Indoor air quality may be invisible, but it still has an impact on your family’s health and your home safety. Levels of many pollutants can be far higher indoors than they are outdoors — and indoor pollutants can seriously affect your health. Major factors impacting indoor air quality and home safety are air circulation and moisture levels.
Ted Schettler, MD, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, says that air filters, which help capture particulate pollution, play a major part in home air quality.
Clean, efficient fans and filters on dehumidifiers, furnaces, refrigerators, and other appliances allow them to function efficiently and can also reduce moisture in the air and minimize particulate pollution in your house.
Similarly, for home safety, it’s important to vacuum or dust smoke and carbon monoxide detectors frequently, as spider webs and dust can limit their effectiveness. While you’re dusting, take a moment to test them and make sure the batteries are still working.
Take these steps throughout the year to improve the air quality inside your home:
- Be sure air vents between the indoors and the outside aren’t blocked by snow, leaves, dirt, or other debris, depending on the season.
- Vacuum rear grills on refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays to prevent mold growth.
- Be diligent about fixing any plumbing leaks — even small drips can create favorable conditions for mold growth and affect air quality.
- Clean clothes dryer exhaust ducts and vents.
What’s in Your Garage?
In general, air circulation inside a home should be encouraged, but air shouldn’tcirculate freely between an attached garage and your family’s living space. Car exhaust and other pollutants found in garages can have a serious, negative effect on the air quality inside your home and on your home safety. Make sure the door between the garage and your home seals completely, and keep weather stripping in good repair.
Tips for Year-Round Home Health
These seasonal tasks can help improve your home’s “health:”
- Clean your air conditioner and have it serviced as necessary, at least every two years; clean and replace the filters as necessary.
- Turn off the gas furnace and fireplace pilot light if applicable.
- Check your home’s sump pump to ensure it’s functioning properly before the spring thaw.
- Clean ceiling fans so they don’t spread accumulated dust particles throughout the house.
- Inspect and repair vermin screens on chimney flues.
- Inspect chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixtures for bird nests, which can prevent ventilation of combustible gases, decreasing air quality and posing potential fire hazards. Repeat this task in the fall.
- Inspect the outside perimeter and trim shrubs and bushes away from the house, foundation, and roof, as growth that’s too close to the house can promote algae and mold.
- Clean humidifiers in preparation for seasonal use.
- Remove screens from windows where they might trap condensation on glass, promoting mold growth.
- Sweep the chimney to remove creosote buildup and inspect for necessary repairs.
- Seal any openings on the exterior of the house to prevent rodents and other pests from entering.
- Test for carbon monoxide and radon levels.
- Clean humidifier(s) regularly when in use.
- Clean air vents on heating systems and space heaters, and be sure to service your furnace/heating system at least every other year.
Following these maintenance tips can help you and your loved ones breathe easy all year long.