Common Air Quality FAQs
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is by far the most important factor when it comes to our health. After all, this is the air that we breathe for the majority of our lives. This is also by far the most overlooked aspect of a building's HVAC system. Since we cannot "see" the quality of the air, we tend not to think about it.
When was the last time you stopped and thought about your air quality? Has it been checked recently by a professional? Have you ever invested in a duct cleaning? The Tom’s Heating Service experts are covering popular air quality FAQs, including what home humidity levels should be, how to reduce static electricity, and much more.
What is indoor air quality and why is it so important?
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the purity and conditions of air within a building—whether a home or business—and how it affects the health and comfort of those who live and work in that space. Because poor air quality can cause health problems—like allergies, asthma, reduced lung function, fatigue, and respiratory and cardiovascular problems—it’s important to know where yours stands to protect those around you.
My family suffers from allergies—which products can help reduce our symptoms?
Consider an air purifier to remove airborne pollen, mold, and other particles that sneak through your air filter and can make your family feel uncomfortable or ill. You might also benefit from a humidifier or dehumidifier—depending on the moisture level in your home—to maintain a balanced humidity level. This helps combat contaminants that aggravate allergy symptoms.
How can I improve the air quality in my home?
Here are a few simple things you can do:
- Change your air filter regularly and at the right intervals.
- Use your exhaust fan when cooking or open a window for better ventilation.
- Vacuum and dust regularly to minimize dust and dander buildup. Higher-quality (and typically more expensive) vacuums usually have better filtration systems and are better at trapping contaminants.
- Buy indoor plants like a dragon tree, bamboo palm, or English ivy—all are exceptional at purifying the air naturally.
- Limit or eliminate use of aerosols and sprays.
- Try to reduce the softer items in your home where possible—these include carpeting, rugs, and window dressings. Softer items will break down over time and release VOCs into the home, especially those made from recycled plastic.
- Limit the burning of candles. If you choose to burn them, higher-quality candles will typically burn cleaner.
- If you have/use a fireplace, be sure that the venting is adequate and cleaned as necessary to allow proper ventilation of contaminants.
What are the benefits of a programmable thermostat?
Some homeowners are wary of programmable thermostats but there are a number of benefits that make them worth considering:
- Save money by programming your heating and cooling systems to operate as efficiently as possible.
- Maintain a consistent temperature instead of adjust the heat or AC every time you come and go, if for shorter periods of time.
- Spend less time trying to manage temperatures and more time enjoying a comfortable home.
- Help your system run properly and you’ll also protect it from breakdowns and early replacement.
Not sure if a programmable thermostat is right for your home? Let a Tom’s Heating expert assess your home and make a recommendation.
How can I tell if there’s carbon monoxide in my home?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, which makes it difficult to detect—that’s why you need a carbon monoxide detector. Make sure you replace the batteries in it regularly—twice a year—to ensure this deadly gas doesn’t build up in your home without you knowing. Replace the unit at manufacturer-recommended intervals (usually five years) to ensure proper operation. If you’re experiencing symptoms like headaches, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and/or confusion, you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide. Leave your home immediately to get fresh air and call 911.
How do I know if my home is getting enough ventilation?
Ventilation makes all the difference in ensuring your family is breathing healthy air. Keep an eye out for these signs that your home is receiving too much or too little ventilation.
- Signs of too much air ventilation include feeling drafts, having overly dry or humid indoor air, and experiencing static electricity shocks during winter. You may also notice inconsistent temperatures.
- Signs of too little air ventilation include stale odors, excess dust, and a stuffy, humid feeling. Similar to too much ventilation, you’ll also notice inconsistent temperatures which could leave you adjusting the thermostat too often.
What should the humidity level be in my house?
More than just feeling comfortable, humidity can affect your family’s health, too. We recommend an ideal humidity level between 35 and 52 percent to stay comfortable. It’ll also minimize mold growth and reduce allergy- and asthma-causing contaminants.
What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted into the air from common household products and processes. Because some VOCs are dangerous to your health, it’s important to know where your levels stand and what can cause high levels, including:
- Furniture/aging carpet
- Air fresheners
- Aerosol sprays
- Cleaners and disinfectants
If your home has high levels of VOCs, keep the temperature and relative humidity level down and improve your ventilation by opening windows and doors when conditions allow. In severe cases, you will need high-efficiency air filtration or proper ventilation to correct the issue.
How can I reduce static electricity in my home?
Static electricity is caused by overly dry air, especially during winter. Here are a few things you can do to reduce it:
- Invest in a whole-home humidifier to add moisture to the air
- Add dryer sheets to your laundry to remove static from your clothing
- Use lotion to keep your skin from getting too dry
What are the benefits of a humidifier/dehumidifier?
Humidifiers are ideal for drier fall and winter months. These systems:
- Reduce allergy and asthma symptoms
- Alleviate dry, cracked, itchy skin and scratchy throats
- Eliminate static electricity
- Lower heating bills by helping you feel warmer at lower temperatures
- Help protect woodwork and wood flooring from drying out and cracking
Dehumidifiers are your go-to system in overly humid spring and summer months. These systems:
- Lower humidity levels and make your home less hospitable to allergens like dust mites and mold
- Reduce odors that cause musty or stale smells
- Decrease dust so you won’t have to clean as often
- Lower air conditioning bills by helping you feel cooler at higher temperatures
- Help protect woodwork and wood flooring from swelling and getting damaged