The Basics of Winter Indoor Air Quality
In the winter, being snug as a bug in a rug in your home can be cozy, but it can also play havoc with your indoor air quality (IAQ) here in Washington, creating some significant health problems. At Ballard Natural Gas, we recommend taking precautions to avoid the common issues associated with winter indoor air quality.
Why Does Winter Cause Problems?
During the warmer months, you open your windows and let the fresh air into your Seattle home. During the winter, you lock up everything, caulk, and block anywhere cold air can infiltrate. While this keeps you toasty, unfortunately, it traps any indoor air inside containing pollutants. With homes becoming more and more energy efficient, there are fewer ways for the outdoor air to help ventilate your home.
What Are Some Common Issues?
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found levels of “about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were in rural or highly industrial areas.” Dr. Marilyn Black, an early pioneer of indoor air-quality research, noted “poor indoor air quality was directly related to the 500 to 1,000 volatile organic compounds [VOCs] coming from everyday materials, such as paint, floorings, furnishings, and printers.” In addition, pet dander, cleaning products, environmental tobacco smoke, mold, dust, mildew, personal-care products, asbestos, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and a host of other factors also contribute to your indoor air’s pollution. As a result of poor indoor air quality, you or someone in your home may experience some of these common symptoms on a regular basis:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Itchy eyes, nose, throat
- Worsened asthma, allergies, or chronic illnesses
Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality in the Winter
Just because it’s winter, do not assume you have to suffer through poor indoor air quality. There are things you can do to help improve it. Here are some of our recommendations:
Get your ductwork inspected and cleaned. Having your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system’s air ducts inspected can alert you to leaks, where unconditioned air could be leaking and contributing to your problem. Then having your ducts cleaned will remove any dust-and-debris buildup, preventing it from entering into your airflow.
Get your furnace cleaned and checked. Keeping your furnace and HVAC filter clean helps alleviate more dust and debris from making it into your lungs. Your furnace is an integral component in your home’s HVAC system, so having it routinely checked and tuned up keeps things working efficiently for a long time.
Consider installing an air purifier. Your HVAC system’s air filter can only stop so many types and sizes of particles. Many particles are not visible to the human eye yet can still cause health issues. An air purifier can eradicate them from your home’s airflow.
Check your home’s humidity levels. Optimally, your home’s humidity level should remain between 30 to 50 percent all year long. During the colder months, your home’s air becomes drier. Be sure your humidifier is keeping your home humid enough while not over humidifying. Too much moisture, amongst other things, breeds mold and mildew that are both toxic to your body.
Open your windows every day (or at least a few times a week) for short bouts of time. During the winter months, your home’s ventilation does not bring in as much outdoor fresh air as other times of the year. An easy measure to take is to open your windows daily for a short time, even for a few minutes. Doing so will bring some much-needed fresh air into your home and help diffuse the stuffy air.
Use more natural cleaning and personal care products. Chemicals from cleaning and personal-care products will linger longer in your home’s winter air without the flow of fresh air. Concentrated like this, they can do real damage over the long term to your body. Look into substituting healthier alternatives.
Decorate with houseplants. Houseplants clean and purify your home’s air. Adding more to your home can only help remedy the toxins and stuffiness present during the colder months.
Clean your home regularly, paying extra attention to carpets, floors, and dusty areas. Cleaning your home once a week goes a long way in keeping dirt and dust from entering your home’s airflow. Carpets are particularly notorious for harboring unwanted pollutants. Vacuuming regularly, especially with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum, can dramatically cut down on your air pollution.
Contact Us for All Your Indoor Air Quality Needs
Schedule an appointment with our air quality specialists at Ballard Natural Gas to improve the comfort and health of your Seattle, WA, home. Call us at 206-784-8101 or request service online today to discuss how we can help.