The weather here in Birmingham is still warm, but as the days get shorter and the leaves begin to change, thoughts of staying warm indoors with a cup of cocoa begin to creep into our heads. Winter is generally a time when most of us spend more time indoors, which is great for our comfort, but not always so great for indoor air quality.
During the warmer months we tend to occasionally open up the house and let in fresh air through windows and doors. But once it’s cold, we tend to keep our houses closed – this means that there is less of a chance for fresh air to circulate in and older air to circulate out. Indoor air pollution can definitely spike in winter months if you’re not careful.
But fear not! These tips will help you to keep the air in your home fresh and clean during those chilly winter days and nights.
Get A HVAC Checkup
Before you turn on the heat for the winter season, we highly recommend that you get an HVAC checkup. Not only does this provide an opportunity for a professional to check out your system and identify any small problems before they become big ones, it also gives them a chance to check out the ductwork of your home and see if things need to be cleaned out. Dirty ductwork equals more dust, dirt, and allergens floating in the air of your home, and you certainly don’t want to be breathing all of that stuff in for months at a time.
Check Those Filters
Your HVAC filter is the gateway to keeping your ductwork clean and your system running smoothly, which is why we highly recommend that you do a monthly filter check. Taking a look at the filter once a month will alert you to when it is time for a change, and will also help you develop a sense of how long it generally takes for your filter to become dirty in the first place. Using a filter with a higher MERV rating will help to gather smaller particles from the air, and is a must for homes with pets, allergy sufferers, or smokers.
Watch Your Humidity
We all know that too much humidity can cause some terrible problems in home, including mold and mildew growth. But too little humidity can cause comfort problems, including dry skin and respiratory issues. Ideally, the humidity levels in your home should range from 40%-55%. If dry air is a problem in your home during the winter months, consider investing in a humidifier. They come in a wide range of sizes, from personal desk use to whole home systems, and can really help to keep you comfortable if the air is just too dry. Be sure to clean them properly, though, to prevent mold growth within the humidifier itself.
A Little Ventilation Goes A Long Way
When the air in your home doesn’t have a chance to circulate and get rid of the old, stale air inside, pollutants can build up and lead to poor air quality. During the winter months, any little bit of ventilation helps! Whenever possible, if the weather allows it, crack a window or door to let some fresh air in. Using ventilation when cooking will also help to remove some stale air.
Keep A Regular Dusting Routine
Getting rid of dust and dirt on a regular basis during the winter months will help to keep the air in your home clean. Try to do a thorough dusting of your home once a week if possible. Be sure to use a damp microfiber cloth or other dusting product that actually captures and holds on to the dust – many feather dusters just move it around, leaving the air just as dirty as it was before.
Use a Great Vacuum
After you dust, a good vacuuming will help capture any debris that is on the floor or your furniture. But just like your HVAC filter, if you are using a vacuum with a dirty filter you are likely just moving the dirt around instead of removing it from your home. Before vacuuming, make sure that your vacuum has a clean filter and doesn’t need to be emptied. If possible, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter will help to gather as much dust and dirt as possible (plus, they’re great for households with pets).
Green Your Home
During the winter, things tend to get a little dark and depressing, so why not take the opportunity to green your home with some plants! Indoor plants are great when it comes to filtering out pollutants – plus, they make your home a little more cheery when everything outside is so grey. Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry – here’s a list of hard-to-kill indoor plants that will clean your air in no time.
While you’re adding plants, it might be a good idea to “green” your cleaning supplies as well. Cleaning solutions can be filled with all sorts of fumes that aren’t necessarily what you want to be breathing in an enclosed space. Switching to low VOC products, or even old-fashioned solutions using vinegar, can help to better the air quality of your home.