Spring cleaning can churn up some unwanted surprises. Working our way down a list that inevitably shows us the dirt, dust, and indoor pollutants we’ve been living with we can’t help but start Googling “my indoor air quality”. There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there, so let’s break down what is useful and what isn’t.
Finding “My Indoor Air Quality”
Learn how to find your current air quality and form appropriate indoor air quality solutions. Do you know what makes air quality good or bad?
Check Your IAQ IQ
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. (EPA)
There are short- and long-term health effects from indoor air pollutants. Some, such as dizziness and throat irritation are solved as soon as you leave the environment. Others, such as respiratory disease and cancer do not show signs for some time. Reactions to indoor air pollutants depend on exposure and the individual.
Indoor air quality is determined by:
- Building materials (asbestos, formaldehyde, VOCs)
- Household cleaners (especially scented)
- Heating, cooling, & humidification systems (more ventilation, less humidity)
- Moisture in the building
- Outdoor sources (ex. radon, pesicides, outdoor air pollution)
You can test indoor air quality yourself with a monitor. They cost between $150 and $200. But you can also check the manufacturer’s labels on appliances and materials in your home, and the warning labels on cleaning supplies (indoor air quality safe list from EPA). Also, watch for signs of too much moisture, like black spots on walls or a musty smell. You should always have an active carbon monoxide detector & check for radon in your home at least once.
If you feel you need help with indoor air quality solutions, get professional help. Contractors or realtors should be able to recommend someone to provide an assessment and plan.
By limiting indoor sources and sealing out outdoor sources, while maintaining proper ventilation, you should have good indoor air quality. Sounds easy, right? Well, let’s look at indoor air quality solutions and how window inserts can help.
Indoor Air Pollution Solutions & Window Inserts
Some argue that by sealing your home, either to keep out pollution or for energy efficiency, you are increasing your risk of poor indoor air quality. That’s because you are sealing in the sources created in your home. But, with window inserts, you are also sealing out the sources outside your home. There are pros and cons to using window inserts.
Indow window inserts primarily help by blocking outdoor air pollution. They create an airseal (where most windows have small cracks or leaks in their seal) to keep particulate matter out. “Particulate Matter (PM) is made up of particles that are small enough to be carried by the air and can be breathed in by people.” (UCSF) Many customers who use Indow inserts are surprised to find a buildup of dirt and pollution behind their inserts when they remove them for cleaning.
“Particulate matter is a pollutant of special concern. Many studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between exposure to PM and negative health impacts,” says WHO (World Health Organization in their Household air pollution: Health impacts section.
Window inserts also stop condensation, which leads to mold and mildew. These are biological contaminants and once present, can spread to through the walls and home. Indow window inserts stop and prevent condensation by not letting any moist air touch the cold exterior glass.
Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests weatherizing your home can come with risk of poor ventilation, moisture condensation, mold and mildew growth. They warn that by adding storm windows, you are cutting down on outdoor air infiltration, thereby increasing indoor air pollution concentration.
It seems clear that a ventilation plan is needed before window inserts are installed.
What to Consider Before Installing Inserts for Indoor Air Pollution Solutions
- Ensure you have proper ventilation so windows aren’t your only source to outdoor air.
- Install a window a/c unit (yes, Indow window inserts work with a/c units)
- Have a working bathroom or kitchen hood fan installed
- Add attic fans
- Research air-to-air heat exchangers (available in new homes)
- Decrease your sources of indoor air pollutants so you aren’t trapping them in with you.
- Remove building materials that release VOCs, have lead or asbestos in them.
What to Consider After Installing Inserts for Indoor Air Pollution Solutions
- Temporary and intermittent air quality issues.
- There are some indoor pollution sources that are constantly emitting. Others become a source only when they are in use. Items such as space heaters or cleaning solutions are only a danger while in use and a short period afterward: Indow inserts can be easily removed and reinstalled to allow for venting during this time. You might also find yourself using your space heater less often because Indow inserts insulate and help regulate indoor temperature.
- Plants that improve indoor air quality. None. Recent science has proven that absolutely no potted plants help with indoor air quality. Plants are not an indoor air quality solution.
- Don’t let cigarette smoke inside the house and be weary of any other habits that may produce fumes.
- Temporary and intermittent air quality issues.
Window inserts can be integrated into your indoor air quality solutions fairly easily with some planning. It’s a good idea to review the items and habits in your household to ensure your respiratory health is not at risk. If you want any help creating your plan, let us know! Good luck with spring cleaning!