New Zealand has long been known for its clean, green countryside, free of air pollution. Tourists who visit often come to enjoy our unspoilt outdoors – including the fresh mountain air. But while us Kiwis might make the most of the outdoors when we can, we spend the vast majority of time indoors.
With so much time spent indoors – whether it be at home, work, or school – it would seem as though indoor air quality should be a top concern, but it often goes unchecked.
So, what should you be looking for when it comes to monitoring the quality of the air you breathe indoors? And what does air pollution or poor air quality in the home look like? Take a look below as we explore what might impact the air inside and how to create a clean air atmosphere.
What is Poor Air Quality?
Air quality is impacted by things such as a car and factory fumes, smog, and air pollution – things emitted into the environment which then become part of the air that we breathe in. While these factors largely alter the quality of outdoor air, but they also have an impact on the indoor air quality – as do many other surprising pollutants.
Having good air quality – both indoors and outdoors – is absolutely key to our well-being. The average person inhales around 14,000 litres of air every single day, so it’s far from ideal to be spending time in a home or outdoor environment with a lot of pollutants in the air.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemical substances that become airborne at room temperature and are then inhaled. They come from many different sources including paints, cleaning products, building materials, and furnishings.
Formaldehyde is an incredibly common VOC that is released from some plywood, fibreboard (MDF), furniture, and glues.
Exposure to VOCs can be increased if you live in a new home, have new furnishings, or have freshly painted. Hot and humid weather will also cause more VOCs to become airborne. Additionally, you’ll be exposed to more VOCs if you have a home that isn’t adequately ventilated as the pollutants aren’t being flushed out by fresh air entering the house.
Mould and dust mites are other pollutants that can be causes of air pollution indoors. Mould has tiny spores which easily become airborne and can be breathed in. Meanwhile, dust mites, which enjoy warm, humid environments, convert things such as skin cells into tiny particles of dust. The mites enjoy living in places like bedding, curtains and fabrics, and the build-up of the tiny dust particles then contributes to lower indoor air quality.
Renovating your home can also mean the release of toxic substances into the air. This is especially true of materials such as paint, glue and plywood, but in older homes, it can also mean asbestos. Ceilings, pipes and flues, roof cladding, lino or tile backing and walls are all places asbestos is found. Asbestos is very toxic and bad for air quality.
The effects of air pollution vary depending on what pollutants are your home, but they can include things such as asthma, headaches, fatigue, coughing, sneezing, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin.
Moreover, pollutants can have both immediate and long-term effects on health, so it’s important to sort air quality issues to secure the long-term comfort of your family.
Allergies can also be irritated and exacerbated by poor air quality, so if you share a home with allergy sufferers, this is a good indication that your home has problems with air quality. However, what can be concerning is that bad air quality isn’t always immediately noticeable. Because of this, it’s important to be vigilant about things that can contribute to poor air quality and also know how you can keep the air clean.
How to Keep the Air in Your Home Clean
While some pollutants are simply unavoidable, there are steps you can take to help with the prevention of poor air quality. Taking the time to think about how your grocery lists and cooking habits are impacting your environment will be hugely beneficial to both you and your family.
Consider the products you use
If you’re being vigilant about clean air quality, choosing non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products is a great step. This will mean that you aren’t putting in excess pollutants into your home environment when you’re keeping it clean. After all, the best outcome is having both a clean home and clean air.
If you ever need to deal with pests around the home, it’s best to use non-aerosol, low-toxicity products where possible. While there might need to be exceptions, try to make it the norm to stick to the low-toxicity solutions.
Separate your spaces
Because there are often toxic products and materials in your garage, as a rule, you should try to keep any internal doors between the garage and your home shut. This will keep the pollutants found in the garage sectioned off into one area and away from the spaces where you and your family spend most of their time.
Keep rubbish and compost at a distance
And speaking of keeping areas sectioned off, it’s a good idea to keep any compost or rubbish bins away from your house, or at the very least away from windows and doors. The last thing you want is any bacterial or fungal spores from rubbish or compost making their way back into your home.
Revise your renovations
If you plan to build a home or do any renovations, be sure that you or your builders use products and materials with either low or no likelihood of toxic emission. This can be achieved by purchasing pre-finished items, use water as the solvent, or are classed as having zero or low VOCs. You should also refer to the product’s material safety data sheet to check items’ safety.
Once the building has been completed you can minimise being exposed to poor air quality by not using the newly renovated room for one to two months. This may not always be easy to refrain from doing, but it is particularly recommended for rooms that would be used by a baby.
Cook with care
If your oven or stovetop uses gas, make sure that you always use a range hood or extraction fan when you cook. Burning gas puts moisture into your home, as well as releasing a lot of potentially harmful pollutants. By ventilating, the fumes from the gas have a quick way to escape and won’t get trapped indoors.
Invest in insulation
And another way to avoid unwanted moisture being released into your home is by insulating your home. An insulated house will reduce condensation on windows, walls and ceilings that happens in cold temperatures. Condensation provides the perfect conditions for growing mould, which then releases spores into the air, so any attempt to rid your house of condensation is good news for air quality.
When heating your home, take care to use a form of heating that won’t contribute to poor air quality. Unflued gas heaters are big offenders, releasing a lot of moisture and pollutants into the air. Using methods such as heat pumps or wood burners are much better choices.
And an obvious – but very important – way to keep the air inside your home healthy is effective ventilation. Without ventilation, the air in your home has no escape and the quality can quickly degrade. Passive ventilation is a simple way to allow fresh air inside and get the old air out. You can passively ventilate by opening doors and windows in your home and creating a cross-breeze. It’s a good idea to keep the doors and windows open for at least five to 10 minutes to fully ventilate your home.
Install a Home Ventilation System
If you’re interested in a permanent and long-term solution to help with the air quality in your home, a home ventilation system is a great option. Having a ventilation system installed means that your home is constantly filled with fresh, clean air and old, stale air is forced outside before it has time to do any damage.
A home with a ventilation system is also drier, making it a comfortable space to relax in – and one that’s easier and faster to heat. With your home being more efficient to heat, it’s great news for your electricity bill.
A home ventilation system is installed in your roof cavity and works to draw in warm, dry air from your roof space. The system then cleans this air by pushing it through filters, forcing it down a series of ducts and releasing it into your home.
Because HRV home ventilation unit filters use nanofiber filtration technology, the air that reaches your home improves the air quality of your home due to most common airborne asthma and allergies triggers being filtered out. This is great news for anyone concerned with keeping the air inside their home clean and fresh.
If you want to know more about improving the air quality of your home with a home ventilation system, book a free home assessment today! Our team will be able to talk you through the best solutions for you and your family.