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How Can You Prevent Air Quality Issues from Building Up Within Your Home?

Air conditioner behind a ficus to imrpove air quality - Jarboe's Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling

Households throughout the Louisville area face common indoor air quality issues that affect their health and comfort when spending time at home. Thankfully, you are able to use HVAC systems and solutions to deliver cleaner air and avoid these issues.

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling explains how indoor air quality issues affect you in the home and why they require attention. We also explain some of the trusty HVAC solutions that are used to deliver better indoor air quality within your Louisville home. For help addressing your indoor air quality issues, call Jarboe’s today!

About Indoor Air Quality

The term ‘air pollution’ typically evokes thoughts of looming smog, and is considered by many to be an issue that affects the air outdoors. Unfortunately, if you consider air pollution to only be an outdoor problem, you skip over the air quality that is most important and impactful to you personally – indoor air quality.

The air inside your home can be much more polluted that outside air. In fact, contaminant concentrations can be as much as 5 times higher within your home, compared to outside. This is often due to the construction measures we take to help our homes retain energy – while heating and cooling energy is kept in, unfortunately so are contaminants.

All sorts of different contaminants can exist in your home’s air supply, and exposure causes very real effects. Over short periods, exposure to airborne contaminants leads to eye, nose, and throat irritations, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and other symptoms similar to those of a cold – which also makes indoor air quality issues difficult to differentiate from being sick. Those who suffer from allergies and asthma are more likely to suffer symptoms and asthma attacks due to the near-constant exposure to their triggers. Over many years, exposure to poor indoor air quality has been linked to serious health issues including heart disease, respiratory conditions, and even lung cancer.

Why are indoor air quality issues such a concern? Well, because most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time indoors, whether it be at home, work, or elsewhere – 90 percent of our time, on average. Indoor air pollution impacts the average American 90 percent of their time, increasing the risk of the health issues mentioned above.

Air Pollutants in Your Home

Pollutants make their way into a home’s air supply through many different sources, from outdoors and even the seemingly harmless things you bring into the house. Common pollutants found when a home has indoor air quality issues include:

  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Pet hair
  • Lead
  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Fragrances
  • Cleaners
  • Pesticides
  • Ozone
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Smoke
  • Radon

Homes typically don’t experience the level of natural ventilation needed to keep contaminant levels low within the air supply, especially newer residences built with a focus on energy conservation. Without a good circulation of clean air, incoming contaminants remain and build up to levels that create symptoms. 

Indoor Air Quality Issues and Solutions

Louisville households are often faced with one or more indoor air quality issues. Often times, these problems persist for a long while because they are difficult to detect – most airborne contaminants cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, they do produce symptoms that alert you to their presence, affecting your health and your comfort levels.

Below, we share more information about these common indoor air quality issues and what HVAC solutions help you put an end to them:

  • Bringing contaminants into the home
  • Humidity levels are too high
  • Ventilation is lacking

Bringing Contaminants into the Home

People, pets, and the activities we perform in our homes increase the number of contaminants in our air. We add them doing everyday tasks without even knowing. Without a way to manage them, contaminant concentration increases – when it’s too high, it starts to cause symptoms.

Contaminants are added to the home’s air supply through things like:

  • Cooking
  • Using the fireplace
  • Having indoor pets
  • Smoking inside
  • Using candles and air freshers
  • Doing chores with cleaning products
  • Painting the walls
  • Spraying personal fragrances and products
  • Installing new cabinets and carpets
  • Buying new furniture

With high contaminant levels in your home, occupants experience those cold-like symptoms mentioned above. One way to tell if it is a cold or indoor air quality issues is if the symptoms subside when you leave the home, but increase when inside your home. High concentrations of airborne contaminants are especially a problem to household members with allergies or asthma – they are constantly exposed to higher volumes of their triggers, which leads to increased symptoms when indoor air quality issues are present.

What to Do About It

The easiest way to lower contaminant levels in your air supply is to reduce the number of contaminants you add. This is achieved with some changes in your lifestyle:

  • Stop smoking inside
  • Don’t candles or use air fresheners (if you must, switch to products that are phthalate-free)
  • Turn on exhaust fans while you cook and while using the fireplace
  • Keep pets groomed on a regular basis
  • Clean home surfaces on a more frequent basis.

When a Louisville resident faces high levels of airborne contaminants in the home, we often recommend the following indoor air quality products to keep them under control:

  • Air cleaners work to remove contaminants as air flows through your HVAC system. Using a highly efficient filter, they trap particles so they are no longer able to circulate through your living areas. Air cleaners are different than furnace filters – a furnace filter’s purpose is to protect the HVAC system from contaminants, while an air cleaner’s purpose is to remove contaminants that affect the health and comfort of household occupants.
  • Ventilation systems move the stale, polluted air out of your home and replace it with the fresher air from outside. Without much natural ventilation, a home’s ventilation needs must be addressed through mechanical ventilation. Whole-home ventilation systems run periodically to move polluted air out.

Humidity Levels Are Too High

Many homes experience indoor air quality issues related to humidity. Stuffiness and mugginess are two signs your home has too much humidity in the air. When there is excess moisture, contaminants are able to exist at higher concentrations, plus a moist environment creates the potential for mold growth.

Exposure to high humidity in the home makes you feel symptoms like:

  • More frequent allergy symptoms and asthma attacks
  • Congestion
  • Skin irritation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Lung infections, if mold is present

When the humidity in your home is too high, it is also difficult to achieve comfortable conditions. When air is too moist, your body feels warmer than the air really is. Humid indoor air also burdens your air conditioner, as a secondary function of this system is to dehumidify – it uses more energy in attempts to control moisture.

What to Do About It

Relative humidity levels in the home need to be kept between 35 and 50 percent to avoid related indoor air quality issues. To achieve this, we recommend:

  • Dehumidifiers, which are installed alongside your HVAC equipment to address the moisture issue as air circulates. The dehumidifier pulls out excess moisture, sending drier air back through circulation. It is able to treat moisture issues on a whole-home level, rather than portable units that only treat one small space.
  • Exhaust fans, which remove excess moisture from particular areas. You need these in your bathroom and kitchen, as showers and cooking add significant moisture to the air. Without them, the humidity produced is trapped in the home, which leads to moisture damage and mold issues.

Ventilation is Lacking

Because your home does not benefit from the same level of natural ventilation as the outdoors, it is easy for contaminants and moisture to build up inside. This leaves you with stale-feeling air and causes issues maintaining comfort levels with your HVAC system. Because poor ventilation causes contaminant concentrations to increase, you also experience those cold-like symptoms caused by indoor air quality issues.

Radon exposure is a serious concern when ventilation is poor within a Louisville home. It is formed as underground rock and soil decomposes, and seeps into homes through foundation cracks. Without good ventilation, radon concentration increases – radon is a carcinogen and exposure has been linked to lung cancer.

What to Do About It

To increase ventilation inside your home and avoid indoor air quality issues, we recommend:

  • Ventilation systems that pull contaminated air out of the home and replace it with fresh, outdoor air. To conserve energy while improving ventilation, energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) can be used, which extract heat energy from outgoing air to condition the new air.
  • Spot ventilation such as exhaust fans and hoods help homes control excess contamination produced by certain activities, like showering, cooking, fireplace use, and certain hobby activities. 

Tackle Indoor Air Quality Issues with Jarboe’s

If you experience any of the indoor air quality issues discussed above, we have solutions to help. Contact Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling today to learn more about the indoor air quality products we offer that help your HVAC system deliver cleaner, healthier air across your home.

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