How to Remedy the Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

July 23, 2014
Ross and Witmer

Practically every home harbors one or more indoor air quality issues. Contaminant sources may originate outside the home, such as pollen, viruses and pollution, but many contaminants are produced or already naturally exist inside the home. For better health, comfort and safety, adapt the following remedies most suited to your household’s poor indoor air quality issues.

Common Indoor Air Quality Issues

If you were to make a pros and cons list of poor indoor air quality, the pro column would be blank and the cons column should list the following:

  • Comfort – Humidity is a comfort issue during the cooling and heating months. Summer months are characterized by high temperatures and high humidity. Dry indoor air is a nuisance, too, during the heating months. Odors present ongoing comfort issues – especially the musty odors of mold and mildew being circulated from within the HVAC system.
  • Healthfulness – Allergens are an ongoing concern for millions of people. And everyone is susceptible to viruses, germs and bacterial growth, which may cause sickness, missed work and discomfort.
  • Safety – Homes with combustion appliances and attached garages must deal with the potential leaking and contamination of harmful gases inside the home.
  • Structure – Home structure, furnishings and carpeting may release chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) inside the home and living spaces. Moreover, moisture, mold and mildew can cause irreversible damage to timber and possessions. This means that indoor humidity is a structure and financial issue, in addition to a comfort issue. Moreover,
  • Pocketbook – Damage caused by poor indoor air quality can be expensive. Damage such as mold growth also can sabotage a home sale if not remedied. Missed work and poor productivity due to sickness is a financial factor. Moreover, since air quality in regard to indoor humidity affects home comfort, unmanaged humidity levels can increase your heating and cooling bills.

Cleaning House

An aggressive whole-home approach is required to remedy the negative effects of poor indoor air quality. The solutions are found in prevention, source control, contaminant removal and ventilation.

A regular house cleaning regimen is important to remove contaminants from all household surfaces.

  • Dust with a damp cloth. Damp-dusting is helpful to prevent the agitation of settled debris. Don’t forget to clean all door knobs and light switches during cold-and-flu season.
  • A vacuum with a HEPA filter is best. Turn on the central air conditioning system, in FAN mode if necessary, while house cleaning and vacuuming. This helps pull airborne debris through the HVAC filter.
  • Dust mites proliferate in homes with humidity above 50 percent, which is common in the Charlotte area. Wash bedding often.

Combustion Appliances

Make sure all combustion appliances, such as the water heater, furnace, dryer and stove, receive regular maintenance and cleaning. Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors should be installed on each floor (preferably a smoke/CO combination detector in each bedroom), and near the door to an attached garage.


Good whole-home ventilation is vital to maintaining healthful indoor air quality. However, due to concerns of high energy costs, many homeowners today are tightening up their homes in an effort to save money. Opening up the windows is nice when the weather outside is nice. But this isn’t practical during very cold or very hot days.

You may consider the benefits of whole-home ventilation systems that provide fresh air any time of year by utilizing a heat-exchange core. Energy recovery and heat recovery ventilators (ERVs and HRVs) reduce the need to heat and cool fresh supply air. Heat energy (and moisture with ERVs) is transferred between inside and outside air, with the direction depending on the season.

Humidity Management

High or low indoor humidity levels can be managed to a certain degree by modified lifestyle. During the cooling months, activities that produce moisture, such as cooking, cleaning and bathing, should be done late in the evening or early morning. During the dry heating months, these activities actually help maintain optimal humidity levels, which are considered 35 to 55 percent.

If humidity in your home is too extreme for comfort, you can find relief in whole-house dehumidification and humidification systems. These units are attached to the air ducts, and work automatically to maintain optimal humidity in your home no matter the season.

Air Filtration

A good air filter is important to protect occupants, home and the HVAC system. Select an air filter rated MERV 8-12 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) for effective results that don’t impede system airflow, and remember to check your air filter regularly.

For more information about cleaning up poor indoor air quality in your Charlotte area home, please contact us at Ross & Witmer.

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