Improve Your Indoor Air Quality This Winter

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With winter around the corner, most of us will be spending a considerable amount of time indoors.  If you live in a climate with a harsh winter, you’ll be spending upwards of 90% of your day inside.   And if you’ve looked into air quality before, you know that indoor air quality is often much lower than outdoor air quality.  

And why is this?  Indoor air is often less diluted than outdoor air and the pollutants inside take a significantly longer time to dissipate.  This is due to low air flow and poor air circulation within the home. Unfortunately this is the case with many modern homes.

Many older homes have been air sealed so as not to let cold air in and warm air out. While this is GREAT for our energy consumption, it often leads to poor indoor air quality.  The fresh air has no way to get into the house except through an open door or window.

Furnaces and Air Conditioners bring fresh air inside.

​While you’re cooped up inside this winter, take an opportunity to check off this list of ways to improve your indoor air quality.  Many of these are small, inexpensive projects you could tackle in a weekend morning.



CHANGE OUT FURNACE FILTERS

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Winter is a great time to change out your furnace filters.  This is an incredible tool to help remove allergens and in some cases bacteria from the air.   Changing your furnace filter every 3-4 months is ideal, especially if you have pets or you do a lot of renovating in your home.   
Pets often shed dander and hair that will get pulled into your furnace system through the venting and can build up on your filter quickly.  Changing the filter often is a MUST.  The same goes for dust from renovations and home projects.

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The type of filter you choose can play a big part in the quality of your indoor air.  I recommend a furnace filter with a MERV Rating of 12 or higher.  This stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, referring to the effectiveness of the filter.  Personally, I recommend Nordic Pure as they are cost effective and high quality.  

TIP:  Buy a box of filters so they are on hand all year-long.  This will help you remember to change the filter often.


CHANGE YOUR CLEANING STRATEGY

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Not only is our indoor air laden with dust and allergens, we also introduce harsh chemicals to the air through our cleaning and disinfecting routines.  One way to minimize the addition of chemicals is to eliminate them from our daily routines.  

This may feel overwhelming — but it’s just a few simple steps.  And the great thing is you can replace many of those bottles with just one or two simple cleaners.

TIP:  When making natural homemade cleaners, it is important to remember that what cleaner will not disinfect and a disinfectant will not clean.

DISINFECTING SPRAY:

CLEANING SPRAY:

Mix each of the above recipes into a glass spray bottle (darker spray bottles keep the potency of the oils from lessening.)​​


MONITOR YOUR INDOOR AIR

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One of the best tools to hit the market is Awair’s indoor air quality monitor.  This little box tracks toxins, chemicals, dust, CO2, humidity and temperature.  Knowing the indoor quality of your air has honestly never been easier.  

Monitoring your air is the best way to begin to correct any problems you may be experiencing.  Poor indoor air quality can affect everything from allergies to sleep and asthma to eczema.  It’s important to know what is going on with your air. If you have no idea, then you will also have no idea how to fix it.

It’s a great tool to help your family improve the indoor air quality within your home.



REDUCE MOISTURE INSIDE

While the winter air outside may be dry, it’s important not to keep your indoor air at a humidity level that is too high.  Excessive moisture can raise your indoor humidity levels a considerable amount.  When indoor humidity levels are too high, you run the risk of creating an environment where mold, mildew and dust mites will reproduce and grow.

The optimal indoor humidity level is between 30% and 40%.  If it’s too low, you might begin to feel irritate skin and nasal passages from the dry air.  If it’s too high, well, you’ll start to see it’s effects in a poor indoor air quality level.

Some common daily activities that increase the level of humidity in your home:

  • Cooking without lids
  • Overwatering plants
  • Line-drying laundry inside
  • Bathing without a vented fan/window
  • Wet-mopping floors without drying

By reducing the extra moisture in the air, you can prevent the spread of dustmites and mold and keep your indoor air quality.

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REMOVE AND PREVENT DUST

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Dust is not only an allergen, but it can also contain bacteria and viruses, depending on where it comes from.  Reducing dust doesn’t mean dusting your house every day.  NO THANK YOU!  No, there are easy ways to reduce dust and prevent it instead.

First and foremost, every few winters it is a great idea to have your HVAC venting cleaned if a forced air furnace is your main form of heating.  This is an especially good idea if you have pets.  Homes with pets tend to see a lot more dust and debris from animal dander and shedding.  

Second, double check and make sure your dryer vent is properly vented outside without any connections coming loose.  And if you’re getting your HVAC venting cleaned it’s not a bad idea to have them clean your dryer vent as well, which can be a fire hazard on top of introducing lint and dust into your air.

Last, do a little dusting here and there to remove the particles that settle on surfaces.  This all-natural spray and a microfiber cloth can actually prevent dust from settling in the future as well.

DUSTING SPRAY



CONTAIN CRAFT PRODUCTS AND PAINT

If your home has a craft corner that is stocked with paints, glues and solvents, then you may want to consider changing how you store your products.  

Even when contained in a jar, bottle or can, many paints and solvents continue to off-gas harmful chemicals into the air.  Spray paint cans are notorious for this problem.  As you know most paints in cold climates will become ruined if left outside or in the garage in the freezing winter.  

If you plan on keeping your craft essentials indoors, I strongly recommend keeping them out of living areas and puting them in a sealable tote.  This will ensure your indoor air is affected as little as possible.


GET A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR

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The time of the year when furnaces are on and homes are sealed up tight to prevent winter air from coming in is also the time of the year we hear about deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.  

When gas appliances are vented improperly or venting is blocked, carbon monoxide can enter the air during the combustion phase.  Carbon Monoxide is odorless and is impossible to detect on your own.

By equipping your home with at least one carbon monoxide detector, you will prevent any change of carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.

By working through just a few of these small tasks this winter, you can greatly improve the indoor air quality in your home.  A healthy house is a healthy family.


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