What Exactly Is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality (IAQ for short) is essentially the measure of pollutants present in indoor air. The fewer pollutants, the higher the air quality – although the kind of pollutant also makes a difference since some are more dangerous than others. For instance, even in small concentrations, the presence of carbon monoxide lowers IAQ much more than higher concentrations of typical household dust.
Many common pollutants can build up inside a home over time, such as pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in many household products. This is because the HVAC systems in most homes are designed for recycling the indoor air for maximum comfort and efficiency – often at the expense of ventilation. Fortunately, homeowners can take steps to reduce the indoor air pollutants in their homes – so read on to discover how to enjoy cleaner, safer air year-round!
The Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality On Health
First, it’s important to understand the potential risks associated with indoor air pollutants. Exposure to these pollutants can have both immediate and long-term health effects that range in severity, depending on the individual’s sensitivities and the level of exposure.
Some of the immediate effects include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
- Worsening of asthma or allergy symptoms
The long-term effects of chronic exposure to certain pollutants may include:
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart disease
As noted above, some pollutants are more harmful than others. Still, even the least dangerous pollutants can have extremely unpleasant effects on health and comfort, so it’s best to minimize all indoor air pollutants for the best results.
HVAC Maintenance and Indoor Air Quality
A home’s HVAC system plays a critical role in managing indoor air quality, so ensuring the system is well-maintained and properly functioning will go a long way in reducing pollutants. Simply replacing the air filter on time will help maintain good airflow in the home and keep contaminants from circulating through the home’s air ducts. The general recommendation is to change the air filter every three months, but more frequent changes may be a good idea in homes with pets or high levels of dust and dirt.
Scheduling professional maintenance visits can also help reduce indoor air pollutants. Not only do professionals thoroughly clean the unit to get rid of possible contaminants, but they also inspect the system for possible sources of contamination, such as damaged ducts and natural gas/carbon monoxide leaks. Maintenance also keeps the system functioning properly, which improves indoor air quality by managing humidity levels and circulating air to prevent the buildup of pollutants.
How Portable Air Cleaners Can Help
Another way to improve indoor air quality is to use a portable air cleaner. There are two main types of air cleaners on the market today, air purifiers and air sanitizers. Air purifiers typically use either a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter or electromagnetic media (or both) to remove particles from the air physically. These are most effective at capturing dust, dander, pollen, and other larger particles.
On the other hand, air sanitizers use ultraviolet light (or some other form of ionization technology) to neutralize airborne pathogens such as viruses, mold spores, and bacteria. So instead of capturing these pollutants, a sanitizer renders them inert and harmless.
If homeowners are more concerned with dust, hair, dirt, and pollen, an air purifier may be the best option. But if the aim is to protect those with respiratory sensitivities or those susceptible to illness, an air sanitizer may be the way to go. If in doubt, the best bet is to consult an HVAC professional to find the right option for the home.
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