Should I be concerned about indoor air quality?
As a homeowner, you probably give a great deal of attention to how well your heater and air conditioner heat, cool and keep each room of your home comfortable. But heating and cooling systems do more than raise and lower room temperature; they also can regulate or impact the quality of the air we breathe. And indoor air quality not only affects our our comfort, but our health.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor pollution sources that release gases or microscopic particles into the air are the primary causes of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels also can increase concentrations of some pollutants.
Primary Sources of Indoor Air Quality Problems
There are many sources of indoor air pollution in homes, say EPA officials. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood and tobacco products — all of which can produce carbon monoxide and other invisible and potentially deadly gases. Home products such as carpets, household cleaning products, insulation and building materials can produce toxins at high levels. Dust, mold and allergens can easily and invisibly accumulate and spread through the air and throughout your home. Even outdoor sources such as radon and pesticides can get in your home.
Amount of Ventilation
If insufficient fresh outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Newer homes designed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can leak into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than older homes that are normally considered leaky or drafty.
Indoor Pollution and Health Effects
Sometimes the effects of indoor air quality take time to show up. Initial symptoms include unexplained headaches, dizziness, fatigue and irritation of eyes, nose and throat. Some exposure can be debilitating or fatal; for example, carbon monoxide poisoning can kill in minutes. Other long-term effects from indoor air pollution may include chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease or cancer.
Indoor Air Quality Solutions
- Source Control: Eliminate individual sources — smoking, wood or coal burning stoves. Store cleaning products outside. Remove harmful asbestos and insulation products.
- Ventilation Improvements: Open windows and doors. Run bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans. Operate window or attic fans when weather permits.
- Air Cleaners and Filters: There are many add-ons and modifications to your heating and air conditioning system that can be used to filter out contaminants and improve air quality. Routine filter change according to your system’s recommended maintenance schedule can keep your home pollution-free and keep your heating and cooling system in fine working for just a few dollars a year. On the higher end, there are some outstanding filtration systems that can remove up to 98% of all household contaminants.
The Right Systems and Equipment for Your Home
If you have an older model heating or air conditioning system, chances are that the quality of the air you and your family are breathing is not as good as it could be. After about 10 years of operation, many heaters and air conditioners can turn into breeding grounds for germs, allergens and mold. Air conditioners and heaters manufactured before 2000 produce far more pollutants than today’s cleaner, more efficient models. As well, today’s heating and air conditioning systems also include advanced temperature and humiditycontrols and filtration systems to maintain ideal conditions and remove airborne contaminants.
If you’re concerned about the quality of air in your home, contact Petrocelli Services.