The 2022 Complete Guide on How to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

[2022] Complete Guide on How to Improve Indoor Air Quality In Your Home

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Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

You have been locked down various times during COVID-19 lockdowns and noticed the air outside is much cleaner.

You have enjoyed your time indoors with all your windows opened to take advantage of all that fresh air.

This clean air is due to reduced economic activity worldwide caused by the pandemic.

But what happens when that economic engine fires back up?

Your local industry is back on the move, and all those trucks get restarted? 

Is it time to close those windows and doors? 

Maybe… This largely depends on your personal preferences. It’s also time to rethink your strategy for managing your indoor air quality (IAQ).

You may be getting out and about more, but those times spent inside your home means breathing more pollution than you think.

So you may be thinking about ways to improve air quality problems in your home. Let us help answer that for you.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average person spends approximately 90% of their time indoors.

The EPA also indicates that indoor air quality can be seriously more polluted than the air outside of your home. In most cases, it’s 2 – 5 times more polluted.

In another study, chronic exposure to air pollution appears to cause detrimental effects on cognition that worsen throughout life, potentially increasing risk factors for degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In other words, bad air is definitely not going to make you smarter and will have an adverse reaction to your well-being!

This article will outline what causes poor indoor air quality, its subsequent effects, and what strategies you can deploy to increase your home’s air quality.

We are not writing this just for homeowners; there are many easy non-permanent strategies for renters here as well.

This is a comprehensive guide and covers all aspects of IAQ, though you can skip ahead to any section within the article by clicking the section below.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

Many sources within your home release gases and particles in your home’s air and are the primary cause of indoor air pollution.

Inadequate ventilation, such as that found in energy-efficient homes that don’t have adequate mechanical ventilation, decreases the amount of external air that helps dilute emissions from indoor pollution sources.

This lack of ventilation also reduces the ability of indoor air pollution to vent its way outside of your home.

Understanding pollution sources can help you better understand how to tackle indoor air quality and reduce them at the source, decreasing those health hazards.

While each of these may not pose a significant health risk on its own, all homes have more than one source contributing to the total amount of indoor pollution. Any one of these can be allergy triggers.

This is not an exhaustive list of indoor air pollutants but are some of the most common:

Outdoor Air Pollution

The common air pollution sources are combustion sources, such as those from vehicles, solid fuel burning for power generation, and other industries.

Other sources can be wildfires like those seen in the western US every year, windblown dust, and emissions from vegetation.

We have all seen those images from India and China, where you can barely see 100 yards.

Well, we have those same problems in our own backyard here in the US. You can read more about it here.

Outdoor air pollution is generally measured in three ways:

  • PM10 –  Particulate Matter (PM)10 has a diameter of less equal to or less than 10 micrometers. PM10 can generally be seen in your home like dust, pollen, mold, etc.
  • PM2.5 – PM2.5 means that the particle has a diameter equal to or less than 2.5 micrometers. PM2.5 is particularly dangerous as it’s so small it can only be seen through a microscope. Its size can bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs, and some may even enter the bloodstream.
  • Tropospheric Ozone – Ground-level ozone (O3) results when heat reacts with pollutants low in the atmosphere. Gases from traffic and industrial processes, such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), are the most common ozone sources.

Other sources of air pollutants come from nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2).

The health effects of higher PM and ozone levels can be considerable.

People with heart and lung diseases, including older adults and children, are at higher risk from PM exposure. 

These are all major health hazards and will lead to further health problems!

Indoor Combustion Sources

Combustion sources within your home can increase particulate matter (PM).

Some of the familiar sources are cooking from gas stoves, tobacco smoke, burning of candles, and unvented space heaters such as a kerosene heater.

Some interesting research recently highlighted that gas stoves emit a wide range of air pollutants, such as CO, NOX, including NO2, particulate matter, and formaldehyde. All of which have been linked to various chronic and acute health effects.

Biological Contaminants

These include contaminants such as bacteria, molds, mildews, viruses, pet dander and saliva, soil and plant debris, dust, and bugs such as mites and cockroaches.

You can also include pollen, which can also be a significant source of allergens to specific groups of people.

Transmission of these contaminants can be from many sources, such as animals, rodents, and bugs entering your home, soil, and plant debris carried by humans or by the wind.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

As they are commonly known, VOCs are gases that are emitted into the air from various products and processes. These include a variety of chemicals that may have short to long-term adverse health effects.

The concentration of VOC found indoors is consistently higher, sometimes up to ten times higher than outdoors. 

One study showed that more than 70% of indoor VOC concentrations were attributable to different indoor sources.

Household products were the major contributor at 44%, followed by combustion processes and environmental tobacco smoke at 10.5%, deodorizers at 8.5%, and off-gassing building materials at 5.9%.

These organic compounds can be commonly found in various household items and products and are ingredients in many of these household products.

Common indoor sources of VOC’s:

  1. Paints, varnishes, and waxes 
  2. Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals
  3. Printers and copiers
  4. Degreasing and hobby products
  5. Fuel products
  6. Aerosol sprays
  7. Cosmetic and Beauty products
  8. Floorings
  9. Furniture and Building materials

VOCs’ primary outdoor sources included oil and gas industry emissions, traffic emissions, and background and biogenic emissions. Biogenic emissions come from plants during their growth, development, reproduction, and defense phases. 

An interesting note on furniture is that depending on the construction, furniture can be a significant VOC source. It is common to find it in plywood, particleboard, and glues.

Formaldehyde can also be found in certain fabrics and drapes and some types of foam insulation. Even worse is that foam is probably treated with a chemical flame retardant.

VOCs leach out of products over time, even when in storage, making a garage susceptible to a high VOC concentration, though the amount of VOCs emitted tends to decrease over time.

Radon

Radon Periodic table symbol

We can’t talk about indoor air quality without talking about Radon. 

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms when radioactive metals such as Uranium, Thorium, or Radium break down in rocks, soils, and groundwater.

It can infiltrate your home through cracks and gaps in the walls and floors, construction joints, gaps around water supply lines and service pipes, and sometimes through well water.

It’s odorless, colorless, and tasteless, so you won’t know it’s there.

According to the EPA, Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers.

How Does Radon Enter Your Home?

  • Cracks and Gaps in Walls
  • Cracks and Gaps in Floors
  • Construction Joints
  • Gaps around Water Supply Lines
  • Gaps around Service Pipes
  • Well Water
The ways Radon can enter the home

Central Cooling & Heating Systems

Contaminated central air systems can be breeding grounds for biological pollutants such as; mold, mildew, and other contaminants.

They are perfect places for these to be distributed equally around your home. These micro-organisms growing in your HVAC system can harm your health.

Excess Humidity

Excessive humidity is neither comfortable nor fun. What’s worse is when this is a problem in your home. Excess moisture in your home encourages biological pollutants to grow.

Moisture forms into droplets when warm, humid air comes in contact with a cold surface.

But the air that’s too dry can be uncomfortable and unhealthy and can lead to a buildup of static electricity.

So what is a good indoor humidity level? Energy Star state that the Ideal Indoor Relative Humidity (RH) level is between 30 and 50%.

Do you live in Florida, Louisana, or Texas? If you do, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Regional climates and local weather definitely affect your home’s moisture content.

The south is hot and wet, the northeast and midwest are wet and cold, the Southwest is hot and dry, and the western mountain states are cold and dry. 

Moisture issues and solutions differ from one climate to another.

But what about the inside? Normal indoor activities, such as bathing, cooking, drying clothes, and dishwashing, add moisture to the air.

Excess moisture not only encourages bugs to grow; it’s damaging to wood, paint, insulation, and siding.

Other Pollutants

Lead and Asbestos are common in older homes, which can be highly damaging to your health when released into the air if you suspect either of these.

It’s best to speak to your local HVAC contractor about a removal or mitigation plan.

How Does Outdoor Air Enter My Home?

Home showing airflow through home

Outside air can enter your home in three ways: natural ventilationinfiltration, and mechanical ventilation.

Natural ventilation is the most straightforward process to explain.

Open a window or a door, and that’s natural ventilation.

Air movement from natural ventilation and infiltration are caused by the wind and air temperature differences between the outside and the air inside.

Infiltration is when air enters the home through cracks, joints, floors, ceilings, and gaps around windows and doors.

See a problem here? Energy-efficient homes reduce your home’s ability to breathe naturally, which actually decreases air quality if you don’t have another system to improve it.

Mechanical ventilation is a process where a mechanical device provides air movement.

These can be outdoor vented devices, such as bathroom and kitchen fans that vent single rooms or more extensive ductwork and fans that continually remove indoor air and circulate conditioned and filtered outdoor air to strategic points in your home.

What If I Live In a Sealed Apartment?

woman working on a computer

Apartments suffer from the same problems as single-family homes. In some cases, this is worse if it’s a sealed apartment.

You may not be able to increase natural ventilation or change the types of mechanical ventilation used within your building, so the focus will be on eliminating or controlling the sources of pollution within your apartment—more on that in our listed strategies.

Don’t worry, Renters; we are not writing this just for homeowners; there are many easy non-permanent strategies for renters here as well.

What About My Energy Efficient Home?

Energy Efficient Home

If you own an energy-efficient home, chances are it was built recently. 

High-performance homes do not breathe as well as older homes due to the difference in airtightness of the building envelope, which is required to improve efficiency.

If the house wasn’t designed with the right-sized HVAC system, there is a possibility of reducing air quality due to the inability of your heating or air conditioning system to remove or dilute the various sources of pollution within the home.

If this is the case, the homeowner would then seek to counteract poor air quality by opening a window or door, thus offsetting any benefits of having an energy-efficient home fitted with a continuously operating HVAC system.

Knowing the type of system installed in your home will help you understand its impact on Indoor Air Quality and mitigate any adverse conditions.

How Do I Identify Sources of Pollution?

Now that you understand more about pollution in your home, how do you identify the problems? Are you getting headaches from that new carpet you installed?

What other small changes have you made recently? Have you switched to a chemical cleaner you were using?

Even slight changes can upset the equilibrium you and your body are used to.

Here are a few things to consider when identifying pollution sources that affect your Indoor Air Quality.

Outdoor Air

We pointed out earlier that outdoor air could be a source of pollution in your home.

Do you like opening your window in spring only to find yourself suffering from headaches and sneezing?

Depending on where you live, and the time of the year, fresh air might not be the only thing entering your home when you open a window.

If you have ever lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, during winter, you know what I’m talking about.

Home Air Escape Routes

Little or Too Much Ventilation

Review your ventilation plan, as it may be trapping in more than you think.

Your home may be so full of cracks you are letting the outdoor air in more than you should.

An energy-efficient home or one that’s been weatherized will keep all those sources of pollution in your home if you have poor ventilation.

Recent Changes

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge on VOC and their sources, have you made any recent changes in your home?

Do you have a new pet that sheds?

Have you introduced a piece of new furniture into your home?

Any changes in your home could negatively impact your indoor air quality.

Moisture

With moisture comes mold. Mold exposure can cause various adverse health effects—here are some basic facts from the CDC on mold.

Large mold infestations can be seen or smelled though smaller infestations may not be.

If you are getting sick, had nosebleeds, getting headaches, or have something similar to a lingering cold, you may have mold in the house.

If you think something is wrong in your home, you need to thoroughly search.

Your nose can become desensitized to smells; if you searching for mold, leave the house for a while and come back in.

You may pick up on that smell you have been missing.

moldy kitchen

Lots of Dust

Dust loves to gather in hard-to-reach or cluttered surfaces and can be comprised of all the things we have discussed so far.

Dust can also give away how much PM10 you have in your house.

If you live in an area that has high PM2.5 levels, this needs to be monitored.

Remember, Asbestos or lead particles could also be lurking in that dust.

How do I Conduct Air Quality Testing? 

Now that you have plenty of suspicions about where the pollution in your home is coming from, it’s time to confirm it.

Luckily, a few tools can help you track down pollution, whether it originated from outside or inside your home.

When sampling the pollution in your home, be aware that readings can fluctuate due to: time of the day, air flow, position within the home, downstairs versus upstairs, doors and windows open or closed, etc.

Take readings over a period of time to spot patterns.

For example, are your humidity readings higher in the kitchen? Then that may be due to cooking.

Do you get higher PM level readings near an open window? Then it’s coming in from the outside.

Measuring Air Quality

For measuring outdoor sources of pollution in your area, the US EPA has a free website and App called AirNow.

Find them here for Google Play and Apple iOS.

AirNow gives your local area a real-time score known as the Air Quality Index (AQI) based on local PM and Ozone levels.

This app can be used for both the US and Canada.

For indoors, many air quality monitors on the market can measure pollutants such as VOC and PM levels. 

This can help you make calculated observations about the sources of pollution.

Airthings make some great products. We particularly like the Airthings Wave Plus.

This measures total VOC, Humidity, Temp, CO2, Radon, and Pressure. The only thing missing is the ability to measure PM levels.

The best air quality monitor for 2022 is the Huma-i Smart HI300.

If you’re looking for an Indoor Air Quality monitor that also measures PM2.5 and PM10, then this is the one. 

This advanced portable unit measures CO2, VOC, PM2.5, PM10, Temperate, and Humidity.

Airthings 2950 Wave Radon – Smart Radon Detector with Humidity & Temperature Sensor – Easy-to-Use – Accurate – No Lab Fees – Battery Operated – Free App

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Airthings 2960 View Plus – Radon & Air Quality Monitor (PM, CO2, VOC, Humidity, Temp, Pressure)

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Measuring Moisture

The perfect relative humidity in your home is between 30 and 50 percent. A bedroom, though, requires 50% RH all year round.

This helps reduce indoor dust mites and allergens and enables you to sleep better, too, as it’s kinder on your mucous membranes.

An easy way to measure your indoor humidity levels if your HVAC system doesn’t already have a humidity control system is through an indoor hygrometer or weather station.

I personally like the Thermopro TP55 for its simplicity, though there are plenty online to choose from that will suit your décor.

ThermoPro TP55 Digital Hygrometer & Indoor Thermometer

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SMARTRO SC42 Professional Digital Hygrometer & Thermometer

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How do I Test for Radon?

The EPA has produced a very informative guide on how to protect yourself and your family from Radon. You can find it here.

The Air Quality monitors we mentioned before can test your radon levels.

However, given the severity of the situation, if Radon is present in your home, we at Phyxter suggest that you speak to a trained professional such as your local HVAC contractor, about conducting a Radon test and if the reading is too high, discuss a reduction plan.

To see how susceptible your home is to Radon in your area, we have attached links to a Radon Map for your area. 

If you live in the Central or North Okanagan Area in BC, which is susceptible to high radon levels, check out our friends over at Vernon Air Conditioning for a Radon Mitigation System

US

https://www.epa.gov/radon/find-information-about-local-radon-zones-and-state-contact-information#radonmap

Canada 

https://www.radonaware.ca/database/files/library/Canada_Radon_Potential_Map.pdf

Want to know what is the perfect room temperature? Check out this video on the room temperature room!

Essential Strategies to Improve Indoor Air Quality

As with anything bad for you, elimination is the most effective way to deal with a problem.

Eliminating individual sources of pollution is the most effective way to improve IAQ.

If you can’t eliminate it, then substitution is your next best strategy.

We will now step through all of the ways you can improve your home’s indoor air quality.

We have also done our homework on a few products that can help you improve your IAQ.

Whole-Home Air Cleaning Systems

House

If you are building a new home or looking at a complete HVAC renovation, you should look at a whole-home air filtration system.

When considering which air quality products are the best for your home, you’ll want to look at the following options:

  • Dehumidifiers
  • Humidifiers
  • Thermostats
  • Air Purifiers
  • Ventilation Systems
  • Home Automation

I’ll break down each of the above air quality products in a little detail, but you should definitely talk to a licensed contractor in your area before purchasing anything.

Dehumidifiers

These systems are meant to reduce overly humid conditions by removing moisture from the air in your home.

Some of the key benefits include reducing mold and mildew, inhibiting the growth of allergens and dust mites, and getting rid of the cold, clammy feeling that’s usually accompanied by musty smells.

Humidifiers

By ensuring that your home’s humidity level is appropriate to the natural conditions in your area, you’ll find that allergy triggers and asthma symptoms will be minimized because of the reduction in bacteria, viruses, and dust mites.

A side benefit of controlling your humidity level is that your wood furniture will be protected from cracking and/or warping.

Thermostats

Most smartphones can control today’s thermostats.

This technology allows you to save energy by only running your heating or air conditioning systems when you need them most.

Ventilation Systems

Ventilation systems include an extensive range of products, from Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV), Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) to simple exhaust fans and everything in between.

The benefits of ventilation are not just removing stale indoor air; systems will also bring fresh outdoor air into your home.

When appropriately controlled, they can also provide free cooling or heating.

Home Automation Systems

When thinking about air quality, most people forget about home automation.

When homes are zoned through automation, you can ensure that there are no hot or cold spots and that every family member is completely comfortable.

At the end of the day, the air quality in your home needs to be designed specifically for you.

We always recommend talking to multiple specialists in your local area.

By doing this, you’ll not only be more educated, but you’ll also be able to get multiple options and quotes.

Filters! 

Selection of air filters

In case you forgot, change your filters regularly.

Your AC is not the only thing that has a filter in it.

If you want to improve the air in your home, check filters in your vacuum cleaner, clothes dryer, and kitchen vents.

These should all be inspected and maintained periodically.

It’s also best to write the install date on them and check that at the replacement interval. 

Don’t forget to inspect your air ducts when changing your air filter.

Check for excess moisture or mold, as these may be signs of deeper problems.

If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, then speak to your local HVAC Contractor about setting up an air conditioning service plan, including a system inspection and filter change.

Also, check that your air filters are HEPA or MERV rated 13 and above. 

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air.

A true HEPA filter will trap 99.97% of dust particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter.

To put that in perspective, human hair is about 50-150 microns in diameter.

So a HEPA filter has no problems capturing PM2.5, which is 2.5 microns in diameter.

In addition, HEPA filters are much more hygienic than a standard air filter as it captures mold spores and bacteria.

💡 FILTER TIP

Check what MERV rating your system is built to.

Using an air filter with a MERV rating higher than what your AC or Furnace manufacturer recommends will impair its performance.

If a higher MERV-rated air filter is used, it will have to work harder as it’s not designed to handle the extra resistance and lower your system’s performance, and ultimately reduce indoor air quality. 

So what’s the difference between HEPA and MERV? 

Nothing really, the term HEPA is used to describe those MERV filters, rated 13 and above.

MERV means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.

MERV filters are rated based on how small of a particle they can filter out of the air. Numbers range from 1 to 20. Higher the number, the better its filtration.

Filters with a 16 or below rating are considered to be HVAC system grade filters for commercial, general hospital, and residential use.

Low ranking filters rank 1 to 4. Medium filters fall between the 5 – 13 MERV range, and high-efficiency filters will range from 13 to 16.

Looking for the Right Filter?

Phyxter has teamed up with Filters Fast to bring you competitive pricing and fast delivery on a great selection of filters.

Click the link below to check out their store or learn more from our article on how to choose the right filter for your home:

Air Filter Guide. MERV Filter Ratings and What They Mean For Homeowners.

Air Purifiers

An Air purifier (or air cleaner) can come in many forms, whether it’s high efficient air filters or UV lights.

Whichever air purification system you choose, your home will see a reduction in mold, bacteria, pollen, pet dander, and viruses.

Properly maintaining your air purification is crucial to the air you breathe and the life of your entire HVAC and air quality system.

Use a Portable Air Purifier

Unless you already have a whole-home air filtration system, you should invest in an air purifier.

How many rooms you want to purify and the size of each of those rooms are considerations when deciding what purifier you need.

I love to sleep with an Air Purifier in my bedroom, and if you have never used one, you will be surprised at what they suck up out of the air. Imagine breathing this in while you sleep……

One thing to remember is if there is a chance that the purifier will emit ozone as a by-product of operations or on purpose, you do not want to bring that into your house. As discussed earlier, ozone is a toxic pollutant.

You can check here to see if your unit is safe and is certified by CARB.

Our recommendations below are all certified. 

Don’t forget to check out the decibel rating on each filter.

Some are louder than others, so if you need quiet when your sleeping, look for those that are whisper quiet!

So what’s the best air purifier for 2022?

The Purifiers that are our favorites are:

For small rooms up to 400 sq ft: Honeywell 50250-S True HEPA Air Purifier 

For larger rooms up to 700 sq ft: Alen BreatheSmart FLEX Air Purifier 

Best budget option: Holmes Small Room 3-Speed HEPA type Air Purifier

Honeywell 50250-S True HEPA Air Purifier, 390 sq. ft, White

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Alen FLEX Air Purifier, Quiet Air Flow for Large Rooms

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Holmes Desktop HEPA-Type , 3 Speeds plus Optional Ionizer small Air Purifier, HAP242B-U, Black

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Best Designed Air Purifier for your Home in 2022? It’s This!

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Controlling Humidity

As discussed, moisture in your home comes from many sources.

It can leak through cracks, seep into your basement, come from the humidity outside, and even from human activities like cooking and bathing.

So what can we do to combat high humidity?

Here is a list for you to think about:

Leaks and Seepage

If water is making its way into your home from the outside, your options could be a simple waterproofing job to extensive excavation.

Check the water flow around your house after rain and see where it’s going.

If it’s puddling around the base of your home, you have a problem.

Basements

Basements are notorious for excessive humidity. Use a Dehumidifier for basement humidity control.

One of our favorites is the Frigidaire 30 pint Dehumidifier.

Also, check for cracks and repair as necessary.

Fill cracks, holes, and gouges with DryLok Fast Plug before painting with Drylok Extreme.

These are both excellent products to waterproof your basement if it looks like it needs a new coat of paint and you’re having moisture issues.

Pipe Insulation

Look for condensation around cooler pipes. Make sure moisture hasn’t infiltrated walls or other surfaces. Insulate pipes to reduce moisture buildup.

Installing pipe and duct insulation is pretty straightforward that requires minimal tooling.

Check out a selection of top-rated insulation products below.

Weatherstripping

Use weatherstripping around doors and windows to create an airtight seal to prevent cold or warm air from escaping.

This is also to reduce excess humidity from sneaking inside your home.

Caulking

Caulking is similar to weatherstripping. Use it to line surfaces and materials that come into contact with moisture.

This can include sinks, faucets, toilets, bathtubs, etc.

Caulking can also be used around windows and seams, for big jobs, try Gorilla Silicone Sealant Caulk.

For smaller jobs, try Red Devil DuraGuard Kitchen.

Wall and Roof Insulation

Insulation is used to retain heat or coolness and keep excess particles from entering the house.

If your home is adequately insulated and not retaining moisture, then your insulation is working by preventing cold or warm air from entering or escaping through gaps in the walls and ceiling.

If your home isn’t insulated, then speak to your local HVAC contractor about insulation.

Carpet and Rugs

Carpet and Rugs are known to retain moisture, among other things.

If you can do without them, then replace them with tile or wood flooring or something else.

This will help reduce humidity levels in your home.

Paint walls instead of wallpaper

Wallpaper and other materials can trap moisture inside and run the surface of the wall.

This can then lead to mold growth under the wallpaper, especially if it covers a large area.

Crawl spaces

All Crawl spaces should be insulated with a plastic vapor barrier.

If not, you could be inviting excess moisture into your home. Speak to a contractor in your area for a resolution.

Oversized Air Conditioner

An oversized air conditioner could be the source of your humidity issue. An AC is designed to both cool your home and dehumidify it.

The problem with an oversized AC is that it doesn’t run long enough to remove the humidity.

An oversized system can cool the air so quickly that the thermostat will shut off the system before much of the humid air has managed its way across the cooling coil to get dehumidifier.

short cycling AC is a telltale sign. Each cycle should last approximately 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times an hour.

Lifestyle changes

  • Shorter showers with fans on and doors open
  • Leave Lids on when cooking
  • Using the range hood while cooking
  • Crack a window in winter to allow warm moist air to leave while allowing colder, drier air to enter.

What about low humidity?

If you live in a hot and dry area as shown in the red area below, maybe an evaporative cooler is for you. Evap coolers, more commonly known as swamp coolers, add moisture to your indoor air while cooling.

The upside to swamp coolers is they use about a third of the energy of a regular air conditioner.

The downside is they may add too much moisture, so they need to be monitored carefully.

Climate_Map_for_Evap_Coolers
US Relative Humidity Map for Evap Coolers

Find out if an Evap Cooler is right for your area

Mini Evap Coolers are ideal for spot cooling smaller areas, such as bedrooms and desk areas.

Here are our two favorites, or you can check out a highly-rated selection below.

Honeywell 176 CFM Indoor Evaporative Air Cooler

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Honeywell 470 CFM Fan and Humidifier Evaporative Cooler

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If you are looking to cool down a larger area like a garage or a workshop, then a Swamp cooler like the ones below are the right choice.

We have personally used it in workshops that did not have central air. 

Hessaire MC37M Portable Evaporative Cooler

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Portacool Jetstream 230 Evaporative Cooler

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Take a minimalist approach to your home.

Who doesn’t love a clean home? Make it easier to clean by keeping flat surfaces clear of clutter. We all know how quickly flat surfaces pick up dust.

That dust can easily get blown around and end up in your lungs. Cluttered surfaces that make it harder to clean generally don’t get cleaned as often. Does the top of the refrigerator sound familiar?

Minimalist interiors are actually good for your health. Bad home designs could be causing your bad mood. Simplicity and symmetry are known to help keep your mind calm.

Though don’t get too minimalistic, keeping a few photos and mementos lying around will help you feel grounded and satisfied.

Here’s a couple of pics to inspire you.

beautiful living room
beautiful kitchen

Buy Healthy Non-Toxic Furniture.

Do your homework when shopping for non-toxic furniture. There is no perfect solution when it comes to totally toxic free furniture, so be mindful of the critical things to look out for

  • Solid wood or formaldehyde-free engineered hardwood.
  • Low VOC or natural paints and varnishes.
  • CertiPUR-US certified foam or Latex. CertiPUR-US is a certification program for US-based manufacturers to ensure items are made free of certain chemicals and have low VOC emissions.
  • Water-based glues.
  • Natural fiber fabrics. Organic cotton and linen are examples.
  • Avoid items made with chemical flame retardants. In the US, manufacturers that sell into California have to be CAL TB 117-2013 Compliant. Generally, manufacturers use the same labels and packaging countrywide, but call the manufacturer if you can’t find that label.
  • It’s Locally built! Avoid imported products as there’s a higher chance it’s all toxic. Apart from IKEA, they do a pretty good job of making safe furniture….

To help consumers identify where they can purchase safer, healthier furniture without added flame retardants, the NRDC surveyed major companies that sell furniture in the United States. You can find that report here.

Think about what Paint or Polish you’re using

Before you start painting in your home, make sure you use low or zero VOC paint. The higher the level of VOC in the paint, the more ventilation you require when painting. Don’t forget high VOC paint will still off-gas long after the paint is dry.

Even if you are using low VOC paint, always ensure you have adequate ventilation in the room. If you are painting furniture or DIY projects, do it outside or in the garage (with the door open) to prevent inhaling VOCs.

I’m no expert on paints, so speak to your local paint representative at your favorite hardware store and ask for low or zero VOC paint. Be aware; it will be more expensive than conventional paint.

The same rules apply to furniture polish. Opt for natural furniture polish. You can actually make your own.

There are plenty of websites that can show you how. Click on the link below to check out our highly rated selection on Amazon.

Removing or Substituting Combustion Sources

No smoking inside! That means cigarettes, cigars, or weed. If any of your family or guests smoke, ensure they do that outside.

Not only does it cause odors you can’t get rid of, but it also increases the chance everyone in the house could develop asthma, cancer, or other health risks.

When cooking up a storm, ensure to use your cooking vents; these vents should be vented outside.

If not, make sure to open a window when cooking as it helps dilute those pollutants, especially if using a gas stove.

Modern_Vented_Kitchen
Example of an outdoor vented stove

Use Indoor Plants

Indoor plants can add to your home’s aesthetics and clean the air of Carbon dioxide and VOCs. But for your plants to affect your indoor air quality, you need a lot.

To really transform your IAQ, you will have to turn your living room into a jungle. Don’t forget to choose non-poisonous and non-allergic if you have children or pets in the house.

Another item to take into consideration is the type of fertilizer for indoor plants. Ensure you pick one that’s not easily accessible to pets and children if the plants are within reach.

plants in bathroom for clean air

Cleaning Carpets and Rugs

Carpets and rugs are a form of indoor air filter. They trap dust, animal dander, allergens, and airborne particles in their fibers. Keep them clean every week to help improve your indoor air.

Also, invest in a decent vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaners are not all built equal. Check that it has a HEPA filter inside a sealed system and is rated highly by other consumers.

A cheap vacuum can do more damage than good. If you can’t afford a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner, consider renting one for an annual deep clean of your house.

Even infrequent use of a HEPA vacuum cleaner will significantly improve your IAQ.

Here are a couple of recommendations in 2022 worth checking out:

Upright Full-Size Vacuum Cleaner: Dyson Upright Vacuum Cleaner, Ball Animal 2

Upright Cordless Vacuum Cleaner: Dyson V15 Absolute Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

Canister Vacuum Cleaners: Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum Cleaner

Best Value for Money: Shark Rotator Powered Lift-away TruPet Upright Vacuum

Vacuuming Tip: Empty canister outside and stand upwind. You don’t want a concentrated dose of contaminants that you just spent time cleaning up.

Dyson Ball Animal 2 Total Clean Upright Vacuum Cleaner, Blue

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Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum Cleaner

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Shark NV360 Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe Upright Vacuum with Large Dust Cup Capacity, HEPA Filter

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Using the Right Cleaning Supplies

Again, many household cleaning solutions and air fresheners contain many organic chemicals that bleed off VOCs into your home over an extended period.

Instead of using these harsh products, please keep it simple, and use white vinegar with baking soda with a little citrus mixed in to keep your surfaces fresh.

However, if you don’t fancy making your own, here are a couple of great non-toxic ideas:

Natural all-purpose cleaners: Bon Ami Powdered CleanserBetter Life All-purpose Cleaner

Natural Dish soap: Ecover Zero Dish Soap

Natural Degreaser: Krud Kutter Original Concentrated Cleaner Degreaser

Natural Floor Cleaner: Organic Matters Natural Cleaning Vinegar

Natural Fabric Cleaner: Biokleen Bac-Out Stain+Order Remover

Cleaning Tip: Don’t forget to open windows or turn on your ventilation system when using cleaning products.

Mother and Son washing hands in a kitchen sink

Using Air Fresheners the right way

As for Air Fresheners, avoid the aerosol type. All you’re doing is spraying that lovely mix of chemicals, including the propellant, which is probably butane or propane, into the air you like to breathe.

Instead, find more natural products and ways to diffuse fragrances into your home.

Here are our top picks:

What about candles, you ask? Candles are generally made from paraffin wax, which is a petroleum by-product.

By burning these types of candles, you release those VOCs into the air; further, most of these candles use artificial fragrances, which also compounds the problem.

Candles made from beeswax or soy-based are the best. Also, ensure they are cotton wicked to reduce PM when it’s burning.

Candle burning near window during winter

Other Activities that affect IAQ

Keep your clothes and sheets clean.

A modern clean bedroom

Dust mites are a leading cause of poor IAQ. They can cause all sorts of health ailments. It is important that you clean bedding, cushions, and curtains regularly.

Take off your boots and shoes

Rustic Shoe Rack

You never know what you’re dragging inside your home. Be sure that everyone removes their shoes or boots when entering your home.

Use a shoe rack or a boot tray to capture those pollutants from making their way into your home.

Groom your pets regularly

Owner grooming a beautiful Labrador

Animal dander is another culprit of poor IAQ. Keeping your pet well-groomed will help improve your air quality. If you groom them inside, be sure to clean up with a HEPA rated vacuum cleaner.

Skip the mothballs in your closet

A cool summer closet

When storing your out-of-season clothing, use air-tight containers or garment bags instead. Also, moths hate cedar chips, lavender, mint, and peppermint oil.

Place these in sachets in closets or cupboards to ward off moths. As for oils, put a few drops on cotton balls and place them with your clothes.

Never leave a car in the garage running.

Vehicle in a cool garage

Did you know? it only takes a few minutes of running your car in a closed garage, to overcome and kill a person. Even with the door open, it can still build up enough Carbon Monoxide to kill someone.

Our advice. Don’t do It! 

Final Point

We hope you have enjoyed reading our complete guide to improving your Indoor Air Quality.

In this article, We covered the following key points;

  • What causes poor indoor air quality,  
  • How you can identify sources of pollution, 
  • How you measure pollutant levels,
  • and what strategies you can use to improve your Indoor Air Quality.

We intend to educate you and give you a chance to critically analyze your own Indoor Air Quality and how it affects you and your family.

Remember, some of these strategies are easy fixes, and some, not so much.

If you feel uncomfortable at any time with implementing any of these Indoor Air Quality improvement strategies within your home, then speak to your local HVAC Contractor.

Do you agree or disagree with some or all of our points? e a comment or give us some feedback so we can better improve our article for others’ sake. If you like it, then please share it.

Russell Jones

VP of Operations @ Phyxter and Home Improvement Specialist

About our blog

Phyxter (pronounced Fix-ter) is a national home services brand specializing in Residential HVAC, Electrical and Plumbing solutions.

Phyxter is laser-focused on writing the best articles and guides to empower homeowners to get the best out of their homes.

We hope you enjoy it!

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