The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lung Association agree that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors. This proves especially problematic during the winter months, when homes are sealed tight and air exchange declines. Since most homeowners in Bountiful, UT, spend a lot of time in their homes during the winter, it’s important to proactively protect and improve your indoor air quality (IAQ). Read on to find out why your IAQ is so important during the cold season.
Winter Presents Many Season-Specific IAQ Concerns
Winter presents a variety of season specific IAQ challenges. For instance, if you use a forced-air furnace to heat your home, you may have overly dry indoor air. In addition to causing irritated nasal passages, persistent coughs, and frequent nighttime nosebleeds, overly dry indoor air can also greatly increase the amount of dust, dander, and other allergens circulating throughout the home.
Airborne moisture weighs lightweight particulates down, causing them to settle on surfaces like countertops and floors. Without a way to replace the moisture that your heating system is extracting, residents often deal with frequent sneezing and eye and skin irritation too.
Spending More Time at Home During the Winter
Another season specific IAQ concern is people spending more time indoors during the cold season, thus exposing them to indoor pollutants. Not only does this increase exposure to indoor allergens, pathogens, and chemical contaminants, but it also increases the number of contaminants and moisture added. With more people cooking, bathing, showering, and doing laundry, your HVAC system likely struggles to regulate humidity.
Adding New Toxins to the Air
During the holiday months, people light scented candles, set up off-gassing trees, and use plug-in air fresheners. Other chemical-based products that can be found in the home include room freshening sprays, spay-on deodorants, and surface cleaners.
Winter Use of Fuel-Combusting Appliances
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that fuel-burning appliances produce due to incomplete combustion. In the winter months, many homeowners run natural gas furnaces and burn wood in their fireplaces. Although fuel-combusting appliances are vented outdoors, using these features poses the risk of back-drafting and exhaust leaks.
Communicable Wintertime Illnesses
Your HVAC air filter offers limited air filtration. Standard air filters aren’t typically built to extract the micro-fine pathogens released in the aerosols of a sneeze. When people are home, the germs that they breathe out can be circulated quite easily. This is often how communicable illnesses spread from room to room and person to person.
The materials that make up your home affect your indoor air quality as well. Paints, solvents, adhesives, and various flooring materials release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This includes formaldehyde, benzene, and many others. Much like viruses and bacteria, these gaseous contaminants flow right through standard HVAC air filters.
IAQ Issues Causing Significant Building Damage
Dirty indoor air and humidity challenges can have a detrimental impact on the function and marketability of your home. If you have too much moisture in your air or not enough, you may find warped, bowed, or cracked wood elements, corrosion on metal hardware, and other cosmetic or structural problems. Excess indoor moisture also sets the stage for mold and mildew growth. Beyond impacting your indoor air quality, these developments can render certain building materials irreparable and unsalvageable.
Envelope-Tightening and IAQ Concerns
To prevent heat loss and the inflow of cold outdoor air, most homeowners use simple envelope-tightening measures like adding weatherstripping, caulking holes in building materials, and increasing insulation. Creating a tight home envelope can limit your wintertime heating costs, reduce your carbon footprint, and ensure that your living space stays cozy and warm.
However, this process can lead to dangerous indoor air quality. When outside air cannot enter the home by way of cracks and gaps and exhaust is constantly released, your home could develop negative air pressure. Negative air pressure draws exhaust gases back down into living spaces via their venting systems until balanced air pressure is achieved.
Proper ventilation is an important part of your HVAC system. Although most homes have built-in mechanical ventilation like range hood vents and bathroom exhaust fans, your home may need more ventilation in winter. With adequate ventilation, stagnant, toxin-addled air can flow outdoors, and fresh outdoor air can flow in.
How to Mitigate IAQ Challenges
Although your indoor air quality likely decreases during the winter, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways to improve it. Even small measures can go a long way toward creating a cleaner, healthier, and more comfortable home.
Schedule Furnace Tune-up Services
During a pre-season heater tune-up service, we clean furnaces both inside and out. We remove the buildup of debris from the interior housing, air intake valves, thermocouples, and more. We check and change HVAC air filters and clean out condensate drains. If you have a condensing furnace, a pre-season tune-up will reduce the likelihood of bacterial growth, mold, and mildew.
Establish an Ongoing Pest Management Plan
Common residential pests are always looking for viable points of ingress so they can find a more comfortable living environment indoors. HVAC ductwork is a prime target for pests. After all, ducting provides enclosed shelter, warmth, and easy access to other areas of a building. Wintertime infestations could leave your air ducts riddled with waste material, food sources, and more. With an ongoing pest management plan, you can proactively prevent pest infestations and IAQ concerns.
Take Good Care of Your Air Ducts
Although ductwork inspections are a standard part of HVAC tune-up service, it’s important to have your ducting periodically cleaned. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends scheduling an air duct cleaning every two to three years.
Limit the Number of Toxins You’re Adding to the Air
Stay away from chemical-based surface cleaners, air fresheners, and candles. If you insist on burning candles indoors, look for options made from soy or beeswax. You can use essential oils as a healthy addition to homemade surface cleaners and natural room-freshening sprays.
You should also:
- Schedule a fireplace flue cleaning
- Replace your HVAC air filter every 30 to 90 days
- Clean your range hood vent and bathroom exhaust fans
- Schedule dryer vent cleaning
With clean, high-functioning exhaust systems and fewer toxins being intentionally discharged, you can enjoy noticeably higher indoor air quality.
Integrated HVAC Accessories for Improving IAQ
To mitigate ongoing humidity challenges and IAQ concerns, it’s sometimes necessary to install integrated HVAC accessories. Whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers keep indoor moisture in check. Air scrubbers, air purifiers, and media filters extract the micro-fine allergens, pathogens, and gaseous chemicals that standard air filters cannot. By scheduling a professional IAQ assessment, you can find out which of these devices is right for you.
With over 20 years of industry experience, Blue Best Heating & Air proudly serves Bountiful and the surrounding areas. In addition to top-notch heating, air conditioning, and plumbing repairs and services, we provide cutting-edge IAQ improvements. To find out more or schedule an appointment, contact Blue Best Heating & Air.