We don’t realize how many allergens and contaminants we’re breathing when we’re indoors. Although it may seem easier and healthier to breathe inside, our indoor environments can contain pollutant levels many times greater than the levels outdoors.
It seems counter-intuitive. You may be thinking—shouldn’t the outdoors be dirtier? I keep my home clean. How could I have more pollutants and allergens than the streets outside? The answer is insufficient ventilation, increased use of synthetic materials, and lack of air filtration.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency:
- Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
- People who are often most susceptible to the adverse effects of pollution (e.g., the very young, older adults, people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease) tend to spend even more time indoors.
- Indoor concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent decades due to such factors as energy-efficient building construction (when it lacks sufficient mechanical ventilation to ensure adequate air exchange) and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners.
With proper air filtration and ventilation, you won’t be circulating all of those contaminants that can make you and your family sick. Don’t continue to recirculate debris through your HVAC system, or redistribute dust and allergens around your home when vacuuming. With our air filtration guide, you can breathe easier and cleaner.
Air Filtration Guide
Here are the steps to improve your indoor air quality (IAQ) and reduce your indoor air pollutants and irritants:
- HEPA Filtration – Use a vacuum with HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filtration. By vacuuming regularly with a vacuum that has HEPA filtration, you will keep your home and your lungs clean. You can also outfit your HVAC system with HEPA filtration, however, your system will probably need professional modification to accommodate the larger filter.
- Minimize Smoke – Reducing smoke in the home will reduce air irritants. No cigarette smoke in the house is a must for people with sensitivity to allergens. Minimize wood fire smoke as well to keep the air fresh. Always fully open the damper before lighting a fire and while the fireplace is in use. Remember to inspect your chimneys, fireplaces, and vents at least once a year. Clean, maintenance, and repairs should be done as necessary.
- HVAC Air Filters – Change your HVAC air filter every 30-60 days or as recommended by your system’s specific air filter. Never wait more than 90 days to replace the filter. If your air filter is dirty, so is the air you are breathing. A dirty air filter also restricts airflow, which can cause frozen evaporator coils and other problems with HVAC operation. Regular filter cleanings or replacements are a simple but effective way to reduce allergens and debris in the home.
- Exhaust Fans – Do you have exhaust fans in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room? If not, call a professional to have them installed in these vital areas of the home. Exhaust fans remove moisture, odors, and stagnant air from the indoors to improve indoor air quality and prevent high humidity and mold growth in the home.
- Duct Cleaning & Sealing – Professional duct cleaning and sealing helps keep your indoor air clean while improving the efficiency of your HVAC system.
- Houseplants – Supplement your indoor air filtration system with natural air cleaning abilities from common houseplants, such as English Ivy, Boston Fern, Peace Lily, Spider Plant, and more.
- Air Cleaners – Air cleaners and purifiers such as UV air irradiation add an extra level of defense against pollutants and contaminants in the home. Contact your local HVAC professional about the benefits of air cleaners.
MERV Ratings (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value)
MERV is an acronym that stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It’s a rating system that tells consumers how efficient an air filter is. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller the pores for air flow, meaning finer filtration of dust particles.
MERV ratings go from 1 through 16, and are divided into three categories (low-efficiency, medium-efficiency, and high-efficiency). Medium-efficiency MERV ratings of around 7 to 13 are perfectly adequate at removing airborne dust and contaminants in a residential space. High-efficiency filters (MERV 14-16) are typically reserved for hospitals, restaurants, and other public facilities. They aren’t normally recommended for residential use since they can severely restrict airflow.
When looking for a more efficient filter in your home, look for a MERV rating of 7 to 13, and talk to your HVAC professional about the best way to reduce allergens and contaminants in your home’s indoor air.
If you are considering a higher MERV rating, consult your HVAC professional first. High-efficiency and HEPA filters normally require professional modification of your heating and cooling system.
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter)
More and more people are looking for home products with HEPA filtration. Like MERV, HEPA is also an acronym. It stands for High Efficient Particulate Air. It’s a mechanical air filter that traps particles and airborne contaminants in a fine mesh as air passes through it. It helps to keep pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and even tobacco smoke at bay. HEPA filtration can now be found in most air purifiers.
Vacuuming with HEPA filtration is a great way to reduce the spread of common contaminants throughout the home. It’s a useful aid for those who suffer from allergies and asthma. A HEPA filter can trap all particles .3 microns in size or larger at the impressive efficiency rate of 99.97%. For allergy relief and the cleanest home you’ve ever known, ensure HEPA filtration is in your vacuum and air purifiers.