Ensuring Healthy Home Air Quality in the Wintertime
Posted in Air Quality, on November 27, 2019
Ensuring clean, fresh, indoor air quality is a year-round task has its seasonal challenges - and with the cold months approaching, it’s a good time to look at how you can ensure good indoor air quality this winter. When it comes to keeping your indoor environment safe and fresh, the winter months pose both obvious and invisible challenges that awareness - and a few easy adjustments to your routine - can help alleviate.
What Causes Poor Home Air Quality in the Winter?
In the winter months, the biggest change to our indoor air environment is temperature and air flow. During the winter we - for obvious reasons! - keep windows and doors shut against the cold, as well as artificially heat our homes using furnaces or wood stoves. This change in behaviour can result in an environment with very little air circulation.
Fresh air and air circulation are a critical part of maintaining healthy indoor air quality. When our homes lack ventilation, harmful quantities of pollutants can build up to unsafe levels, causing many different health and safety issues. These pollutants can affect key infrastructure, like your furnace or HVAC system, as well as contribute to or worsen problems like mold growth.
A phenomena called temperature inversion can also cause indoor air quality pollutants to get trapped or built up indoors during the winter months. This happens when cold air is trapped near the ground by a layer of warm air, which acts like a lid, keeping dangerous pollutants trapped indoors.
How Does Cold Weather Make Indoor Air Quality Worse?
Beyond temperature inversion, there are other pollutants and reasons that your indoor air quality may be poor. Pollutants like pet dander, particulates from fireplaces or woodstoves, VOCs, and mold spores may build up during the winter months because our homes generally have fewer opportunities for fresh air flow - we don’t want to keep our windows or doors open when it’s -30! This lack of ventilation and poor air circulation may help to exacerbate indoor air quality problems and result in health and comfort issues.
Warming our homes against the cold temperature of winter can also contribute to poor indoor air quality, as the furnace can both be a source of indoor air pollutants, or can worsen existing ones. Dust, dander, and other tiny particles can build up in the HVAC system, which is designed to move that air throughout your home. This means that a problem in one room of the house may not stay limited to that space, and can affect many rooms at the same time.
How can I Improve Indoor Air Quality in the Winter?
Making improvements to your routines and paying attention to things that affect indoor air quality during the winter months will help you have a healthier and safer home. Here are a few things that we recommend all of our clients pay attention to in the coming months.
Swap out furnace filters regularly
We recommend changing the filter on your furnace every 3-4 months for optimal benefits. This filter plays an important role in trapping pollutants and keeping your furnace running efficiently. Without it, pollutants are more likely to travel further within your home as well as gum up the interior mechanism of your furnace, making it run less efficiently and need more frequent maintenance.
Plan your home improvement projects - don’t execute
While the winter months may seem like a good time to tackle those big projects you keep meaning to get to, it’s better for your indoor air quality to spend your winter planning your projects instead of executing them. This is because many of the common glues, solvents, paints, cleaners, and DIY supplies are packed full of indoor air quality pollutants. With the reduced air circulation of the winter months, these problematic particles are more likely to get trapped in your home for longer before they can be flushed out by fresh air.
Review your use of wood burning appliances
Nothing really says cozy like a wood burning fireplace or stove - unfortunately, it can also be one of the biggest causes of indoor air pollution during the winter months. Burning wood indoors can release toxins like formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, like soot and smoke, into your indoor air quality. Reviewing safety procedures, keeping your wood burning appliances in good repair, and looking into ways of improving your chimney or air flow can help mitigate - but not totally eliminate - your risk.
Vacuum twice a week
Increasing the frequency of your vacuuming during the wintertime can have a big affect on your indoor air quality. Because air circulation decreases during the winter months, pollutants tend to settle and accumulate more quickly than they do when there’s a constant supply of fresh air.
Invest in an air purifier
Buying an air purifier and running it overnight or when vacuuming and cleaning the house can help to catch airborne particles and reduce the amount indoor air pollution during the winter. If anyone in your family suffers from chronic lung conditions or diseases like asthma, an air purifier can help to reduce their symptoms or attacks.
Should I get Indoor Air Quality Testing This Winter?
At SafeAir, it’s our professional opinion that the best way to improve indoor air quality during winter is to have an indoor air quality test. An indoor air quality test will help to determine what unique issues your home faces and can help us individualize our response and recommendations. Our results are tested in a third party laboratory, leading to impartial results that can be shared with insurers, lawyers, or medical staff. This professional approach gives you a direct path to improvement with no waste of your time, resources, or need for trial and error.
Work with SafeAir for better Home Air Quality this Winter
If you’re interested in learning more about your indoor air quality this wintertime, get in touch! We’re happy to talk with homeowners, business owners, or commercial landlords to find the right approach for your building. As specialists with over a decade of experience in the GTA, our technicians focus exclusively on indoor air quality. Call us at 416-414-5690 for more information about our free consultation, products and services, or visit us online at www.safeair.ca.