What Can You Do to Improve Your Air?
We spend about 90% of our time indoors, so it is important that the air indoors is good for our health. And if it’s not, then how can we improve it?
Healthy indoor air has lots of benefits such as sleeping better and reducing allergies, not to mention keeping places smelling fresh.
There are 3 steps you can take:
- Controlling sources of pollution
- Improving ventilation
- Filtering and purifying air
Step 1: Source Control
Some sources of air pollution can be found within a home. There are small but impactful source control practices one can take to directly target sources of pollution. Addressing the root cause of pollution in your home can save money long-term without running up your energy bill.
The impact of each source depends on how much pollution it releases into the air and how harmful those particles are. Keep in mind that even after implementing source control practices at an individual level, pollution can still be found in the air.
Common sources of pollution include fuel burning appliances and building materials (e.g. degraded asbestos-containing insulation, new flooring, upholstery or carpet, pressed-wood cabinets or furniture). One can also try to transition to less chemically-dense cleaning and hygiene products.
Additionally, updated central heating and cooling systems can help manage humidification and moisture levels indoors. Lastly, one can also check for radon, pesticides, and other outdoor sources of air pollution that travels inside the home.
Step 2: Ventilation
Good ventilation helps facilitate the airflow in your home.
There are three aspects about ventilation to keep in mind: natural ventilation (e.g. windows and doors), mechanical ventilation (e.g. fans and air conditioning), and activities that need to be well ventilated (e.g. painting and sanding).
Ventilate your home naturally by opening doors and windows. One caveat to natural ventilation is to ensure the air quality outside is good to avoid bringing pollution indoors. Additionally, you can use a simple box fan to increase ventilation and cool your home.
Some homes have bathroom/kitchen fans that remove indoor contaminants in the room where they’re located. Run them, when possible, especially if you’re cooking with a gas stove. Look into your ventilation system. Many of them do not bring in fresh outdoor air, and can keep recirculating stale air. Adjust the setting if possible to introduce fresh air.
When you’re doing house work like painting or sanding (and other things that release a lot of fumes or dust) keep the area well ventilated, or take it outside when possible.
Step 3: Air Filtration
Air cleaners, or air filters, can remove many types of pollutants from the air. The highest standard for air filters is high efficiency particulate air (HEPA).
To choose the best air cleaner for your space, first identify the pollutants that are most common in your air. Some air cleaners are designed to clean large spaces, and others are designed for smaller areas. Air filters are intended to clean the air in one room, and you can position them to maximize air flow.
Maintain it by checking on filter life, and replacing the filter when needed.This ensures the cleaner will work as intended. If your home has an air conditioner, you should replace the filter regularly. These filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value also known as MERV.
The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter. The rating goes from 1 to 20. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioner Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends a MERV 6 or higher.
How to narrow your options:
There are different types of air cleaners available on the market. It is important to investigate which one better serves one’s needs. Overall, choosing which approach to follow is dependent on what resources are available to you.
Choosing an air purifier? Here’s how to check for efficiency:
- Percentage Efficacy Rate: How well it collects pollutants from indoor air
- Air-Circulation Rate: How much air it pulls through the filter
To learn more about your options go to epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq
Keeping your air indoors clean can go a long way to alleviate air pollution burden! Overall, choosing which approach to follow is dependent on what resources are available to you, but these three simple steps are a great starting point.