According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. The EPA also reports that, depending on where you live, the air you breathe indoors may be up to 5 times more polluted than the outside air. Buildings have become more airtight for better energy efficiency, which has reduced natural air exchange. This results in a buildup of indoor pollutants that can cause health problems. Your heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor can help improve the indoor air quality in your Louisville, Kentucky, home or business.
Types of Indoor Pollutants
You may be surprised at the number of indoor pollutants present in homes and offices. Common pollutants include:
- Cooking odors.
- Smoke and other combustion byproducts.
- Pollen and other allergens, such as dust.
- Byproducts from animals and insects, including animal dander, dust mites and cockroach parts.
- Biological agents, including bacteria, mold and viruses.
- Volatile organic compounds in household products, such as cleaning solutions, cosmetics, paint and furnishings.
Radon, a colorless, odorless gas, is present throughout Indiana in levels higher than those recommended by health experts. Outside, it is found in soils and naturally dissipates into the air. However, it can seep inside buildings through drains and openings in foundations, basements and crawlspaces, where it can build up to unsafe levels.
The weather, level of humidity and amount of ventilation can affect the quality of the indoor air. High humidity levels create moist environments that allow mold, dust mites and pests to thrive. Mold can grow in airducts and on surfaces throughout the living area, including walls, objects, furniture and textiles.
Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air
Pollen, dust, airborne particulates and mold can aggravate allergies, asthma and other respiratory ailments. Those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and the very young are more likely to suffer effects from poor quality of indoor air. In addition, radon, some types of bacteria and carbon monoxide can affect health.
Short-term exposure to indoor pollutants can cause the following:
- Dizziness, fatigue and headaches.
- Shortness of breath.
- Respiratory problems, including sinus congestion, sneezing and coughing.
- Dry skin.
Long-term exposure to toxic pollutants, such as VOCs, radon and carbon monoxide, can cause serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.
Ways To Improve the Quality of Your Indoor Air
The EPA recommends removing sources of pollutants, increasing ventilation and using air cleaners to improve the quality of the air you breathe in your home or office. There are several simple things homeowners can do to keep air clean. Removing pollutants includes:
- Frequent cleaning to remove dust, allergens and pathogens from surfaces, carpets and textiles.
- Washing bedding in hot water to kill dust mites.
- Using craft supplies, cleaning solutions, paint and pesticides in well-ventilated areas.
Many building supplies and household furnishings emit chemicals. Running an air conditioner and controlling humidity can reduce the levels of these chemicals in the living space.
Increase ventilation and air exchange by opening windows and doors when possible. Run exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room to pull put moist, hot air and draw in fresh air. Changing air conditioning and furnace filters frequently ensures clean air flows freely through ducts.
There are mechanical solutions as well. Birkhead Co. Heating and Air Conditioning offers a variety of products that improve the quality of indoor air.
- Whole-home ventilation systems enhance air exchange, drawing fresh air into the home and expelling stale air.
- UV lights installed in ducts kill bacteria, mold and other pathogens, which keeps them from entering your home through the duct system.
- Humidification systems keep humidity within recommended levels.
- Air purifiers help remove airborne pollutants and keep air fresh.
- Upgrading to better quality filters captures smaller particulates, such as VOCs and smoke.
If you are concerned about the quality of the air in your home or business, call us to schedule an indoor air quality inspection. We’ll talk with you about your needs, evaluate the air quality in your home and recommend ways to improve the air you breathe.