Why should you pay attention to the heating and cooling systems in your home? Because it’s highly likely they’re affecting your health, comfort and utility costs.
New homes are being sealed tighter and tighter for energy efficiency, and existing homes are being improved for the same reason. This is great for comfort and savings—the less conditioned air that seeps out of your home, the better—but what about your health?
You might be surprised to learn that while sealed homes reduce heating and cooling costs and are more environmentally friendly, there’s a trade-off you should be aware of: indoor air quality (IAQ).
Why is Indoor Air Quality Important?
Why Should You Minimize Exposure to VOCs?
What are some of the most common types of VOCs?
8 Ways to Protect Yourself from Poor Indoor Air Quality
#1 – Avoid Off Gassing Materials
#2 – Air Scrubber
#3 – Duct Cleaning
#4 – Home Air Purifiers
#5 – Ventilators: ERVs and HRVs
#7 – UV Lights
#8 – Air Filters
Why is Indoor Air Quality Important?
When your house is sealed up tight, it means your indoor breathing air will get stale, at best.
Everyday activities like cooking and using cleaning chemicals can drastically reduce the quality of your indoor breathing air, not to mention the contaminants that get circulated through central air systems and aggravate asthma and allergies, and spread bacteria and viruses such as Strep Throat and the Common Cold.
Off gassing—the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air you breathe—is also major concern when it comes to IAQ
Off gassing is what happens when tiny pieces of chemicals come unattached from materials or products and become vapors or gases in the air you breathe. Don’t be fooled by the word “organic” either. VOCs are dangerous.
You know that “new car smell” people love so much? That’s an example of off gassing, and it means you’re breathing in chemicals. The same thing happens in your home.
What about the smell from the new flooring you just had installed? Off gassing. The “clean” new furniture in your nursery? Off gassing.
These are just a handful of examples. Read on to learn how to protect you and your loved ones.
Why Should You Minimize Exposure to VOCs?
Some VOCs are believed to be carcinogens, which means they cause cancer, and some can mix with other gases and combine into harmful chemicals.
Some of the biggest offenders include:
- Paints and painting supplies
- Cleaning supplies
- Craft or hobby supplies, including glues, adhesives, paint strippers, varnishes
- Aerosol spray
- Building materials
- Moth repellents
- Copiers and printers
- Burning wood, coal or natural gas
Indoor air quality in American homes keeps getting worse because as homes become more energy efficient and the amount of conditioned air that escapes from inside the home is reduced, less fresh air gets in to clean out the bad stuff.
The result is that VOC levels accumulate over time, reducing indoor air quality.
What Can VOCs Do to You?
In the short-term, VOCs can affect the body in the following ways:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Problems with vision
- Memory problems
The long-term health risks are not yet conclusive, however as more research becomes available it’s likely we’ll gain a healthy new respect—pun intended—for the threat poor indoor air quality poses to public health.
For example, “a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air.”
To make matters worse, the people “exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution” such as “the young, the elderly, the chronically ill,” and most “especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.”
Poor IAQ is growing problem and will accelerate as homes continue to be more effectively sealed and we continue to bring off gassing materials and products into our homes.
What Are Some of the Most Common Types of VOCs?
The VOCs found most often in American homes are:
- Chemical flame retardants
- Methylene chloride
- Perchloroethylene (found in dry cleaning solutions)
8 Ways to Protect Yourself from Poor Indoor Air Quality
Despite this growing problem in modern society and the long list of chemicals to avoid, there are solutions available to remedy the threat.
If you’re concerned about your indoor breathing air but aren’t sure if you have a problem or not, contact us and we can schedule an air test.
Using our high-tech Air Advice unit, we can test your indoor air quality and tell you if there are any harmful chemicals present, as well as what they are.
That said, let’s look at seven ways to protect yourself from poor indoor air quality.
#1 – AVOID OFF GASSING MATERIALS
The best way to reduce or eliminate the threat is to avoid it entirely. In short, stop bringing products into your home that will off gas.
That may be easier said than done when you consider we’re constantly surrounded by plastics and other potentially harmful products—a reality of everyday modern life—but luckily there are steps you can take to reduce this threat.
- Pick natural products. For example, non-toxic milk paints rather than latex paints, or a natural sisal area rug instead of a wall-to-wall carpet of synthetic fibers, can reduce the potential for VOCs. Of course, you’ll want to do your research on these products to ensure they’re safe. Hint: Furniture made from real wood or metal is less likely to off gas, if at all.
- Open your windows and doors if it’s not allergy season or if outdoor air quality is good, such as on dry, cool day, bring in some fresh air!
- Products with high levels of VOCs (paints, paint strippers, varnishes, stains, etc.) should only be used outdoors or in very well-ventilated areas.
Hint: Just because paint is labeled “Low-VOC” or “No-VOC” doesn’t mean it is! The base of the paint may not off gas, but the tint added to it could be an offender for off gassing. Do your research!
- Buy only enough of the high-VOC products that you’ll use, and only buy them if there is no other safe alternative. For instance, if you use paint stripper, don’t buy a large container just to save a few bucks on volume; only buy what you need. Storing these products, even in a garage, can release VOCs that you inadvertently bring into your home.
- Store products outside! If you’re getting new flooring or carpeting, or cabinets made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard), unwrap and store them outside for as long as you possibly can. Covered porches or garages (leave a door open) may work. You want to purge as many of the chemicals out of the product as you can before bringing them into your home where you’ll breathe them in.
- High temperatures and increased humidity are believed to help off gas items more quickly. Putting a mattress, carpet, furniture etc. in direct sunlight may cook out some VOCs. A minimum is a few hours, but days or even weeks in sunlight and/or at high temperatures are even better.
- Use cleaning supplies made with natural ingredients.
While these steps are a great start, they won’t continually and proactively clean your indoor breathing air. For that, you’ve got to look at the next six solutions to help you breathe more easily.
#2 – AIR SCRUBBER
Air Scrubber Plus® Purification products use a variation of the technology originally developed in cooperation with NASA to create a safe atmosphere for astronauts on the International Space Station.
This technology is now available to protect you, your family, and your home from dust, germs, odors, pet dander, viruses, and more.
This technology is available exclusively from Sanford Temperature Control for all homes and types of HVAC systems in the southern New Hampshire area.
Whether you have a Central Air System, Ductless HVAC Mini-Split, or a Forced Water System such as a boiler, we have the right solution to clean, deodorize and purify your indoor breathing air.
Benefits of Air Scrubber Technology in Your Home:
- Clean: Reduce contaminants by up to 99%.
- Deodorize: Banish lingering household odors.
- Purify: Reduce irritating particles & allergens.
- Reduce Sickness: Air Scrubber technology is an active rather than passive method of reducing up to 99% of surface and airborne contaminants such as Strep, MRSA, E-Coli, Staph, Anthrax and more.
- Reduce Allergies & Asthma Symptoms: Air Scrubber technology can provide relief from breathing challenges such as asthma or allergies by removing pollen, dust and other harmful contaminants from your indoor breathing air.
- Reduce or Eliminate Odors: Air Scrubber technology can reduce or even eliminate odors from pets, chemicals, and cigarette smoke.
- Protect & Extend the Life of Your HVAC System: Air conditioning systems trap dirt, dust and other debris before it enters through the filter, damaging the coils and blower that keep your HVAC system running effectively. A protected HVAC system can last longer, save you money on utility bills and reduce the need for expensive service calls.
Learn more about Air Scrubber technology here, or contact us to schedule an air test and find out what’s lurking in your home.
#3 – DUCT CLEANING
If you’ve never thought about getting your duct work cleaned, you might want to. Just look at this field image taken by one of our technicians.
Now, imagine all the air you breathe in your home travels through that dirty duct work on its way into your lungs. Gross.
Using the patented ROTOBRUSH™ air duct cleaning system, Sanford can effectively remove contaminants from your home’s duct work. This advanced cleaning method is the only one available that brushes and vacuums at the point of contact, eliminating the use of chemicals and reducing airborne contamination. The powerful yet flexible ROTOBRUSH™ easily cleans all types of air duct construction (e.g., flex duct, round metal ducts, square metal ducts, and fiberboard) including right angle turns, reducers and multiple bends found in most types of duct systems.
Contact us today for a no-obligation quote on duct cleaning for your home.
Many air purifier systems work in tandem with your HVAC system, and installation is quick and non-invasive. Although you won’t hear or see your air purifier working, it will continuously and consistently eliminate airborne pollutants from your indoor environment.
Take advantage of the following benefits:
- Silent operation – Virtually noiseless, the award-winning Carrier Infinity Air Purifier works in-line with your HVAC system.
- Allergy relief – With Captures and Kills technology, the system handles up to 95% of pathogens, down to .30 microns in size.
- Continuous cleaning – This patented air purifying system provides effective air cleaning up to eight times an hour.
- Lights out for contaminants – The Infinity Air Purifier not only traps pollutants, but kills or inactivates up to 99% of germs, pollen, and mold.
- Dander removal – The efficient MERV 15 filter takes care of problematic pet dander.
- A good night’s sleep – Because you breathe deeper during sleep, a healthy supply of clean air is essential.
- Dust removal – Carrier air purifiers capture particles of dust that are too small to see, protecting sensitive electronics and maintaining a cleaner indoor environment.
- Eliminate fumes – Filter out paint, cooking fumes, pet and litter box odors, and even smoke particles.
- Protect your bedding – Dust mites are filtered out and reduced, creating a cleaner bedroom and sleeping environment.
- Asthma relief – Eliminate asthma triggers, such as dust, pollen, sulfate aerosols, and mold spores.
- Hazardous compound removal – Harmful gas compounds that enter the home are broken down and trapped by the air purifier.
Learn more about Indoor Air Quality in this four-minute video:
#5 – VENTILATORS: ERVs and HRVs
One of the best ways to flush out stale, bad air and bring in fresh air is with a home ventilator. Ventilators work quietly and efficiently to bring fresh air into your home all year long, and they pre-condition the incoming air to better match your preferred inside air temperature.
Basically, there are two types of ventilators: Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) and Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV).
Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) are made for climates with hot, humid summers. They bring in fresh air and remove humidity before it enters your ducts to keep you comfortable and your cooling system from having to work too hard.
In colder climates where summers are shorter and less humid, a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is better suited to keep air fresh. HRVs will still pre-condition air to cool it in summer and warm it in winter before it comes into your home.
Contact us for a quick analysis of your indoor air to identify the unseen threats potentially lurking under your nose.
Watch this quick video to learn more about ventilators and IAQ:
#6 – AEROSEAL DUCT SEALING
Did you know that one of the biggest offenders of poor indoor air quality in your home is often leaky duct work?
HVAC systems usually pull air from the dirtiest parts of your home, such as walls, attics and basements. This means that leaks suck mold, dust and other pollutants into your home and cause indoor air quality problems.
To make matters worse, all that leaking means you’re paying a lot more than you should for heating and cooling, while overworking your HVAC system in process, which leads to reduced equipment lifespan.
Just look at these findings from the Department of Energy:
On average, 30 cents of every $1 spent on heating and cooling a home disappears into thin air due to leaky ducts, while 25% to 60% of heated and cooled air leaks out and doesn’t make it to its intended rooms.
That’s a lot of money to spend on bad air.
Learn more about the cutting-edge Aeroseal process here:
#7 – UV LIGHTS
Did you know you can disinfect your indoor breathing air 24 hours a day without harmful chemicals or sprays?
Mold spores, bacteria and fungi can invade the dark, damp surfaces of your cooling coil in your air conditioning system. It’s a perfect breeding ground for the common cold, Strep Throat, and other nasty things. Left unchecked, buildup of these contaminants can release potentially harmful pollutants into the air you breathe, as well as reduce system efficiency.
As part of Carrier Healthy Home Solutions, the germicidal UV lamp bathes the cooling coil with intense UV-C light, sterilizing its surfaces while maximizing system efficiency and protecting the air you breathe. UV lights are mounted inside your system, near the indoor cooling coil, where fungus and microbes may grow and pollutants can collect.
Simply put, UV Lights are an easy and inexpensive solution to start sterilizing your indoor breathing air today.
Learn more about UV Lights in this short video:
#8 – Air Filters
Air filters don’t just clean your indoor breathing air, they also impact the efficiency of your system. But, there are a lot of air filter options available on the market and the choices can be confusing and overwhelming. Learn about the different filter types to help you make an informed decision in just one minute:
If you’d like more information about any of these solutions or would like to schedule an air test, please contact us today! We’ll be happy to help you out!
Schedule your IAQ solution today!
If you want to learn more about indoor air quality, check out this informative resource from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).