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Thanksgiving Indoor Air Quality Tips to Keep in Mind This Season

Cooking, baking and people are all sources of indoor air pollution. This can make holiday season difficult, learn some quick IAQ tips for better air quality this Thanksgiving.
Last Updated on November 12, 2020

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The thought of a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal may fill your mind with a delicious aroma. It’s an atmosphere that’s just as sure to fill your home. A big Thanksgiving feast typically involves days of cooking, baking and humans in one space. The reality is–all these factors are hidden sources of indoor air pollution. In preparation for the upcoming holiday season this year, be mindful of your air quality. Combat indoor air pollution before, during and after the gathering, with these Thanksgiving indoor air quality tips and solutions.  

Thanksgiving Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Perhaps it’s strange to think of the holidays as an increased time of indoor air pollution. When we break it down though, it makes sense. The main sources of pollution when hosting a Thanksgiving event at home are:

  • Cooking 
  • Baking
  • Humans gathering and occupying an indoor space

Couple these sources with colder weather, the heater turned on and closed doors and windows … and you have the perfect recipe for poor indoor air quality that will negatively affect the people gathering inside the home. 

Both cooking and baking are sources of increased indoor air pollution. The actual heat source used, whether gas, wood or electric result in different types of pollutants. Additionally, the actual processes themselves also produce chemicals and aromatic hydrocarbons that compromise indoor air. Burning or using wood-based options release smoke into the air. Frying releases oil particulates into the air. Gas stoves and ovens produce harmful pollutants like formaldehyde, along with combustion gases. Cooking sprays, cookware, and even kitchen countertop sprays provide an unhealthy mix of chemicals for you and your guests. 

Guests are another common source of indoor air pollution. When other people enter your home, they bring pollutants with them. These include pollen, germs, perfume, pet dander, and airborne transmitted illnesses. Once guests enter your home, these pollutants circulate throughout the air and rest on your surfaces affecting the air quality.

Thankfully, there are several helpful tips and solutions to help keep you, your home and your guests safe this Thanksgiving holiday.   

Ventilate

The first step you can take to improve air quality is to ventilate. And we mean–ventilate, ventilate, ventilate! There are a couple of ways to do so.

First, you can run the kitchen exhaust fan. If you don’t have an exhaust fan installed, most stovetops or ovens offer exhaust options (albeit localized, they can still help). Another option, depending on weather, is to open windows and doors, ideally while running fans, to promote better circulation. Fresh air works many wonders for your home and space.  

A mix of both the exhaust fan and windows would be great, but it isn’t always the most comfortable option in November. If the climate is cold or the weather is uncooperative, then windows and doors won’t be a viable option. Because even a modest amount of ventilation is better than none at all, we suggest still using a window fan to minimize cooking fumes and pollutants during the process. 

Compared to these localized options, the best ventilation solution is a whole-home system that moves fresh air throughout the entire space. Installing a whole-home mechanical ventilation system in your home is low-maintenance and cost-effective. There are different ventilation systems, such as ERVs and HRVs, but both work with the existing HVAC system to bring fresh air in and move stale, polluted air out.  

Control Humidity

When cooking in the oven, boiling water to make mashed potatoes or steaming vegetables, you can increase condensation (or moisture levels) in your home. In contrast, as the colder weather causes us to turn to heaters for comfort, the already dry air loses more moisture, thus intensifying the feeling and effects of dry air. In either condition, when humidity levels are too dry or too moist, it fosters a breeding ground for pollen, allergens and bacteria to circulate and thrive. The best way to control your home’s humidity is to install a whole-home humidifier or dehumidifier. Depending on where you live (and what poor air quality factors you notice your space suffers from most) an indoor air quality expert can help determine which system is needed to keep your home’s indoor relative humidity within the optimal range of 40-60%.  

Change Filters

Do you know the last time you changed the filters in your living space? How about the furnace filter or return filters? When it comes to filtered devices and appliances, they can only help protect and work efficiently if they are clean and changed regularly. When it comes to the HVAC system specifically, clogged and dirty filters means poor indoor air quality. Not only will changing filters ensure that you’re preventing unwanted debris or particles from circulating, you can even promote the longevity of the HVAC system itself by keeping them well maintained. Before you cook, clean or host this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to install brand new filters. We suggest creating a filter change schedule from there! 

Air filters are one of the easier indoor air quality upgrades. When it comes to choosing the best filter for your home, we recommend MERV 13 filters across the board. MERV-13 filters are the ideal choice for improved air quality and they fit into the existing system without costly updates. These filters will have an immediate and noticeable impact on your home’s air quality. They capture unwanted pollutants in your air, including: mold spores, dust mites and virus or bacteria particles.

Monitor Indoor Air from Your Mobile Phone

If you want to better understand the indoor air quality in your home overall, consider having a central air monitor installed. That way, you can learn the what, where and how of the specific pollutants affecting your space. The monitor is installed directly into the HVAC system, tracks everything from humidity levels to temperature to pollutants, and sends insightful air quality information directly to your smartphone or tablet. It not only lets you know what types of pollutants are in your space, but offers helpful tips and tricks to improve air quality. A monitor is a great holiday season benefit because it helps you notice in real-time how the aforementioned Thanksgiving sources impact your home’s indoor air quality.  

Contact the Experts

If you have questions or need more information on Thanksgiving (or holiday season!) indoor air quality tips and solutions, we’re happy to help. Remember that prioritizing whole-home or whole-space solutions are the ideal choice. Indoor air quality is incredibly important and impacts both the quality of the home as well as occupants’ health and wellness. Improving indoor air quality means choosing solutions that better the entire space, and doing so before the upcoming holiday season is an ideal time. When it comes to IAQ, we have plenty of recommendations that can be customized to create a personal home strategy. 

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