Coming home at the end of a long day is one of the best feelings there is, especially when we’re not feeling well. But what if the conditions inside your home aren’t helping you get better and could be making your symptoms worse?
Indoor air pollution is a serious issue that can be caused by any number of factors — from forest fire smoke working its way inside to the products we use every day and the condition of our homes themselves. No matter if you rent or own, live in a mansion or manufactured home or anything in between, it’s smart to inspect your home to see what improvements need to be made to mitigate indoor health hazards and ward off any negative health effects.
Keep the chill and the sometimes not-so-fresh air out by sealing the doors and windows with weather stripping and caulk, respectively. You can also use spray foam insulation to seal around where plumbing enters the home.
“Those projects require only a minimal amount of time and money to make a lasting impact in the home,” said Clark Public Utilities Energy Services Supervisor DuWayne Dunham. “We also offer incentives to assist homeowners who want to take weatherization a step further, say by increasing their insulation, having air ducts sealed or air-sealing the envelope of the home.”
That is not to say ventilation isn’t important for maintaining healthy indoor air. Indeed, homes without it can develop mold problems and trap harmful gases indoors, including, but not limited to, radon, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide — not to mention irritating particulate matter.
Keep filters clean
Keep your indoor air clean by regularly replacing your furnace filter with one that has a high minimum efficiency reporting value rating. The furnace keeps home air clean by circulating and filtering it throughout the entire home. In newer homes, it also draws in and filters fresh air from outside as well.
If your home doesn’t have central air, you can still improve it by regularly vacuuming with a high-quality filtered vacuum or even by using a free-standing air purifier.
No matter where you live, always use exhaust fans while cooking, doing laundry or showering. Leave them on for at least an hour after a shower.
Also, you can help keep your home’s structure and possibly your indoor air in good condition by encouraging proper ventilation underneath it. Don’t block the vents in your foundation. Those are meant to allow air to flow through the crawl space and carry moisture out from beneath the structure. If those are blocked, rot and mold can develop below the home and cause problems in living spaces.
“It’s very important to keep those vents free from obstructions so the home can breathe,” Dunham said.
If you think your home has mold, the Washington State Department of Health has extensive information available on its website about treating and removing it.
Finally, it’s especially important for homes in the Pacific Northwest to move rainwater away from the home’s foundation. A simple and low-cost extension on the rain gutter downspout will deposit water into the yard and prevent that moisture from seeping below the home and adding unwanted humidity.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to email@example.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.