Scientific studies consistently show that indoor air quality is at least five times more polluted than outdoor air quality. During the winter months, however, the quality of indoor air can be even lower because we open windows and doors less often when it’s cold.
When we keep our windows and doors closed for months at a time, we trap bacteria and viruses we track home, allowing them to settle down and torment our sinuses and infect us. In addition, appliances like fireplaces, furnaces, ovens, stoves, space heaters, and water heaters release gases and particulates into indoor air — and during winter they get trapped inside longer and build up more.
Breathing poor-quality air can negatively affect your health and allow illnesses to last for longer periods of time. It can be especially dangerous for people with respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis.
What can you to do improve indoor air quality during the winter? Check out these five tips for reinventing your indoor air quality.
Opening doors and windows is great for getting air circulation moving in your home, but it’s just a temporary fix. It’s hard to air out your house daily during cold or stormy weather. Instead, consider getting trickle vents installed. Trickle vents allow fresh air to trickle in to your home and for polluted air to trickle out. Since it’s just a small stream of air, it’s not big a burden on your heating bill, but it makes a tremendous difference.
Replace Your HVAC Filters
Make sure that you replace the filters in your heating system regularly. The beginning of winter is the right time to start if you’ve failed to maintain your filters. Dust gathers in older filters, and when you turn on the furnace that dust gets circulated throughout your home, further polluting the air. Consult your HVAC manual or a local expert for information on how often to replace your filters.
Use an Air Purifier
Using an air purifier is a great way to filter existing pollutants out of the air. Make sure to look for one that uses a HEPA filter for the greatest efficacy. Adding houseplants to your home can also help purify the air naturally.
Banish Toxic Products
Toxins in the air come from sources you may not expect, like chemical-laden personal care and cleaning products, mattresses, bedding, carpet, paint, furniture, and even tap water. Address one area at a time and replace these items with natural, nontoxic alternatives and install a water filter to reduce your chlorine exposure.
Keep the Floors Clean
Adding a doormat to each of your doors can help reduce the amount of dirt and germs that are tracked into your home on shoes. Ask your family to wipe their feet when entering to minimize contamination. Also, make sure everyone removes their shoes at the door so any remaining pollutants stay at the threshold and don’t get tracked throughout your home. Using a vacuum with a good HEPA filter and keeping hardwood floors clean with a microfiber mop can also help.
Remember that dirty air carries germs, molds, and spores all over the house. Dusting regularly in combination with a HEPA filter air purifier is the most expedient way to minimize allergies and infections from dirty winter indoor air.
How do you make sure your indoor air quality stays pure during the winter?
Feature image courtesy of Barbara
Editor’s note: Originally published on February 6, 2015, this article was updated in December 2018.