People need fresh air all the time. A good time to check your indoor air quality is when you enter your house, before you get accustomed to the indoor air. Does it have a distinctive odour? Is it fresh and neutral? If there a humid smell in the air? Good indoor air quality can be defined as the absence of any substance in the air that is a health hazard or a source of discomfort to the occupants.

Poor Indoor Air Quality (AIQ) will have an adverse effect on both the health and welfare of the occupants and the structure of the home may also be damaged. Both visible and hidden damage to the structure may be caused by prolonged build-up of moisture levels in the walls and attic.

Current construction practices to reduce energy consumption and moisture damage to buildings have reduced natural air leakage. Without ventilation when doing laundry, cooking or taking showers, excessive moisture is created resulting in high humidity, occupant discomfort, bacterial or fungus growth and lingering odors. To improve indoor air quality in your home you should start by ridding your home of its toxins:
• replace chemical cleaners with non-toxic, homemade or store-bought cleaners
• keep paint cans and other solvents in storage away from the house
• do not use air fresheners as they add chemicals to the air
• no smoking indoors
• wash pets regularly
• keep your house free from dust and dirt

Without proper maintenance, heating and cooling systems can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Your furnace filter should be checked monthly. Along with filtering the air properly, you should clean your ducts every 3 to 5 years and possibly sooner if you have children, pets or have done major renovations.

Methods to improve and control air quality include:
• ventilation (primary solution)
• air cleaning (filtration)
• air conditioning
• dehumidification
• humidification (humidity to be kept between 30-50 %)
• local exhaust fans (bathrooms and kitchen)

One simple way to ventilate your home is to operate the bathroom and kitchen fans. Run them for at least half an hour after showering or cooking. If they are the only ventilation system in the house, run them for at least two hours a day. Make sure they vent outside and not just into the attic. Because summer air is naturally more humid it is not necessary to humidify during the summer months. In fact, dehumidification is often desirable and fortunately your air conditioner is an effective dehumidifier. During the winter months, however, when the air is much drier, proper indoor humidification provides a healthier, more comfortable living environment.

You can purchase a hygrometer which monitors your humidity just like a thermometer measures temperature. Make sure levels stay below 60% in the summer and between 30% to 50% in the winter.

A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) mechanically controls the rate of air exchange in your home and saves energy when compared to other methods of ventilation. The HRV or ERV should be balanced to introduce the same amount of fresh air as the stale air it exhausts. The HRV/ERV core exchanges heat/energy from one air stream to the other so in winter time the fresh air is warmed by the stale air exhaust. In the summer time, in an air conditioned home, the incoming air is cooled by the stale air exhaust.

There are two types of particle filters:
1. Mechanical devices draw air through a fibrous or metal material with different sized pores that trap particles.
2. Electronic devices use electronically induced charges to attract and/or remove pollutants, and can offer performance and energy saving advantages for a whole house system.

Check the filter for dust and debris build-up at least every month during heavy use. Replace or clean the filter as necessary, based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you want to reduce indoor particles using a central air filter, you are advised to run the furnace fan all the time.

Portable air filters can significantly reduce particles within a room. They may be helpful in “sanctuary” rooms (usually bedrooms), especially for those who are particularly sensitive to indoor air contaminants. Install room systems in the room(s) where you spend most of your time or have the worst symptoms.

Particles smaller than ten microns in size (one sixth the diameter of human hair), that are not visible to the naked eye are of the greatest health concern. Full-house (central) filters can be rated in a number of ways.

Central forced air systems in homes usually have a rectangular, one-inch thick fiberglass filter that slides underneath the furnace fan or into a wall or ceiling register where the air returns to the furnace. These filters are most effective at removing particles 10 microns in size or larger, and typically remove less than 10% of the very small particles that reach the filter.

Calling a company to do an air quality test (or mold test) should not be your first step.  These test will just indicate that there is or is not a problem but will not find or fix the problem.  If you think you have poor indoor air quality, check the following things first:
• Check for open water sources - sump pump, fish tanks, water bowls for animals, etc...
• Is there a leak in the roof, around the windows or in the basement?
• Check that your bathroom and kitchen fans are pulling air out of the room and are properly ventilating outside.
• Check that your furnace filters are clean (mechanical and electronic).
• Check your humidifier to make sure it is clean.

Not sure where to start?  Give MD Inspect Plus a call and we can send an inspector over for a consultation and take a quick look at your problem.