5 ways to improve indoor air quality in your home

By Tom Bosna
B Sci (Phys), IWBI WELL Building Advisory Panel

From pollution hanging over cities, to allergens inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to human health and the climate. 

With the evolution of hybrid and remote working across the globe, it is an important time to be more aware of the different strategies that individuals can use to improve indoor air quality.

After all, we spend 90% of our lives indoors and ⅓ of our lives at work. If you blend your work and home life together - there is no better time to consider the important question - How can I optimise my physical environment for better health?

Air Pollutants and Volatile Organic Compounds

Air Pollutants in the home can range from contaminants brought in from the outdoors, to those within the materials of our homes. Older homes may contain asbestos and lead particles which can be damaging to the lungs when released into the air.  In areas of the house such as bathrooms and kitchens, mould and mildew can become an irritant where moisture levels are typically higher than the rest of the house.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. Many common household materials and products, such as paints and cleaning products, give off VOCs. Common VOCs include acetone, benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, toluene and xylene. Different VOCs have different health effects, and range from those that are highly toxic to those with no known health effect. Breathing low levels of VOCs for long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems.

Despite the risks of air pollutants and VOCs around the house, there are five key strategies that can be used to improve air quality in your home.

1. Control Humidity
Humidity and moisture breeds mould and mildew that can trigger upper respiratory issues such as allergies and asthma. Warmer temperatures can especially bring about humid conditions and to reduce the amount of moisture in the air, and curb the growth of mould with well placed de-humidifiers. There are a range of humidifier options that can maintain consistent humidity levels and create comfortable living spaces in your home.
2. Purchase Indoor Plants
 Not only do indoor plants look fantastic, but they are nature’s natural air filters. By purchasing indoor plants for your home office, bedroom and living spaces you can reap the benefits of improving the indoor air quality of your home.  Small plants like lilies, ferns and larger palm trees are great options to pull contaminants out of the air in your home.
3. Clean carpets and rugs!
 Rugs and carpets do more than increase the comfort of your home. They act as their own air filters, trapping dust and other particles in their many fibers. Clean your carpets and rugs weekly and they will keep working for you, improving the air quality in your home
4. Regularly change your Air conditioning filter.
No matter where you live in the world, air conditioning or split systems are working to keep your indoor temperature consistent all year. As the systems work hard to filter out some of the common air pollutants eventually the filters fill up and stop doing their job.

It is recommended that air conditioners are serviced annually to change filters - especially if living in a metropolitan area with high levels of pollution or are allergy prone.

5. What about other filters

Your AC filter isn’t the only thing working to keep the air clean in your home environment. If you really want to improve the air quality in your home, be sure to check the filters in your other household appliances. Your vacuum cleaner, clothes dryer and kitchen vents should all be inspected and maintained periodically. It’s recommended to clean or replace these common household filters every few months.

The air we breathe directly impacts our health and well-being. The air being invisible and odorless is considered a silent issue when it comes to our wellbeing. The five strategies outlined in the article are simple and highly effective in improving air quality in the home to help facilitate better health. 
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