house plants

6 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

air qualityWhen we think about air pollution, we usually think about being outside, maybe in some large city. However, According to the Consumer Product Safety Commision, there is a growing body of scientific data indicating that the air inside our homes may be more seriously polluted than the air outdoors, even in the largest and most industrialized cities. Other studies also show the average person spends about 90 percent of their time inside.

Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Exposure to indoor air pollutants can have many adverse health effects. Some of these health effects can be caused by a single exposure to a pollutant. Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are a few immediate effects of pollutant exposure.

These immediate effects are generally only short-term and are easily treatable.  However, long-term exposure could lead to several serious conditions, including some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer. These conditions could be debilitating or even fatal. That is why it is important to take measures to improve indoor air quality even if you and your family do not show any immediate adverse reactions.

6 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Here are few easy steps you can take to immediately improve the quality of the air inside your home. Implement some or all these and you’ll be well on your way to breathing ea

Add Houseplants to Your Living Space

Plants are nature’s natural air purifiers. They help remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with fresh oxygen, improving the quality of the air for the people who live inside your home. They also help  remove many toxins and other pollutant from the air, working like a filter to clean your air. As a bonus, plants are also an attractive, visually appealing addition to your living spaces.

Consider adding some of the following plants to your home for cleaner air:

  • Aloe
  • English ivy
  • Peace lilies
  • Snake Plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
  • Red-edged Dracaena
  • Cornstalk Dracaena
  • Barberton Daisy
  • Janet Craig
  • Aloe Vera
  • Weeping Fig
  • Broadleaf Lady Palm
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Boston Fern

Keep the Floor Clean

Dirt and particles that collect on your floors and carpets will eventually end up in the air. Regular sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming will help reduce the amount of dirt on your floor and prevent them from becoming airborne.

Another way to help keep your floors, and therefore your air, clean is to remove your shoes. By immediately taking your shoes off when you enter your home, you will limit the amount of outside dirt and debris that enters your living spaces.

Let In Outside Air

When the outdoor temperatures are mild, open your windows, even if only a crack. This is particularly important if your home is relatively new. Newer homes are constructed to be more air tight and most do not breathe well. When your HVAC system is running, it is just recirculating the same air over and over.

New homes may still have construction materials that are off gassing. Fresh paint, new carpet, laminate flooring, and chemically treated wood all emit toxic particles into the air you are breathing. By opening a window, you can help ventilate your home and reduce the amount of chemicals that become airborne inside your home.

Change Your Air Filters

Air filters are your home’s first line of defense against potentially harmful airborne particles. A typical HVAC system circulates about 1,000 cubic feet of air every minute. As the air circulates through your system, it must pass through your air filters. Those air filters work to remove dust and other potentially dangerous particles from the air inside your home.

During the months your HVAC system is working hardest, you need to change your filters at least once a month. This will help keep dirt and debris from clogging up the filtration  material.

When air filters are clogged, the system handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of airflow. A clogged filter not only drives up your utility bills, it can also contribute to chronic allergies and negatively impact your overall health.

Use a Dehumidifier to Control Humidity Levels

Humidity levels can rise dramatically due to simple everyday activities like cooking, showering, and even simply breathing. High indoor humidity levels create a breeding ground for many forms of dangerous mold and mildew.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests a humidity level between 30 and 60 percent for indoor living areas. If the humidity in your home is consistently above the recommended level it can cause mold to proliferate, releasing millions of spores into the air. These spores can trigger respiratory problems in many individuals.

You can have a whole house dehumidifier installed inside your duct work to help maintain optimal levels. These dehumidifiers are controlled by wall mounted humidistats. These humidistats work to control the humidity level in your home much the same way a thermostat works to control temperature. As your HVAC system circulates the air in your home, it passes through your duct work and the installed dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air before it is circulated back into your living space.

Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

You should have your HVAC system checked regularly by a qualified HVAC technician. He or she will make sure your system is working properly. During this regular tune up, he or she will clean your system components.

If you have concerns about your indoor air quality, these trained professionals can help you identify problem areas and suggest potential solutions.

I you have questions about indoor air quality or need to schedule regular system maintenance, contact your local HVAC professional.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality With House Plants

House PlantsThe survival rule of threes, intended to help people prioritize during a survival situation, states that you can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. This rule of threes helps illustrate just how important the air we breathe is to life.

While many people focus on the importance of hydration and nutrition for health, we shouldn’t overlook air quality. We consume more air proportionately than any other substance. Clean air isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.The quality of the air we breathe is important to our health and our comfort.

The average American spends as much as ninety percent of his or her time indoors, where the air can actually be several times more polluted than the air outside. HVAC professionals can help you keep the air inside your home clean and contaminant-free by installing products like electrostatic filters or providing services like duct cleaning techniques approved by the National Air Duct Cleaning Association.

However, there is one easy and attractive way you can take action to improve your home’s air quality. All you have to do is add some house plants.

How Plants Improve Indoor Air Quality

The NASA Clean Air Study was the first published research that proved common house plants can effectively eliminate specific toxins from indoor air. The research began in the late 1980s, and was intended to help NASA discover ways to keep the air inside of space stations safe and clean for astronauts.

During research, scientists discovered that certain plants did more than just absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Many houseplants also effectively removed significant amounts of toxins including:

  • Benzene – A chemical commonly found in household detergents, paint, gasoline, and plastics, benzene can cause headaches, dizziness, and eye irritation. Benzene exposure is also known to cause certain types of cancer.
  • Formaldehyde – A colorless, flammable chemical commonly found in building materials, permanent press fabrics, adhesives, and industrial disinfectants, formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, burning of the nose and throat, nausea, and skin irritation. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services listed formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
  • Ammonia – This chemical is a common ingredient in many household cleaners. Exposure to ammonia can cause coughing as well as nose and throat irritation.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) – A solvent used most commonly as a grease remover, trichloroethylene is also used to make refrigerants, adhesives, and paint removers. Exposure to TCE can cause skin rashes, nerve damage, and liver and kidney damage. Long-term exposure can lead to lowered levels of reproductive hormones, low sperm quality, and a decrease in sex drive.
  • Xylene – Xylenes are important petrochemicals often found in cleaning products, paint thinner, and gasoline. Exposure to Xylene can cause dizziness,confusion, headaches, lack of muscle coordination, and possible changes to the lungs and kidneys.

Plants aren’t just helpful in space, however. Having a few potted plants is more than just a simple and natural way to clean air inside of space stations. They can also be used to clean the air inside of your home or office.

Other research shows that having plants in your home or office can also significantly help overcome the effects of sick building syndrome, a mysterious medical condition where inhabitants of a building feel unwell for no apparent reason.

More recent research suggests that it is more than just the houseplants themselves that clean indoor air. A study released in 2004 shows that tiny beneficial microorganisms living in the soil of many potted plants aid in removing toxins from indoor air.

The Best Potted Plants for Clean Air.

Most of the plants that made NASA’s list of the best air-filtering plants originated in tropical and subtropical environments. Because or their ability to thrive in often  thick forested environments, thriving on sunlight filtered through lush forest canopies, these plants are capable of growing well in filtered household light.

NASA’s top plant performers are the peace lily and florist chrysanthemum. Both of these plants are effective at filtering all five toxic compounds in the original research study (benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, trichlorethylene, and xylene) from indoor air.

  • Peace Lilies – When it comes to house plants, peace lilies are some of the easiest to grow and care for. Since they prefer medium to low light areas, they grow well in homes and office spaces.. Peace lilies are great plants for beginners as they are very forgiving and can even “tell” when they need to be watered. Just be careful not to over water. The soil should be almost dry. Water only when the leaves begin to droop.

    Not only are these hardy plants efficient air cleaners, they also brighten up any living space with their wide green leaves and lovely white “flowers.”

  • Florist Chrysanthemum – With their big, bright flowers and dark green foliage, florist mums will bring a splash of color and sunshine to any indoor space. They require a cool, bright spot for optimum blooming. Once the flowers are spent, it is difficult to get the plant to re-bloom. Because of this, florist mums are often treated as annuals, needing to be replaced every year. While chrysanthemums help keep indoor air healthy, the leaves are toxic. Make sure to find a place safe from small children and curious pets.

  • Other Plants – While peace lilies and florists chrysanthemums were NASA’s top clean air performers, there are many other plants that you can include in your home or office to help improve indoor air quality. Here are some other varieties that will brighten your indoor spaces and clean the air you breathe:

    English Ivy
    Flamingo Lily
    Snake Plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
    Red-edged Dracaena
    Cornstalk Dracaena
    Barberton Daisy
    Janet Craig
    Aloe Vera
    Weeping Fig
    Broadleaf Lady Palm
    Devil’s Ivy
    Bamboo Palm
    Boston Fern
    Lilyturf


House plants are one proactive step you can take to improve the quality of the air you breathe, However, a few potted plants are not cure-all solution. There are many  other steps you can take. If you want to further improve the air purifying properties of your HVAC system, reach out to your local HVAC experts to explore other options for optimum indoor air quality.

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