It’s winter in the Midwest, which means we spend more time indoors than in any other season. Beyond fighting cabin fever, this can have harmful effects on our health. That’s especially true if the air quality isn’t up to par.
Homeowners aren’t without options, however. They can take steps to address indoor air quality. The best part? Many don’t require much time, money or expertise to implement. Here are a few tried and true ways to breathe a little easier at home.
Remove shoes before entering.
This tip can help your air quality and make your carpet last longer. Removing shoes before entering the common area can reduce the number of allergens we bring in. A boot tray or shoe rack in a mudroom or foyer can help organizationally and health-wise.
Keep floors clean.
On a related note, keeping a clean house will always serve you well. Vacuuming rugs and carpeting can remove irritants. You might vacuum high-traffic areas a few times a week.
Also, be mindful of quality. If you’re especially sensitive to dust and allergens, buying a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can be a saving grace.
Check your furniture.
If this is the year you plan to remodel, consider being more intentional in your furniture choices. Some products on the market are made with toxic glues that contain harmful chemicals. Coatings like lacquers and varnishes can exacerbate symptoms in people with allergies and asthma. How do you determine if your furniture is problematic? This guide from the Environmental Working Group is a great starting place.
Reconsider your paint.
That perfect shade of green for your living room might not be so perfect after all. Some paints on the market can cause an unsettling reaction in some people due to the fumes. For this reason, it’s best to look for paints that are labeled “Zero VOC” or “Low VOC” to cut down on harmful chemicals.
Keep your home’s humidity at the optimal level, around 30 to 50 percent. This will help keep indoor allergens at bay. You might invest in a dehumidifier to cut down humidity levels, especially during the summer months.
Take stock of your cleaning products.
They may smell good, but cleaning products can have a nasty side to them. The fragrance, no matter how pleasant, can be harmful to those trying to manage asthma and allergies.
Alternatively, look for fragrance-free products, including laundry soap and kitchen and bathroom cleaners. You can even look to the internet for tips on making your homemade solutions using basics like lemon and baking soda to make your home clean (and healthy).
You likely know by now that aerosol sprays can release harmful chemicals into the air. That’s why it’s best to consider the packaging of hair sprays, deodorants, furniture polishes and air fresheners.
Visit your neighborhood garden center.
This is good news for Plant Moms and Dads out there. Plants give any room a nice vibe and act as nature’s air purifiers. We call that a win-win.
You also don’t need to be a master gardener to tend to them. You can find ones that work for the lighting and your comfort level. The Old Farmers Almanac has a guide to the best plants for this purpose.
Candles may smell good, but they’re not so great in the indoor air quality department. That’s because they contain paraffin which is made from petroleum.
A better option is those made from beeswax. They emit almost no smoke, so they are great options for curbing indoor air pollution.
Test for radon.
Often called an “invisible killer,” radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that harms people’s health.
Radon comes naturally from the ground. It can enter and build up inside any building without warning, causing risk to all who live inside. Fortunately, testing for radon and fixing any radon problems are quick, easy and can save lives. You can get an affordable kit from a hardware store order one by calling 1-800-SOS-RADON (1-800-767-7236) or
going to the National Radon Program Services website.
Monitor mold and mildew.
Mold and mildew are not kind to people with breathing issues. With that in mind, inspect pipes for leaks and address any problems as soon as possible. Wet conditions are the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Change HVAC filters.
Maintaining a consistent schedule of replacing HVAC filters is one of the best things to help your lunges. That’s because clean air filters circulate the best air quality and trap allergens so your air stays as clean as possible.
But not just any filter will do. HEPA filters are the best option if you or someone in your home suffers from allergies. That’s because HEPA filters are rated to take out 99.97 to 99.99% of particles, like dust, pollen and dirt. Depending on the brand or filter material, these filters have a MERV rating of 17-21. This number indicates how well a filter can remove pollutants from the air.
As a result of their high-efficiency filtration performance, HEPA filters are thick and can limit airflow. It’s helpful to touch base with our team at JO Mory to ensure your heating and cooling system can work correctly with these high-efficiency filters.
It’s important to note that most filters need to be cleaned or replaced every two to three months, but they should definitely be changed before turning on your furnace for the winter. A monthly schedule might be best if you live in an area with a lot of pollution or pollen or have pets or exposure to smoke.
Don’t prolong furnace maintenance.
Routine tune-ups and furnace repairs are prudent because they benefit your HVAC system’s health and boost indoor air quality. It can also help your system’s lifespan.
Do you have concerns about air quality? We’re happy to help you protect your home and family’s health. Trust the opinions of hundreds of area homeowners who have hired us for HVAC work. Give us a call at (800) 621-6679 to learn more.