Most people think of pollution and allergies as things they need to worry about when they go outside. But your indoor air could be just as dangerous if you're not taking the proper measures to keep it clean. Poor indoor air quality, which is marked by the presence of pollutants such as pet dander, mold spores, dust mites, and other irritants, can have dangerous health effects, including headaches, throat irritation, fatigue and vomiting. Long term, it can lead to heart, liver, and kidney damage, as well as an increased risk of cancer. If you want to improve your home's indoor air quality (and you should!) focus on avoiding these common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Failing to change your air filter.
The air filter in your HVAC system is your first line of defense against air pollutants—as long as it's clean. When you fail to replace your air filter on a regular basis (most experts recommend doing so every 1–3 months), these pollutants clog the filter and end up being propelled right back into your home's air.
To ensure that your filter is trapping as many mold spores, dust mites, and particles of dander possible, buy a HEPA filter. HEPA stands for "high-efficiency particulate arresting," and this type of filter captures smaller particles than most other types.
If it has been a long time since you've changed your filter, dust and debris have probably built up on the cooling coils of your air conditioner and on the heat exchanging mechanisms of your furnace. Having an HVAC specialist out to clean these appliances is important to ensure these particles don't end up back in your air supply.
Mistake #2: Never having your ducts cleaned.
A layer of dust and debris builds up on the inside of your air ducts over time. If you don't have them cleaned out, these particles end up being propelled back into your home. Experts recommend having your ducts cleaned every 3–5 years. Even if it has not been 3 years, you should also have your ducts cleaned if you have noticed any insects or rodents in your home. Their feces and dander may be building up in your ducts and can cause health issues if not removed.
Note that while you can vacuum out portions of your ducts through your air vents, this is not a substitute for a professional duct cleaning since you cannot reach the deeper portions without the special equipment professionals have. Look for a company like C B Lucas Heating & Air Conditioning to take care of your duct-cleaning needs.
Mistake #3: Not using your exhaust fans.
Mold is one of the most concerning home contaminants, leading to allergies, asthma, and sometimes even toxic poisoning. Mold thrives in moist environments, so when you fail to turn on your exhaust fan after a shower, you're basically inviting mold to grow. Always use the exhaust fan after you shower and after you cook. The moisture will be discharged outside.
If your exhaust fan does not seem to be removing moisture from the air effectively, it may be time for a new one. Most HVAC technicians can replace exhaust fans rather quickly and inexpensively.
Mistake #4: Skipping culprit spaces when you clean.
Hopefully you're dusting and vacuuming your home regularly. If not, that's an important step to take in order to improve your indoor air quality. But even people who do clean their homes regularly often skip some spots where indoor pollutants love to hide out:
- Behind the furniture (pull your furniture away from the wall and vacuum behind it)
- The curtains (take these down and wash them to remove dust)
- Throw pillows (put them inside a pillowcase and wash them on a gentle cycle to remove dust mites and mold spores)
By taking better care of your HVAC system, using your exhaust fans, and upping your cleaning routine, you can improve your indoor air quality.