The 411 on IAQ (Indoor Air Quality)

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we spend 90% of our time indoors. While relaxing in the cool, air conditioned air in the summer months might be a nice break from the heat and humidity outdoors, the EPA further estimates that the air inside your home may be two to five times more polluted than the air outside.

When it comes to indoor air quality (IAQ), the key lies in keeping harmful pollutants away from your family and ensuring that your home has adequate ventilation. 

First, know the three main contamination culprits: 
1) Radon: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that usually permeates your home through leaks in the basement. A silent danger, this gas is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. It is believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoke.
2) Secondhand smoke: The harmful effects of cigarette smoke are not restricted to those who make the decision to light up. Not only is cigarette smoke an asthma trigger, but it can also lead to respiratory infections including pneumonia and bronchitis. The EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Consider quitting today!

3) Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide is another tasteless, odorless, colorless danger that results from the incomplete burning of fuels such as propane, gas, oil, or wood. Poisoning from carbon monoxide takes about 400 lives each year.

Take action: 

  • Test your home for radon. This can either be done by a professional, or you can purchase a testing kit at your local hardware store. 
  • Do not idle your car in the garage. This can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and other indoor air pollutants. 
  • Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector: 
    • When purchasing a CO detector, first check your town or county regulations to insure that you are purchasing a detector that is compliant with these guidelines.
    • An essential quality in a CO detector is an electrochemical sensor that prevents reaction to humidity or temperature changes. This sensor can also prevent a response to common household chemicals.
    • Another important feature is the end-of-life warning. A CO detector should be replaced every 7 years, so it is crucial to know when your detector is reaching the end of its lifespan. 
    • CO detectors should be installed on each floor and in bedrooms. They should be placed a minimum of 15 feet away from cooking and heating appliances and should not be placed in breezy areas to avoid false readings. It is also best to keep detectors out of direct sunlight.
  • Regularly maintenance and clean your air conditioner and dehumidifier 
  • Change your air filters on a regular basis – Energy Star recommends that this be done at least once every 3 months. 
  • Adjust the humidity in your home. In the wintertime, keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent to decrease the likelihood of mold formation. In the summer months, the level should be around 60 percent humidity. 
A picture is worth a thousand words. Check out this infographic from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers for more ways to ensure good Indoor Air Quality.