Air quality is an environmental factor we rarely acknowledge until it smacks us right in the face. A whiff of ash from a nearby fire or the putrid smell of leaking gasoline trigger a stress response that whisks us indoors to turn on the fan or diffuse tea tree and lemon essential oils.
Air pollution can significantly impact your health and quality of life, often without notice. Since we can’t see air pollution, identifying poor indoor air quality is unintentionally neglected.
Luckily, this wonderful “Digital Age” in which we live has introduced robust tools to monitor both outdoor and indoor air quality helping us to breathe easy (literally). Improving air quality in your home is a simple and painless exercise that can dramatically improve your living conditions.
What is “Air Quality”?
Air quality is simply the quality of air in our surroundings. More specifically, “indoor air quality” refers to the quality of air in buildings, homes, and structures and how it impacts tenants.
Good Air Quality vs. Bad Air Quality
Air quality can be good or bad. Simple enough, right?
Good air quality is air that contains little to no harmful contaminants, adequate ventilation, optimal levels of humidity, and a comfortable temperature.
Bad air quality is a serious health risk, especially for sensitive groups including children, teenagers, asthmatics, and allergy sufferers. Air pollution can be caused by natural or man-made sources including:
- Volcanic eruption
- Windstorm dust
- Pollution from cars, trucks, trains, planes
- Fumes from industrial buildings
- Fumes from burning materials (including wood, coal, plastic)
- Cigarette smoke
How Do You Measure Air Quality?
Air quality is measured by analyzing the level of pollutants in a particular location. The Air Quality Index is used to monitor outdoor pollution levels while air quality monitors are portable devices that can determine the quality of air in an indoor environment.
The Air Quality Index (AQI)
The Air Quality Index, known as the AQI, measures the concentration of air pollutants in a particular location. The AQI measures air quality within a 0 to 500 range.
The index values are categorized as follows:
0 to 50
Good. Air quality has little to no risk factor.
51 to 100
Moderate. Acceptable level of pollution. Air quality may pose a risk for sensitive groups.
101 - 150
Unhealthy for sensitive groups. General public should be fine, but sensitive groups may exhibit symptoms.
151 - 200
Unhealthy. General public may exhibit symptoms. Sensitive groups may experience severe symptoms.
201 - 300
Very unhealthy. Everyone is at risk.
301 and higher
Hazardous. Emergency warning situation; everyone is likely to be affected.
The AQI can be used to monitor outdoor air quality, which has an impact on indoor air quality. Most homes and buildings have adequate ventilation that allows for indoor air to escape outdoors and outdoor air to enter indoors.
Poor outdoor air quality inevitably impacts indoor air quality due to ventilation.
Air Quality Monitors
The AQI measures outdoor pollution, which can be helpful when navigating your outdoor activities or dictating how frequently you open your windows for adequate ventilation. Air quality monitors, on the other hand, can monitor the quality of the air inside your home.
An air quality monitor is a handy device that detects the pollution level of a particular space. High quality air quality monitors can detect the following particles in your home air: allergens, formaldehyde, ozone, carbon dioxide, radon, and more. When used regularly, an air quality monitor can establish a baseline for your home air quality, which allows you to monitor for harmful home pollution spikes.
5 DIY Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality
There are quick and effective ways to improve the quality of your home air that you can do yourself. These include:
- Opening the windows
- Dusting and vacuuming regularly
- Changing your air filters
- Taking off your shoes before entering your home
- Investing in an air purifier
If you have a serious issue with indoor air quality as determined by an air quality monitor, or if the AQI index in your area is frequently unhealthy, you may need professional assistance. The following tips are meant to improve your home air quality over time.
DIY #1: Open the Widows
Windows They connect the inner peace and comfort of your home space to the vast outdoors. They bring sunlight, chirping birds, fragrant floral aromas, and a delightful cross breeze into your home that can brighten any mood.
In addition, windows help to ventilate your home air, which can get a bit stuffy at times. Gas stove emissions, pet dander, a fresh paint job, rug debris, or fumes from that DIY project you started can accumulate a load of unhealthy particles that can infiltrate your home. Opening your windows for 30 minutes each morning will help to improve air flow in your home and discard any unhealthy emissions.
If you live in a big city or a crowded location, it is best to open your windows during traffic lulls to avoid adding pollution to your home air.
DIY #2: Dust and Vacuum Regularly
While dusting and vacuuming your home can feel like a wretched chore, there is certainly a more significant purpose beyond just scratching off an item on your “To Do List.”
Our floors, carpets, and rugs are put through the metaphorical wringer on a daily basis... Kids stomp around with purpose, pride, and sandy shoes. The dog sprints through the house in search of a tennis ball with drool cascading down his jowls. We drop crumbs, fizz from our La Croix, lint from our dryer, and loads of hair onto the floors in a rush to the next activity.
Vacuuming your floors, carpet, rugs, and various pathways is a surefire way to reduce the volume of allergens and debris that circulates in your home. Not to mention, a freshly vacuumed floor is heavenly.
DIY #3: Change Your Air Filters on Schedule
You can significantly reduce polluted air in your home by regularly maintaining your HVAC air filters. High Efficiency Particulate Air filters or “HEPA” filters are the gold standard for air filters; to ensure maximum filtration of your home air, incorporate HEPA filters into your HVAC system.
It is recommended to replace your air filters every 6 to 12 months depending on frequency of use. If you regularly use your air conditioning or heater, you should replace your filter every 6 months; if you use your HVAC system infrequently, you need only to replace your filter yearly.
In addition, replacing vacuum filters, cleaning vents throughout your home, and maintaining your dryer lint filter are all essential to maintaining clean home air.
DIY #4: Take Off Your Shoes
Did you know that 30-40% of indoor pollution is brought into your home from the outdoors?
Think of all the places your shoes have been, today. You could be tracking feces, dirt, insect fragments, cigarette ash, pesticides, and various other contaminants into your home through the soles of your shoes.
There’s a simple solution: leave your shoes at the door. This minor adjustment to your home routine can make a world of a difference in reducing the air pollution in your home.
If leaving your shoes at the door is unfeasible for you or your family, you can strategically place mats on the exterior and interior of your entryway. Entryway mats will help to remove as much grime and debris from the soles of your shoes as possible prior to entering the body of your home. Make sure to clean these mats frequently to prevent pollution build-up over time.
DIY #5: Invest in an Air Purifier
Even if you keep a squeaky clean household with not a speck of dirt in sight, you may still need a little bit of help. An air purifier is a device used to remove pollutants from the air so you can breathe easy. Air purifiers can remove common allergens, pet dander, mold, pollen, odors, and other unwanted particles circulating in your home air.