If you’re like most Fox Valley, WI, area homeowners, you’ll spend more than 90% of your time indoors during the winter months. Most of that time will be spent in your home. You may be shocked to discover that in most homes, the indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the outdoor air.
This indoor air pollution has many negative effects on your comfort, health, safety, and well-being. Here’s what affects your home’s indoor air quality and some reasons why the quality of your indoor air should be one of your top priorities this winter.
Why Indoor Air Quality Should Be a Priority
The outdoor air is cold, and the weather is often unpleasant during the wintertime in Fox Valley. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time indoors at home, it’s important to make sure that the air in your house is clean and healthy.
When you’re indoors with your other household members or guests, coughs and sneezes will disperse germs into the air. Your skin will shed, creating dust that feeds dust mites. Bringing in a Christmas tree or other greenery may result in an increase in allergens. Focusing on improving your home’s indoor air quality lessens your chances of getting sick and reduces your risk of breathing problems during the wintertime.
How Wintertime Leads to Worse Indoor Air Quality
During the warmer months of the year, you might open your windows to let fresh air inside. You come and go more frequently, so there’s more fresh outdoor air getting inside of your house. During the wintertime, you probably keep every window and door shut tight day and night. You go in and out less frequently, so less fresh air gets inside your home.
Many people install plastic sheeting around drafty windows and put weather stripping or draft blockers around doors. While this keeps your home warmer and lowers your utility bills, it traps air pollutants inside your home. The dryness of winter air also affects indoor air quality. The dry air often leads to dry, irritated, and sore nasal passages. Dust mites, viruses, and bacteria thrive in the dry, warm air inside your home.
Types of Indoor Air Pollutants
There are three main types of indoor air pollutants that affect your home during the winter. The first type is biological pollutants. These include bacteria, viruses, dust mites, pet dander, and biological growth. During the winter, dust mites are likely the biggest source of indoor air pollution in your home. They thrive in a dry environment.
The second type is particles. Some particles that can get into your home include dust, soot, ash, and oil droplets. The third category of indoor air pollutants is vapors. These include excess humidity, radon, carbon monoxide, and other combustion by-products.
Sources of Winter Indoor Air Pollution
There are many sources of indoor air pollution. Home furnishings, carpeting, and plastic products are common sources. If you got your winter coat or curtains dry cleaned, it’s important to know that the dry-cleaning chemicals contain volatile organic compounds that lower the quality of your home’s air.
Your hobbies may also release pollutants into the air. Activities such as woodworking, metalworking, and painting all release volatile organic compounds. Adhesives, such as glue and rubber cement, pollute your home’s air.
Your everyday activities can even contribute to indoor air quality problems. Cooking with oil, burning candles, using a wood stove, or making a fire in your wood-burning fireplace all negatively affect the quality of your home’s air. A malfunctioning furnace or gas-powered appliance is another possible source of indoor air pollution.
Special Wintertime Activities That Contribute to Indoor Air Pollution
Many people enjoy decorating with candles for the holidays. You may also light a fire in the fireplace in order to take the chill off a cold winter night. Breathing in particles of soot, ash, or dust can irritate your nasal passages. They can swell and become inflamed, which leads to nasal congestion, headaches, pressure, pain, and sinus infections.
Winter Indoor Air Pollution Increases Your Risk of Getting Sick
Even if you’re a healthy person with no breathing disorders or other chronic conditions, indoor air quality problems can have a negative impact on your health. Breathing respiratory droplets from someone else’s cough or sneeze could result in you getting infected with bacteria or viruses. Respiratory illnesses easily spread this way. Colds and the flu are common wintertime illnesses, and they’ll quickly spread from one person to another through the respiratory droplets generated from coughs and sneezes.
Poor Indoor Air Quality Worsens Asthma
People with asthma can have serious complications from polluted indoor air. Certain triggers could cause them to have an asthma attack. Common indoor air pollutants that trigger asthma attacks include pet dander, tobacco smoke, and dust. When a home has chronic indoor air quality problems, people with asthma may have frequent and more severe asthma attacks.
Indoor Air Pollutants Worsen Chronic Health Conditions
Indoor air pollution also causes problems for people who have allergies. Breathing more particles and odors can set off an allergy attack. Anyone with other respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, may experience worse symptoms when living in a home with polluted air. People with heart disease are also at a higher risk of complications caused by indoor air pollution. Babies, pregnant women, and the elderly are some risk groups of people who should not be exposed to polluted air.
Air Filters Improve the Quality of Your Home’s Air in the Winter
There are many things you can do to improve the quality of your home’s air during the winter. The simplest and fastest task is to check your heating system’s air filter once a month. When it’s dirty, replace it. Don’t go longer than two to three months between air filter replacements. Choose an air filter with the highest minimum efficiency reported value (MERV) rating that’s compatible with your heating system. Using a filter with a MERV rating of 13 will drastically decrease the particles in your home’s air.
Add active ventilation to your home. A heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator is a good choice. They retain heat and moisture from your home’s air. Using one could also lower your winter heating costs.
Install an Air Purifier
A whole-house air purifier inactivates or traps bacteria, viruses, and biological growth. They decrease your risk of spreading germs among household members. They also deactivate particles that trigger allergies and asthma. These devices break apart odor-causing compounds, too. Regularly cleaning your home, including vacuuming with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, will also help remove dust, dust mites, and other indoor air pollutants.
Black-Haak is Fox Valley’s trusted provider of indoor air quality solutions. You can also count on us for dependable heating and air conditioning maintenance, repair, replacement, and installation services. Our generators, air filters, geothermal systems, and thermostats are designed with your comfort in mind. We’re also ready to provide you with plumbing and electrical repairs. For more information about why indoor air quality is important in the winter, give us at Black-Haak a call today.