Many associate October with beautiful autumn weather and Halloween festivities and decorations. But did you know that October is also National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month? Observed annually, the month-long recognition offers everyone the opportunity to think about the air they breathe indoors.
The best way to participate? Take the time this month to evaluate your living and working spaces to notice if and how you can improve the air quality. There are many solutions and strategies available to ensure healthier, safer, cleaner breathable air in the indoor spaces you frequent.
Why Is Indoor Air Quality So Important?
One of the more popular statistics often cited about indoor spaces is just how much time the average American spends indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates it at 90%! Understandably, it’s also quite a noteworthy statistic. Consequently, the quality of the air we breathe 90% of the time matters.
Indoor air quality is also significant because of its role in health and wellness. There are many known adverse health effects from exposure to poor air quality. Whereas, healthy indoor air quality is associated with many benefits. The key takeaway: indoor air quality is of great consequence for human health.
What Is Good Indoor Air Quality?
But what is good indoor air quality? What does a healthy indoor air space actually require? Simply stating good air quality is better than poor doesn’t provide a clear goal—there are no explicit objectives to reach in good. So, let’s get technical.
First, there are no federal indoor air guidelines. There is no legal definition of good indoor air quality. Some ideal control chart that compares air quality based on indoor pollutant levels or HVAC system or measurable IAQ qualities is nonexistent. Which, of course, makes it difficult to get technical.
There are, however, agreed-upon definitions for acceptable indoor air quality in the industry. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers Standard 62.1 is a recognized ventilation standard. It also outlines acceptable indoor air quality, defined as:
…air in which there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations as determined by cognizant authorities and with which a substantial majority (80% or more) of the people exposed do not express dissatisfaction.
If air quality simply refers to the condition of surrounding air, then acceptable air quality means the surrounding air contains minimal levels of air pollutants. Thus, good indoor air quality minimizes potential adverse health effects from air pollution exposure and provides a space people find comfortable.
You might find this definition disappointing. A broad explanation of good indoor air quality is likely not as satisfying as a comprehensive multi-step list or precise numbers to reach. Perhaps in the near future more concrete measurements or indoor air quality ratings will be possible thanks to updated regulations. But for now, good indoor air quality means reducing indoor air pollutants and working toward a comfortable space. And that makes it a largely individualized goal.
How To Improve Indoor Air Quality
The good news about an individualized goal, is that you can choose to take action using whatever control strategy or mix of approaches you desire. We’ll try to provide a slightly more fulfilling summary. Improving indoor air quality could largely be categorized into three options:
- Preventive Maintenance: This includes routine filter changes, seasonal HVAC maintenance, performing system checks or IAQ testing to take care of problems before a problem is out of hand.
- Healthy Home Habits: These are simple daily actions or routine practices to change to better control pollution sources. Source control tricks include not wearing shoes inside or cooking with windows open.
- IAQ Upgrades & Control Strategies: Home system upgrades include air filtration, purification, humidity control options and improved ventilation.
Of course, the best option is to choose to intervene. Your home is likely the one place you truly have control over the air you breathe. Whichever strategy you choose, starting is what’s important. Another step that actually encompasses all three options is to grow your own indoor air quality awareness.
Indoor Air Quality Awareness
Do you think about air quality? Do you consider outdoor air conditions before starting your day or doing activities outside? Is there a part of you that wonders how polluted your indoor air is, or if there’s something more you could do to create a healthier space? Cultivating an awareness about indoor air quality begins with simple questions like these.
Indoor air quality awareness simply means choosing to be more mindful of daily actions that contribute to air pollution. Choosing to learn about your home’s HVAC system or what impacts your building’s indoor environment. It’s as simple as growing your own knowledge on the topic. Learning what air quality really is, how outdoor air compares to indoor air, the dangers and increased health risks of exposure and the strategies and solutions available to improve indoor air quality.
In reality—choosing to boost your own awareness of air pollution and become familiar with indoor air quality is the best way to improve your home’s IAQ. With greater indoor air quality awareness, you’ll seek out specific solutions and work in tandem with a home contractor, better trusting the process and their recommendations. You’ll discover which sources are most relevant to your space and what IAQ problems your home is truly suffering from—and which strategies to commit to.
How To Boost Your IAQ Awareness
In addition to noticing, learning and questioning more about air quality—monitoring air quality also helps boost awareness.
For outdoor air quality, there is the Air Quality Index (AQI). It is the EPA’s national index for reporting air quality measurements. Levels are assigned across six different air quality grades. The information is provided daily and easily found in a weather report or on a weather app on your smartphone. It’s helpful to get into the practice of checking your local AQI daily.
For indoor air quality, consider investing in a whole-home air quality monitor. An in-duct air quality monitor provides pollutant rates, temperature and airflow information and other helpful stats so you can better understand your home’s air quality.
Air quality monitoring is an easy and helpful way to increase your air quality awareness. From there, you can move forward with IAQ home upgrades and healthy home habits that better ensure improved indoor air for you and your family. Take the first step and get informed this National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month!