Here at Brown Heating & Cooling, not only are we interested in helping clients solve their HVAC issue, but we also want to make sure your air quality is spectacular. Sometimes air quality isn’t given the consideration it deserves. Think about it…how many hours a day do you spend in your home? That’s a lot of time breathing in stuff that may not be so great for your health. Indoor air can be way more polluted than outdoor air, mainly because our homes are sealed to keep climate controlled air in and drafts out.
Unfortunately, those drafts can be helpful at times, allowing harmful dust, dirt, dander, and chemicals to escape from your home. When dealing with home air quality, we often talk about VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. You can find these substances in a lot of household products, including cleaning products, building materials, and home décor items. VOCs can cause all sorts of nasty reactions, so you want to keep them out for your house if possible. But what exactly are they, why should you worry about them, and what can you do to keep yourself healthy?
What Are VOCs?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are airborne particulate matter produced from the off-gassing process of certain chemicals. Both solid and liquid materials emit these gasses, which means that items such as treated wood, fabrics, carpeting, and other building materials may give off VOCs. Most people think about VOCs being present in household cleaners, but there are also other liquid products, such as paint, paint thinner, wax, varnish, and so on, that also produce these compounds. The list of products that can produce VOCs through off-gassing is in the thousands.
Why Are They Dangerous?
VOCs are a threat to human (and pet) health mainly due to the reactions they can cause, especially if the compounds are in your home at high levels. Run-of-the-mill reactions can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, stuffy nose, and sore throat. Some people, however, can experience severe side effects similar to an allergic reaction, including rashes and the inability to breathe. Long-term exposure to some compounds can even lead to larger health problems such as liver damage, kidney damage, or nervous system problems.
How Can I Stop Them?
Get an Air Purifier: While your HVAC system likely includes a filter that can take care of some particulate matter in the air of your home, an air purifier can add extra protection. Be sure that you purchase an air purifier that is made to filter VOCs and odors, as most air purifiers on the market aren’t made for this specialized task. While these types of purifiers are more expensive, they can also be a lifesaver for those with extreme chemical sensitivities.
Say Hello to Plants: Per a NASA study, certain indoor plants can work wonders when it comes to purifying the air in your home. Not only do indoor plants help to filter out VOCs and other pollutants in the air, but they also contribute to keeping your home looking beautiful and add humidity to indoor spaces in winter. If you are wondering which plants will work best in your home, take a look at this post.
If It Smells, Store It Outside: If you have products in your home such as paint thinners, cleaners, varnish, and other household chemicals, try to keep them stored somewhere far from your general living space. A garage or a shed is perfect for this purpose. Even if these types of products are stored in a basement or under a sink, the off-gassing process continues, allowing VOCs to leech into the indoor air of your home.
Be Careful of The Garage: If you have an attached garage, make sure you have proper ventilation to keep exhaust fumes out of your main living area. As mentioned above, household chemicals are better stored in the garage rather than in the home, so you will want to make sure there is plenty of ventilation to keep those substances from making their way back inside. Remember, if you can smell it, then the VOC particles are already in your home.
Run Your Exhaust Fans: Speaking of exhaust ventilation, be sure to run your bathroom and kitchen fans on a regular basis to remove pollutants that may be present in food preparation or cleaning products. Running the exhaust will also help to circulate air through your home, so don’t forget about this important home climate component.
Go All Natural for A Fresh Home: When it comes to keeping your home smelling fresh, it is so tempting to use synthetic products to produce a fantastic scent. Unfortunately, there are a lot of low-quality products out there that can introduce VOCs into your home. Instead of focusing on artificial scents, opt for some of these natural methods that make your home smell amazing without the potentially dangerous air pollution.
Use Low-VOC Cleaning Products: In a recent blog post, we provided information about using those old-fashioned cleaning methods that your grandma used to love. You will be surprised at how well a little baking soda and vinegar will clean just about anything. Focusing on cleaning with non-toxic substances will in turn help to keep the air of your home free of irritants.
Reconsider That New Carpet: Carpet may make your floors cozy and warm, but it is also a hotbed of toxic chemicals thanks to the looming and dying process of creating this floor covering. Plus, it can be very hard to clean effectively. Instead, opt for washable rugs or hard flooring such as wood or tile that won’t produce quite as many VOCs as carpet.
Time Your Home Projects Wisely: Winter may not be the best time to tear down walls or put up a coat of paint. Instead, time home improvement projects that could require harsh chemicals or produce a lot of debris that can float through the air for warmer months, when ventilation is less of a problem.