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Summer Pollution: Why Is Air Quality Bad When It’s Hot Out?

Air quality concerns seem to go hand-in-hand with extreme heat and summertime weather. Here’s how to improve summer air quality in your indoor space.

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summer air quality

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Summertime–it’s much more than simply the season between spring and autumn. Known for warm weather, sunshine, time spent by the water, outdoor activities and just general fun–a lot of people love the summer months. However, many beloved summer season pastimes actually contribute to higher levels of air pollution. And as the hot temperatures and summertime weather continues later into the season each year, it’s crucial to know how to intervene in your space for the best summer air quality indoors.

Is Summer Air Quality Worse?

Obviously, it’s not that overall air quality immediately worsens the moment summer begins. However, not everyone would agree …

In reality, it’s those long hot sunny days so many love and our own daily actions and habits that impacts summer air quality indoors and out.

Summertime Activities

Activities like fireworks and bonfires directly impact air quality. Higher vacation numbers and increased travel results in greater pollution levels. Even just more time spent outdoors among allergens and pollutants, or with windows and doors open for that summer breeze contributes to increased indoor air pollution.

Weather

Seasonal changes result in warmer weather and lower precipitation levels. Both of which directly affect outdoor air quality. High temperatures and extreme heat raises certain pollutant levels, like ozone and particulate matter. Air quality advisories almost always go hand-in-hand with heatwaves. And our increased electricity usage to keep things cool during high heat episodes only contributes to greater emissions and primary pollution. Researchers have also found that lower precipitation levels allow polluted air to remain in one area longer, leading to worse air quality–a very similar prospect to a poorly ventilated indoor space.

Summer Air Conditioning

A 2015 residential energy consumption survey found that 90% of American homes have some form of air conditioning. And roughly 60% of those homes rely on central AC systems. Air conditioning has many pros. From increasing comfort levels to keeping us safe and healthy, particularly when it’s super hot out, AC has cemented its role in American society.

However, air conditioning use is not without its faults or worries. Air conditioning recirculates indoor air, it does not bring in fresh outdoor air as many believe. Equally important, increased AC use means recirculating more air which in turn also means you’re circulating contaminants throughout your space. This is why IAQ solutions in addition to your home’s HVAC/AC system are needed.

Another significant summer air conditioning reminder … HVAC system cooling components and essential parts of your home’s outdoor condenser unit can fail in extreme heat. This is one of the many reasons we recommend seasonal HVAC maintenance! The better route is preventative measures over costly fixes. Hot summer weather also makes your home’s AC process work harder on the whole. Because of the wider gap between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, your home system works harder to make up the difference.

Summer Indoor Air Quality Tips

There are a handful of indoor air quality and home maintenance tips that will improve (or maintain!) your home’s health and air quality during the warm summer season.

Tip #1 – Clean the Condenser Unit / Opt For An HVAC Maintenance Check

For central air systems, the condenser is the outdoor portion of your home’s HVAC system, commonly referred to as the AC unit. It’s what most of us generally associate as the HVAC system itself. It’s important that the condensing unit is clean for efficient air cooling and air quality! And the season change is a perfect time for a check-up.

If you choose to do it yourself, gently clean off debris and dirt from both the inside and outside. Without tugging wires or bending the coil, carefully clean the unit’s condenser coil. Also keep in mind that a clear space is needed surrounding the unit for good airflow. That means keeping shrubs trimmed throughout the summer season and never placing items on or near the unit.

If you choose to hire a professional, they will check and clean the condenser unit, condenser coils and drainage line for you! To make sure your AC runs smoothly all season, a contractor will also clear out debris, dirt, leaves, sticks and whatever else might have built up on the unit.

Tip #2 – Seal Leaks + Windows / Invest In Mechanical Ventilation

A leaky window or unsealed door gap drastically reduces AC efficiency and increases cooling costs. In fact, the modern airtight home construction approach is to increase home energy-efficiency and provide a tight seal. While beneficial for your utility bill and maintaining a comfortable temperature indoors, the lack of natural ventilation, or infiltration, is not ideal for IAQ. Investing in a mechanical ventilation system solves the problem. Mechanical ventilation allows fresh outdoor air to enter your living space, improving air quality and overall circulation indoors.

Tip # 3 – Change Home Air Filter

The truth is, there is never a time when changing your home air filter isn’t a good idea. In fact, we include it on almost every guide, tip and suggestion list we make! That’s because your system’s first line of defense is air filtration. A clogged or dirty air filter reduces air quality, while impairing HVAC efficiency. On top of routinely changing your air filter, consider upgrading to a higher-efficiency MERV 13 filter!

Tip # 4 – Operate Thermostat With Energy-Efficiency In Mind

As we mentioned earlier, the cost to cool an indoor space is less when the distance between the indoor and outdoor temperatures is minimal. For this reason, bumping up your thermostat setting can make a huge difference in utility bill costs. As an alternative suggestion, consider investing in a smart thermostat.

Minimize Summer Air Pollution

Concerns or worries about your space’s indoor air quality should be the last thing on your mind this summer. Taking the necessary steps to upgrade your home’s HVAC system and intervene for a healthier indoor environment limits summertime air pollution’s impact on you, your family and your home. With the previous four tips, getting started and improving your space’s indoor summer air quality is easy.

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Indoor air quality matters. Indoor air quality control solutions work. That’s why we are IAQ.Works. We are the homeowner’s advocate. Our goal is to help you create a healthier indoor space through education, awareness and action. We support clean air for all and we know it’s possible for every single indoor space. Join us on Twitter!

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