The easiest ways to improve your indoor air quality

Living in the northeastern part of the country, the weather is always a challenge. The winter season normally lasts between six and eight months and brings temperatures down to twenty below zero and excessive amounts of snow. While the summers are usually much shorter, temperatures in the high eighties and nineties are not uncommon. We typically experience brutal humidity. I am forced to operate either the furnace or air conditioner for the majority of the year. Heating and cooling adds up to approximately seventy percent of the household energy bills. Because of this, I’ve gone to great lengths to seal up my home. I’ve insulated, caulked, weatherstripped and replaced windows. The goal is to prevent heated/cooled air from escaping through gaps and leaks and to stop outside air from coming in. I hope to lessen the workload of the heating and cooling equipment and reduce running costs. I try to improve comfort as well as the cleanliness and health of the home. However, I’ve actually created issues with air quality. I’ve eliminated essential ventilation. Contaminants become trapped inside the home and get circulated by the HVAC system. This can lead to all sorts of problems such as moisture, overly dry air, unpleasant odors, mold growth and airborne contaminants. My family breathes in these pollutants and are at risk of headache, sore throat, respiratory infection, aggravated symptoms of allergies and asthma and more. I decided I needed to take proactive strategies to improve indoor air quality. After a little research, I was overwhelmed with the number of options on the current market. The HVAC industry has answered IAQ concerns with an extensive list of whole-home products that accommodate nearly any size or style of home. 

There are three different styles of humidifiers available. Fan-powered, by-pass and steam humidifiers all install into the HVAC system and provide a balanced level of moisture in the air.  Maintaining proper humidity helps to prevent issues such as chapped lips, dry skin, sinus infections, allergies and more. You’re also less susceptible to illness, will recover quicker from colds and flu, are less likely to snore and save quite a bit on energy bills. When the air is moisturized, it feels warmer. This allows for lower thermostat settings, reduces strain on the furnace and requires less energy. The relative humidity inside of the house should be kept above thirty percent at all times. A whole-home humidifier usually attaches to the home’s air ducts. Some operate independently and others partner with the home’s heater. A bypass humidifier sucks the warm air in from the home’s heating ducts. It passes through a water panel where it absorbs moisture. The air is then delivered back into the home in the form of steam. This type of humidifier is normally installed on the supply or return of the forced air system. Fan powered humidifiers include a fan that blows air across a water panel. This increases the amount of evaporation and produces more humidity per day. Fan powered humidifiers don’t need a bypass duct so they can be installed into small spaces. Steam humidifiers heat up water until it boils. The steam from this process is then pushed through the home’s vents by the system’s fan. It is the quickest and most efficient method of increasing and maintaining the proper level of humidity in the home. Plus, steam humidifiers provide the most pure and natural humidity and will operate independently from the heater. 

A dehumidifier performs the exact opposite function of a humidifier. It pulls moisture out of the air and provides a long list of rewards. For one thing, reducing humidity levels makes the home less inviting to allergens such as dust mites, mold and mildew. It combats that musty smell and protects clothing, furniture, curtains and bed sheets from developing mold. Plus, when excess moisture is removed, the air feels cooler. This enables a higher thermostat setting and minimizes wear and tear on the air conditioner. It should last longer, operate more reliably and cost less every month. It’s very important to choose the right size of dehumidifier. It needs to be able to handle the square footage of the home and remove sufficient moisture. 

Another option is a whole-home air purifier. This innovative technology not only filters contaminants out of the air but actively kills bacteria, viruses, mold and mildew. It operates silently and requires only annual maintenance yet cleans the air approximately eight times every hour. It traps pollutants that are far smaller than a grain of beach sand and handles dust, dander, pollen, smoke particles, chemical fumes, and bad odors. It captures 99% of contaminants and helps to create a much cleaner and healthier indoor environment.  The air purifier not only protects the family and home but helps maintain the heating and cooling system as well. It prevents debris from penetrating the system, building up on equipment and blocking airflow. It promotes greater efficiency, reliability and longer service life. 

I have given strong consideration to investing in a ventilation system. Proper ventilation is the key to superior indoor air quality. However, in the area where I live, I can’t open the windows very often. The ventilator brings in fresh air without energy waste. Heat recovery ventilators use the stale outgoing air to preheat the fresh incoming air. This greatly reduces the workload for the furnace and helps to keep a warmer and more comfortable home. It allows a lower thermostat setting and trims monthly energy bills. Along with  getting rid of air contaminants, the ventilator also helps with humidity levels. It minimizes the chance of overly dry air in the winter and combats excess moisture in the summer. Because it continually freshens the air, the ventilator gets rid of bad smells. 

Another possibility to improve indoor air quality is a germicidal UV lamp. This type of air quality accessory is often found in hospitals, nursing homes and government buildings. It uses the same idea as sunlight, which effectively kills germs and contaminants outdoors. The ultraviolet light actively destroys mold, mildew, bacteria and viruses which tend to thrive on the cooling coil of the air conditioner. It treats the air as it passes through the HVAC system, before it enters the home. UV lamps are completely silent and entirely concealed inside the system. They operate efficiently and provide a long service life. It is possible to incorporate more than one lamp to ensure effective results no matter the size of the home. 

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