Your HVAC air filter does a good job of minimizing the amount of large-sized contaminants floating around your Farmington Hills, MI, home. Even standard air filters can capture and retain carpet and textile fibers, pet hair, human hair, dust, and dander. However, many gaseous pollutants, pathogens, and allergens pass through them.
If you or other residents have been sniffling, sneezing, coughing, or contending with itchy, watery eyes, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) could be the culprit. The following are eight common indoor air pollutants along with tips for eliminating them.
1. Volatile Organic Compounds
Indoor toxins like formaldehyde and benzene are classed as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Having high concentrations of these pollutants in your home can lead to nausea and eye, nasal, and throat irritation. Long-term exposure can even result in central nervous system (CNS), liver, and kidney damage. Unfortunately, VOCs are always present in homes and there are usually multiple factors adding to them.
For instance, new flooring and flooring adhesives off-gas VOCs throughout the first several years of their lives. Unsealed particle boards constantly off-gas these pollutants, as does interior paint. When you cook food on your stove or in your oven, certain chemical changes that occur as fats and oils reach their smoke points lead to the release of VOCs too. Burning scented candles, discharging room freshening sprays or surface cleaners, and using plug-in air fresheners are other ways in which VOCs are added to indoor air.
The good news is that there are several ways to minimize VOCs without investing in special IAQ equipment. First, you can periodically open your windows and doors to let stale, stagnant air out and fresh, outside air in. This air exchange can quickly get rid of VOCs and other gaseous contaminants.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside of a building can be as much as five times more polluted than the air just outside it. However, you should only use this tactic on days with moderate temperatures and when your AC or heater isn’t actively running. You can also clean your range hood vent, bathroom exhaust vents, and other mechanical ventilation to enhance their overall efficacy.
2. Detritus From Pest Infestations
Stubborn pest infestations can wreak havoc on your home and its value. Letting these problems fester can leave you with a damaged electrical system, chewed baseboards and flooring, gnaw marks at the base of doors, and perforated or collapsed HVAC ducting. However, when pests hide in air ducts, walls, or outlets, they can also dramatically reduce your indoor air quality.
Termites leave behind feces and shed wings, and other insects leave behind food and exoskeletons. If you have rodents in your attic, basement, or walls, your air quality is constantly impacted by their urine, oily residues, abandoned carcasses, and more.
It’s best to hire a professional pest control company to treat your current infestation and prevent new ones from developing. After the problem has been resolved, you should also schedule professional air duct cleaning.
3. Carbon Monoxide
Although carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless and colorless, it’s far from harmless. This gas is produced during the incomplete combustion of fuel. If you have a fireplace, a natural gas furnace, or water heater, or any other fuel-combusting appliances, you should have adequate and well-maintained venting systems for each. You also need multiple CO detectors throughout the building.
Among the greatest risks for CO exposure is back-drafting. This occurs when homes have overly tight envelopes and using mechanical venting systems creates negative air pressure. If your home envelope is too tight, even turning a bathroom exhaust fan on could draw CO gas down your exhaust vent and into your living area.
To limit the risk of CO exposure, have all fuel-combusting appliances and their venting systems professionally serviced each year. You should also have your CO alarms inspected and tested and replace their batteries every six to 12 months as needed.
4. Secondhand Smoke
You don’t have to have any smokers in your household to have problems with secondhand smoke. Any time that someone drops by for a visit and smokes by the side of the building, residual smoke and its many toxins can enter your living space via cracks and gaps in building materials, open windows, and doors, or outdoor vents.
If you have a neighbor who smokes nearby, you might deal with smoke and smoke odors all of the time. Among the best ways to clear these contaminants and their stench is installing a whole-house air scrubber or air purifier.
5. Mold and Mildew
Despite homeowners’ diligent cleaning efforts, mold and mildew are common IAQ concerns. Any time that you have a flood or overflowing appliance in your home, you have to dry all affected building materials completely. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it takes just 48 hours after a flood event for mold spores to form.
Although extracting all standing water with a wet/dry vac is one way to get your cleanup started, you’ll need heaters, fans, and blowers to capture the residual moisture trapped in the air pockets of building materials. Calling a water damage restoration service will ensure that no moisture is missed.
It doesn’t always take a flood event for moisture problems to arise and mold and mildew to form. You might have a naturally humid living environment due to many building residents, frequent cooking projects, and hot baths and showers. You may need a whole-house dehumidifier if you frequently have condensation on your walls, windows, or floors, or if you regularly battle dark patches of mold or white, powdery mildew deposits.
Much like carbon monoxide, radon is odorless and colorless. It’s also radioactive. This indoor pollutant is a common problem in homes with sump pumps installed or massive, unchecked slab leaks. If your sump pump isn’t correctly capped, you might have radon leaking into your home via the sump pump pit. When slab leaks run deep, this underground gas can seep into buildings non-stop.
Radon is the number one environmental cause of cancer. You can find out whether there are high concentrations of radon in your home by scheduling a professional indoor air quality assessment. You can also limit the risk of radon exposure by repairing slab leaks in a timely fashion and investing in a high-quality sump pump lid.
Among the best reasons for hiring a professional pest control company when you have an infestation is being able to solve the problem without subjecting building residents to gaseous toxins. Many store-bought sprays and bug bombs can remain in the indoor air for weeks if not months at a time.
If you insist on using store-bought sprays in between professional pest treatments, opt for options with all-natural ingredients such as orange oil, neem oil, or tea tree oil. You should also consider having an air scrubber, air purifier, media filter, or other integrated HVAC accessory installed.
8. Pet Dander
Not all standard HVAC air filters can remove pet dander. For instance, low-cost, one-inch fiberglass filters cannot. If you have indoor pets and deal with IAQ symptoms as a result, you should consider upgrading your air filter to one with a higher maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating.
For instance, if your standard filter has a rating between six and eight, opt for a filter with a MERV rating of 10 to 12. Higher-rated filters have tighter mesh and larger surface areas, enabling them to pick up more airborne debris and enjoy longer lifespans.
Since 1925, we’ve been proudly serving Farmington Hills, MI. We offer outstanding HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services. We also provide cutting-edge indoor air quality solutions. For help improving your home’s IAQ, contact AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical now.