May 17, 2024
AUX heating in Hanover, MD

The Science Advisory Board of the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as a top-five environmental risk to public health. Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, and indoor pollutant and contaminant levels are rising. Let’s explore what you should know about indoor pollution and how you can achieve healthier indoor air quality (IAQ).

Ventilation

Ventilation in homes is a key reason poor IAQ is becoming a bigger problem. Modern construction techniques allow for houses that are significantly more energy efficient. The downside to that approach is little to no natural ventilation. Most homes rely entirely on passive ventilation. Pollutants get in, but the system doesn’t vent them out at the same rate, which causes concentration levels to rise.

Large Particulate Matter

Large particulate matter (PM) consists of particles that are bigger than 2.5 microns in size and smaller than 10 microns. Often abbreviated PM10, these are the particles you associate with allergies and asthma. This includes pollen, pet dander, dust, mold spores, dust mites, and so forth. PM10 may not have direct long-term health risks, but high levels will make you feel worse in the short term.

Fine Particulate Matter

Fine particulate matter or PM2.5 is a long-term health concern. This is the aspect of air pollution that modern science links to many cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and possibly certain cancers. Most PM2.5 in your home gets there due to outdoor air pollution sources. Monitor the air quality index (AQI) for your area. On days when the AQI is at an unhealthy level, avoid natural ventilation such as open windows.

Gases and Chemicals

There are potentially many gases and airborne chemicals in your home that can affect your health. If you have fuel-burning appliances, then carbon monoxide (CO) is the most notable. Radon is the second leading cause of cancer in the U.S. only behind smoking. It can seep into your home over time. The EPA recommends testing for it every two years or after any major home renovation. Other top concerns include formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Bacteria and Viruses

The presence of some pathogens in your home is unavoidable. That said, poor IAQ can foster an environment in which the levels of bacteria and viruses are higher. In addition, poor IAQ can make you more prone to the development of infection from those viruses and bacteria.

Humidity

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Relative humidity (RH) is a measure of humidity within the context of temperature. RH plays a role in IAQ in a number of ways. If RH is too high or too low, it’s more difficult to breath, and you’re more prone to irritation. Additionally, when the RH is higher, there are more pollutants in the air due to the higher level of water molecules.

How to Maintain Healthy IAQ

The good news is that there are many solutions available to help you improve IAQ and maintain it. Here are some of the strategies that our IAQ experts recommend as the most important.

Source Control

Dust is by far the top issue when it comes to poor IAQ. It’s more than just PM10. Dust is effectively a sponge that absorbs gases and chemicals, extends their effective life spans, and emits them over time. For this reason, the EPA recommends a deep dusting of your home at least once a week.

You should also be careful not to introduce pollutants and contaminants into the home. Avoid household cleaners that contain toxic substances. Store potentially harmful substances outside the home. Avoid furniture and other items that off-gas VOCs.

Air Quality Testing

The first step we recommend is scheduling an IAQ test with us. We’ll perform comprehensive IAQ testing, including for radon, and provide you with a breakdown. Armed with this information, you’ll understand your IAQ challenges and how best to use your home improvement budget.

Seasonal HVAC Maintenance

Schedule us for a cooling tune-up in spring and a heating tune-up in fall. Doing so will save you money over the long term. It will also help you maintain good IAQ because we’ll clean all of your equipment. An HVAC system coupled with high dust levels is a main contributor to poor IAQ.

Air Filtration

Air filtration is a powerful tool in the battle against PM. If you have a central HVAC system, you have integrated filtration via your HVAC filter. The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating measures filter efficiency. The EPA recommends choosing an HVAC filter rated MERV 13. Most modern HVAC systems can support this value, and it will help trap most PM10 and PM2.5.

You can also add more mechanical filtration via a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters restrict airflow too much to be on the supply side of your HVAC system. You can benefit from them through portable and room air purifiers and a duct-installed HEPA filtration system.

Duct Cleaning

At least every several years, you should schedule us for duct cleaning alongside a seasonal tune-up. No matter how much you dust, some of it will accumulate in your ducts where it’s impossible for the homeowner to reach. Our team has the equipment to extract all that dust and remove it from your home.

Air Purification

Our IAQ team also installs indoor air purifications systems. Supply-side air purifiers have activated carbon that neutralizes odors, VOCs, and many other gases and chemicals. You can also opt for an air purifier with a UV stage or UV lamps in your ducts. UV neutralizes bacteria, viruses, and more.

Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

Whole-home humidification and dehumidification systems let you control your residence’s RH. A humidifier is most helpful in winter when the air is drier. A dehumidifier is most helpful in summer when the air is moist. This is also when your home is most prone to mold and dust mites. Both humidifiers and dehumidifiers can help to improve energy efficiency of your HVAC system as well.

Carbon Monoxide Monitors

If you have any fuel-burning appliances, it’s imperative to protect your family with one or more CO detectors. The coverage you need depends on the number and scope of appliances.

Whole-House Fans

If your home does not have enough ventilation, a whole-house fan is the solution. Such fans can introduce fresh air. Heat and energy recovery ventilators (HRV, ERV) are an option as well. These are more advanced whole-house fans that can improve energy efficiency. An ERV may also offset the need for a humidifier.

Your Local IAQ Experts Serving Greater Columbia

At Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating, we have locations in Hanover, Columbia, Arbutus, Pasadena, and Severn. Our IAQ experts clean ductwork and install and service air purifiers, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, and carbon monoxide detectors. The HVAC technicians on our team also install, maintain, and repair gas and electric furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits. In addition, we have plumbers available to serve you. They repipe water and gas lines, repair sewer lines, and perform conversions and appliance hookups. They also install toilets and other fixtures, water filtration and softening systems, sump pumps, garbage disposals, and water heaters. Call us today to learn more about these services or to schedule an appointment anywhere in the Greater Hanover and Columbia area.

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