisonous gas that can be found in your home. Its presence in your home can be mistaken for the flu, with symptoms like headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Carbon monoxide detectors range from $25 for a basic model to $250 for bluetooth-equipped sensors that wirelessly communicate with innovative, smart-home technology like Amazon’s Alexa. Yes, Alexa can predict the weather, play your favorite music – and warn you about carbon monoxide and radon.
Purchase a Whole-House Air Purifier
You’re likely familiar with portable air purifiers that can sit on a table or perhaps something the size of a space heater that you can take from room to room. To make a difference, consider an air purifier that integrates with your total HVAC system to treat your entire home. They can reduce up to 99% of airborne and surface pathogens commonly found in a house (including viruses, mold, and bacteria) and reduce odors, smoke, and dust in the air.
Contact Us with Your Questions
Charlottesville area residents can call Fitch Services at (434) 296-9980 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation to talk about how to improve your indoor air quality this winter. Contact us year-round for your heating and air conditioning needs.