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What is Indoor Air Quality and What Does It Mean for My Home?

What does IAQ mean for me?

When we think of air pollution, we usually think of the outside aspects of the air, such as smog, ozone, automobile emissions or heavy haze, especially in summer. The fact is, the air that our family breathes inside our homes, offices, and other buildings is many times more polluted than the air outside.

What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns.

Common examples of indoor pollutants include pet dander and dust mites, chemical vapors and odors, or germs, bacteria, or other living microorganisms.

Indoor air pollutants may cause serious health concerns, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Eye and skin irritations
  • Congestion
  • Headaches
  • Allergic reactions
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Asthma

The EPA states that indoor air is one of the top five environmental health risks of our time and the levels of hazardous pollutants in indoor air have been found to be up to 60 times greater than outdoor air.

American College of Allergist & Asthma – States that 40% – 50% of all illnesses are caused by polluted indoor air.

The Center for Disease Control offers Guidelines for using equipment that we use on a regular basis to disinfect and clean the air.

The main sources of poor indoor air quality in homes are gases or particles released into the air from a wide variety of sources.  The air inside your home may be polluted by lead (in house dust), formaldehyde (from old worn-out carpeting) fire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional household cleaners. Allergens and pollutants may even be found in the paint you put on your walls!

Your current system could be what’s poisoning your indoor air right now! Read more about how your air conditioning unit could be poisoning your home. Poor and inadequate ventilation in your home, high temperature and humidity levels, mold, microscopic dust mites, also contribute to raised concentrations of indoor air pollutants.  And, with modern homes being more airtight than ever, these irritants tend to be trapped and stay inside.

Children, people with asthma and other breathing difficulties, and the elderly may be especially sensitive, however, everyone may become affected after several years of continued exposure to the various indoor air pollutants.

Basic Solutions for Improving Indoor Air Quality

Typically, the best way to reduce the concentrations of indoor air pollutants is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce emissions.

Some very harmful pollutants come from faulty appliance emissions, such as cooking stoves or heating furnaces.  It’s important for thoroughly trained technicians to evaluate your home equipment annually, as, generally, two out of three indoor air quality issues involve the poor performance and improper functioning of the HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) system.

Test for lead

Especially if you live in a home built before 1978, it’s important to test for lead since there’s a good chance it’s mixed into the wall paint.  In a newer home, you may also be exposed to lead from lead dust brought in from outside.  Lead dust can be detrimental to health, especially children’s, as it can damage the brain, central nervous system, and kidneys.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers practical suggestions on how to make your home lead-safe.

Man replacing the air filter in home AC system

Test Your Air

Test for radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas.  It typically moves up through the ground and into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation, however, even airtight homes can potentially have it, and granite countertops have also been linked to radon.

Radon, by the way, is prevalent in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania because of Uranium, which outgases Radon as a by-product, is deposited in the rock strata. Testing is easy, fairly inexpensive, and takes only a few minutes to accomplish, so make sure you do that since radon is the second leading cause of cancer in the United States according to the American Lung Association.

In some cases, Radon testing is required by certain lending institutions before the transfer of a property.  Rest assured that with proper remediation equipment, even high radon levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.

Please go to https://www.city-data.com/radon-zones/Pennsylvania/Pennsylvania.html to see what the average radon levels are in your neighborhood.

Test for carbon monoxide levels, “The Silent Killer” in your home. Here are ten things to look for when checking for carbon monoxide!

A ServiceMark Heating Cooling & Plumbing technician can service your furnace annually to prevent problems, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tips & Insights: Should I Repair or Replace My Heat Pump?

Clean Your House

Cleaning your home is an essential way to help keep the pollutants at bay.

Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and you can reduce concentrations of lead in your home, and get rid of other toxins, like PBDEs chemicals (a flame-retardant that has been used in a wide array of products), and allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites.  Besides floors, remember to wipe down walls and clean upholstered furniture, where dust normally accumulates. Mopping will pick up the dust left behind the vacuuming, and new microfiber mops and dust cloths capture more dust and dirt than traditional fibers.

Ventilation improvements increase the amount of outdoor air coming into your home to improve indoor air quality.

Open your windows periodically, weather permitting, to add ventilation and fresh air to the space. Another HVAC system, an HRV (Heating Recovery Ventilation), uses fans to pull fresh air into a home while simultaneously exhausting stale air from the home. In most installations, the fresh air is delivered to the living room and bedrooms, while the stale air is removed from bathrooms, laundry rooms, and sometimes the kitchen.

Also, open the windows when vacuum-cleaning.  Install the vent of the clothes dryer on the outside and make sure it remains clean for proper discharge!  Use an exhaust fan or open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing – this will also reduce the humidity level.

Make sure you are also regularly changing the air filters in your home.

Keep a Healthy Humidity Level

Keep a healthy level of humidity at around 30%-50%.  Dust mites and mold love moisture, and this level will help keep them and other allergens under control.

Using a dehumidifier and air conditioner during summer months will help reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively control allergens.  An efficient air conditioner will also lower indoor pollen count. As a side note, modern high-efficiency central air conditioning systems have intelligent thermostats that tell fans to ramp up or down,

Loosening pipe under sink with wrenchdepending on particular needs, thus controlling humidity levels better than ever.

Make sure your leaky plumbing gets repaired to prevent mold. From small portable table-top air cleaners to whole-house systems, there are many tools to help make your IAQ healthier.

Tips & Insights: What is a Furnace Limit Switch? How to Use & Tips

Hire a Professional to Help

ServiceMark Heating Cooling & Plumbing can help you select the right air cleaner for your home.

When your home and family are in need of an HVAC company that is fully experienced in IAQ, turn to our experts. Let us guide you with information about servicing, upgrading or replacing your current systems and allow our comfort advisors to provide you with the energy-efficient options that best fit your needs to improve the Indoor Air Quality and overall safety and comfort of your home.

ServiceMark Heating Cooling & Plumbing has the knowledge and experience and has been providing a full range of high-quality home comfort products and services for over 65 years. All you have to do is decide that clean indoor air is important for the overall health of your family and make that call! ServiceMark is standing by.

Good news: The HVAC experts at ServiceMark can make sure the air in your home is in tip-top shape.

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