Remember as a kid, when our parents constantly told us to go outside and play and get some fresh air?
Well, they had a good reason.
Young kids and the elderly are highly susceptible to indoor air pollutants and what’s known as “sick home syndrome”. What happens is that when the weather gets cold during fall and winter, we typically spend a lot more time indoors and typically have all the windows closed up tight.
All that stagnant air can lead to odors, mold and mildew growth, and much more. Pollutants that can be trapped in a sealed-up home can also come from wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, dryers, stoves, perfumes, scented products, paint, air fresheners, glue, carpeting and cleaning products.
Even outdoor sources can be tracked into the home, from pet dander and common dust to radon, mold, pesticides, building chemicals, and pets.
All of this breeds a stew of viruses and other health hazards, creating sick home syndrome and the reason why your entire family might come down with the same flu.
Now that you’re thoroughly grossed out, let’s move on to what could be causing air quality issues and what methods work best when it comes to keeping your air quality high during the winter months.
Defending Against Sick Home Syndrome
Right off the bat, there are a host of natural remedies you can easily use for your home such as plants, air purifiers, essential oils, diffusers, herbs and whenever possible, open windows to allow for a breeze.
Now for the usual culprits that can pollute your home and potentially cause a variety of illnesses:
- DIRTY OR FAULTY CENTRAL HEATING is a big one since it typically affects nearly every room in your home. Prior to the cold weather settling in, be sure to have your furnace and central heating system cleaned and looked at by the professionals.
- DIRTY AC UNITS also need to be cleaned at least yearly. Have the filters changed out and/or replaced with the latest pleated, electrostatic and electronic filters available.
- DAMAGED FLUE PIPES AND CHIMNEYS should be dealt with and cleaned annually. A chimney is designed to funnel smoke and harmful gases (like carbon monoxide) out of your home. Issues with your chimney or its components could actually put your family in severe danger.
- EXCESSIVE HUMIDITY leads to dust mites and allows mold to fester, so it needs to be monitored and eliminated if possible. Keep an eye out in problem areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
Beyond adding plants and opening windows, there are many sick home syndrome solutions available:
- HOME FILTRATION SYSTEMS may be a good option, especially if you suffer from allergies. UVGI cleaners use ultraviolet radiation that may destroy biological pollutants such as viruses, bacteria, allergens, molds, and more that are airborne or growing on HVAC surfaces, such as the cooling coils, drain pans, or ductwork. PCO cleaners destroy gaseous pollutants by converting them into a harmless substance but are not designed to remove particulate pollutants.
- REPLACE FURNACE FILTERS regularly. Your furnace filter is working hard during winter to keep the air clean.
- CLEAN YOUR HOME regularly to eliminate dust and pet dander.
- UPGRADE YOUR FILTERS to Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) filters. They are a bit more expensive but may be worth it.
- TEST FOR RADON. Check the EPA’s website for more information on cancer-causing effects of this toxic substance. Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell, or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home that is lurking.
- PUT YOUR THERMOSTAT to “fan on” mode to boost air quality.
- BUY A CARBON MONOXIDE detector to help detect this odorless substance. It could save lives.
- USE NON-TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTS, from laundry to personal care.
- LOOK FOR LOW VOC PRODUCTS and use them in every part of your home when possible.
Protecting Your Air Quality During the Winter Months
In addition to saving money and your health with the tips we listed above, have an annual maintenance program set in place to ensure your HVAC system is running properly and functioning at its best.
Keeping up with maintenance will protect you throughout the winter when roaring fireplaces, wood stoves and even idling vehicles all add to higher levels of pollution and carbon monoxide in our air.
How does this work? Well, cold temperatures and stagnant air create a build-up near the ground. That cold air is actually trapped by a layer of warm air which acts like a lid holding down the toxic substances. When smoke can’t rise, carbon monoxide can quickly reach unhealthy levels.
Luckily, wind, rain and snow storms that blow through help clear out and get rid of unhealthy air. It can be a big relief. Between these weather events, we are far more vulnerable, so the responsibility falls back on a properly functioning and clean HVAC system to help keep you safe from sick home syndrome.
The time and investment you put into proper maintenance will protect your health and ensure that your HVAC equipment lasts longer. While we understand that you may not want to spend money on annual checks and fixes, just remember that neglecting your furnace, AC system and other equipment will only lead to spending much more money replacing them sooner rather than later.
Your health is important! So, don’t take chances. Keeping your home air quality high during the winter months can save you from countless visits to the doctor for respiratory issues, headaches, fatigue, viruses and much more. By creating a healthy environment for your family, friends, loved ones and even pets, you can spend more quality time together. And that’s always a good thing.
Allow Aspen Heating and Air to prevent sick home syndrome and give great advice on ways to keep your family safe and healthy. We’re the experts in the field, offering expert service and maintenance, as well as a full line of quality HVAC units to choose from if a replacement or upgrade is ever needed.