We’re all spending lots of time at home this year, likely more than usual. And we can expect to spend even more time indoors as temperatures drop and winter weather moves in. Improving and monitoring indoor air quality is especially important in the winter as we shut ourselves inside. Learn how winter affects indoor air quality and the solutions available to improve it this season.
What Is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality concerns the health and comfort of the air inside your home or living space. A number of dangerous health effects impact people who live or work in poor air quality spaces.
In fact, there are official terms for illnesses associated with indoor air. Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a condition that most often occurs in office buildings. In the short term, sufferers might experience dizziness or shortness of breath. In the long term, exposure may result in respiratory disease, heart disease and even cancer. That includes exposure to chemical pollutants, off-gassing of hazardous materials and poor ventilation.
How Winter Affects Indoor Air Quality
Winter is a love-hate season. As in, you either love it or hate it. Regardless, across the United States, winter means lower temperatures and more time spent inside.
Believe it or not, the changing of the seasons alone has a huge impact on the air quality in your home. Here are a few ways that winter affects indoor air quality.
Weatherization and Insulation
Drafts and leaks in your home’s building envelope are most noticeable in the winter. As a result, many homeowners pursue weatherization techniques. A process that involves effectively sealing leaks and holes in the home’s foundation.
Simultaneously, in an effort to reduce energy costs and better serve the environment, modern construction is geared toward tightening homes as much as possible. While this is great for energy-efficiency purposes, sadly, these efforts have other ill effects. When homes are too insulated, or really too airtight, there is less natural ventilation and therefore less pollution dilution.
While tighter homes have many benefits, one must take indoor air quality into account. Pursuing air-sealing and weatherizing without considering the home’s indoor air is a recipe for disaster.
Increase in Indoor Pollutant Sources
Because we spend more time indoors as it gets colder, it means we’re not only breathing in surrounding pollutants more often, but we’re also creating more pollutants indoors. Also, with fewer open doors and windows to provide natural ventilation, there are simply more pollutants present.
Think about it this way. If a tobacco user smokes inside, that’s a huge air pollution risk for the rest of the home. The same goes for many types of indoor air pollutants.
In the winter, pets are inside more which increases the number of allergens and pet dander particles. Candles and fireplaces relied upon in winter are other sources of indoor air pollution. Daily activities like cooking, bathing, showering and laundering clothes all add moisture and pollutants to the air. During the winter, we’re more likely to do these daily activities when everyone in the household is indoors, and while running the heat on blast. Overall, there are quite a few ways winter affects indoor air quality.
How Can Air Quality Be Improved In Winter?
Luckily, there are several ways to create a healthier indoor space this winter. Here are a few tips for staying warm and healthy, all season long!
Monitor and Track Indoor Air Quality
An air quality monitor provides valuable data that helps you better understand your home’s air quality and how it changes over time. To get a baseline understanding of what you’re up against, consider having a monitor professionally installed. They provide real-time information, allowing homeowners to determine exactly what worsens and benefits their air quality.
Clear Air Paths for Grilles, Registers and Diffusers
Make sure the air vents in the space are clean, rust-free and able to open and close. This includes grilles, registers and diffusers throughout your home. If you notice they are old, or that the damper is stuck, replace them. These can be purchased either online or at most home and garden stores. Winter is not the time to be unprepared. This is especially true when it comes to the HVAC system you and your family will rely on. Choose to make upgrades early on in the season.
Upgraded Air Filters
Filtration is the number one way to improve air quality. AKA–it’s the easiest and cheapest method. Changing air filters is often an afterthought for homeowners. Instead, set a schedule to change filters on a regular basis. That way, you and your family are breathing only the cleanest air possible this winter. When it comes to the actual filter option, we recommend a MERV 13 air filter.
Air Purification Systems
Go the extra mile and combat harmful pollutants by upgrading to an active air purification system. The system is installed directly into your home’s HVAC system, making it a low-maintenance upgrade. Not only do air purification systems make filtration and ventilation more efficient—they actively clean the air in your home. Active purifiers release “scrubbers” that ensure cleaner air in every corner of the room. A whole-home air purification system greatly reduces mold, pet dander, dust mites, VOCs and more indoor pollutants.
Easy Habits for Better Air Quality
Developing healthy habits that ensure cleaner indoor air is simple. When cooking, turn on the fan above your stovetop. During and after a shower, flip on the fan in the bathroom. Even ceiling fans help circulate the air a bit more.
Also, stay on top of potential mold and moisture issues in your home. If you start to notice any problems, such as a musty smell or a black substance in the corners, call a professional to assess and treat the situation before your family is inhaling toxic air.
Swap out harsh cleaning chemicals for white vinegar and non-toxic products. These are not as bad for air quality.
Improve the Air Quality in Your House This Winter
It’s important to keep in mind that winter affects indoor air quality. And now you have a better idea of how winter weather impacts your space! The good news? If you take a few steps now, you can make improvements that will ensure better air quality that lasts the whole season. If you need more assistance, reach out to us for more information on how to breathe safer cleaner air this winter.