Interior Lighting

Freshen up the air in your home.

If you’re like many of your fellow Minnesotans, you’re probably more worried about outdoor air pollution than the pollution inside the walls of your own home. But the truth is that the air you and your family breathe inside every day may not be as healthy as it could be – and in some cases it’s even worse than outdoor air.

One of the reasons for poor indoor air quality is that homes are being built and remodeled very tightly and may not have adequate ventilation. While this helps keep weather out and energy bills down, it also keeps out fresh air and may mean that contaminants such as radon and carbon monoxide become trapped inside. Old, inefficient or poorly maintained heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems may also be culprits, along with fireplaces, pets, smoking, and cooking and cleaning.

Signs of indoor air quality problems can include odors, stuffy air, mold and mildew, moisture condensation, nosebleeds, scratchy throats, headaches, and noticeably dirty or faulty central heating or air conditioning equipment. If you’re unsure about your home’s air quality, you can have computerized testing and monitoring done.

When you decide it’s time to update your home’s heating and cooling system or to add devices to help clear the air, you can take steps to improve your home’s indoor air quality, while also enjoying the benefits of a comfortable and efficient HVAC system. Today’s heating and cooling products include high-efficiency air conditioners and furnaces, air cleaners, filters and purification systems, multi-zone systems, and ventilation and exhaust fans.

“Two of the biggest things we’re seeing now are high-efficiency filters and humidifiers,” says Craig Brogan, comfort consultant at Tom Brogan Heating & Air Conditioning. “High-efficiency filters take allergens out of the indoor air. And some filtration systems have UV lights on them to help kill bacteria, mildew, mold and other health hazards. Humidifiers are helpful when your home is too dry. They can help prevent bloody noses and dry throats while extending the life of wood floors and cabinets.”

Air-to-air heat exchangers are also popular, Brogan says. These units pipe in fresh air from outside, warm it up, and exhaust contaminated indoor air to the outside. “We can deplete radon gases, take moisture out so you don’t have mold build-up, and exhaust all the stale air from cooking, laundry soaps and other sources that’s not healthy to breathe,” Brogan says. “More and more new codes are calling for air exchangers, but people in older homes can have them installed.”

Like any mechanical systems, your HVAC system can suffer from wear and tear over time. In addition, they can collect mold, fungi, bacteria, small dust particles and other contaminants. Proper care and maintenance can help extend their lives, prevent untimely break downs, keep them running at peak efficiency, and help ensure that indoor air quality doesn’t deteriorate.

Most experts recommend having your heating and cooling systems inspected by a trained professional annually. But the frequency also depends on such factors as whether any family members smoke, you have pets, you have allergies or asthma, or your home has been renovated, which can stir up contaminants. Change your air filters regularly – how often depends on the type of filter you buy and ranges from once a month to once a year, Brogan says.

Don’t neglect your bathroom and kitchen fans, either. They exhaust odors, remove contaminants such as moisture and increase the outdoor air ventilation rate. And while you’re at it, install carbon monoxide detectors within 10 feet of every bedroom in your home.

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If you have questions about building or remodeling, call Rochester Area Builders at (507) 282-7698.

Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.