It’s been a l-o-o-o-ng winter, but spring is finally here! Time to open the windows and enjoy fresh, springtime air. Letting in a fresh breeze is the simplest way to clear stale indoor air, but for those with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, it can be a nightmare. To avoid a box of tissues a day, here are some easy steps you can take to keep your home’s air fresh and healthy year-round.
Avoid Common Household Contaminants
You may be surprised by how many common household products can compromise your indoor air quality. Here are a few to avoid:
- Harsh cleaning agents. Many household cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can be irritants. Read labels carefully and buy non-toxic products whenever possible. Look for GreenGuard-certified products, which produce low chemical emissions.
- Paints, varnishes, and glues. Whether you’re painting the family room, refinishing the dining room table, or putting together a model airplane, the products you use can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As with cleaning agents, you can shop for low-emission products. But also consider taking your home improvement and hobby projects outdoors whenever possible. If you must work indoors, be sure to have the area well ventilated.
- Smoke. If someone in your home is a smoker, encourage them to smoke outdoors. But tobacco smoke isn’t the only culprit here. Cooking vapors, smoke from your fireplace, and even candle smoke can contribute to air contaminants.
During the spring and summer months, open windows can go a long way to keeping your indoor air refreshed. You can also help circulate clean air by making sure you have adequate ventilation where it counts most. Be sure to have all fuel-burning furnaces, fireplaces, ranges, heaters, and exhaust fans vented to the outdoors, well away from heating and air conditioning intakes.
Test Your Air
Testing your air for two common dangers — carbon monoxide and radon — is essential to maintaining safe indoor air.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless, colorless, and non-irritating, so the only way to protect against this “silent killer,” is to install CO detectors. Experts recommend one on every level of your home and near all bedrooms. While a detector can’t remove CO, it can alert you if levels become dangerous. However, low levels of CO can go undetected and can be dangerous over time for brain and lung health. We recommend having your home checked for carbon monoxide every time you have your HVAC system tuned up (once per year at best or once every other year at least) to be safe.
- Radon is another odorless, colorless gas that is also radioactive. It can seep into your home through the ground, and, in higher concentrations, can lead to health issues including cancer. “Everyone should have their home tested for Radon," says Keith Hill, resident expert at Stay Comfy. "It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer, and Minnesota has the geology conducive to higher levels of Radon.”
Testing is easy — you can start with a short-term test available at your local hardware store. In just 3-7 days you’ll know if there’s a need for a longer-term test, or even if it’s time to call in a radon specialist.
Install an Electronic Air Cleaner
An electronic air cleaner (EAC) is one of the most effective ways of keeping your indoor air clean and fresh. An EAC is installed as part of your HVAC system and cleans the air by producing an electrostatic charge that captures air pollutants. EACs are cost-effective, easy to maintain, and are especially recommended if anyone in your family has allergies or other respiratory concerns.