Winter is not kind to indoor air quality. During the winter months, we tend to keep our homes wholly closed off. After all, we don’t want that precious heat to escape! But closing our houses up means that pollutants like VOCs stay indoors, instead of having a chance to leave your home. When you think about what must collect in your home’s air after three months, you begin to wonder what you can do to keep things a little fresher for the family.
Luckily it isn’t hard to keep your indoor air clean during the winter. Sometimes it takes a little extra elbow grease, but it is worth it.
Maintain Your HVAC System
The first thing you can do is keep your HVAC system in good running order. We say it over and over again, but if you haven’t had a seasonal tune-up on your system, you should. Our Precision Tune-Up is offered to keep your system running strong and clean during winter. It is also helpful to identify any small problems that could become more significant issues as the season takes its toll on your equipment.
Even if you don’t get a tune-up, regularly changing your HVAC filter is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure better air quality in your home. Remember, these filters should be changed once a month. If you have pets that shed, get in the habit of checking your filters every two weeks, just to be sure that pet hair isn’t clogging the filter.
Cleaning your vents is also an important maintenance step. It helps to keep dust and dirt from clogging up the airways in your home, as well as preventing all that stuff around the vent from being pushed into your home.
Upgrade That Filter
Speaking of filters, if you usually go the low-budget route when changing them out, it might be time to upgrade. Because your home is closed up during the winter months, there is more dust and grime that builds up in your environment. Your air filter helps to capture that stuff. A filter with a higher MERV rating can capture more particulate matter from the air. It will be more expensive, but worth it to keep your air quality high.
Watch Your Humidity Levels
When humidity levels drop too low, the drier indoor air causes problems. The most common issue is that your skin gets dry, which means more shedding of skin cells. More shedding skin cells from your family and pets means more dust. More dust means more stuff in the air to inhale.
If your indoor humidity levels are getting too low, a portable humidifier may fix the problem. They are inexpensive and easy to find at most hardware stores.
Double Check Your Ventilation System
A great ventilation system is a must for winter months! Because we keep our homes so closed up during the winter months, polluted air does not get the chance to escape. It also means cleaner air cannot get into your home. Make sure that your attic, kitchen, and bathroom ventilation systems are all in good working order, and that you remember to use these systems on a regular basis.
Open the Windows When You Can
On those warmer days, open up those windows! If you can get a good cross breeze, even better. Having the extra ventilation helps to bring in the fresh air and push out some of the staler, dirtier air in the process. Plus, it’s always nice to have a warm breeze in the house after a long stretch of cold weather.
Vacuum & Dust More Often
Regular cleaning is always a good idea to keep the air in your home clean. In winter, though, it becomes more critical. We tend to shed more skin cells in winter, which contributes to more dust. Couple that with less ventilation and you have an instant case for poor air quality.
Vacuuming and dusting at least once a week helps to collect the dust and keep it from settling on your surfaces (or ducts). Be sure to use a microfiber cloth for dusting, as they do the best job collecting and holding the dust, instead of just pushing it into the air. Don’t forget about cleaning your fabrics (furniture, drapes, etc.) as well, since these materials tend to be dust magnets.
Get Some Plants
Did you know that plants are the original air purifiers? It’s true – plants make a huge difference in cleaning indoor air. There are several easy-to-care-for plants out there that do not require a lot of light to survive. For suggestions on which plants might be right for you, check out this blog post. If you have pets, double check that the plants you choose are safe for them as well.
Watch Out for VOCs
Because your home is relatively closed off in the winter months, you should be careful about what household products you use indoors. Avoid any products with strong fumes, and preferably store these products in a garage or shed instead of under a sink.
Think twice about candles as well – many of them contain harmful chemicals either in the candle itself or in the wick. Instead, try using a simmering pot on the stove. Using a small pot filled with water, add slices of citrus or essential oils, and leave the water to simmer (under supervision). The evaporating water will scent your house while also increasing the humidity level as well.