COVID-19 has us all paying a little more attention to the air we breathe, especially when that air is being filtered through a mask. Many of us are also spending more time confined to our homes, although I’ve noticed more and more people out and about in search of fresh air, sunshine and their sanity. I’ll admit, until recently, I never gave much thought to the quality of the air in my house. But as a new homeowner, I’ve learned this is a mistake.
Whether you have a respiratory illness or not, air quality should be a priority. Just as the food we eat and the fluids we drink have an enormous effect on the way our bodies feel and function, the air we breathe can either help or harm us. Luckily, I have some great clients who have helped me gain a better understanding of my new home’s air quality. Here are a few things I’ve learned about airflow, radon, mold and HVAC systems that you might find useful.
Variables like wind direction and window placement will affect the airflow in your home. But that doesn’t mean that it’s out of your control. Casement windows and even shrubs can be placed strategically to create pressure zones and help direct airflow. The size and location of air inlets and outlets will also affect the flow and temperature of your indoor air. Since hot air rises, inlets should be as low as possible with outlets as high as possible. In most cases, the size of inlets and outlets should be equal. If you notice issues with airflow or temperature control, an expert can evaluate your home and recommend strategies that fit your budget.
In addition to a basic home inspection, I chose to have the radon levels in my home checked before closing. After writing this blog post for a client, it seemed like a no-brainer, especially since I live in a part of the country that’s notorious for high radon levels. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (after cigarette smoke), and the EPA estimates that radon leads to more deaths each year than drunk driving. If you smoke or live with someone who does, your risk of developing lung cancer is even higher. The cost of mitigation varies, but it’s often comparable to other common home repairs, and the peace of mind that comes with it is priceless.
Mold and Humidity
Heating and Cooling
Luckily, another client of mine offers professional air duct cleaning. Since my home had previously been rented to a family with small children and not maintained properly, having my ducts cleaned seemed like a wise decision. And when I saw the results, I realized it was worth every penny! Along with bags of dust and grime, my ducts produced crayons, toy cars, paper towel rolls, loose change, Mardi Gras beads and homework (among other junk). After having my ducts cleaned, I learned that contaminants in your air ducts can make your heating and cooling system less effective. In fact, 25-40% of the energy used for heating and cooling a home is wasted. You can improve the air you breathe as well as the efficiency of your HVAC system with professional air duct cleaning.
Yes, Plants Really Can Help
You’ve probably heard that plants can help to filter the carbon dioxide in the air, and that’s true. But they can do a lot more than that. Phytoremediation – the removal of environmental toxins by plants – can help to reduce respiratory symptoms and stress while increasing work performance. One study conducted by NASA suggests that air quality can be improved by incorporating 15-18 houseplants in an 1,800-square-foot home. Just keep in mind that plants can contribute to moisture in the air, so be conscious of the humidity levels in your house.
What have you done to improve the air quality in your home? Tell me in the comments!