Winter is coming, and as you know, most people spend more time indoors than outdoors. While tightly sealed in the house, people close all the windows and run their furnaces. This results in reduced ventilation.
By preventing fresh air from entering your home, you increase the concentration of allergens and pollutants in the air. Trapping polluted air inside your home increases the risk of asthma and other respiratory problems.
The good news is, you can improve your home’s indoor air quality and ensure you and your family can have a merry holiday.
Want to know how you can improve indoor air quality during winter?
In this post, we’ll discuss the 7 useful tips for improving winter indoor air quality.
1. Keep Your Home Clean
A clean home is a healthy home. According to experts, keeping your home clean cuts down on pet dander, dust, pollen, mold, and other pollutants. Besides cutting down on allergens and pollutants, it’s good for you and your family. This is something science has proven.
To keep your home clean, focus on the following.
Clean your drapes, beddings, and other items that attract allergens and pollutants. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, you should wash your laundry in water that’s at least 130 degrees F.
We recommend getting in the habit of doing one load of laundry every morning. Doing this will cut down on indoor air pollutants.
After cleaning your drapes and beddings, vacuum the area rugs and carpets. It would be best to do this at least twice a week with a HEPA based vacuum cleaner. The dust, pet dander, fiber, hair, and pollen trapped in your rugs and carpets causes you to sneeze and cough.
You can have your carpet and rugs cleaned professionally and opt for hardwood flooring.
2. Control the Source of Air Pollution
During winter, windows and doors are usually closed. Even storm windows are always down. As such, there is less air circulation in your home. One of the best ways that even the EPA recommends is to open a window to improve air circulation.
Sadly, this is not possible in winter. As such, indoor pollutants get trapped in the house and keep building up. Some of these pollutants can trigger respiratory conditions such as asthma. One way of dealing with this problem is source control.
For instance, high traffic areas in your home can result in the spread of dust and dirt to the rest of the house. To avoid this, have a dedicated spot in your home, especially close to the entrance. This will remind everyone to take off their shoes when they enter your home.
Carpets and rugs can trap pet dander, pet hair, and pet urine. As your furry friends come in, they will bring dirt and debris into your home. To avoid this, have an old towel by the door. Your furry friends will wipe their paws as they come in.
It’s essential to vacuum these dedicated spots daily.
3. Get an Air Purifier
Since you and your family will be spending more than 90% of the day indoors, you need an air purifier. Air purifiers are home appliances built to trap and remove pollutants and allergens from the air. They can do so by drawing unfiltered air into the unit and trapping the contaminants.
Modern purifiers have powerful filtration systems composed of:
- True HEPA, or H13 HEPA filter
- An activated carbon filter
The pre-filter is usually washable, and some have an antimicrobial capability. For the True HEPA filter, it can filter up to 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles, while the H13 HEPA filter can trap 99.9% of 0.1-micron airborne pollutants.
Finally, you have an activated carbon filter. Made of granular carbon, it traps VOCs, smoke, chemicals, and odors. We recommend going for an air purifier with a CADR of 300+ cfm. This is ideal for large rooms. Also, you can buy multiple air purifiers for different rooms.
This is beneficial as each bedroom can have an air purifier running all night. Choose an air purifier with smart air quality sensors. They can detect pollutants in real-time and adjust fan speed automatically to clean the air.
Avoid purifiers with ionizers as they emit ozone.
Check out our blog post on how to choose an air purifier.
4. Change the Air Purifier’s Filters
While air purifiers are essential in your defense against airborne pollutants, the filters have a lifespan. Most filters can last for six months to a year after continuous use. Since you’ll be spending more time indoors, check the filter replacement indicator regularly.
If the light turns red, replace the filters. Buy the replacement filters a month or two before the holidays. This will help you avoid the last-minute rush. Make sure that you secure the filters tightly during replacement. This will prevent gaps that would allow unfiltered air to escape.
Most air purifiers have washable pre-filters. To clean the pre-filter, vacuum the filter and then toss it in your laundry machine. After a couple of minutes, it should be clean and pollutant-free. Remember, always check the owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website to know your air purifier’s correct filter model.
Don’t forget to remove the plastic covering your filter before installation.
5. Add Indoor Plants
You can improve the indoor air quality this winter with houseplants. NASA researched to find out if houseplants can cut down indoor air pollution. The study involved the evaluation of roots, leaves, soil, and associated microorganisms of plants. Researchers discovered that plant roots and associated microorganisms destroy bacteria and organic chemicals.
They can do so by converting all these pollutants into new plant tissue. Thanks to this discovery, NASA engineers were able to develop a novel approach. This approach uses plant systems to remove high concentrations of airborne pollutants.
It also combines plants with an activated carbon filter and can cut down on pollutants such as smoke, radon, etc.
Some houseplants that improve indoor air quality include:
- Spider plant
- Chinese evergreen
- Devil’s Ivy
- Lily Turf
- English Ivy
- Barberton Daisy
- Peace Lily
- Red Edged Dracaena
Check your local nursery or garden center for these and more houseplants.
6. Keep Your HVAC Ducts Clean
Did you know that 40% of the air we breathe in our homes was once basement or crawl space air?
A single exposure to indoor air pollution such as pollen, dust, and VOCs can aggravate asthma and others. It can result in other effects such as fatigue, itchy eyes, nose, and throat. Some of these effects can last for months and build up to be chronic conditions with repeated exposure.
Apart from air purifiers, HVAC systems are part of the front line defense against airborne pollutants. To ensure the system does its job well, you must ensure it is well maintained all year round. This is important, especially before winter, when the heating unit runs continuously.
To cut down on airborne pollutants, have an experienced technician check the filters. Dirty air filters contribute pollutants and allergens in the air. If they are dirty, have them changed. Besides checking the air filters, have your ducts inspected.
Dust, dirt, and debris can build up in the ducts. Once your ducts are clean, ensure they are correctly sealed.
7. Deal With Dry Winter
Polluted indoor air is not the only cause of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Dry winter air can cause some of these problems too. Spending time in a cold climate results in dry, cracked lips and skin. This is what happens to the inside of your nose and throat.
A dry throat and nose increase the chances of getting sick. As you probably know, the mucus in your nose and throat traps germs before they find their way into your lungs. In fact, the mucus traps large particles such as dust and ultrafine particles like fine dust and VOCs.
To deal with dry winter air, you need a humidifier. You can install a whole-house humidifier or invest in a small portable unit. Humidifiers add moisture to the air and reduce dry air.
Remember, use a humidistat to control the level of humidity. High humidity levels can cause other problems, notably mold growth.
Indoor air quality in your home depends on the number of occupants, size, and age of your home. It also depends on the severity and length of winter in your area.
To ensure you and your family breathe in fresh, clean air in winter, keep your home clean, and buy an air purifier. Change the filters of your purifier and HVAC system as well as clean the ductwork.
Don’t forget to control the source of air pollution in your home and invest in a humidifier.