If you ask the average American homeowner whether they think the air inside their home is better or worse than the air outside, most will say the inside air is better without giving so much as a second thought. They’re wrong, however. Believe it or not, indoor air can be as much as ten times worse than the air outside and sometimes even more! This poor indoor air quality usually reaches its peak during the winter months, when rain and cold temperatures force us to keep our doors and windows shut, limiting the amount of fresh air from outside that comes in.
Poor air quality is caused by a number of different things floating in the air, including gasses, vapors, microscopic organisms and even particulate matter that may be invisible to the eye. During winter months, the concentration of these air quality reducing hazards continues to grow and that can lead to all sorts of problems ranging from dry skin to nasty odors to even health hazards.
Here are three common indoor air quality hazards that are immensely common during winter months, as well as some things you can do to prevent them from becoming an issue.
Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to get sick during winter months? When someone tells you to get out of the cold weather or you’ll catch a cold, they’re actually mistaken. While you can get sick from too much exposure to cold weather, the number-one cause of illness during winter months is actually spending too much time inside, where the air is packed with bacteria, viruses and other microscopic organisms that can have negative health effects. And this happens simply because we’re naturally spending more and more time inside, breathing the same air and then contaminating it with the germs that we’re carrying at the moment.
The easiest way to resolve this problem? Simply keep the fresh air flowing into your home. Don’t be afraid to open your windows and let some fresh air in for 10 minutes or so a day. You can even try to do this during the warmest part of the afternoon to minimize how much heat loss you suffer for it as well. You’ll be shocked how much better you’ll feel by simply keeping your home filled with healthier air.
Winter means the need for heat and heat is usually produced by flames. Roaring fires in our fireplaces, gas flames in our stoves or ovens, or even scented candles and incense to cover up the building odors that can accumulate during winter months are all flames which can produce exhaust in the form of smoke—and smoke can contribute heavily to poor indoor air quality. This effect usually only compounds for those who smoke cigarettes or those who refuse to go outside simply because the temperature is so uncomfortable.
If you do smoke, the long and short of it is you may need to get used to putting on your jacket more often to go outside. The odor from a single cigarette can linger for hours or even days, making the entire air quality of your house suffer.
Smoke is also packed with carcinogens that can cause you to get sick, weaken your immune system or experience a wide variety of other negative health effects. Make sure your fume hoods and flues are open and working properly to collect as much of this exhaust as possible and try to limit burning candles or incense to only an hour or two each day. Likewise, open your windows and allow fresh air in to help negate some of the airborne chemicals released by burning them.
Lastly, winter is usually the time when the largest number of household odors can accumulate without your knowledge. Odors from cooking, cleaning, doing arts and crafts, laundry (both clean and dirty) and even just regular body odor can all accumulate into a giant mess of smells that perforate throughout your home. Of all three of the odor types listed here, this is also the easiest one to accumulate, but one of the hardest to detect. See, our noses become so used to the smells in our home that we often tune them out and fail to even notice they exist anymore. That is, until you have company over whose noses aren’t accustomed to those particular odors yet.
Opening your windows and allowing fresh air in can help with this but in general, the best way to keep your home as odor-free as possible is simply to keep it clean. Vacuum up carpets and rugs every couple of weeks, wash dishes as soon as you use them and regularly empty trash that fills up. This prevents some of the largest sources of odors from building up, keeping your air cleaner and smelling fresh.If you’ve got an indoor air problem, call the San Jose heating and cooling experts from Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar at (408) 868-5500!