7 Ways to Keep Your Home Healthy
Does excessive dust, allergy or asthma suffering or the air quality in your home concern you?
If it does, you are not alone. Over 90% of homes have hidden air control problems. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to achieve a cleaner and healthier indoor living environment.
1. Test for Contaminated Air Infiltration from an Attached Garage, Crawlspace, Attic, of Underground.
Are you breathing good air or bad air? Window and door leaks are usually less than 20% of a home’s air leaks. Many others bring in contaminated air instead of fresh air.
Building scientists have recently discovered that in the typical home, up to 80% of the incoming air first passes through the attached garage, crawlspace, basement or attic. Air pollutants such as mold spores, carbon monoxide, automobile exhaust, radon gas, crawlspace moisture, insulation fibers, and volatile organic chemicals can contaminate this incoming air, and negatively affect your family’s health and safety. In most homes, duct leakage is the number one source of bad air infiltration.
Ask your Expert HVAC Technician for a Duct Inspection. This inspection will help find where the air leaks are in your home and help you determine how to fix them. Many of these leaks can be easily fixed, but some duct leaks are better left to professionals. Finding and fixing the leaks that let in bad air will make your home healthier, less humid in the summer, less dusty, more comfortable, and even pay for itself through lower heating, cooling and repair bills.
2. Repair Leaky Recessed Can Lights & Attic Access Hatches.
Recessed can lights are very popular, however most are very leaky. They typically allow dirt, dust, insulation fibers and very hot or cold air to be brought into the home. Luckily most of these lights can now be repaired at a reasonable cost. During an inspection of your ductwork, you should ask your Expert HVAC Technician to also inspect your recessed can lights to see if they are a problem and if they can be repaired. Pull-down attic stairs and scuttle hatches are other common attic floor air leaks which can now be easily sealed using specialty products.
3. Identify and Reduce Pressure Imbalances In Your Home.
Pressure imbalances can be caused by closing bedroom doors that have no returns in them, large exhaust fans such as attic powered ventilators, and duct leakage. All of these can cause the home to go to a negative air pressure which sucks air through dirty and dusty areas such as attics, garages, crawlspaces and or unfinished basements. They can also back-draft gas appliances, and if the negative pressure is great enough, cause poisonous carbon monoxide to spill into the home.
Your Expert HVAC Technician can evaluate if pressure imbalances are occurring in your home and make recommendations on how to fix them. It may be possible to put your home under a slight positive air pressure, which helps keep contaminants from entering.
4. Have A Central High Efficiency Air Filter Installed.
Typical throw away furnace filters do not adequately protect your equipment from getting fouled up, let alone protect you from invisible airborne particles. Ask your Expert HVAC Technician for recommendations on installing a new high efficiency filter at the equipment in your home. The best are typically four to six inches thick and only need to be cleaned or changed once a year. Note however that even the best filter can’t totally eliminate visible dust in the home, simply because visible dust is heavy and often settles before it gets to the filter.
5. Upgrade Your Home’s Mechanical Ventilation.
Even if your home is newer, or has already been “sealed” to be more energy efficient, it may still need improved mechanical ventilation. Older homes which have new airtight windows also often have poor indoor air.
Quiet, yet powerful bathroom exhaust fans are now available which do a much better job of removing moisture and odors. Another option is a heat recovery or energy recovery ventilator, which pre-heats or pre-cools the incoming air with the stale air it exhausts. Another great option is a whole house ventilating dehumidifier that brings in outside air and filters it before distributing it through your home.
6. Control Indoor Humidity Year Round.
Insufficient or excessive indoor humidity can contribute to health and comfort problems. In most homes, the humidity levels vary substantially from week to week, depending on outdoor weather conditions. Excessively dry air causes sore throats, dry sinuses, increased risk of infections, static electric shocks, and cracks in wood trim and furniture. To decrease winter dryness, seal air leaks and use a central humidifier.
On the other hand, some houses are actually too humid, causing excessive moisture to drip off the windows in the winter, or to be damp and clammy in the summer.
Controlling excessive indoor moisture and humidity is the key to controlling allergy causing mold and dust mites. The American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Disease Control and many other authorities recommend keeping the relative humidity level in your home between 30% and 50% year round. Higher levels encourage allergy causing dust mites, mold growth and musty odors. Indoor mold can cause serious health problems including allergic reactions, toxic reactions, asthma episodes, infections and respiratory damage. High indoor humidity levels in the summer cause discomfort.
Here are some easy steps you can take to better control high humidity in your home:
- Reduce Moisture Sources If You Have Excessive Humidity. This can be done by adding wintertime ventilation, better exhaust fans in bathrooms, covering dirt floors in crawlspaces, capping open sumps pits & basement wall air leaks, and improved foundation drainage.
- Tighten Up Your Home and Ducts. Tightening up your air ducts and sealing cracks where air is leaking in will help to bring the humidity in your home to a healthy level.
- Consider a New Air Conditioner with Enhanced Dehumidification Features. If you are planning to have a new air conditioner installed at your home, consider getting a system with advanced humidity sensing controls, variable speed fans, or two speed compressors that help remove more moisture from the air coming into your home.
- Ensure Your New Air Conditioning System is the Right Size for Your Home. When it comes to air conditioning, bigger is not better. An oversized unit quickly cools the house and then shuts off before it does the longer job of removing humidity.
- Consider Investing in a High Capacity Ducted Dehumidifier. High capacity dehumidifiers take care of the whole house and also clean the air 24 hours a day, all year.
7. Install a Low Level Carbon Monoxide Monitor and Alarm.
Alarms save lives. Even if you do not have gas or oil appliances in your home, you should still have Carbon Monoxide detectors.
Although fossil fuels are the primary source for carbon monoxide, here are some sources that are often dismissed: attached garages, fireplaces, propane heaters and fireplaces and even the self-cleaning mode on an electric oven. All of these also produce carbon monoxide. Play it safe and install alarms on every floor of your home.