According to the EPA, we spend about 90% of our time indoors. That is a lot of time to spend breathing in air that is not clear, fresh, nor healthy. We often hear about outdoor pollution (Republican debates, State of the Union address, etc), but how often do you really think about how fresh your indoor air is.
However, we should. According to the EPA, “. . . .a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.” How crazy is that? Our Chicago air outdoors may actually be better than our indoor air!!! Now, I know you are wondering what you can do about this. Here are a few things to look at in your life:
1. Do you air out your home regularly? If you have a forced air system (which I think most of us Chicago furnace users have), you should be doing this every other day. You just open the doors and let the fresh air in for about 5 minutes. I know I am amazed on how much fresher my home smells after doing this.
2. Do you regularly change your furnace filters? If your furnace filter is caked with dust, it cannot work optimally. It is also just going to be blowing more dust into your air!
3. What kind of cleaning products do you use? Look at the back of most of your cleaning products, and it will scare you. If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, do you really want to be spraying it around a closed up home? A lot of the chemicals in cleaning products contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which can make asthma worse, irritate your eyes and throat, and cause headaches. Switching to natural brands can definitely help.
4. Are you using the correct filter for your Chicago furnace? When I first moved into my home, the old homeowner had taken a filter he bought who knows where and cut it down so it would fit in the furnace. Needless to say, that is not the correct way to get your furnace filter to work correctly. Make sure you buy the correct furnace filter the first time. (Needless to say, that was one of our first home purchases!). All filters are also not created equal. There are furnace filters that stop everything from pollen to dust to any other allergen you can think of. There are even electronic furnace filters!
5. Do you have any plants? There are many plants out there that look nice and pull toxins from your air.
6. Do you smoke? Smoke will hang around long after you are done with your cigarette and can get into your clothes, your furniture, etc.
7. Do you use air fresheners? Most air fresheners contain those VOCs that you do not want in your home. Scented candles often don’t help either. Instead, dab lemon, orange, eucalyptus, or even lavender oil into the corners of the room. If you have an old spray bottle around your home, you can fill it up with 2 cups of water to 10 drops of essentials oils. You can then spray that around your home.
8. Do you clean your pets bed? This is one of those jobs that can easily be overlooked. Did you know that pet hair and dander can add allergens to your indoor air? Plus, if you pet goes outdoors, you may find some mold on their bedding too! By washing their beds as often as you do your own, you can minimize adding this into your indoor air.
9. Is your air conditioner and furnace the correct size? If not, you need to have a HVAC contractor come out. The right size air conditioner and furnace will provide better air quality and comfort.
10. Do you have a carbon monoxide detector? In an ideal world, you will never need one. However, routine maintenance is also critical to keeping systems operating at peak efficiency. This is especially true for gas furnaces since exhaust leaks can release carbon monoxide into your house! You definitely don’t have a clean air environment if you are leaking carbon monoxide.
There are many different ways in which you can clean up the air you spend the most time in. Everything from adding plants to upgrading your forced air heating system (aka your Chicago furnace) can make great improvements in the quality of air in your home. How are you improving your air quality? Do you have any tips we haven’t listed?