We live in a modern age where technology has made great strides in an attempt to improve our quality of life. However, as you know many of those improvements come with less than desirable side effects that may hamper our health more than help it. A case in point is the modern home.
Modern homes are built to be airtight vessels that prevent air movement between the outside environment and the inside of our homes. The purpose for this is make our dwellings more energy efficient, but in the process an environment is created where contaminants build up. We then unknowingly breathe these contaminants in and over time they have a negative impact on our health.
We can lessen the impact of poor indoor air quality by educating ourselves on the sources leading to poor indoor air quality and then by taking the appropriate steps to eradicate these sources. Three major sources affecting air quality include VOC’s, combustible products, and the HVAC system itself.
VOC’s, or volatile organic compounds, are a threat to our health. These compounds come from a number of sources and are slowly released over time. Many of these harmful compounds are in the very materials making up our homes. Carpeting, paint, and the glues used in construction materials like wood panels slowly release these vapors over time.
Over time the amount of VOC’s from these substances diminishes substantially. More recently many products, such as painting materials, are being marketed that greatly reduce the amount of compounds released into our air. If you are planning on engaging in some remodeling projects around the house look for products that advertise low VOC’s. In addition, you may want to consider different materials for a remodel. For example, instead of choosing carpet you might want to go with wood.
About the only way to combat these vapors coming from building materials in the home is to open the doors and windows and allow for the air to ventilate. But that is not the only source of VOC’s commonly found in the home. Many common household products contain VOC’s. But don’t clean out the cabinets of everything just yet, as there are many practical ways to handle VOC’s in a home. As examples, limit the use of citrus cleaners, perfumes, cosmetics, and aerosol sprays inside. Another safeguard is to familiarize yourself with the labeling on various products and avoid using those with known harmful chemicals.
Products or appliances that create combustion without being properly vented contribute heavily to poor indoor air quality. The list of potential threats is surprisingly long. It includes automobile exhaust, water heaters, space heaters, wood stoves, scented candles, cigarettes, and gas stoves to name a few. These common household products can emit a surprising amount of harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and others.
To keep the effects of combustible materials to a minimum, take note of how often you use them. For larger appliances such as gas water heaters and wood stoves, periodically examine their exhaust flues or chimneys for proper ventilation. Don’t warm up your vehicle in an enclosed garage, as some of these dangerous fumes will seep into the house. If you are burning anything combustible it is a good practice to keep a window partially open for adequate ventilation. Never smoke in the house or allow anyone else to smoke in your home. The reasons for this should be obvious.
Most heating and air conditioning systems installed within the past 10 years are very efficient. If your home is equipped with an older model make sure to have it inspected periodically. Older less efficient models may in time begin to leak harmful gases into the air duct system and throughout the house. Poorly maintained HVAC systems may result in poor air flow throughout the house.
Without proper ventilation through the duct work, air will not be circulated and filtered properly. Don’t skimp on cheap air filters and make sure you replace them at least as often as directed. The better the air filter the more contaminants and other harmful particles will be prevented from circulating through your home. In addition, never store chemicals of any sort near the furnace. Many HVAC systems are located in a closet where it is tempting to store cleaning chemicals and other products that may seep VOC’s into the ventilation system.